‘The Flash’ Season 2 Episode 19 Review: It’s An Ordinary Barry In ‘Back To Normal’
Recap and review of The Flash – Season 2 Episode 19 – Back To Normal:
Most superhero stories tend to have an arc in which the hero loses his or her powers. Hell, it happened in The Flash Season 1 for a brief time. But “Back To Normal” looks to explore the change with more depth than before, showing us how Barry (Grant Gustin) deals with going from a man who can save damn near anyone at the drop of a hat, to just a regular forensic scientist relying on his brains, and his friends, to get him through the action. This wasn’t my favorite episode of the season, because I’ve never really been a fan of “lost powers” storylines, especially when they come as a result of a hero stupidly keeping his word to a supervillain for no reason. But I enjoyed “Back To Normal” far more than I expected to.
Long story short, Barry is forced to rescue yet another friend, as Wells (Tom Cavanagh) gets kidnapped by a disgruntled metahuman named Griffin Grey. As it turns out, Griffin thinks Earth-2 Wells is really his Earth-1 counterpart, and he has a grudge against Wells for how the Particle Accelerator explosion ruined his life. On the one hand, Griffin has super strength. On the other hand, he’s aging at an accelerated rate. He looks to be middle-aged, despite being only eighteen years old. So he wants Wells to cure him, or suffer the consequences. It’s an interesting story mostly for how it separates the team. Wells doesn’t agree with Barry giving away his powers to Zoom (Teddy Sears), and thinks there will be a lot of blood on Barry’s hands as a result. So he decides to bail on the team and go searching for his daughter, which results in his capture, because of course it does. I like the approach with the storytelling here though, as the Wells of Earth-2 is held to atone for the sins of his counterpart. And all because of one kid who wasn’t fortunate enough to have the support Barry had. It’s conceivable to imagine that Griffin might have used his powers for good if he’d gained super strength without the rapid aging, or if he hadn’t been made to feel like a freak. In some ways, Griffin isn’t really a bad guy, he’s just emotionally tormented and lashing out at the only person he feels he can. I like that sort of complexity in a superhero drama, even if the action this week wasn’t up to the show’s usual standards. That said, it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Barry has to take down Griffin by using weapons devised by Cisco (Carlos Valdes), who is struggling without Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) to help him examine evidence at a molecular level. So the team comes up with the only plan they can come up with to save Wells: they opt to just wait out Griffin’s affliction, allowing him to simply age to “Grandpa Simpson” levels before taking him down. Granted, that involves Barry taking a serious amount of damage from the superpowered Griffin, but his willingness to do so illustrates his innate heroism. The Flash is a symbol of hope not because of his powers, but because of his bravery and desire to save people. Hell, his decision to save Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) is the entire reason he’s in this powerless mess in the first place. For Barry to continue fighting on even without his powers shows us that he’s committed to saving Central City and the people who call it home. This also has the narrative side effect of bringing Wells back to Barry’s side. After Wells makes peace with his daughter following his rescue by Barry and the team, we end the episode with a pretty great twist: Wells offers to get Barry his powers back by recreating the Particle Accelerator explosion. Despite being captured and tortured for an act he didn’t even commit in this world, Earth-2 Wells believes in Barry enough to want to commit that act in this world after all. It speaks volumes for how far their relationship has come, and it makes for a compelling storyline. I know the big selling point of the episode was seeing how Barry adjusts to losing his powers, but I actually really liked watching his connection with Wells develop even more.
But I actually found the B-plot just as engaging, as Caitlin finds herself locked in Zoom’s prison along with Killer Frost. It’s a neat story that compares and contrasts the two women: Caitlin isn’t as ruthless as Killer Frost, but Killer Frost doesn’t appear to be as intelligent as Caitlin, needing Caitlin’s help in order to science her way out of the prison. Granted, once Killer Frost is free, she betrays Caitlin and tries to kill her, but Zoom is quick to put an end to that by murdering his former henchwoman. As it turns out, Zoom really does have feelings for Caitlin, and he’s intent on making her love him right back. While I’m not too interested in a Stockholm Syndrome storyline, I think making Caitlin a darker person could add a lot more to her character. That’s not to say that the goody two-shoes version of Caitlin can’t be compelling, but simply that she’s spent far too much time as the woman mourning a man she loved, whether Ronnie or Jay Garrick. I’d love to see Panabaker be given more to do than just be a damsel in distress, even if it means a temporary, willing turn to the dark side. With that said, it doesn’t really seem like we’re headed in that direction anyway: when Caitlin asks to go home, Zoom decides to accommodate her, saying that they’ll go back to Earth-1 — to conquer it. In fact, Zoom plans on measuring his success not by how many victims he creates, but how many Earths he conquers. He and Caitlin zoom off, and it seems Earth-1 is pretty much screwed unless Barry gets his powers back, post-haste. Or unless the Green Arrow and his team stop by or something. If nothing else, I appreciate the magnitude of this threat, since the plot is always at its most compelling when the situation is at its most hopeless.
“Back to Normal” shows how Barry continues to inspire, even if he isn’t necessarily in possession of his powers. Wally’s “thank you” speech to The Flash pretty much sums this up, as he declares that he won’t waste the second chance The Flash has given him. Hopefully, next week’s Particle Accelerator explosion helps give Wally the power to do good as Kid Flash, if that’s the direction the show plans on heading with him. It’d be neat for Barry to have his own Team Flash the way Oliver Queen has a fully-functioning Team Arrow (well, barring the recent tragedy over on Arrow). I’m definitely stoked to see where this all is heading in the weeks to come. It should be a great home-stretch for The Flash Season 2.
But what did you think of The Flash Season 2 Episode 19, “Back To Normal”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Flash, read our review of last week’s divisive episode!