‘The Flash’ Season 2 Episode 21 Review: ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’ Is Most Emotional Episode This Season

Recap and review of The Flash – Season 2 Episode 21 – The Runaway Dinosaur:

Although The Flash is a show that wears its heart on its sleeve, “The Runaway Dinosaur” takes the poignancy to a whole new level, delivering the most emotional episode of this season. While there was a secondary threat endangering the group back in Central City, the main thrust of the story centered on Barry’s intimate travels through the Speed Force, and how his confrontations with his past help shape his future, restoring him to the man he needs to be: The Flash.

The story with Barry (Grant Gustin) coming face-to-face with various moments and figures from his past is one of those narrative approaches that only works if the character’s internal conflict is well-established. Naturally, we know that Barry still has issues with his mother’s death, and has taken it upon himself to be all things to all people. While Barry is certainly heroic, he’s also spreading himself too thin, and lacking focus due to all of the residual issues he’s yet to have dealt with. The peculiar nature of having Barry speaking face-to-face with the Speed Force itself is off-set by the insight he gleans from his experiences. And, in a way, it also brings Barry’s origin full circle. Upon first becoming The Flash, Barry asked Oliver Queen for help, in one of the show’s first Arrow crossover scenes. In the scene, Oliver notes that the lightning bolt that turned Barry into The Flash didn’t strike him, it chose him. And we end up learning just how true that statement is, as the Speed Force basically explains (through the visages of Joe, Iris, Henry and Nora) that Barry was chosen for these gifts. It’s a collection of pretty emotional scenes, particularly the ones with Nora Allen, as Barry gets to have a heart-to-heart with his mother (or a version of her, anyway) in which they bond over memories of his favorite book, “The Runaway Dinosaur”.

The Flash - Season 2 Episode 21 - The Runaway Dinosaur

Credit: The CW

The tale is a lovely parallel with the story itself, because it emphasizes that some people simply are who they were always meant to be, and they’re surrounded by loved ones they were always meant to have in their lives. It’s the key to allowing Barry to come to grips with letting go of his mother, and finally accepting her death, which was the one thing truly holding Barry back from fulfilling the true potential of his abilities. It’s a scene that’s a long time in coming, and Michelle Harrison does a great job in her role as Nora Allen. Granted, this was the Speed Force manifestation of Nora, but I think Harrison struck a perfect balance between portraying the real Nora Allen and a facsimile of what the Speed Force could recall. With that said, I’ve long been of the mind that Grant Gustin is the strongest actor in the Arrowverse, but this episode really makes the case for why he’s also among the more versatile. The way Barry breaks down while subtly trying to hold it together, as if not to show weakness to the Speed Force for fear of being judged, is just terrific. And we don’t really need Barry to talk about the pain of losing Nora, because it’s all written there on his face. Gustin is a remarkably honest-looking actor, and that makes Barry all the easier to feel sympathy towards, since it’s obvious how deeply he feels, and how intensely he hurts. Barry’s earnest nature also makes him easier to root for, which is why I couldn’t help but pump a fist when Barry finally got his powers back and returned to our world, reaching out to Iris (Candice Patton) in the Speed Force vortex and coming back home, just like she asked him to.

And his return is not a moment too soon, as Barry has to take down the resurrected Tony Wooward a.k.a Girder (Greg Finley), who was reanimated by the second Particle Accelerator explosion. The B-plot is fairly one-note, and I actually would have been perfectly fine if it had been axed from the episode altogether in order to allow more screen time for Barry within the Speed Force. But we still had some decent moments here, such as Joe (Jesse L. Martin) dropping — and breaking — his mug on the floor in a misguided attempt to test if Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) had developed speedster powers from the explosion. We also got to see how Wells (Tom Cavanagh) is able to put aside his worry for Jesse (Violett Beane) in service of the greater good. But it’s all building up to Barry saving the day, in his first test of superheroism since regaining his powers, as he manages to use his speed to de-power Girder and put an end to his Iris-focused rampage. And Barry gets a reward in the bargain, as Henry (John Wesley Shipp), fresh off of believing he’d lost his son forever, decides to move back to Central City to be by Barry’s side full-time. In fact, by episode’s end, nearly everything is going in Barry’s favor, as he and Iris seem to solidify their relationship, with Barry saying that he’ll always come back home for her. Hell, all that scene needed was a kiss to cement their relationship status, at this point. Barry reconnecting with Henry and Iris were two scenes that felt a long time in coming, adding to the overal feel of this being an episode that brought Barry’s origin full-circle. Of course, with Henry and Iris getting closer to Barry, they’re perhaps more in harm’s way than ever before — especially now that Zoom (Teddy Sears) has assembled an army of metahumans to help conquer our Earth. But this only means the stakes are higher, since I’d put good money on someone dying by the end of this season. High stakes are a good thing, particularly on a show where no one ever seems to die (well, except for Ronnie…and Eddie…and the time remnant of Jay Garrick…and, you know, forget I said anything). Let the battle begin!

But what did you think of The Flash Season 2 Episode 21, “The Runaway Dinosaur”? Sound off in the comments!

And for more on The Flash, read our review of last week’s terrific “Rupture”!

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