The Flash – Recap: Like Ten Seasons of Ross and Rachel
Recap and review of The Flash – Episode 14 – Fallout:
The Flash may not be as dark as its companion series, Arrow, but it features many of the same introspective storylines. In this case, both series examine what it means to be a hero, and also what it means to fail. Barry (Grant Gustin) is not only learning how to be a hero, he’s also learning how to recover when he ultimately proves incapable of saving the day. “Fallout” is an episode that strengthens Barry’s resolve to become a better hero, even if that resolve borders on hopeful naivete.
Of course, the episode didn’t entirely center on Barry’s inner turmoil. In fact, it was the single most awesome episode of the season thanks to its ostensible A-plot, in which Ronnie (Robbie Amell) and Dr. Stein (Victor Garber) must learn to work together and become Firestorm in order to defeat General Eiling (Clancy Brown). Seriously, I didn’t expect “Fallout” would have nearly as many exhilarating moments as it did, and I suppose part of what made it so exciting was that all of these moments just sort of sneak up on the narrative. Sure, it becomes clear that our climax is going to be a rescue mission once Stein is taken by Eiling (in an attempt to learn the secret to making an entire army of Firestorm soldiers). But there was such a visceral quality to the action tonight. For example, when a phosphorous explosive detonates in Barry’s hands, he has to run like he’s never run before in order to create a vacuum that will neutralize the burning. This takes him out of the equation and forces Ronnie and Dr. Stein, two men who’ve only just separated, to merge once again to become Firestorm. And once they do, we get some absolutely killer action bolstered by some impressive-for-CW visual effects, with Firestorm taking out Eiling’s soldiers and generally flying all over the place like a DC version of The Human Torch (which I suppose they sort of are). These sorts of moments are exactly what makes The Flash such thrilling TV, since it has no desire to be gritty or realistic. It remains true to its genre and goes for a mix of earnestness and bombast. Barry saving Firestorm from Eiling’s bullet is just the icing on the cake, as it gives hints of a future where these two (well, three) heroes can team up again. Hell, someone call Oliver Queen so we can make it four, already.
But I’m sort of getting ahead of myself, since that awesome climax was preceded by some solid drama that sees Ronnie and Stein trying their best to adjust to life after having been separated. Neither man is really at ease, as their brain wave patterns are still perfectly synced, meaning both men know when the other is in danger, and can feel sensations the other is feeling. It brings up the issue of just how synced others are in their respective lives. For instance, while Ronnie and Stein are linked at a biological level, Ronnie and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) have a connection that’s arguably as deep. She understands his inherent desire to do good, just as he understands the same quality in her, stepping up to put himself at risk so she won’t have to. She also understands, at the end of the episode, why Ronnie and Dr. Stein have to leave Central City, before he even announces that they’re leaving. Caitlin simply knows that it’s not safe to remain at STAR Labs, since Eiling has already breached the compound once before. They share a connection, and it carries much of the episode’s poignancy, as Ronnie and Caitlin have only just reunited before they’re forced to split apart again. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) isn’t that far off when he says their relationship is “Like ten seasons of Ross and Rachel” all compressed together.
However, Ronnie and Caitlin’s relationship isn’t the only one that feels significantly deeper than it did before. Barry and Joe (Jesse L. Martin) reaffirm that the search for Nora Allen’s killer is a burden shared between them. Both carry a measure of responsibility for the continued incarceration of Henry Allen: for Joe, it’s because he failed to believe in Henry’s innocence fifteen years ago; and for Barry…well, it runs a bit deeper for Barry. Joe shows Cisco’s research to Barry, revealing that he was there on the night of his mother’s death through some sort of time travel. Dr. Stein theorizes that perhaps Barry, at some point, runs so fast that he actually creates a hole in the space-time continuum. But while Barry certainly has questions about how, exactly, he was able to travel through time, he’s far more grieved by what his supposed time travel reveals. “My destiny,” Barry poignantly states, “is to fail.” He realizes that by virtue of his having been there in the past, this means he fails. He always fails, because he already failed. Dr. Wells (Tom Cavanagh) theorizes that, perhaps, changing the past could create an alternate timeline. However, he also theorizes that Barry could — as a result of the Novikov self-consistency principle — end up being the reason his mother ends up dying in the first place. Barry is overwhelmed by the notion that he could be the reason his mother dies, that his failure to stop the Man In Yellow is what has ultimately set him on the path that led to him becoming The Flash. Barry has confronted failure any number of times over the course of the series so far, yet those failures have never been as personal to him as this one. And so it’s no surprise that he throws caution to the wind and decides to ignore the risks: he reveals to Joe that he plans to study the images from the night of his mother’s death in order to gain an advantage over the Man In Yellow. “I’m going to save my mother,” he triumphantly declares to Joe at the end of the episode, and because he’s Barry Allen, it’s enough to almost believe him.
As for the rest of the episode, some aspects work better than others. I suppose it’s smart to begin looping Iris (Candice Patton) back into the main storyline by having her boss task her with investigating the Particle Accelerator explosion, although I’m not sure it makes much sense for Iris to begin suspecting something is amiss simply because Caitlin’s lie about Ronnie’s return falls apart under scrutiny. Then again, it does make sense that, as an aspiring journalist who’s desperate to be taken seriously, she would chase after the biggest possible story. Similarly, I don’t know why General Eiling would keep Barry’s secret identity to himself after figuring it out, since it seems like exactly the sort of thing he’d use to blackmail him. Granted, he does end up sort of using it to blackmail Wells into handing Stein over to him. But it feels like more could have been done with the story of Eiling figuring out Barry is The Flash. That said, my concerns about the story are mostly wiped away by the chilling conclusion to the episode, as Wells (dressed as the Reverse Flash) abducts Eiling and leads him to a sewer. Wells explains to Eiling that he’s a metahuman, and he looks after his own. This seems to be a bit of a broader definition of Wells’s goals, since his main mission up until now has been to protect Barry. Then again, he’s also done what he could to prevent the metahumans who’ve gone against Barry from being killed, having them instead confined to the underground cell, whenever possible. So perhaps he IS a Magneto of sorts, looking to bring metahumans to prominence. If nothing else, it would make sense for how he’s still in contact with Gorilla Grodd. Yes, in the conclusion to the episode, Wells pretty much serves Eisling to Grodd on a silver platter. The CG for the giant gorilla is fairly spotty, but honestly, it was just such an awesome reveal that I couldn’t help loving it, especially since it implies that Wells and Grodd share a connection of their own worth exploring.
The Flash basically ticked every box this week, from exciting action to poignant, heartfelt moments. There were even moments of genuine introspection, offering thoughts on heroism and the sacrifices it takes to be selfless. “Fallout” was pretty much my favorite episode of The Flash so far this season, and if it’s beginning to feel like I say that a whole lot, it’s simply a nod to the overall quality of what this series is doing week in and week out. I can’t wait for the show to come back on March 17, as it looks like this business with Wells might start picking up in bigger ways than we might have imagined.