A man of steel meets a man of speed. And they go boom, while the other actors in the episode dance carefully around each other.
As this episode opens, Iris West is writing again about the Streak (I can't wait to NOT hear that name anymore; it makes me think of underwear washing commercials.) She clicks send, closes her laptop, and immediately gets picked up by Barry, who can't really stay away from her. Symbolically, she refuses a call from Eddie, but before Iris and Barry get fully into it, they're interrupted by sirens. Our metahuman of the week is a joyriding jock who can (shades of Colossus!) turn his skin to steel. He blocks bullets, breaks Barry's hand, and turns out to be a bit of a bigheaded bully. (Count the Bs.) Detective Joe West and Eddie Thawne, on the scene, witness Barry rescue a child - and this sets off two secondary plots as West pursues the Tornado that Kills Barry's Mother, and Eddie begins exploring the impossible.
This episode is a mixed bag; it's as if it were written by two different teams. The writing for this show always borders on cheesy – which is fine; any superhero worth their salt is a little cheesy. You can't run around saving people without some cheese. But Iris and her writing consistently grated on me, and so did the proverbial A-plot.
Tony Woodward (Greg Finley), despite being one of the hotter bits of beefcake on the show so far, is a pretty one-sided character. Why is he a bully? What's behind his rampage? What's behind his obsession with Iris and need for fame? I don't think we ever find out. Barry's fights with him emphasize his meekness, geekiness - but point out a plot hole I haven't really seen discussed. How the hell does a forensic scientist wind up so innocent after several years of work and dead bodies? The Flash might have been born as a name in this episode, but to me, Barry took kind of a step back as a hero, not a step forward. I don't know about you, but in the end I didn't want Tony Woodward in prison. I wanted him converted. The character tastes sort of like potential Jayne Cobb from Firefly.
Mind you, I didn't think any of this while WATCHING the episode. I thought COOL! COOL! Special effects are incredible, and the slow increasing of Barry's powers (we saw him in the pilot at 600 mph or so, and he's gotten 200 mph faster since then) is awesome. I won't overshare, but when he breaks Mach 1, I was cheering.
It's the secondary plot of this episode that really got to me, that showed me excellent acting. They dropped the cheese and found they didn't need it. Jesse Martin and Tom Cavanagh consistently gave me chills, and their dialogue was several grades higher than what we saw in Plot A. The detective senses something off and he's highly focused on tracking down what he smells. We are left in some ways not really sure about what's happening in either character's mind. By the end I was fairly sure we're going to see Professor Zoom and the Reverse Flash coming up–but I'm hoping the writers take a hint and keep their focus on engaging cat-and-mouse plotlines like these. The schmaltz will get old soon.
Bits and pieces
Barry's quickly-healing broken hand. I saw it coming-serious ouch.
I can't get enough of Jesse Martin. He and Tom Cavanagh are going to be the bones holding the show together while the other actors find their footing through the season. Watch.
Cisco's awesome battle robot.
The fact that the battle robot kicked serious Barry buttock. (OK, B seems to be a theme today.)
There's a lot of hubbub online about who will turn out to be whom from the Flash mythos. I'm betting Wells as Professor Zoom and Thawne as Reverse Flash. Wouldn't be surprised if they were working together by the end of this year.
Eddie Thawne is becoming more likable as his character develops. I liked the fight training.
The ending is way too melodramatic - a knife and a bloody message on a photo of Iris? But I admit I felt the hair on my arms stand on end.
Cisco: "You're lucky he didn't knock out your teeth. Those puppies don't grow back." Hmmm... foreshadowing?
Young Barry: "You want me to hit a girl?"
Young Iris: "He wants you to try."
Younger Joe: "She's tougher than she looks... "
Joe: "When did you move to town, Dr. Wells?"
Wells: "Something tells me that you already know the answer to that question, Detective. This whole 'help me solve the murder of Nora Allen,' you were never looking for my help, were you?"
Two and a half stolen joyrides. A great episode for special effects, and great interaction between Martin and Cavanagh, but kind of clunky overall.