"There is no normal life for us."
A fantastic ep continues this series’ rise from monster-of-the-week to accessible-series-with-heft-and-story status. We conclude our cliffhanger from last week, find out more about the military and our resident man of mystery, Wells, and Firestorm comes into his own.
This episode continues directly from last week’s cliffhanger; Barry and Caitlin manage to outrun the edge of the explosion. Barry gets through to Wells, frantic about exposure to deadly radiation… but there isn’t any.
And when they get back to the smoking Ground Zero, they see two men: Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein. And we realize something else: the military knows these men are two men. Last ep, it wasn’t clear: was Firestorm a separate project, or something they were tracking, the Raymond/Stein gestalt? Now we know they’ve been focused on Stein all along. Meanwhile, back at the Picture, Iris finally has an opportunity to report on something that isn’t the Flash. Mason Bridge, reporter extraordinaire, sets the bait really well; he already knows she wants to be more than just the Flash reporter. Will she? I’m hoping these two threads collide. The media has traditionally been one of the better foils for the military. And it would give Iris some purpose.
Martin and Raymond couldn’t be happier to be apart, and Raymond and Caitlin seem overjoyed to be together. But there’s some oddities: despite the lack of Firestorm, both Stein and Raymond are running temperatures.
Joe decides to tell Barry what he and Cisco have been up to. Barry sees the blood, sees the hologram of the speedsters, and in a subsequent scene with Stein confesses his stunning realization. Since he was one of those speedsters, and his mother is dead, Barry is destined to fail. Or thinks he is. Frankly, just because Stein thinks time is malleable doesn’t mean it is. Honestly, as a writer and a human being, I think the timestream is set. Our perceptions of it make us think it can change, but what changes is really the meaning and import we assign to specific events. When Barry arrives at that point in time, everything he sees - his mother, the chase - will have a different meaning. I think Wells thinks otherwise, and his machine seems to show a changing future, so maybe for this story I’m wrong. I suspect that’s different, however, in a way I can’t yet explain: but hey, it’s only Episode 14. Maybe there’s different ways to travel through time.
Caitlin brings Ronnie up to date, telling him about her new work with Wells post-accelerator. Ronnie wants to leave town, like NOW, and I start to understand some interesting things about their relationship. I’m fairly sure he was dominant before, and maybe he’s picked up some of Stein’s dominance, though I think most of this is him and, from Caitlin’s reaction, not that unusual. Caitlin’s response is interesting: she’s become her own woman since Ronnie died, finding metahumans and helping Barry defeat them. Ronnie seems a little nonplussed to find out Caitlin has a purpose besides Ronnie, although his argument–about time together being stolen from them–would probably melt me. But before they can really resolve anything, they get attacked by the military. Barry’s still with Stein and they realize Stein and Raymond aren’t as separate as they thought: Stein tells Barry to run, and Barry rescues Ronnie from General Eiling.
The team meets and plans. Stein is concerned for his wife, but they all think it’s better to stay in the compound. Barry promises to protect his wife, and Wells goes to have an interesting conversation with Eiling. Again the character leaves me with ambiguity. Is he good or evil? Is his goodness part of a larger design? Great performance here.
Joe finds Barry home and depressed, and let’s thank the goddess for Jesse Martin, because he doesn’t do a sitcom thing here. He cuts straight to the meat and asks if he’s made a mistake hunting for the truth. Barry says it’s a burden, but it’s the right burden and it’s one they share: then shows he’s Joe’s son by asking how they found out the blood, specifically, belonged to Barry. Joe confesses he was hunting for information about Wells. Barry again reiterates his faith in Wells. Joe tells Barry he believes… but I doubt it. The Detective has the scent.
Stein and Wells are sharing a fancy bourbon and doing the whole wealthy-scientist thing, sharing the experience of despair at their own failure. Stein starts feeling woozy; at first I think it’s a repeat of earlier, and something’s happening to Ronnie… but Wells’ eyes are a little too steady. Nope. Stein’s been poisoned, and he slumps to the floor. And I get the plan, immediately. Wells is going to sell Stein to Eiling in exchange for Raymond.
But there’s this funny connection, and back in Barry’s house, where Caitlin and Ronnie have moved temporarily, Ronnie stumbles. Eiling comes into the Labs, and picks up Stein’s motionless body. “See? We do work well together.” Wells nods, but I think there’s a hint of actual guilt on his face as Eiling and his squad leave.
Mason is after Iris again, this time about “Caitlin Snow, M.D.” Iris knows her, of course, but doesn’t know about the recent attack in the coffee shop on Caitlin and Raymond, and is surprised when Mason whips out the article. Iris does have reporter tendencies; despite her faith in Caitlin et al, you can see she’s going to investigate. She had the same expression Cisco did when he doubted Wells. But hey, wait, that guy Caitlin was with, who she called “Sam?” He looks a little bit like this guy on fire on that blog Iris has been keeping. This marked the first time I felt Iris had utility on this show.
The team finds out Stein is gone, Wells concealing his role in it; they begin to plot to get Stein back, using Ronnie to track him through their connection. He can tell Stein is cold, and in what turns into a nice bit of editing, we cut to Stein, who’s protesting against his work being used by the military. Eiling gives an exciting speech which makes me wonder when we’re going to see Amanda Waller on this show, then has his men begin torturing Stein. (Grodd lovers note: one of the torturers states the last time she used the torture implement, some sort of electric taser, was on a gorilla.) Ronnie feels the pain, Eiling insults teachers, and the connection between Ronnie and Stein proves extremely strong as Ronnie cuts himself to communicate thru words on Ronnie’s skin, and Stein taps out Morse code through Ronnie’s body. Ronnie and Caitlin have a sincere moment, and Cisco gives them the splicer, in case it helps the connection situation between Stein and Raymond, somehow.
I do NOT like Wells’ smile when they leave. He might have a deeper plan guaranteeing Barry and Ronnie’s safety, but…
Barry and Ronnie get close to the facility, and Ronnie senses a gun at Stein’s head. This flushes out the Flash, of course, which may be what Eiling planned; he wakes the facility. They douse him with flaming phosphorous, which I thought was illegal on American soil; Wells tells Barry the only way to stop the burn is to run fast enough to create a vacuum. Barry hits new speeds, screaming with pain; while the Flash is running, Wells is talking to Raymond - convincing him and Stein to merge, intentionally. Ronnie says goodbye to Caitlin, puts on the quantum splicer - and Firestorm is reborn, this time fully powered. He confronts Eiling, who, as he was for the Flash, was prepared for Firestorm. He uses an ion grenade to depower Firestorm; just before he kills Firestorm, the Flash intervenes, and the heroes escape, having made, apparently, an enemy of the American government.
Back in the lab, Firestorm proves able, now that he’s intentionally merge, to intentionally fission; we may now have a viable Firestorm in the mix, instead of someone who barely isn’t a threat. But before that happens, he and Stein want to go meet with some wise men in the desert for training, currently known as “friendly scientists.” The two merge again and say goodbye to their loved ones.
Iris shows up in Jitters while Cisco and Caitlin are reviewing events, and catches Caitlin out in a lie about “Sam” – and seems ready to drop a friendship for a career. She agrees to help Bridges investigate her “friends.” Meanwhile, Barry and Joe are back at the Allen house, and the sexy owner is still conveniently gone. But Barry has reached the end of his pondering: he’s going to learn from what Joe has found, and try to change the past. I hope he can, but like I said, I don’t think such changes are possible; Barry’s tilting at windmills to make this goal.
But at this point we start seeing a more sinister side of the yellow speedster. He kidnaps Eiling and brings him to a sewer. He reveals who he is (I wonder if Wells feels good after all the secrecy?) Wells, finally revealed, tells Eiling that he protects his own - and Eiling hears growling and a voice in his head; Grodd emerges, enraged perhaps at his own torture, and am I terrible in hoping that’s the end we see of Eiling?
Bits and pieces
-Character development. From Ronnie hating to be called Ronald to Cisco’s asides to Wells’ characteristics to Joe’s concern, everything was consistent and on the ball. I’m starting to love this crew.
-Even Iris. Seriously. She’s starting to have moments of believability. Although I don’t think she’s going to end up the steady. I think Linda is turning into my favorite in that dept., but we didn’t see much of her today.
-When will they stop teasing us with Grodd? We didn’t get more than a glimpse tonight. I’m a little disappointed at the telepathy. In some comic representations, Grodd has used American Sign Language elements or variants.
Mason Bridge: It might as well be dothraki.
Eiling: Gentlemen, we are at war.
Ronnie: I’m coming with you.
Caitlin: No, you’re not. You can’t.
Ronnie: I’m connected to Stein. I have to go.
Caitlin: But did you ever stop to think why your connection to him is growing stronger by the minute? Maybe you’re being drawn back together. Maybe your proximity will cause you to re-merge into one.
Ronnie; And what happens to me if he gets killed? Cait, Barry was right: the world is different now. Look, I thought we could get away start a new life, a normal life, together but there is no normal life for us. You will always risk your life to try to help people, and I will always be the guy that runs into that pipeline for you.
Caitlin: I found Ronnie, then I lost him, then I found him again but he wasn’t actually Ronnie, then I got him back but just for a day until I lost him again.
Cisco: You guys are like ten seasons of Ross and Rachel, but just, like, smushed into one year.
Four out of four angry telepathic gorillas. This was an excellent episode from effects to characters. If they can keep this up I’ll be a very happy couch potato.