Like a well-oiled machine, The Flash is back.
Of course, it was a well-oiled machine right from the beginning, so this isn’t actually a surprise. But sometimes shows can lose their way rather quickly, especially if they gain some early success (See: Sleepy Hollow, for an example of this kind of trainwreck), so there was some relief on our parts that this episode felt like it aired a week after the previous one, with none of the slight or sudden shifts in quality that sometimes pop up after a short hiatus. No, Barry’s still grinning and grimacing his way through high adventure as a well-rendered core of supporting characters alternately cheer him on or lecture him about his responsibilities. It’s about as old-school superhero as a successful modern TV adaptation can get.
As the show matures slightly and settles into its groove, it seems obvious to us that one of its greatest strengths from the beginning of the show has been its rather tight control over a decent-sized cast of characters, allowing them each to introduce and define themselves, as well as to establish relationships with each other. Ten episodes in and Barry, Joe, Iris, Eddie, Cisco, Caitlin and Harrison have formed such a strong core at the center of the show that episodes can now hang entirely on the various relationships among the characters without seeming unfocused or like a waste of time. Joe and Cisco rescuing Caitlin was such an efficiently rendered scene that only worked because we genuinely care about all three of them.
Granted, we could do without the constant hugging and tears between Barry and Joe, which is starting to get a little bit too warm and fuzzy for our tastes. It’s great that Barry has such a loving father figure in Joe, but they need to have scenes that say something other than “I’m a/You’re a loving father figure to you/to me.” And to be honest, Barry’s move back home the second Iris moved out didn’t exactly assuage our concerns that the West/Allen family dynamic isn’t just a little screwy.
But we can patient on that front, since it was more important to do some smart shifting on the Iris relationship. Their little confrontation was cute and poignant, and for the first time, Iris didn’t come across annoyingly self-absorbed. She seems genuinely confused by Barry’s feelings and unsure of what that means for her friendship with him – as she should, since she’s always seen him as a brother. She was easily the weakest spot in the first part of the season, but this episode gave us hope that they can actually flesh her out just a bit more.
As for superheroics, there were plenty to be had as Barry made a can’t-take-it-back change in his life and went public as The Flash in an explosive way. Literally. Nothing like a well rendered street throwdown between a superhero and some villains, after all. Sure, the “crossing the streams” bit was perhaps a bit too on the nose, with our without the self-aware Ghostbusters jokes, but it’s kind of hard not to ignore any weak points while you’re grinning your face off watching The Flash run up the side of buildings and catch missiles in mid air. Kudos should be paid to the fight coordinators, because some of Grant Gustin’s moves this episode (especially the missile trick) were beautifully choreographed.
But no happily positive review of this episode would be complete without mentioning the grand fun Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell brought to their roles as Captain Cold and Heatwave, respectively. Sure, you could argue that the former is just another smooth-talking villain and the latter is just another rage-filled meathead, but the former Prison Break co-stars can riff of each other like old friends and Miller in particular seems to have the grandest time slewing bitchy and bored zingers left and right. Glad to see they pulled the classic supervillain escape at the end. Barry needs his version of The Joker, and it looks like Captain Cold is going to be the guy to fill the slot. This is smart, because the show can continue to churn out monsters/villains of the week while allowing at least one mastermind (two, if you count Harrison – and why wouldn’t you?) to form a long-term plan.
Our only complaint? That acronym for F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. was hilariously awful. Guys, sometimes you just gotta let a silly codename be a silly codename.
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Chris Evans in Hollywood, California