In this week’s episode of The Flash, Barry learns that even the fastest man alive has limits, just as another metahuman threatens a big-named scientist in Central City.
Traditionally, second episodes of series are tricky because you need to remind the audience about the setup without feeling redundant and have a compelling story that solidifies what the show is about. Besides the clogged, exposition-heavy dialogue, this is a really impressive second episode of a comic book series.
The episode may have a replicating man, but it’s really about the “replicated” second father — Joe West — which is such an interesting focus for the show. Joe West took the father figure role Barry never wanted him to fill and he did it without complaint. He provided for Barry and made sure he didn’t fuel his theories about what actually happened to his mother (even if these theories are later shown to be less crazy).
So because West is in the loop about Barry and S.T.A.R. Labs, the episode really wonderfully sets up how much of an opposing force West is for Barry’s life. West is thinking of Barry’s well-being — he isn’t invincible — and who Barry is now, not the man in the mask. Jesse L. Martin turns in some subtle work of a man who must reposition his world view after learning his surrogate son is one of these metahumans.
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Fastest Man Alive, Longest Introduction
After one of the longest “Previously on” segments I’ve ever personally been victimized for (seriously, why not show the trailer for the pilot? It would have been faster), Barry tries to make a solid introduction to himself and the series. It’s pretty perfect: “This is the part where I’m supposed to do the whole intro thing. Barry Allen, fastest man alive, but you all know that already. Let’s get to the good stuff.”
Barry is a red-suited crime-fighting crusader, running around Central City to rescue people from burning houses and robberies, but he’s still working out the kinks with his team of Cisco, Kaitlyn and Wells. One of the things I kind of dig about this show is that it already has a built-in team ready to help Barry, even if Kaitlyn is a reluctant participant because she knows science doesn’t lie.
Barry experiences some of the blowback from running at superhuman rates, like low glucose levels, so he really has to eat A LOT so he won’t faint. It’s a good sign that The Flash is already outlining that Barry has limits to his own superhero powers (otherwise, we would tread dangerously close to Heroes territory. Shudder.).
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The Little Bad
Welcome to this week’s section of little bad, where I talk about the freak of the week. (Little bad is the opposite of Joss Whedon’s famous “Big Bad” description of the season-long villain.) The freak of the week shows up at a robbery Joe, Eddie and Barry are assigned to cover in which the robbers all have the same foot size and shoe.
So we’re dealing with a man who can replicate himself at will. His name’s Black — nicknamed Captain Clone and then finally Multiplex by Cisco — and he’s on a mission to assassinate Central University’s Man of the Year, Simon Stagg of Stagg Science or something. It’s at a fancy ceremony that Barry and Iris attend (though they look a little like they are attending prom) where Barry saves a brave security guard from being gunned down from Black and his duplicates before he faints outside.
The police show up to ask questions, so that means our favorite DC detective Joe West (I’ll fight you on this) tells Barry to make up better excuses. Iris is too smart for that. I wish Iris had more to do.
On his tour of being a good dad, Joe stops by Barry’s gigantic lab (and wall of weird) before figuring out that the dude’s at S.T.A.R. Labs for health reasons. He scolds Barry for playing superhero when he already has a job in law enforcement. Barry’s defense isn’t Dexter Morgan was a CSI and he still had time to murder bad people and “play hero,” but it should be. No, Barry’s actually pissed and he pulls the “You’re not my daddy” card, even though he knows that damn right Joe is his father.
Besides, what are the police going to do about metahumans? Notoriously, they are very bad at policing. But Joe West is right: Barry may be fast, but he’s not invincible. Also, he’s tiny. Grant Gustin is a thin man. I could probably break him in half and I have the strength of a guinea pig.
The exchange and Joe’s quietness in all of this makes him my favorite, I think. He may be drawing lines in the sand about where the jobs are, but he’s not wrong in that it will put a toll on people. Like, Barry can’t tell his friend Iris because of “promises,” but he can express himself by running back and forth while Iris pours sugar.
Anyway, the Flash team figures out that Multiplex cannot only replicate himself, but he is also not immune to having a bad hair color! Seriously, so bad! Black’s pissed that Stagg stole his replicating research that could have saved his wife and he’s taking it out on Stagg and Barry, who gets a can of Ass Whoop unleashed upon him.
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I Won’t Knock Down
One of the best parts about this script is the unexpected exchange between West and Wells. Both have paternal instincts over Barry, but I’m beginning to realize that the paternal role Wells would play on every other show is not the one he plays here. Joe West reads that Wells intuitively understands Barry, but he also (to me at least) sees through the guy.
The only person who can pump up Barry to get back to fighting condition is Joe West, father figure, because he’s the only one on the team who really loves Barry.
Alright, this next bit is wack: Kaitlyn, the reluctant team member, figures out to clone one of Black’s clones because she’s smart! She doesn’t want to be a wet blanket anymore! I give up. What’s important is that the team figures out that Barry needs to find the “Prime” Multiplex and it’s only with West’s confidence in him that he can do so. It’s also a really cool action piece for the show that expands how we can view Barry’s powers.
And so at the end of the day, Joe West is still a bit of a teddy bear to his son Barry Allen, and Barry recognizes he was acting like a little brat. They eat a really disgusting sounding pizza as West promises to help Barry find out what happened to his mother.
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— Wells is most probably from the future somehow, and his cold-blooded murder of Staggs, who wanted to find and research this Mercury figure, makes it look like he’s changing Barry’s destiny. Sort of. He’s a very tricky character to pull off, but the show’s done a good job of showing his different sides. Can we talk about Tom Cavanagh? Because he’s kind of marvelous as the shady Dr. Harrison Wells. Balancing this paternal energy with some mwahaha moments could be tricky, but Cavanagh makes it look easy.
— Theory Corner: The internet may have convinced me Dr. Wells is the future version of Barry, but after he stone-cold murders Stagg, I’m not sure. It’s a little scary how much Grant Gustin and Tom Cavanagh could be versions of the same character, though. Okay, I’m done.
— I love that Barry is always late to everything. I will always love it. Also, the show’s just a lot funnier than I imagined it to be.
— I would like for Iris to do something important that involves the main plot. Her Lois Lane-like desire to unmask the Red Streak is a semi-positive sign. Thank you.
— I have no idea what made Kaitlyn turn around from being a reluctant, almost-rude naysayer to someone who is happy to help. It was jarring by the end. Both Cisco and Kaitlyn are very close to becoming annoying.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8pm on The CW.
(Image courtesy of The CW)