Or: What Makes and Breaks a Hero?
I could really only express two words when this episode was over. Wow and More. It has been a while since I’ve enjoyed an hour of television this much. The writing was great, the directing was spot on, and the acting was stellar. I called some things and was happy to see them occur. A few others surprised me but fit so well and that is always a good thing. Also, WestAllen! This episode rocks.
Let’s do this.
Since Barry is still without his speed, the team has been using a hologram of the Flash to help the police apprehend criminals. The level of teamwork synchronicity in Barry, Cisco and Iris here is just wonderful. They worked seamlessly and without hiccups. True teamwork goals and I loved it. Also, watching Barry run regular speed on the treadmill is kind of adorable and Cisco yelling “Heroy!” was a delight. Hologram Flash is working pretty well, but it won’t last forever, as Harry the wet blanket so helpfully points out.
Harry is still convinced that he can get Barry his speed back, and that it is the best an only option. It is gratifying to see that Barry, Iris and Cisco aren’t so sure. There is a lot of risk and possibility for error in something like this, and they all have to consider what happened to the city last time. Harry points out that there’s no way to defeat Zoom or rescue Caitlin without Barry’s speed, and he’s right. But Barry isn’t sold on Harry’s wild idea yet.
Barry heads into the woods to visit his dad, who is living in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. Anyone who knows me knows I am deeply unhappy with Henry’s writing this season, and that’s putting it lightly. It makes no sense and is completely out of character to have Henry bail on his son and leave town after fifteen years in prison away from him. That did not ring true at all. I’m very glad to see Henry back, he should never have left. Welcome back, John Wesley Shipp, we missed you! If anything happens to Henry in the near future I’m going to be so severely ticked it won’t be pretty. For now, Henry is back and I’m glad.
Barry fills in his dad on everything that has happened in Central City recently, and Henry decides it’s time to return to city life and spend time with Barry. Henry is not a fan of the particle accelerator plan because he’s worried about the danger to his son, as any parent would. During the course of their conversation Henry mentions that his mother’s maiden name is Garrick. I’m sure we all sat up straight hearing that!
I have to say, Barry mentioning that it feels like every time something good happens in his life it gets taken away gave me feels. It is so true, and Barry has come to expect that good things will be taken sooner or later. I appreciated that Henry acknowledged his own responsibility for one of those points and decided it was time to return to his son’s life. I love me some Henry Allen.
During what is probably the millionth argument about whether Barry should try to regain his speed, Cisco abruptly vibes and sees his brother Dante, who we haven’t seen since the middle of last season. He immediately leaves. Henry and Barry arrive and I get happy feels when Iris greets Henry with enthusiasm and a big hug. I just really like it when Iris interacts positively and hugs people, okay? Harry looks less than enthused, and I’m sure it’s because he knows Henry isn’t going to jump on his Barry-and-city-endangering bandwagon.
The CCPD is business as usual as Wally and Joe prepare to head out for the day. Wally is starting to reconsider what he should do with his life since the Flash saved him. The West I Need To Help People Gene is a real thing, people! Joe encourages Wally to stay in engineering, it’s safer.
Speaking of safe, everyone in the CCPD is suddenly in danger as Zoom arrives and declares himself honorary Police Chief and Head Honcho. Joe gets all the dad points for putting Wally behind him immediately. When it looks like Zoom might kill everyone there, Caitlin implores him to spare them. Zoom relents, and the police force recognizes it is wiser to retreat and fight another day. Singh gets good Chief points for valuing his officers’ lives over trying to show Zoom who’s boss, especially after the last time Zoom was in their building.
Harry knows the Zoom playbook by now and is sure Zoom will kill police, recruit metahumans, and rule the city with a black claw fist. Joe and Barry discuss the police relocating to Jitters for the time being (well, at least they’ll have caffeine to keep them going) but Harry is more concerned about what happens after that. He argues that they can’t rely on Caitlin being able to talk Zoom out of things, and Barry needs his powers back now. Barry is still not sold.
Caitlin is handcuffed in the CCPD and tries to talk some sense into Zoom. He in turn tries to convince her there is darkness inside her and she should let it out. Manipulative much, Hunter? I think he could see darkness in a rainbow. Once he leaves, Caitlin spots an evidence box under a desk and inches closer to it.
Cisco meets up with Dante, and from their first words it’s clear that their relationship has not changed one bit after their kidnapping adventure last year. Dante inserts a caustic comment every chance he gets, and Cisco realizes nothing has changed at all. They are brothers but they are not close and probably never will be. Sidenote, I loved that Cisco got a plot arc all to himself this episode, it’s so rare that they don’t somehow revolve around Barry in some way. Cisco is a wonderful and under-utilized character, and it’s nice to see him get a story all his own.
Meanwhile, Joe and Harry decide it’s safest for Jessie and Wally to be locked in the time vault while the threat of Zoom is so great. Overprotective fathers, unite! So glad Joe is over trying to protect Iris every step of the way. But both Wally and Jessie have been kidnapped by Zoom so I can understand the thought process here. Wally, of course, wants to help but Jessie is more concerned about bathroom access. Jessie, you speak my language. Wally wants wi-fi. Ok Wally I speak your language too.
As Harry continues to perfect his device to regain Barry’s speed, Joe and Henry arrive and there is dissension regarding what Barry should do. True to form, Harry feels for the good of the city Barry has no choice. Henry makes an excellent point when he says that Harry is messing with things out of his control and that Barry could pay the price, plus even if it worked Barry was no match for Zoom the first time. Joe is unsure what the right thing is in this case, but he has dealt with Barry long enough to know that whatever Barry decides is what Barry is going to do. They stop arguing once they realize Barry is standing in the doorway and heard everything. Barry tells them that he knows they all care for him in their own way, but this decision is his to make.
This is such a wonderful moment of growth for Barry here. Compare it to last year’s season finale, when he asked everyone except maybe the postman whether he should go back in time to save his mother or not. Last season he was relying on what others told him to do, and this time he knows he needs to make the decision himself. He’s not sure what it is yet, but it needs to come from him. Look at my little hero growing up! Loved it.
Once Dante brings up sports Cisco recognizes his cue to leave, but before he makes it out the door he catches the news report about Zoom taking over the CCPD. He’s highly distressed naturally and rushes out, but Dante follows. Their arguing is interrupted by a metahuman who resembles a red grim reaper, complete with glowing red scythe that blows things up. So you know, the usual. He addresses Cisco as Vibe and attacks. After some initial witty banter and threats of revenge, the metahuman unmasks and reveals himself as earth 2 Dante, who thinks Cisco killed Reverb and is here for revenge. Cisco’s quick thinking and use of reverse in the van clobbers Rupture for the moment, and he and Dante escape. Harry confirms the next step in Zoom’s play by play and as they try to work up a game plan tells Barry that the next action is an obvious one. Barry excuses himself to think and Iris follows. (Best friend Iris for the win.)
Iris provides the thing Barry needs right now and listens to him. They discuss why this choice isn’t as simple as it should be, and how Henry just wants his son to stay safe. Iris is feeling much the same. Barry asks her what she thinks, and she admits she doesn’t know if she can handle it if he got hurt like he did last time. I am so glad to see her express her true feelings about it, because the last time she was more selfless and told Barry to think about what he wanted. I’m always happy to see selfless love in her, but I am also glad to see her acknowledge her very real fear and how bad it was while Barry was comatose. She should never bury her true feelings and only tell him what she thinks he wants to hear, they both need to be honest and they are. This is a wonderful thing for a healthy relationship. The coma was a horrific thing to go through and no one would want to repeat it, but Barry is in tune enough to know that something else is on her mind. So he asks her what’s up. And we all lean forward a bit more in suspense.
Iris finally tells Barry about how she’s feeling lately, and that it doesn’t matter to her if he is the Flash or not, because it’s Barry Allen she wants to see if she has a future with. It’s a beautiful honest scene, and much like Barry’s initial confession of love last year, she lays it out but doesn’t expect anything back. Candice Patton always brings a strong acting game, but here she brought it and then some. Grant Gustin wasn’t far behind, and between the two of them the tension and chemistry was palpable. The only thing that made it less than perfect was how Barry didn’t immediately jump on her declaration and reciprocate, but I can understand why. Just like Barry’s confession, where he told Iris how he felt and left her to process it, Iris has done the same for Barry now. It’s a lot to take in, and Barry has the added weight of his decision regarding his powers to consider. This is not the time for hormones and making out. It’s not even really the time for endless “I love yous.” Iris needed to express herself and now that it’s out there they are both on the same page for the first time in a very long while. But both are mature enough to realize that other issues still take precedence over a love affair that can’t really start until the next hurdle is cleared: Is Barry going to try to regain his powers and what will happen when he does? I can understand it and I can wait, because if the small step they each took toward each other, the look on Barry’s face and sparks flying are any indication, we’re headed in the right direction. Both Barry and Iris are looking at this relationship with long term views, the last thing either wants to do is rush it and ruin it. I fully support that.
This scene though, WOW. Fabulous acting and direction. And the music is the same as what played on the rooftop of Jitters so long ago. A hint of mystery and tension among the comfortable friendship theme. Perfect. I don’t say it enough but the music is really well done and meaningful most of the time. Also, as Barry Allen Grant Gustin fidgets a fair amount, but he is at his absolute peak when he is nervous around Iris. Beautiful acting choice. Gorgeous scene.
Caitlin manages to pull the evidence box close enough to open it and finds a cell phone. Hearing Zoom and Rupture approach, she pushes the box back and hides the phone. Zoom has clearly lied to Rupture and sent him after Cisco, and now gives orders for him to attack the new Jitters police station and kill the officers there. Hunter has definitely embraced the dark monster inside of him, it seems., in spite of his claims otherwise. Caitlin secretly texts a warning to the team at S.T.A.R. Labs.
By now, Jessie and Wally probably really need a restroom, but they are told to stay in the vault. Caitlin’s warning arrives and everyone looks to Barry for his decision. He decides it’s still too risky for the city and innocent people, so they need a plan without the Flash. The CCPD sets up an ambush for Rupture using the Flash hologram and a lot of well-hidden officers.
As Cisco preps to assist with the plan, Dante has found the letter he once gave to Caitlin and realizes his brother went to another earth. That’ll make you realize you don’t know your bother at all. Cisco is pretty stressed and lays out why he never said anything. Once he lets slip the word vibe (and clearly regrets it) Dante makes the connection. Cisco acknowledges his powers and that he’s a metahuman. Dante is stunned but I am impressed. For the first time Cisco acknowledged it without fighting it or resisting first. It’s a nice and subtle moment because up to now Cisco has not felt comfortable with them and Harry had to force it out of him for the others on the team to find out. Cisco is growing into himself and I’m glad to see it, I hope it continues. Dante is at first scoffing and then shocked and curious. It’s interesting to watch Dante’s change in character as he asks questions and realizes how much he doesn’t know about his own brother. Cisco points out that Dante is right. They aren’t close, they haven’t been for a long time and it’s not going to change. Cisco heads to Jitters and leaves Dante behind.
The sting goes as planned and Rupture is distracted fighting the hologram Flash (Barry and Cisco in a van outside) long enough for the police to tase and cuff him. Rupture’s mask is knocked off and an opportunistic news camera arrives, unintentionally tipping off Zoom that Caitlin warned them and Rupture is captured. Zoom arrives at the precinct and, with news camera rolling, kills every officer there except Joe and attacks Singh. Barry rushes in from the van but can’t really do much except try to persuade Zoom he made his point. Zoom drops Singh but stabs Rupture and kills him. Cisco sees it all from the van and it’s like watching his brother die. Zoom picks up the camera, still rolling live, and outs the Flash hologram as a fake. He then tells Barry and Joe they are only alive because he cares for Caitlin but that will only go so far. Caitlin gets to watch it all, but sure she’ll love you in time Zoom, you psycho.
Cisco rushes back to S.T.A.R. Labs, and Dante realizes what his brother was just doing. Cisco cuts off his words by rushing to embrace his Dante and tells him he wants things to be different and he wants things to change. Dante is equally moved, and watching the two siblings cling to each other is a beautiful bonding moment. It was very moving. Ramon brothers forever!
Jessie and Wally are bored and restless, and Wally wants to be out helping. He talks Jessie into attempting to open the vault, and she commits her formidable brain to the task.
The team is realizing how bad things are. Zoom will recruit metahumans next, and the list is big from earth 2 but should be even bigger on this earth. The only reason they haven’t seen more is due to the Flash, but now everyone knows he’s out of the picture they will be making an appearance. Barry decides to try the accelerator experiment for the good of the city. He notes that one of the police officers killed by Zoom has a son the same age Barry was when he lost his mother, and now another child has to grow up without a parent because Barry wasn’t there to stop him. I have to say, that hit me right in the feels. As dangerous as it is, I can see why Barry would make that choice and I appreciate that he didn’t make the decision lightly. Again, Barry decides to take responsibility for a choice he made, this time the choice of giving up his powers to Zoom and enabling him to take over the city. He’s maturing a lot all of a sudden and I’m here for it.
The experiment to get Barry’s powers back is about five minutes of the episode but it feels like way more. Harry has his contraption built, and sends Cisco with the weather wand to the roof to conjure lightning. Cisco, as always, provides a lighter feel and we need it because things are getting very serious. Barry gets clamped into the device and I don’t know about him but being restrained would really really bug me.
The last moments Barry has with certain people were well done and moving. Joe is nervous but holds it in, and Barry tells him he’ll be fine. Iris tells him that no matter what happens it will never change how she feels about him. His smile and her look in return cement their progress to me. It’s just a matter of time…and the next few minutes.
And Henry, ah Henry, a caring dad who just wants to make sure his son isn’t feeling pressured into anything he doesn’t want to do. The moment is so well done I almost forgive Barry using the “I have to do this” last line. Of course Henry acquiesces after that.
There’s something to be said for Henry and Iris both expressing in this episode that Barry can be someone and something without his powers, because it’s true we can be heroes without them and I’m so glad they see value in him as he is. (Others do too, it’s just that Iris and Henry actually said it this ep.) But I also understand Barry’s choice because he definitely can’t beat Zoom without his speed. Damn you and your good acting Grant, when you cry I cry.
Jessie and Wally working together is my new favorite thing. They are really adorable together as they hot wire the door and trick it into opening the time vault. They exit just in time for the big finale. Kids, they never listen.
Sometimes I think the writers just want to torture us. I totally get the reason they injected chemicals into Barry (and thank you for explaining it on the show too, writers, it made good sense) but watching Iris get more and more upset as Barry exhibited more and more pain just messed me up. It was heart wrenching, especially when he was only worried about reassuring her. Chemicals in the system can cause a variety of symptoms, but they all suck. It’s not just pain, it’s also convulsing and trembling, nausea and shortness of breath and feeling like your heart is palpitating. Barry, you are not okay but I love you more for worrying about how Iris was feeling. Also your dad was monitoring your vitals and he knew you weren’t. I need to find a weeping corner now…
Cisco brings the lightning, and it’s a nice touch how they show Zoom at Barry’s lab, looking out the window at S.T.A.R. Labs and realizing what they’re trying to do. Same music as the pilot and everything. But this time when the lightning and dark matter hit Barry, he vaporizes before their eyes. The explosion knocks the rest down and the cloud of dark matter rushes down the hallway, colliding with Wally and Jesse and knocking them unconscious. Pretty sure I mumbled “holy crap!”
Zoom arrives ready to take out a newly metahuman-ed Barry, but finds only a piece of his suit instead. He gloats that they killed him for him and leaves them in shock and agony. Really Zoom, you have no class. And you wonder why Caitlin is not impressed.
This episode brought so much. I admit I wondered if the attempt was going to go badly and I hoped Barry would end up in the speed force. I’m fairly certain Barry is in the speed force but he could be stuck somewhere else. I called that. But I so did NOT call Wally or Jessie, I thought it would be longer before they got speed powers and I put it together two seconds before it happened. Yesss good stuff! Nice one, writers. I also had no idea that Cisco’s story would be so wonderful and moving. The Flash was at the top of its game with this ep, and everyone was in top form. I hope the next three are just as awesome.
Also, when Candice cries I also cry too. I was a mess. Poor Iris.
So by the time it was over, all I did was whisper “wow”, and “more.” And I’m sure it was the same for tons of viewers.
Is it Tuesday yet? Bring on The Runaway Dinosaur, we’re dying here! Maybe that’s a bad choice of words…
- Armen Kevorkian is the head of special effects on The Flash, and he also directed this episode. I have to say, he did a really wonderful job with both. The direction on this ep was stellar. Nice job, Armen!
- “I’m sure there is something out there that will satisfy your need for speed and helping people.” LOL. Subtle, writers. We all know what that is! It just came in sooner than I thought it would, not that I’m complaining. Speedster Wally and Jessie!
- Great character writing in this ep, Kai Yu Wu and Lauren Certo were on point and fabulous. I want more screenplays from them!
- Dante notes his brother’s distress leaving the bar and follows for that reason but once outside he asks/demands a ride home. Expressing emotion obviously doesn’t come easy to Dante, and it’s easier to rely on a practical reason to follow Cisco than admit he is concerned about him. I would really like to see more of Dante and Cisco working on their relationship, and I’d like to see it written this well all the time, please.
- “You’re Princess Bride-ing me right now! You must have me mixed up with somebody else, Inigo!” AHAHAHAHA! I love that this is becoming a thing.
- “It wasn’t just because of Patty.” Boom, proof that Iris was thinking about Barry that way before he went to Earth 2 and found out their doppelgangers were married. These feelings have been there probably forever. Add that to “I wasn’t available in that way, but I am now.” etc.,and Iris has clearly realized she had those feelings for a long time, but has not acted on them until now.
- All the WestAllen!
- “You betrayed me!” Hunter, Caitlin has regularly told you she wasn’t on your side and didn’t want to be anywhere near you. Where is the betrayal? Things like this just highlight Zoom as a classic abuser, blaming their bad behavior and actions on someone who is truly just another victim. I’m glad he’s not being portrayed as a sympathetic character, because this kind of abuser tendency should not be seen as romantic, it should be seen as unhealthy and wrong. Not to mention Zoom went back on his word before Caitlin warned the police anyway. Liar!
- All of the Cisco and Dante. Cisco made me cry. It was beautiful acting, and seeing their final scene together, where they commit to improve their relationship as brothers is just a wonderful moment and a gift for Cisco’s character and Carlos’ acting. It was excellent and I loved it. I want more brothers Ramon growth and relationship, for sure.
- Harry Potter. As a huge fan, every reference gave me giggles and made me love Cisco more, if that’s even possible. The Harry Potter convention and Expecto Patronum put me away.
- “I’m okay Iris.” That did more damage to me than what I knew was coming.
- Your mother’s maiden name is GARRICK, Henry?! I am really hoping this points to the metal mask man being the actual Jay Garrick. It would be a good move after besmirching his hero status with Hunter’s villainous duplicity.
- “Barry you’ve always had someone to come home to…me.” Iris is and always has been Barry’s home. Since episode 13 this season if not before this has been a recurring theme. (Go win Barry, and come home. Where are we going? Home.) I think it’s very possible that Iris being his home, his love for her, will be the thing that helps Barry return home. I don’t know if he’s in the speed force (though it seems likely) or if they’ll actually use the term lightning rod, but Iris will be what gets him home. (Other possible contender, Nora Allen. I’ll take either but I’d love to see them really show why Iris is so crucial to Barry as the Flash since it is so clear in the comics.)
- Tiny wondering, but for the briefest of moments when Iris tells him how she feels, after his smile and the look in his eyes, there is the smallest look of worry when she moves to leave. I can’t help but wonder if Barry’s feeling of how everything good that happens gets taken away will be seen in the future regarding Iris, or if he was having a worried inkling that something might go wrong if he tries to regain his powers. The last time Iris told him she had feelings for him they kissed and then he ran back in time and undid all of it. I can understand his worry that somehow this will be taken away again, this is the first time Iris has reciprocated his feelings with words since then. Heck all the fans worry about it too, when they kiss next we just want both of them to remember it! We hear you, Barry.
- “Good. The last thing we need is more metahumans running around Central City.” Famous last words, Joe.
Thoughts? Hit the comments!