01507~43

The Flash 2×19: Back To Normal

Or: How do we treat the ones we love?

Westallen is moving at a greater speed than Barry is now. I’m okay with this.

The last episode implied that Barry and Zoom both had a similar trauma and that they each took a separate road to become the men they are today. They are now almost exact opposites. One is a villain the other is a hero, one kills the other doesn’t. One is all for himself and the second cares about others. That’s pretty basic hero/villain set up, we’ve seen it before in stories and we will again. The one thing we are seeing that these two have in common are that they both love.

That said, there’s an interesting theme in this episode about the different approaches to love as it explores love for family, romantic love, and even hero worship. And in that exploration another question is presented. Should we blame the ones we love for the things they do, the way they are, and how their actions affect us? Love and blame are intertwined so tight in this ep you don’t get one without the other.

Starting off, we get a nice intro contrasting the start of a usual day for Barry with powers and without. A day with powers involves getting ready quickly and zipping through work like it’s nothing. I have to say I’d prefer that one myself. The other is slow trudging complete with interaction with strangers on a bus (ugh) and most likely being late to everything. Barry’s reality is now the latter, since he gave up his speed to save Wally the episode before. Barry’s back to normal and he’s not enjoying it.

At S.T.A.R. Labs Cisco is vibing Jay’s helmet to locate Caitlin. She’s in Zoom’s lair unharmed at the moment. Barry’s trying to figure out a way to get her back but gets interrupted by the Harry Wells man-child tantrum. Wells lays the blame for Caitlin and Zoom’s renewed threat that now looms over all of them at Barry’s feet. Then he packs to go find his daughter. Again. But this time he knows where she is, since people from Earth 2 vibrate at a different frequency and create cellular dead zones. With a few more juvenile digs at Barry about giving up his speed, he’s out the door. Didn’t know toddlers could walk that fast or carry a gun that big. Diaper power.

Barry is clearly despondent over recent events, and both Joe and Iris try to be there for him. I am totally here for that, Joe and Iris are both awesome.  It’s clear they all love each other. It’s really telling what they deem important in how they all treat each other and try their best to be supportive and caring. They stick together.

Meanwhile in Zoom’s lair, Caitlin is on a hunger strike. Zoom (after changing out of his evil suit so she’ll actually talk to him) tells Caitlin that she’s in no danger from him, she’s here because he loves her. I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that his idea of love and how to show it/handle it is VERY unhealthy and a whole lot creepy. I think my favorite line was when he said that in time Caitlin would eventually love him back again. I puked in my mouth a little, I admit it. Hunter has clearly ascribed to his father’s methods of romance and how to treat women. Forbid them to leave and be sure to put them at ease with declarations of creepy love. The icky thing is that Hunter actually seems to believe it, which is quite disturbing and directly contrasts Barry’s ideas of love and how to care for someone. Barry gave up his speed for Wally, after all, because Wally is a member of his family and someone he and Joe and Iris care about. Selfless vs selfish. Barry’ decision, while derided by many on and off screen, purposely reflects the selfless side of love. Ok moving on.

Zoom releases Caitlin from her manacles (Hunter that’s better than roses!) and Caitlin explores a bit. She quickly runs into metal mask man doing his classic tappety tap and her doppelgänger Killer Frost.

Wally arrives at the police station to visit Joe. (And calls him Dad! I will squeak with happiness every time he does it, and I’m not sorry.) Wally, being an intelligent and not moronic child, has put together that Joe must know the Flash. Wally wants to meet him. Joe isn’t sure, considering how much is going on right now. He says maybe later.

Harry tracks down Jesse and her amazingly cool room mate, but Jessie refuses to go with him. She lays all the blame for their predicament at his feet and reminds him he killed a man, which is kind of fair. (How’s it feel Harry? Sucks, right?) Harry is forced to leave without her and on his way back runs into a small problem—or a really strong man. The villain of the week crushes the front end of the van and yoinks Harry out of the driver’s seat. Dun dun dun!

Since there is a lot of focus on a lot of different things this episode, the team quickly puts together what happened to Harry. Iris and Barry head out to the van to investigate. Barry tracks down some blood samples and Iris makes sure to grab Harry’s big gun. Teamwork.

HOLD THE PHONE.

I’m pretty sure this is the very first time Iris and Barry have actively investigated a case together. Ever. They’ve each investigated and had the other one on the sidelines observing or helping occasionally, they’ve collaborated on Flash activities. But Barry has to lose his speed entirely before we get to see them both in the field, working together and being a cohesive team. Why are we only getting this now, at the end of season 2?! This needs to be a lead-in to this happening a whole lot in season 3. Iris and Barry need to truly be a unified team as a general rule and be any other way as an exception. Please keep building on this, writers, and keep going. Iris has been terribly underutilized as a reporter since day one.

GIVE THE PHONE TO THE WRITERS AND TELL THEM TO DO MORE OF THIS.

Harry, meanwhile, is trying to use his watch but quickly stops when his kidnapper introduces himself. Griffin Grey was a high school senior when the accelerator gifted him with incredible strength. But that strength comes with a cost. Griffin is aging at an accelerated speed and wants Harry to fix him, since he’s sure he’s talking to earth 1 Harrison Wells. Does he not get the paper at his abandoned amusement park? He doesn’t even question why Harrison Wells is suddenly alive or ask about him being revealed as a murderer a while ago. Okay then. Griffin does not watch the news, and he’s pretty bitter and ready to kill Harry if he doesn’t fix him. Harry wisely decides to play along. Man-child, meet an actual real man-child.

Armed with forensic evidence from the van and a hastily located and recalled Jessie, the team starts to put together the  identity and motive of the kidnapper. Jessie has five majors and one is Biochem, so she is able to fill gaps that Caitlin typically would.

Meanwhile Killer Frost and Caitlin work out a deal. Caitlin frees Killer Frost and she’ll help Caitlin get down and out of Zoom’s lair. As Caitlin works, they talk about frigid narcissist mothers and an Earth 2 dead brother named Charlie. (Keep that in mind for next season, or the finale as a teaser for next season.)

Wally isn’t Joe’s son for nothing and returns to ask Joe again for a meeting with the Flash. Wally expresses to Joe why it’s so important to him, how he has lived most of his life in a reckless manner, until Zoom took him and he thought he was going to die. Then the Flash saved his life by sacrificing his powers for someone he didn’t even know. It’s a really nice character moment, it’s enough to convince Joe and it should be, because Keiynan Lonsdale did a wonderful job with that monologue and really showed how much Wally wants to thank the Flash for what he did for him. I smell budding hero worship! Joe agrees to see what he can do.

The team heads out to a chemical plant, leaving Jesse behind, who is not impressed. I see some Harry in her. As expected, they run into Griffin Grey. Aaaand he starts chucking barrels. OMG!!! LIVE ACTION DONKEY KONG GAME! Barry tries to ambush him and is too slow (of course!) so he gets hit with a barrel. Grey ages before his eyes.

Iris patches Barry up and the team comes up with a new plan. (I absolutely did not squeal at Iris binding up Barry’s wounds…you can’t prove a thing.) The more Grey exerts himself the faster he ages. They need to push him to exert and make him old and weak.

As the team heads out, Barry and Iris have a really awesome moment looking at his suit. He tells Iris she was the first person he saved. (The pilot, when they were nearly hit by a police car in a high speed chase.) He had just barely realized he had powers and didn’t know half of what he could do, but he knew he could save her, and he did. Barry is wistful and fondly reminiscing at the same time.

I don’t think I can accurately express how important this moment is. Barry mentions that they were talking about how Eddie and Iris were together, and how at the time he was thinking about how he had missed so much in his coma, i.e. his chance with Iris, but he’s not trying to guilt or manipulate her. He has yet to lock anyone up until they return his love or forbid them to leave him. (Hunter, your dad was such a baaaad example.) Contrasting Hunter’s brand of affection, Barry’s love is simply present without expectation now, which is an improvement over even last season. Iris as usual has incredible micro-expression, Candice Patton is so good at it. Her looks say a thousand words.

Barry then expresses that he doesn’t know who he is anymore now that he’s not the Flash. And Iris proves why she’s his best friend and best supporter. She tells him he’s supposed to be who he’s always been, because suit or no suit, that guy is a hero. This is just one reason why Iris is so essential to Barry’s journey as a hero. She’s seen him that way since they were children, and she still does. She has always been his number one cheerleader and she always will be. This scene was truly beautiful, great acting guys.

Harry doesn’t get a nice moment like this, instead he gets a serious guilt trip from Griffin Grey about irresponsible actions that hurt others, and while Harry didn’t perform that act on this earth he was responsible for the same thing on earth 2 and has to confront his own culpability in Zoom and everything that resulted.

Caitlin manages to break Killer Frost out of her cell, who promptly repays the favor by trying to kill Caitlin. I’m so refraining from making a temperature pun right now, I’m actually in pain. Seems Ms. Frost (Killer? KF?) hasn’t had too much of a change in heart. Her attempt to kill Caitlin backfires badly as Zoom turns up and kills Killer Frost instead, right in front of Caitlin. Aw yes, How to Woo a Woman #325—Kill someone savagely and callously in her defense. For some reason it puts Caitlin off, though. Women. However, the metal mask man gets serious points for alerting Caitlin to the danger behind her and really really wishing he could help out. Zoom threatens to kill him if Caitlin dares to break him out. (How to Woo a Woman #326.)

Jesse makes the connection to the signal her father’s watch is sending and they manage to locate him. Jesse insists on going along and with Iris stepping in quickly Barry is overruled before he even gets a word out. I like the dynamics here, lol. Cisco and Jessie have rigged Barry’s suit to protect him from a super powered punch, but only in the chest area and only for one punch. Of course.

The abandoned amusement park is so like a Scooby Doo episode I refrain from yelling “Jeepers!” It was a near thing. Grey has figured out that Harry is simply stalling for time and has no idea how to fix him. Harry nearly becomes a punching bag but the team arrives and distracts Grey. (Iris and Jessie running point in the van is actually pretty cool!) After throwing a clown car around and almost hitting Joe and Cisco, Grey is distracted by Barry who…is so slow I just don’t get why Grey didn’t wonder about it. But he doesn’t and Barry gets clobbered. That’s one hit. But oh wait Grey is aging and still very strong. Ruh roh Raggy! Oh and then Barry gets another punch. We all worry he’s been trashed. (Iris especially, I see you Iris!)

That finally does it and Grey dies. Jessie gets to untie her father this time and rescue him, and the two make peace in terms of their expectations for each other.  They love each other and they need to work through some things to get to a better place as father and daughter. Let’s hope they can do it. Amazing how people argue, one gets kidnapped and suddenly everything is better on TV shows. It’s almost like it’s a convenient trope! Innnteresting…. But I will concede the scene was well acted and lovely for Harry and Jessie. Well done, Violett and Tom.

Wally gets to meet his idol and thank him, and this scene too is really nice. Wally is nervous and grateful, and his adorable little smile after is too much, he has reached cinnamon roll status with me. Wally is a sweetheart and I love him. Barry too shows great maturity and growth as he accepts Wally’s thanks and reciprocates with a heartfelt “You’re welcome Wally.” For all the difficulties and hardship that the loss of his speed has brought, Barry doesn’t blame Wally for it. And it doesn’t even seem like he regrets it, even if he’d like it to be different. Barry cares about his family and he cares about Wally, so the sacrifice is worth it to him. Consider this as you think on Zoom’s idea of love and how very far from sacrifice or selflessness it is, especially in the next paragraph.

So, Zoom still can’t get Caitlin to see how much he loves her. Go figure. She asks to go home again, but what he hears is that she’ll love him if he conquers more worlds. So they head off to earth 1 to conquer it because every woman loves a conquering hero who controls through fear and is happy to kill her friends if they stand in his way. FOR REAL, HUNTER!? There are not enough capital letters to accurately describe how UNHEALTHY this kind of love is. If you date a guy who even remotely resembles Hunter or his father, RUN AWAY. Plus Hunter, you’re trying to sell your manhood as much larger than it is because you said you’ve already brought your world to its knees but I’m pretty sure it’s only Central City you meant the city right?! I can’t realistically accept the idea that Zoom has brought the entire world to its knees, it’s not possible. And this is coming from someone who bought the idea that Eddie erasing Eobard could result in the timeline still being the same as it is now. (I had to do a lot of hoop jumping to make it work in my mind, but I did it.) This I just can’t get on board with. Writing-wise, it’s a bit stupid to try to convince us of that. Central City is not the entire earth. Why not just make Zoom a jealous would-be boyfriend who feels that wiping out or conquering the rivals for Caitlin’s affection/attention is a good idea? I’d buy that a lot more.

And finally, in the episode where too many people are making bad decisions, Harry decides that he hasn’t made amends enough for his part in creating Zoom and so, he’s going to help Barry get his powers back. BY CREATING ANOTHER PARTICLE ACCELERATOR EXPLOSION. I give up on this character ever having common sense. Go sit in the corner Harry, you need a time out.

Soap Box Time (This is not a regular feature but things are getting wild lately.)

Okay. We need to talk about death on this show. I know illegally imprisoning meta-humans last season wasn’t the best idea, but I’m still a bit more worried about villains dying than being incarcerated. The first two episodes of this season were disturbing because Barry deliberately took action to stop two different meta-humans and in doing so killed them. Many viewers sat up and took notice and didn’t like it. Those events were never referred to again and it was never delved into in terms of how Barry felt about it, if it was a good thing, if there was any kind of consequence that should be had for it, nothing in psychological or legal consequences were ever explored. Iron Heights prison being able to handle meta-humans and the Boot were introduced in the first episode and yet those two deaths still happened. So many of us are a bit leery now, and rightfully so. When Barry electrocuted King Shark my first thought was did Barry just kill again? Thankfully no they made it clear he was alive and Lyla Diggle would be doing her best to help him. Ok cool.

Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention the first time I watched this episode, because I came out of it believing that the team, led by Barry and Iris, of all people, were totally cool with provoking Grey to use his powers in order to advance his age and thus kill him. Maybe I’m a bit gun shy now because that was how I remembered it and it was very upsetting. On re-watching the episode I realize their plan was only to age him further and that they thought it would weaken him. It didn’t and the more he fought them the more he aged until he didn’t grow weak at all, he just died. That removes the premeditation in terms of the death and I’m grateful. Several lines and a throwaway comment by Cisco (one more punch and we can give this guy a walker) helped me realize the entire team was working on this presumption. No one was trying to kill anyone, it was an unfortunate result. This is good. But I am still a little bothered by the less than stellar writing in terms of the team caring. They gave each other one tragic look and moved on without a thought. I don’t know. Maybe I’m over thinking this. But even the idea that the team I look to as good guys would purposely provoke someone into aging, essentially wasting his life and speeding him to death that much faster, still bugs me. Griffin Grey was 18 and his life was wasted by the accelerator accident. That is no one’s fault but Eobard Thawne’s. But where is the line in this? Did the team act with callous disregard for  human life, because he was a metahuman? Was he already toast so it doesn’t matter? Grey was over the line in his actions as well, he wasn’t blameless. But I feel the writers are skirting the edges of greater moral problems here and expecting us not to notice. But again, they’ve done that on plenty of other things. And maybe it’s possible I’m looking too far into it and expecting fiction to perfectly mirror life. Most of the time fiction can’t do that and I accept it. But I want my good guys to be good guys, not questionable anti-heroes. If I wanted that I’d be watching a different show. Thoughts?

Tidbits:

  • Bless Iris and her immediate defense of Barry. I love her emphasis on them making decisions as a team because she really adds so much to the team. She needs to be present more. I know it’s hard juggling her job and S.T.A.R. Labs duties, and heaven knows we need to see more of Iris as a reporter too, but it’s important she be included in Team Flash. Maybe we can mix both together? I know I’d like it.
  • “It’s easy.” If it’s that easy, Harry why haven’t you done it before now? Just sayin’. Also, don’t be such a toddler. You know if Jesse were the one in danger you’d tell Barry to give up his speed pronto.
  • Seriously, Hunter/Zoom and his idea of love is nauseating. After his first scene this episode the 12 year-old girl next to me turned and said “Well he’s just an idiot, isn’t he? She’ll never love him!” This child has been raised well. Hunter if a 12 year-old can see something wrong, you’re not doing it right.
  • The fear in Joe’s face when he asks if Wally wants him to tell who the Flash is was a really neat moment for me. It’s tiny, but the fear is real. Joe doesn’t want to lie, but he also needs to protect Barry’s identity. Joe doesn’t go straight to telling Wally he’s mistaken as he did for Iris and even Patty, so he’s learning. He doesn’t want to endanger his relationship with his son, but he also doesn’t want to give up information he has no right to give out without at least asking first. Very nice and telling bit of acting from Jesse L. Martin.
  • Jessie had the coolest room mate ever, lol. She puts things together and rolls with them so easily. She must have been a dream to live with.
  • Iris grabbed the big gun. Of course she did, she’s smart and savvy!
  • “How many majors do you have?” “Five.”{shocked silence} “Is that not common here?” “Girl, no, that is not common anywhere.” Hahaha that scene was beautiful. I’d like more scenes with Iris and Jessie please.
  • The symbolism of a rapidly aging teenager hiding in a decrepit and abandoned amusement park is not lost on me. It’s particularly appropriate.
  • “Okay, He-Man’s got some power!” CRASH “And accuracy.” LIVE ACTION DONKEY KONG! Cisco, I cannot believe you missed a chance to say that. I blame the writers.
  • “So he needs to up his blueberry intake?” Lol Joe.
  • “Any more than that and you’ll be like a pinata. Except it won’t be candy coming out it’ll be—” “Me.” “Yeah you.”  Bwahahahaha priceless Barry and Cisco.
  • Minor nit pik, but why sell the idea that Barry can only take one hit and then hit him twice without any major repercussions? It lessens his powerless heroics to see him get nailed hard and walk away. If Gray were really that strong there would be broken bones, come on guys keep it a smidge real. So unless Grey was pulling his punches Barry, Harry, and probably Joe should be wandering around needing serious painkillers.
  • Is anyone else slightly creeped out by Zoom phasing through Caitlin’s body? I know phasing is a thing and it’s not a violation per se, but I think combined with Zoom’s unhealthy ideas of love it felt very wrong. But that could just be me.

Possibilities:

  • Cisco gave so much emphasis to hating Jay’s hat that I’m wondering if he’ll be glad they kept it around by the end of the season. Just a thought.
  • Caitlin and Killer Frost discussing their cold removed mothers was interesting and the first we’ve heard about Caitlin’s family since a throwaway comment about her dad early in the season. It’s possible seeds are being planted for a season 3 Caitlin/family story. Really, that would be fine. For her sake please keep her away from romance, too much repetition. Break the curse first.
  • Harry are you kidding me?! Have you learned nothing?! “Oh I’ve felt guilt over what I’ve done now…LET’S DO IT AGAIN.” NOOOOO BAD HARRY. I’ve seen the trailer for the next ep and it’s clear that they work out a way to contain an accelerator explosion to the device Barry is in so the city is probably safe, but even considering it gives Harry the award for Best Stupid Idea Ever. Barry was in first place with his genius go-back-in-time-and-learn-from-the-Reverse Flash nonsense, but this blew him right out of the water. For smart people, these guys come up with some really idiotic ideas. Writing-wise, why oh why would you write a plot that helps someone truly face the consequences of what they’ve done just so they can turn around a second later and decide to repeat the same act?
  • Judging by the trailer and future episode descriptions, I’m willing to bet that Iris does not actually tell Barry about her feelings for him yet. She decides to in the next episode, but I don’t think she gets to. OR, if she does it happens seconds before they try to get his powers back and we’ll be left on a major cliffhanger. But I bet we get a cliffhanger either way because they probably won’t attempt it until the final few minutes of the episode. So the next episode promises to be a lot of Rupture/Cisco fun and Barry’s two fathers debating about whether he should actually do it. Plus everything about the episode description and filming  we’ve seen for episode 21 promises serious drama. So yeah. Cliffhanger.
  • Episode 21 is called The Runaway Dinosaur. The minute I read the description my mind went to Barry lost in the speed force and working his way through memories and different times to get back. But I shut my mouth and kept my cool and waited. Now I have no chill. Now I’m thinking if they don’t do it the writers are insane. It’s a perfect opportunity as a result of Barry’s attempt to get his powers back, and the filming snippets and different clues we’ve received all point to this idea. I’ll be severely disappointed if they don’t do it. It also leads in perfectly to Iris as Barry’s lightning rod and his way back, which I’m really hoping for. Fingers crossed and we shall see. Other reasons Barry is “gone” could be fishing with Henry (but I highly doubt it) or another coma. But I prefer the speed force above all. This is The Flash we’re talking about.
  • As for WestAllen, things are progressing beautifully. Iris is almost ready to acknowledge her feelings, and we all know Barry’s heart is still there. So I’m interested to see if we get any kind of solid canon relationship between the two this season or if they purposely hold back and leave it suggested but hanging at the end of the season. (As in Iris wants to tell him but Zoom craziness and finale-level events prevent her until the last second, or heaven forbid Barry pull the ridiculous stupid “I can’t be with be to keep you safe” BULL.) Seriously guys, please don’t. Writers often love their angst and seem very terrified of actually committing a couple together. Guys, it’s okay. We know Barry and Iris are meant for each other. We’d love to see a solid and committed couple handle life’s challenges and difficulties as a unified team and not an on-again off-again mess of angst and soapy emotions. Barry and Iris are meant to be a solid couple. If you are going to do it this season, let it stick. If you’re going to tease it to get viewers back next season follow through on the promise and don’t back out at the last second. You’ve come this far and there’s no changing it now. The two are iconic and any more angsty made up reasons to keep them apart are going to end in viewer fatigue, not higher ratings. Just my 2 cents… It’s time for WestAllen to actually take off and once it does, don’t ruin it please. There is a reason these two are iconic in the comics. Same applies in the show, Barry and Iris have been built to be iconic since the pilot. Let’s do this thing. We’ve heard there will be a “grand gesture” by a Barry-loving Iris, so it sounds like she’ll take the plunge before the end of the season and that’s what I want to see. Don’t end the finale right after that moment please, the summer’s wait would be horrible.

Thoughts? Hit the comments! 🙂