If there’s one thing that distinguishes The Flash from all other comic-to-TV adaptions right now, it’s the show’s “Gee Whiz” factor (or, if you’re so inclined, its “Holy Shit” component). Plot and characterizations are fine, but nothing captures the sense of wonder inherent in the best superhero storytelling like the sight of a man bursting into flames and soaring into the air. This week’s episode boasts several such moments, all of which reduced this fully grown fanboy into a prepubescent nerd puddle.
“Fallout” is the second episode in the two-part Firestorm introduction; and, unlike most TV two-parters, it tops its first half. That’s partly because Firestorm’s evolution is more difficult to convey on screen than his realization. Comprised of two separate entities — Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein — the character in his nascent form experiences a kind of schizophrenia that the show didn’t fully illustrate in last week’s “The Nuclear Man,” which portrayed its titular character as more victim than protagonist. This week’s episode, however, quite literally 1.) starts with a bang, and 2.) hits the ground running.
Beginning where “The Nuclear Man” left him, Barry, Caitlin in his arms, outruns the nuclear blast of an overheated Firestorm, and to his surprise, learns he hasn’t absorbed its radiation. What’s more, the explosion has separated Ronnie and Stein. Unfortunately the blast and the two sets of footprints at its center have also caught the attention of General Eiling, who immediately chases after both men, hellbent on using them to create an army of metahumans. Unbeknownst to the good General, however, Ronnie and Stein, after returning to their respective homes and partners, have begun exhibiting signs of what’s best described as “E.T. and Elliott Syndrome.” (Hey, if Cisco can use The Terminator and Back to the Future to explain science…) Each man experiences what the other feels and senses, including temperature, hunger, and fatigue. So when Eiling finally captures Stein (with the help of the nefarious Wells) it isn’t long before Ronnie figures out where he’s being held, and joins Barry in rescuing him. More on that later.
Last week, Joe West discovered that Barry was present at the scene of his mother’s murder — as an adult. Here, the detective shares his findings with his ward and colleague, prompting Barry to consult Stein on the feasibility of time travel. It’s the first time we’ve heard the concept referenced on The Flash, and visions of cosmic treadmills are already running through our heads — as well as Barry’s, who decides to use Joe’s holographic snapshots as a guide to “what not to do” in his plans to save his mom.
Iris remains on the sidelines again this week. But the longer the cub reporter works for Picture News, the more ambitious a journalist she becomes. So when her colleague offers his opinion that Wells may have wanted his particle accelerator to explode, and she realizes that the “burning man” seen in Central City had ties to S.T.A.R. Labs, she decides to launch a full scale investigation into Barry’s buddies.
With the show’s recent trailer heralding the arrival of Grodd, fans would no doubt feel cheated if the character didn’t put in an appearance this week. And “The Flash” makes good on its promise — giving us an episode capper in which Wells, garbed as the Reverse Flash, tosses a terrified Eiling to the telepathic gorilla.
If the sight of two of the DC Universe’s most iconic villains working together isn’t enough to bring tears of joy to fans’ eyes, the scene of the Flash and Firestorm fighting alongside each other should do the trick. Once Stein and Ronnie realize they must accept their union in order to create an effective third entity, we get the Firestorm we’ve wanted since the character was first announced on The Flash. As in the comics, we hear Stein’s voice inside Ronnie’s head, offering guidance and advice in the midst of battle. We even see Ronnie’s eyes go white while going full Firestorm. (It’s possibly the first time a live-action depiction of a superhero has been able to explain the ages-old comic-book visual trope.) The Flash‘s television budget prohibits extended shots of the character in flight, but what we’re offered, primarily take-offs, is more than enough for now. Of course there’s room for improvement in the wardrobe department. At episode’s end, the conjoined metahumans bid a sad farewell to their significant others and take off for Pittsburgh to consult with one of the Professor’s colleagues. Here’s hoping that when they return (perhaps to fight alongside the Flash once more in the season finale?), they’ll wear something akin to the supersuit they sport in print.
— I like that Barry’s wide-eyed sense of wonder and scientific curiosity cause him to stare at Eiling’s attack gadget instead of immediately racing away from it. With the almost limitless power the character possesses, the show’s writers are wise to make the things that strengthen him as a person the very same things that weaken him as a superhero.
— Bonus points for the repeated references to Coast City (Green Lantern’s home town) and Midway City (Hawkman’s crib). In any other show (save Arrow) it would be fan wankery, but when The Flash already shares so much of the DCU with us, how can we begrudge it for teasing still more?
— “I’m still inside Ronald.” “There has to be a better way of phrasing that.”
Next week: The Flash takes a well-deserved one-month break, but returns on March 17th — when Harrison Wells’ friends at last learn his secret!
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).