It’s fitting that this week’s episode of The Flash, which introduces a new Firestorm in the form of one Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (actor Franz Drameh), is titled “The Fury of Firestorm” (italics my own). Since, in addition to being the title of Firestorm’s first comic book, it captures what distinguishes Jax from his predecessor, Ronnie Raymond — his spirit.
Poor Robbie Amell. I mean no disrespect when I say his Ronnie wasn’t the most charismatic of superheroes. It’s not so much the actor’s fault as the way he was written. Unlike the Ronnie of the comics, there wasn’t much more to him beyond being the self-sacrificing boyfriend of Caitlin. We liked him, but mainly because Caitlin and Cisco said we should and because of the cool things his alter ego did, not because there was anything interesting about his personality. Victor Garber’s Professor Stein was always the more interesting of the two people that merged into the high-flying nuclear man. So the biggest joy to be found in this episode is a hero that is not only inherently likable, but one whose background differs so much from those of the other introduced on both The Flash and Arrow.
Most of the DC TV Universe versions of the company’s core characters — Barry Allen, Oliver Queen, Ray Palmer, Laurel Lance — have been defined by the loss of a loved one. While that certainly makes their motivations understandable, it can be a tad repetitive. After all, heroes aren’t just baptized by blood. Thankfully, Jax’s story is different. A former high-ranking high school football quarterback from a low-income household, he was looking forward to a college scholarship when the particle accelerator exlosion hit, taking out his knee as he saved someone else from getting caught in the blast. Forced to forgo his dreams and work as a mechanic, he’s discovered by STAR Labs as one of two people who can save Stein’s life by merging their altered DNA structure with his in the Firestorm matrix. The other is Henry Hewitt, a Hudson University grad whom Caitlin at first favors because of how much he reminds her of her late husband. It turns out, however, that, while brilliant, Hewitt has an oversized ego and a history of violence. He’s also unable to merge with Stein, though he has a similar gift that’s triggered when they touch.
Enter Jax. Headstrong where Stein is calm, instinctual where Stein is cerebral, he complements the professor psychologically as well as physically, and makes for a much more interesting whole. That proves especially useful when Hewitt goes on a rampage, and both the Flash and Firestorm provoke him into blowing a super-powered fuse. It’s nice to see Barry display a touch of the wise-ass humor that characterizes his comic incarnation. And it gives fans an opportunity once more to see three metahumans engaged in combat (however brief it must be due to CW budget limitations). Ultimately, Jax gets the most satisfying origin story of a guest star yet in the DC TV Universe, and an archenemy to boot.
There’s also more of Iris’ mother Francine this week. Her story is emerging as a nice little subplot about mothers and daughters, to contrast with last season’s very male-centric father-and-sons theme. Candice Patton’s character continues to get more to do as she rejects her mother twice — the first time for leaving her and her father, and the second for not telling them she had a son eight months after leaving Central City.
Also back is Patty Spivot, whom Joe advises Barry to consider romantically, telling him to try something new. (It’s advice Barry then gives to Caitlin, when she’s frustrated over losing Hewitt.) Further endearing herself to Barry, Patty almost saves him by bagging her first metahuman in the form of bonus villain King Shark (created by Karl Kesel, his first appearance was in October 1994’s Superboy vol. 4 #0). But Earth-Two’s Harrison Wells intervenes with a gun stolen from Mercury Labs. It’s the mark of a quality superhero show when the appearance of a character we’ve seen many times proves even more exciting than the debut of a colorful DC stalwart. The upcoming Legends of Tomorrow, on which Jackson is expected to be a regular, looks to have plenty of both.
In its second season, The Flash continues to tell its story at just the right pace. Where other shows might have Francine reveal all her secrets to the viewer in her first episode, or make fans wait half a season for Wells’ return, this one moves quickly enough to keep things interesting while maintaining a pace measured enough for its events to have maximum emotional impact. And with Stein’s parting words to Cisco, it looks like it won’t be long before Central City’s next champion is born.
- “What is it with you and Iris and my partners?”
- I gotta admit that Barry taking blood samples from Hewitt and Jackson at super-speed without their knowledge is more than a little creepy.
- Cisco’s description of the treadmill as “cosmic” is exactly the moniker given to Barry’s traditional means of time travel in comic books.
- Did Cisco really shout “Booyaka!” or was that my imagination?
- Thank God King Shark interrupted that Ally McBeal ending.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).
Images: The CW