Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of The Flash! Proceed with caution, speedsters. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched this week’s episode, “The Runaway Dinosaur,” we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.
Earlier this year, The Flash spinoff show Legends of Tomorrow nabbed Gremlins director Joe Dante for an episode that worked marvelously by playing to his strengths, presenting small-town America through the lens of contemporary science-fiction, and in the process saying something about bigotry. The Flash tries a similar feat this week with another fan-favorite filmmaker, Kevin Smith. While the results aren’t quite as seamless (with Smith unable to bring his trademark raunch to commercial television), they make for one of the most energetic episodes of this season.
Smith has long worked his Catholic upbringing, and a resulting predisposition towards the metaphysical, into his storytelling, most obviously in 1999’s Dogma and his own CW TV show, 2007’s Reaper. But as can be seen in the latter production, and his recent efforts Tusk and Yoga Hosers (the trailer for which—coincidentally?—arrived online yesterday), Smith also really digs horror comedy. His Flash episode might be the most divided the show has yet produced, playing two entirely different tones, but doing so with so much gusto that it’s hard to fault Smith for trying.
Picking up where last week’s “Rupture” left off, Barry’s friends and family believe he was disintegrated by Wells’ attempt at replicating the particle accelerator explosion and restoring his stolen speed. But it turns out Barry was instead absorbed into the Speed Force itself. Introduced in the early ’90s as the energy field that gives most of DC’s speedsters their powers, the Speed Force has, over time, alternately been portrayed as a speedster god and a speedster heaven. True to its namesake, Star Wars‘ Force, it can pretty much serve any purpose for which it’s needed. In “The Runaway Dinosaur,” the Speed Force is used to assist Barry in confronting the one element in his life he’s never fully come to terms with: his mother’s death.
While Barry faced the physical reality of her death, and its impact on his life, last season—burying her, in a metaphorical sense—he never mourned his mom to the point where he could really move forward psychologically. Yet if there’s one thing the Scarlet Speedster needs to do more than any other superhero, it’s move forward. So by using this episode’s titular children’s book as a means of breaking down his relationship with her to its most fundamental level, he’s at last able to take the next step in his life, and allow his relationship with Iris to grow.
Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, we learn that the corpse of Tony Woodward, the late meta-human Girder, was reanimated by the energy wave from the new explosion, and has some unfinished business to attend with Iris. Candice Patton gets what is by far her best episode of the season; her character takes the initiative and make a heroic decision not once, but twice: when she 1.) leads the escaped Girder back to S.T.A.R., and 2.) reaches out to Barry and calls him home.
Another character given his due this week is Henry, who all too often has served as either another person for Barry to rescue or another male role model to give him pep talks until he breaks down in tears. Here, it’s Henry who comes up with the idea that leads to the Girder-Iris connection, and who deduces he must heal Jesse (caught, along with Wally, in the blast) the same way that the original Wells/Thawne healed Barry after he was thrown into his coma.
Of all the show’s characters, however, it’s Cisco who appears most comfortable in a Kevin Smith story, sputtering out dialogue tailor-made for the human hockey Jersey. The most telling is his argument with Iris over the appropriate use of the of the word “morgue.” Not all of the jokes land, but most of them help keep the episode as fleet of foot as I wish this show could be more often. With only two episodes left this season, both of which deal with Zoom, there may not be enough time to see if the series can incorporate the lessons both it and Barry are taught in this episode. But this episode should go a long way in laying the groundwork for season 3.
– “Ew, you guys have a morgue?”
– It’s nice to see the Speed Force gives different members of the cast—Jesse Martin, Candice Patton, and John Wesley Shipp—some new things to play with this week. But my favorite acting moment belongs to Tom Cavanagh, when he silently expresses feelings of confusion and embarrassment as Cisco explains the “Young Frankengirder.”
-“That’s my mom’s car!” You can take away the profanity from Kevin Smith, but don’t you dare take away Jason Mewes.
-Joe dropping his coffee mug in an effort to out what he assumes is a Speed Force-powered Wally is a nod not only to the first time we see Barry in super-speed action in the show’s pilot, but to the first act comic readers saw the Flash perform in DC’s Silver Age.
-“Is iZombie still behind you?” An all-too-rare in-joke with a double meaning.
-Did anyone recognize any of the evil meta-humans in the army Zoom built? Their powers seemed familiar, but their costumes less so.
-Additional kudos to the writers for allowing Barry to come up with, for the first time in I don’t know how long, the solution to defeating this week’s principal antagonist.
Next week: Barry heads towards a final showdown with Zoom, with the help of some other heroes.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).
Images: The CW