Obligatory spoiler alert! There are spoilers for The Flash TV show and elements of the comics in this post. You have been warned.
If God is in the details, then in its third episode, The Flash stills runs on the side of the angels, even if the show has found a few demons it needs to exorcise.
There aren’t many comic-to-TV adaptations that have been as cheeky in their use of Easter eggs and fan service as the CW’s nascent speedster series. In this week’s “Things You Can’t Outrun”, there’s a great line from Barry Allen after he mentions his alter ego receives no credit for his work: “It’s not like I want a museum built in my name.” It’s just a throwaway to those with no prior knowledge of the character, part of a conversation he’s having with Joe West. But in the DC Comics universe, Central City does have a Flash Museum devoted to its champion. Another nod is given by S.T.A.R. scientist Caitlin Snow when she’s telling Barry about her fiance Ronnie Raymond, a structural engineer believed to have been killed while trying to save her lab from the particle accelerator explosion that created the Flash and his metahuman foes: “He used to say we were like fire and ice.” Though on the surface it sounds like she’s merely describing a relationship, in the comics, a similar accident resulted in Raymond’s transformation into the Flash’s fellow Justice League member Firestorm, while another S.T.A.R. Labs crisis transforms Caitlin into his arch-enemy Killer Frost.
My favorite bits of the show, however, are the moments when Barry uses his powers while interacting with Joe’s daughter Iris. This week, after exiting a movie theater, Iris takes a call from her boyfriend while Barry nabs a crook, deposits him in a cop car, and races back to her side before she finishes her conversation. It’s little things like this that make The Flash a celebration of all superheroes as well as a narrative about one in particular.
As with any new show, growing pains are evident, and “Things You Can’t Outrun” has Barry engage in a few too many heart-to-heart conversations with friends, in which characters describe their feelings while on the verge of tears. There’s nothing wrong with sentimentality – last week’s climactic exchange between Barry and Joe, in which their relationship was defined, was as enjoyable as any fight scene; and it’s natural that Barry and Caitlin should find commonality though the loved ones they’ve lost – but when The Flash tries to make its viewers feel too noble it veers dangerously close to Ghost Whisperer territory.
Though the show is a mere three weeks old, a formula has begun to emerge – in which a super-villain (er, metahuman) seeks revenge on those he believes wronged him and thwarts the Flash, before Barry and his S.T.A.R. allies figure out a way to defeat him. Cut to a final scene in which S.T.A.R.’s Dr. Wells is shown to have secret knowledge of Barry that he’s not about to share. I’m not worried though. Enough variations – such as the team’s decision this week to incarcerate the Flash’s foes in a prison beneath their labs – exist to keep things interesting. And the villains themselves are a diverse bunch pulled from throughout DC’s rich history, each of which challenges Barry in a different way. In “Things You Can’t Outrun”, we’re treated to the Mist, a DC character first introduced back in October of 1941 (in Adventure Comics #67 ). With the ability to transform his body into a gaseous state, Kyle Nimbus’s powers are so different from those of the villains that preceded him that I don’t much mind the solution to stopping him – by merely outrunning him until he’s exhausted – results in less interesting visuals than the Flash’s battles against the Weather Wizard and Multiplex. It’s clear too that the Mist was chosen in order to demonstrate the show’s willingness to pull from all corners of the DCU, since the character has traditionally been an enemy of the hero Starman.
Next week: Arrow‘s Felicity – who sparked big time with Barry when he was introduced on her show last year – visits Central City. And one of the Flash’s most iconic super-foes, Captain Cold, is ready to deliver some chills.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).