Legion of Leia recaps the latest Flash episode, ‘Things You Can’t Outrun.’
Successful storytelling relies on well rounded characters. This is narration 101. It doesn’t matter how many special effects you have or how grandiose your budget is; in the end if you don’t have characters that are interesting, people just don’t care. This week’s episode of The Flash, ‘Things You Can’t Outrun’ really took this to heart. In a surprising move, Barry Allen actually took a backseat to the supporting cast, allowing flashbacks to the night of the Supercollider Incident that gave him his supernatural speed. And it completely worked.
Warning: Spoilers Below
Here’s the thing about flashbacks: they can be a great tool to help fill in gaps of information needed or illuminate character motivations, but when overused, they can become stale or even annoying. One way the Flash is staying ahead of this problem is allowing the Flashbacks to follow multiple characters and even multiple eras in time. This allows us to have relevant information without being locked into a presupposed time/place like Arrow (though admittedly they have figured out some great ways around that issue on the show).
Regardless, a good chunk of this week’s show was focused on the night of the Supercollider Incident and how it affected Caitlin Snow, Cisco and Caitlin’s presumed dead fiancé Ronnie Raymond. During these flashbacks we see a Caitlin that is bright, warm, and practically bubbly to her modern day counterpart. This has a lot to do with the fact that she is planning her honeymoon with Ronnie, figuring out a honeymoon destination. It smacks of the familiar and grounds the present Caitlin’s loss in something tangible. Ronnie is no longer a name without a face. We’ve seen him. We see how he makes her light up, and we see how ultimately losing him destroys her.
In that same vein the flashback also gives us a ton of insight into Cisco. While he is still the youthful energetic guy we have come to know and love, we also find out that he is directly responsible for Ronnie’s death inside the Supercollider when it malfunctioned. This guilt has weighed on him over the last year and we can see that underneath his normally excited reactions is a man coping with knowing he killed a good friend. In both cases, this allowed us to understand what drives them to the actions they take with Barry in the present. Caitlin, scared of losing someone else in her life, is pragmatic and demands that Barry stay safe because she can’t stand to lose someone else. Cisco, determined to be as heroic as Ronnie, encourages Barry to fight the good fight and prove that his sacrifice was the right choice.
Speaking of which, we should address our Rogue of the week and what happened with Barry in the present. This week we were presented with Kyle Nimbus, also known as The Mist, who’s power revolves around becoming poison gas. As a prisoner in Iron Heights, he was executed via gas chamber at the exact same time as the Supercollider Incident. This somehow caused him to survive, albeit altered, as a being who could become living cyanide gas. And while this seems like a great idea on paper, in execution it seemed like Barry was just fighting a giant cloud of flatulence. Of course, in the end, this doesn’t really matter as the focus was firmly centered in the past, not in the present.
That said, we were treated to some great moments of Barry using his super speed to extraordinary effect, including one of my favorite tricks: The blur face. While other heroes could easily be identified with or without a mask (Superman, Green Lantern or even Green Arrow), the Flash tends to vibrate his face so it blurs ever so slightly which clear photos of him something of a rarity. This week we got to see that used for the first time, against Barry’s own father – and it was glorious people, simply glorious. We also got a moment to see Barry in prolonged hyper speed, seeing everyone around him stand perfectly still as he moves throughout crime scenes and traffic. It’s a great way to show how radically the Flash perceives the world when moving super fast and I can’t wait to see more.
As a villain of the week, The Mist wasn’t a great foil. He was ultimately defeated the same way Multiplex was: make him tired and then knock him out, and that’s ok because it brought up some very interesting moral questions. While our villain was fairly bland, what to do with an incapacitated meta-human became infinitely more interesting. Early in the episode, Joe West asks the STAR Labs team how to detain the captured metas. To which Harrison replied that so far it hasn’t been an issue as Multiplex and Weather Wizard both died. Nonetheless the problem needed to be addressed and the solution came from an interesting source: the Supercollider itself. With some retrofitting, the device that gave these people their powers could be used to hold them until STAR Labs found a way to de-power them. At the end of the episode, we see The Mist locked away in a Magneto style chamber in the bowels of the facility, but is this legal?
Do the police actively know that the Flash is going to put metas in this facility? Is there a legal president for this? Or is it, much more likely, that the meta-humans, once out of control conveniently disappear without any sort of trial and sentencing? It’s too early to tell, but the concept of illegal detention is fascinating. The answer in a future episode could have long lasting implications for Barry and the STAR Labs Team depending on how it’s all revealed. My instinct tells me this is the way towards revealing Barry’s identity. Longtime Flash fans know that he is one of the few characters who operates “out of the cowl” so to speak. People know who he is, people love him for doing what he does and people expect him to do the right thing.
If this becomes a permanent facility for the meta-humans, it stands to reason that Team Flash will eventually clue in the police (if they haven’t already) and if that’s the case, it’s only a matter of time before someone (Iris anyone?) figures out that The Flash is closely tied to STAR Labs and digs into who has been taken in by the company since the Incident. As Barry was a patient there for some months…could we see a public outing by his closest friend and possible love interest? I don’t know. What I do know is, when a superhero show 100% nails an episode while completely falling flat with it’s villain; you know they’re making the right choices.
One of the absolute great choices currently being made is the development of Eddie Thawn. Longtime Flash fans know that Thawn’s fate is much more complex and dangerous than almost any other character currently in the show. That said, the writing could easily have made Eddie into an unlikable guy strictly there to stop Iris and Barry from becoming romantically entangled. Instead we’re treated to a character who is genuinely likable, which will make future stories that much more compelling to watch week after week. Bravo Flash writers, bravo.
The ability to make characters feel alive and three dimensional is key to keeping a show fresh; and right now, the Flash is the freshest show on the air. Till next week Flash Fans.
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