Even The Flash has tough days. In “The Fire Next Time,” Barry (Grant Gustin) must convince everyone that a murder suspect is innocent. It’s one thing if the Flash says someone is innocent, but even Barry can’t argue with evidence. 

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The date is February 1 and Barry is in a mood. Iris (Candice Patton) tries to cheer him up with dinner plans, but he’s not in the mood. When he gets to work, he immediately starts working on a case. The manager of a local bar was found dead. He was literally burnt to a crisp. 

The bartender had just left when it happened. She is also the only witness to a fight involving the manager and a man recently paroled. She said he was wearing a L.I.P.S. concert t-shirt. Barry recognizes that description as a meta named Jaco Birch (Max Adler). Birch is also known as The Hotness who has the ability to control fire. Chester (Brandon McKnight) is at the crime scene and wonders how Birch could kill someone without burning the place down. 

Iris gives Allegra (Kayla Compton) an assignment to create the CC Citizen of the Week feature for the paper. Allegra collected some notable personalities, but Iris picked someone that Allegra turned down. Another reporter, Taylor (Rachel Drance) suggested a social media influencer. Allegra didn’t think the interview was right for the paper, but that’s who Iris ended up picking. 

Turns out Taylor went behind Allegra’s back to get her interview. Allegra has a problem with the situation. If the reporters can go to Iris after she says no, then Allegra feels her voice means nothing. Iris says Allegra is still their boss, but she’s Allegra’s boss. And sometimes they are going to disagree on stories. 

Iris sends Allegra to supervise Taylor’s interview. She says opposing perspectives make better stories. And Allegra might be surprised to find something she didn’t expect. Iris tells her to keep an open mind. 

Birch is working as security at a rock concert when the cops find him. His son, Harold (Nicholas Elia) is with him. He says he didn’t do anything, but the police are aggressive. The police move Harold out of harm’s way, causing Birch to light up. Flash shows up in time to cool Birch down. As the cops take Birch away, he yells to Harold that he’s innocent. He also asks for Flash’s help, so he doesn’t lose his son. This causes Barry to think about his own father, Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp).

Barry goes to Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) to talk about Birch’s case. She says Birch is an ex-con with the right powers and was seen at the crime scene hours before the murder. And he has no alibi. Barry mentions that Birch got out of prison early for good behavior. It looks bad, but there’s no hard evidence against Birch. Barry says something about the case doesn’t feel right. Cecile says Birch had opportunity and motive to commit the murder. But Cecile didn’t see Birch’s face when he was arrested. Barry asks her to meet with Birch. She agrees but says she won’t use her powers to determine if he’s innocent or not. 

While Taylor conducts her interview with a social media influencer, Allegra sees a girl she knows from her time in prison, Lydia (Kaitlyn Santa Juana). Lydia is cleaning the floors at Jitters and is very stand-offish towards Allegra. She says she worked hard to get a GED in prison but can’t get a good job, like Allegra did. Allegra asks Lydia if she can interview her and tell her story in the Citizen. 

Cecile meets with Birch, and he is most concerned about Harold. Harold’s mom is never around. That’s why Birch worked to get out early, so he could take care of the kid. Birch admits that he argued with the bar manager and went home. Unfortunately, no one can confirm that he was home all night. Birch can see that Cecile isn’t too optimistic about his case. She says the bartender placed him at the scene of the crime. Any judge will see that as enough evidence to convict him. 

Later Cecile says Birch doesn’t have the pieces to build a strong defense. Her gut says Birch believes he’s innocent, but that’s not enough. Barry is determined to help him. They see the cops rushing out the door. Birch escaped custody.

The Flash — “The Fire Next Time” — Image Number: FLA808b_0244r.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Grant Gustin as The Flash and Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Frost — Photo: Shane Harvey/The CW — (C) 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights ReservedPhoto Credit: Bettina Strauss

Chester scans the city for heat signatures. He, Frost (Danielle Panabaker) and Cecile are convinced that Birch is guilty. Barry tries to convince them otherwise, but the evidence is too strong. Chester gets an alert about a fire at the bar. Frost and Flash leave to check it out and find the bartender’s charred body. This just makes Birch look more like a killer. 

Allegra and Taylor return to the Citizen. When Iris checks in on them, Allegra is typing away, while Taylor sulks. Allegra promises a great piece, but Taylor looks annoyed. She leaves to get some air as Iris observes their obvious tension. 

Barry has evidence that the two bodies have matching fire signatures. No meta can perfectly duplicate stuff like that. He believes this proves Birch is not the killer. Cecile feels responsible for telling Birch that the bartender’s testimony would put him away. Chester says Birch’s emotions are causing his powers to grow. If this continues, it could be Earth shattering … literally. Barry says that doesn’t make him a killer. Cecile gets frustrated and says they think Barry isn’t thinking clearly about the case. Chester says they are just looking at the facts. Barry is too. He says two exact fire signatures makes him think that Birch is not the killer. He asks Chester to take a look at the fire signatures. 

Frost and Cecile try to talk Barry down, but he’s convinced that Birch is innocent. He recognizes that Birch is a fire meta and an ex-con. And that makes him the perfect fall guy. Cecile is amazed that Barry would think that Birch is being set up. Frost says he’s asking them to believe the impossible. Barry admits that’s what he’s doing. Because if someone believed the impossible when he was a kid, his dad wouldn’t have gone to jail.  The team did not realize what they were saying and apologized. Barry says he will do everything in his power to clear Birch’s name. He races out of the room before anyone can say anything. 

Joe (Jesse L. Martin) finds Barry in his lab, looking at the evidence. Cecile told Joe what happened. The team is worried about Barry. Joe says they didn’t know what the day was, but Joe knows. It’s Henry’s birthday. Barry remembers the last birthday before his mom died. Henry missed it because he had to work. Barry was disappointed because he made cupcakes for his dad.

Barry remembers the look in his dad’s eyes that night he was arrested. It was the same look in Birch’s eyes. The look of an innocent man desperate not to lose his son. He keeps thinking about the time they lost. He can’t let Birch go through that if he’s innocent. Joe says it’s possible that Barry sees something the others can’t. That experience gave Barry the ability to believe someone when no one else is willing to. Joe tells him not to give up on Birch for Henry’s sake. Barry gets a call from Chester that he found something and leaves.

Iris gives Allegra a new assignment on The Flash

The Flash — “The Fire Next Time” — Image Number: FLA808a_0225r.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Candice Patton as Iris West-Allen and Kayla Compton as Allegra Garcia — Photo: Shane Harvey/The CW — (C) 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights ReservedPhoto Credit: Bettina Strauss

Iris likes Allegra’s story so much that she plans to use it as the first profile for the Citizen of the Week feature. But it’s not what Iris assigned Allegra to do. She assigned her to mentor Taylor. Taylor’s story is lacking context and examination. That’s something that Allegra could have helped her with. Allegra says he followed her instinct like she thought Iris would want her to do. Iris wants Allegra to learn how to be a supervisor. She will print Allegra’s article but tells her to run any major changes by Iris first. And she tells Allegra to talk to Taylor to fix things. 

Chester finds that the bodies weren’t burnt with fire, but cold fusion. Birch uses fire, not fusion; meaning he is innocent. Chester puts the evidence on a flash drive to take to the CCPD. Next, Barry needs to find Birch. Birch is trying to get Harold back from Social Services. While he faces off with the officer on duty, the ground starts shaking. 

Harold tries to get rid of Birch by calling him a loser. Birch agrees, he’s a loser. He thought having powers would change that, but it made things worse. He worked to get out of jail so he could provide a family for Harold. Birch lights up. He won’t let them take Harold away forever. And no matter what he does, they will always think he’s a killer. 

Flash and Frost arrive before he attacks. Flash says they have proof that he’s innocent, but he has to stop acting out before someone gets hurt. Birch backs down but the ground continues to shake and lava bursts out. Birch’s heating abilities are connected to the Earth where he stands. When Birch got angry, he absorbed so much heat from the Earth’s core that it created a lava channel to the surface. Flash has 30 seconds to stop the eruption. 

Birch asks Flash to save Harold, but Flash says Birch can save him. Flash has a plan and if it works, there will be a huge release of pressure from the ground beneath them. When that happens, Flash tells Birch to absorb the heat. Flash phases through the Earth to the center. He pushes the water in the ground to the hot magma. This causes steam to rise to the surface. Birch absorbs the steam, relieving the pressure and saving thousands of lives. Harold is impressed. 

Barry is with Birch when Social Services returns Harold to his custody. Birch thanks Barry for clearing his name. Both father and son are happy to be together and leave with a smile on their faces. Cecile asks Barry if he’s going to be okay, but Barry doesn’t have an answer.

Allegra apologizes to Taylor, but Taylor is really upset with her. Allegra explains that Taylor’s interview will be the next profile to be featured. She asks Allegra if she learned to stab people in the back when she was in prison. Allegra says she messed up and it won’t happen again. But Allegra is still Taylor’s boss, and they need to work together to get past this. Taylor vows to destroy Allegra. 

Later, Barry, Joe, Iris and Cecile sit outside and drink a beer to remember Henry. Joe and Iris share fond memories of Barry’s dad. Cecile asks Barry what he remembers the most. He says he remembers the little things, but mostly he remembers being loved. They toast to Henry’s birthday.

Later Barry, Frost, and Chester go over the evidence to try and find the real killer. Barry tells everyone to shift their focus on the victims. Barry asks Chester to program the cold fusion data into the satellites. He wants to look for more victims. he thinks they have a meta serial killer on their hands. 

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Noetta Harjo
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