Superhero shows and movies live and die on the strength of their supporting casts. Because these stories are so larger-than-life, it’s important the supporting characters be developed enough to ground the comic book action: Smallville had Lex, Chloe, Lois, and Clark’s parents, and Arrow has Felicity and Diggle. The main problem with The Flash—which, admittedly, is only three episodes in—has been how unremarkable the people around Barry (who aren’t Detective Joe West and Dr. Harrison Wells) have been. “Things You Can’t Outrun” takes some necessary steps toward solving this problem and also gives us a better sense of what The Flash‘s low-key episodes will look like.
At the end of last week’s episode, Barry told his team that they were all struck by lightning the night the particle accelerator exploded. Cheesiness aside, this line feels like it is more applicable to tonight’s episode, which shows how Caitlin and Cisco continue to bear scars from that tragic night. But tonight they are forced to revisit it when they decide to turn the particle accelerator into a makeshift prison for the captured metahumans.
It is Kyle Nimbus, a.k.a. The Mist, this week’s metahuman, who raises the “what do we do with them metahumans” problem (which didn’t come up earlier because neither Mardon nor Multiplex survived). As Joe points out, unless Barry plans on executing every metahuman he meets, they’ll need to find some place to store them. Iron Heights isn’t an option because the prison isn’t equipped to handle people with abilities—or at least not yet; wait until warden Gregory Wolfe.
The idea to turn the particle accelerator into a metahuman prison causes Caitlin, Cisco, and Wells to flash-back to the night of the explosion, and it is through these flashbacks and how they each react to these memories in the present that we get to know Caitlin and Cisco a bit more.
As we found out in the series premiere, Caitlin lost her fiance Ronnie (Robbie Amell) that night, thus she is probably the most fragile when it comes to revisiting it. During their bonding sesh in the CCPD crime lab, Caitlin tells Barry about Ronnie: He was the only one who knew how to get past her guarded exterior and used to call them—get ready to “ugh” out of annoyance—fire and ice. Caitlin feels partly guilty for Ronnie’s death because, even though he worked on the project as a structural engineer, he wasn’t supposed to be there that night. Ronnie only came to show Caitlin support and to cutely argue with her about their honeymoon destination. But because he was there when the explosion happened, Ronnie volunteered to enter the accelerator to operate the shutdown valve. As Caitlin puts it, “I didn’t want him to be a hero. I wanted him to be my husband.”
In the present, things aren’t made easier for Caitlin because after she tells Barry all of this, he still chooses to run head first into danger before they have a chance to identify Nimbus’ poison gas, and he almost dies. Luckily, his powers save him and his lungs’ cells are able to regenerate in time to keep him alive—but barely. Caitlin is forced to feel everything she felt the night of the explosion all over again. Turns out, Caitlin really isn’t as cold and emotionless as she initially appeared to be.
Cisco also feels partly guilty for Ronnie’s death because he was the one who locked Ronnie inside the particle accelerator. After the bang of the explosion, Cisco accompanied Ronnie down to the machine, and Ronnie told Cisco to lock him inside if he didn’t make it out in two minutes. Eventually, Caitlin comes down and pleads with Cisco to open the door, but he can’t. Over walkie-talkie, Ronnie tells Caitlin that he couldn’t reverse the chain reaction, but was able to divert the blast into the sky rather than outward, thus saving everyone. Unfortunately, Caitlin and Ronnie’s walkie-talkie goodbye is cut short when Ronnie is hit by a blast of energy.
NEXT: Feeling useless