“It’s just a regular day, and I’m just a regular guy.”
Barry Allen may have lived for years without being the scarlet speedster but “Back to Normal” forces him to readjust to life lived at an average pace. That means no speed reading, no cutting in line to snatch some coffee, and no rapid healing after a difficult battle.
Yes, despite his lack of superpowers, Barry doesn’t stop himself from diving into the thick of combat, especially after Harry, who spends the early moments of the episode berating Barry, is captured by a metahuman.
And Barry has to learn how to save the day with a fractured Team Flash. Caitlin is still being held on Earth-2 (more on that later), while Harry’s daughter Jesse steps in to help and even Iris and Joe jump into the fray to round out the team.
How does Jesse become involved after running away episodes ago? Well, Harry goes to find his daughter now that Barry has, in his mind, failed and allowed Zoom to win on this Earth and the other one. All he has left is Jesse, and he wants to, as he has demonstrated before, keep her safe.
He narrows down her location (apparently humans from Earth-2 vibrate at a different frequency and cause cell phone dead zones, much to Cisco’s dismay about all the dropped calls in the lab) and attempts to bring her back with him. But Jesse is done with her father. She can’t just forget that he killed someone, even if it was as part of his pursuit of her safety. She tells him she fears him just as much as she fears Zoom, and the dejected Harry leaves empty handed.
Unfortunately, on the way home he runs into a meta… er, rams into one, who crushes the front of his van and kidnaps Harry.
Griffin Grey is like any other ticked-off metahuman with a power (this time it’s general super strength) but he has his own unique reason to be upset. The particle accelerator’s gift of power takes more than it gives, for each time he uses his power, Griffin ages. Though he looks middle-aged, Griffin is only 18, and he demands a cure from… Harrison Wells.
Harrison Wells no longer exists, but naturally he thinks Harry is his Earth-1 counterpart, a notion Harry early on gives up even trying to mention. He wants to be free of this curse or Griffin has plans to use his limited powers to end Harry’s life.
So it’s another meta of the week for Team Flash, but Barry can’t speed around town doing his normal business. He has to travel by car with Iris to the scene of Harry’s kidnapping (a dashcam allows them a glimpse into what happened but little other info on Griffin).
They eventually determine his identity, but have no idea how he’s aging, which is a problem Jesse offers to help solve. Biochemistry was one of her five majors at college, after all. So there’s little doubt Earth-2 has our education system beat with the nonchalant way Jesse references her multiple disciplines.
Their first run-in with Griffin at ACE Chemical is as pedestrian an encounter as the team has attempted in quite a while. Barry (as himself), Cisco, and Joe attempt to arrest Griffin, but he has no interest in coming quietly. He almost gets the better of Barry, knocking him down with a heavy chemical barrel, but Griffin flees as he continues to age.
The encounter leaves Barry in actual need of medical attention, the pain in his abdomen lingering long even after he’s bandaged up. He’s vulnerable, but they also realize Griffin is weak too, so long as they can make him age up again and again. He can be stopped, and Barry can still do it, as Iris tells him, because he’s still a hero, with or without his powers.
So a plan is hatched. Barry’s Flash suit is reinforced with a bit of dwarf star alloy (the same used in Ray Palmer’s Atom suit), but only just enough to protect Barry’s chest. Oh, and he can only absorb one strike from Griffin before he’s susceptible to real damage again.
With the help of Jesse, they track Harry to Central City Amusement Park (a.k.a. an abandoned facility but this time with lights and a ferris wheel) using his watch. The thing is endlessly pinging to a server it can’t reach on Earth-2, so they track it to the park, where Barry, suited up but still powerless, goes to confront Griffin.
NEXT: The Flash speeds into battle without speed and Caitlin sees a very familiar face[pagebreak]
With Iris and Jesse remotely turning on and off the park’s attractions to distract Griffin, Barry pops up from the shadows to hide his lack of speed and taunt Griffin. Joe and Cisco provide backup, helping to trick him into overusing his powers. Griffin falls into their trap with ease, exerting his strength so much show that he looks like he belongs in a nursing home, not a street brawl, with his hair going ghost white and bald on tap, and his face wrinkled.
He goes after Barry and lands the one absorbed punch, but Barry won’t let the fight stop there, dodging a few more until Griffin lands an actual, painful hit. Yet with it comes his end, as all of that fighting causes Griffin to collapse and die, most certainly of unnatural causes, before he reverts to his younger self.
Jesse and Harry reunite, and the former decides to come back home with her father. She’s still upset with what her father did, but she understands in the end why he acted in such deadly ways. Jesse doesn’t want him to ever kill someone again, though (which I would certainly call a reasonable request). He promises to be more of the father she wants, one who doesn’t go ballistic or violent every time she’s in a spot of trouble. Harry agrees… so long as she doesn’t run away again.
And as Harry finds himself in a better place after a day living in the shoes of his Earth-1 self, he’s had the chance to do some important self-reflection. He’s less upset with Barry by the end of “Back to Normal,” who spends the episode wrestling with who he is now. He assumes he may never get his powers back, but he takes Iris’ words to heart and still tries to be the hero. He agrees to a meeting as The Flash with Wally, who repeatedly asks Joe to set the 1-on-1 up. (Wally easily figured out who Zoom meant when he said someone close to Wally knew the scarlet speedster.)
Wally thanks Barry for saving his life and promises to not waste his second chance at life. And Barry may soon receive a second chance of his own. He and Harry meet later on at STAR Labs, where Harry explains he may have been faced with Harrison Wells’ mistakes during the kidnapping, but he realizes he needs to deal with his own errors.
He can’t forget what he’s done, and so he’s going to try to do better by helping Barry get his speed back. How? Why, with Particle Accelerator Explosion 2: Electric Boogaloo.
That’s certainly one way to approach the problem.
Crisis on Other Earths Barry will of course need his speed back if he’s to deal with the looming threat of Zoom. And speaking of, the season’s big bad is back on his Earth playing house with Caitlin. He’s attempting to make her love him again (by keeping her prisoner and threatening all of her loved ones no less, a creepy and unfortunate imprisonment trope that makes Zoom seem like much less of an intelligent foe than he should be).
To do that, he gives her enough trust to leave her unshackled in his lair while he’s out conquering Earth-2. While there, she discovers the man in the mask and another prisoner, Killer Frost. Yes, Caitlin comes face to face with her face, and the meeting gives Frost an idea. She asks Caitlin to help her bust out of her prison, and then the two can escape the hideout together.
Caitlin agrees to the obvious trap, even temporarily bonding with her doppelganger over their mutual dislike of their mothers (though only Frost has a brother, Charlie, to lament). She eventually figures out a way for Frost’s ice blasts to shatter the casing, but the Earth-2 half of the pair takes her new freedom as a chance to kill her other self.
Frost attempts to finish off Caitlin with a killer ice dagger, but Zoom speeds onto the scene in time to catch it and thrust it through Frost herself. And with the Earth-2 Caitlin disposed of, Hunter locks Caitlin up again and tells her the man in the mask will die as well if she attempts to free him.
After the ordeal, all Caitlin wants is to go home and all Zoom wants is to be thanked. And since Hunter Zolomon sees no gratitude while also being fueled by his repeated flashbacks to the horrors of his childhood, he decides to bring Caitlin back to Earth-1. He’s got more in mind than a reunion, though. He’s bringing her back to watch, helpless, as Zoom conquers an Earth he believes will have no speedster to oppose him.
Looks like it’s time to get started on that second explosion, Harry.