“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