When you’re presented with a choice, an opportunity to change your life, it can be difficult to make that decision. Change is difficult to accept, but embracing it allows you to move forward, while resisting it may keep you stuck in the past.
Or so Barry Allen believes, and he’s a guy who knows a thing or two about accepting change and learning to move on with life; otherwise he wouldn’t be the time-traveling, city-saving hero he’s become. And so part of Barry’s charge as the Flash has been helping others to reconcile themselves with the abnormal changes in their lives, lest they be left dwelling in the past forever.
Someone who could sorely use that lesson is Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh), the Jason Street of Central City. He was the star quarterback of the high school team, on the precipice of a bright future and his pick of colleges. All of that changed when the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator exploded two years ago, injuring his knee and ending his football career. Jefferson, or Jax, as he prefers, didn’t just gain a bum knee from the explosion, though. He’s a viable match to be the new second half of Firestorm, which Stein so desperately needs.
Stein’s health has been deteriorating since the season’s start because without Ronnie to meld into Firestorm with, he’s incomplete. (ASIDE: This story line unfortunately suffers from the world outside of the show being something that’s hard to escape. Sure, the characters on the show don’t know Stein is set to be part of a motley crew of legends, but as a viewer who knows he’ll make it out of this ordeal okay, the dramatic tension of it all is powerfully undercut at every turn. END ASIDE) And being incomplete means serious health problems, as Stein is left operating at a fraction of his normal buoyant behavior.
In their research, they’ve found two possible candidates — Jax and another scientist named Henry Hewitt (Demore Barnes). The team brings Hewitt in to the lab, but fails to do so with Jefferson, whose crushed dreams of pro ball have prevented him from ever moving on or even addressing the night of the explosion. But at least there’s Hewitt…right?
Sadly, Hewitt and Stein can’t seem to properly meld into Firestorm, despite how compatible they may be. He’s a big fan of Stein, and the two bond over their shared interests. But when it comes to the actual process of two bodies becoming one, they fail miserably. Hewitt is furious, having gotten his hopes up for nothing, but he doesn’t leave completely empty-handed.
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Back at his own lab, Hewitt, enraged by his boss’ demands, suddenly absorbs all the energy in the room around him and is able to use it as a powerful projectile. The attempted Firestorm merger triggered his latent abilities, yet they don’t mix too well with someone harboring anger issues as powerful as Hewitt’s.
And so Jax becomes the only viable option. He comes to S.T.A.R. in the hopes of repairing his knee, but once he arrives, it’s revealed to him just exactly why he’s been called upon. Surprising most of the room, he has little desire to become the new Ronnie. He leaves in a huff after Caitlin chastises him for giving up the opportunity to be a hero, which only drives him away. (She can’t believe anyone would pass up the chance to be a hero, asking Cisco if he ever would do the same. Good thing Stein hasn’t spilled Cisco’s secret just yet.)
After witnessing Hewitt’s rampage on the news, Caitlin feels personally responsible for all of it. She caused Hewitt’s destructive abilities and scared Jax away. Barry talks her down from the ledge of self-blame, though. He believes people just need to be open to something new when the opportunity is put in front of them, and Jax just wasn’t ready.
So Caitlin tries to make him ready. She visits Jax at his garage and tells him she believes he can be a hero. The accelerator may have taken away what he wanted out of life, but it also gave him something else: a new opportunity. And whether or not he knows it, Jax is ready because he springs into action when Hewitt appears from nowhere on the hunt for Caitlin.
With a little improvisation from Jax, the two escape back to S.T.A.R., where the only option is for Jax and Stein to become one, especially as the latter appears to be in his final hours. They successfully become Firestorm, saving Stein’s life and giving Barry a new ally with whom to fight Hewitt. And he couldn’t have a more apt hero at his side, as Hewitt just so happens to be sucking in energy at the football field where the blast struck Jax.
NEXT: Barry contends with a walking shark…and a blast from the past [pagebreak]
The team determines Hewitt operates like a tokamak, with all the scientific exposition coming out to one conclusion: The angrier Hewitt becomes, the more unstable his powers are and the more susceptible he is to attack. So the Flash and Firestorm employ some good old-fashioned mocking so that Hewitt expends all of his absorbed energy, opening himself up to a final blow from Firestorm.
The day is saved, and Stein and Jax are set to head off (not before Stein says a few kind words about Ronnie and tells Cisco not to fear his powers). But we can say with some certainty that we’ll see them again soon. Maybe even Tomorrow.
But with Stein’s health issues solved, there’s still plenty of drama left in Central City.
A Western Dilemma
Iris decides to meet with the mother she had until recently believed to be dead, only to tell Francine she’s quite fine with the life she’s living now and doesn’t need her in her life. (They pick CC Jitters for their meetings, and really, isn’t there anywhere a little more private they could have reconnected?) Francine can’t quite accept that, however, because she’s dying. She has MacGregor’s Syndrome (a disease from which both Mr. Freeze’s wife and Alfred suffered in Batman & Robin, and which William Tockman had in Arrow), and has been told she could only live through the end of the year.
It’s a soap opera-worthy revelation, but Joe takes Francine at her word. She may have disappeared for years and lived a tough life even before then, but she wouldn’t lie about this in Joe’s mind. Now, the tough choice that has befallen to Joe is whether to tell Iris. He eventually decides to, giving her the opportunity to meet Francine or ignore her.
Iris does meet with her, at first appearing to be willing to welcome Francine back into her life. Until she reveals what she’s uncovered about Francine, that is. She tells her estranged mother that she knows of the son she had only eight months after leaving Joe and Iris behind, meaning she has a brother out there in the world and Joe a son that they’ve never known. Iris doesn’t want someone willing to keep such a monumental fact hidden in her life (and for more on that brother, check out Natalie Abrams’ interview with Andrew Kreisberg). This, of course, puts Iris in the interesting position of finally holding a secret she has to decide whether to divulge to those around her. It’s a nice role reversal after the secrets Joe has kept from her and the Barry-is-the-Flash secret that everyone kept from her last season.
It’s a choice she’ll have to make, one that could help her family to move forward or keep them stuck in the past. While not quite of that magnitude, Barry has his own choice to make regarding his personal happiness. Even Joe notices that Barry and Patty Spivot’s conversations look quite a bit like flirting. (ASIDE: How awkward must it be for the man who considers Barry his surrogate son to have to give him romantic advice after Barry has loved Joe’s daughter, who Barry grew up with, for years? END ASIDE)
Barry has difficulty acting on whatever connection he feels, though, because, well, Patty isn’t Iris, his first love. But, as Joe says, he has to open himself up to new opportunities, to something different, because there’s little chance he will ever truly get over his first love.
First, he needs to ensure Patty isn’t eaten by King Shark. Yes, all episode, Patty is investigating reports of a shark walking around on land, and at the end of the episode, she finally comes face to face with the giant creature on its two hind legs. Her gun, unsurprisingly, is about as effective as a rubber-band gun would be, and even the Flash gets swept up in the wave of this killer shark’s night stroll. Luckily, a mysterious man shocks the beast (who mentions Zoom wants the Flash dead, indicating that King Shark is from Earth-2 and also indicating the potential for another King Shark from Earth-1 — or so I can hope). Barry catches up to the interloper before he escapes.
He pulls off his hood to reveal the face of Harrison Wells, likely one of the very last faces Barry expected to see. (Harrison had broken into Applied Science earlier in the episode, where Joe and Patty learned about the Harrison Wells-looking thief.) Once Barry recovers from the shock, this is probably going to take some explaining.