The Flash recap: 'Fastest Man Alive'
It's Clone Club week on The Flash as Barry goes up against a guy who can create multiple copies of himself.
In hindsight, The Flash‘s series premiere might not have been as good as we all thought it was. Admittedly, it was great to finally have a DC Comics adaptation that respected and trusted the source material enough to not make the show “dark” and “gritty” to make it palatable to audiences. However, in all of this excitement, it was easy to miss how the pilot did not always completely gel together. There were several well-executed and exhilarating moments, but there were also just as many things that didn’t work (most of the supporting cast and the dialogue). This week’s episode, however, makes up for it and is a better indication of what the powers-that-be behind The Flash are capable of doing with the character.
FLASHBACK: Barry and Joe
It seems as though The Flash is borrowing the Arrow‘s flashback format. This week’s flashbacks show us what happened to Barry soon after his father was arrested and imprisoned, and gives us further insight into Barry and Joe’s relationship. We first flashback to Joe catching young Barry, who’s trying to run away and visit his father in jail. Back at home, an upset Barry goes through his whole spiel about how his dad didn’t kill his mother and that there was another man there. He asks why he can’t see his dad, and Joe says it’s because he said so, even though it’s clear there’s more to it than that. An upset Barry says that Joe is not his father and can’t tell him what to do. Joe says he’s the only adult who gives a damn about Barry, making him like a father, and sends him to his room.
Later, Joe comes home from grocery shopping and, after a little prodding, gets Iris to admit that Barry is not at home. He’s run away again. Iris assures Joe that she knows where he is and that he’s safe. Being a fairly intelligent guy, Joe already knows where Barry went.
At the jail, Barry meets his father and complains about how he hates living with Joe because he wouldn’t let him come visit his dad. Henry confesses that it is he who doesn’t want Barry to visit, not Joe. He can’t stand for Barry to see him like this. Barry starts crying and begging the guard to release his dad because he’s innocent, but Henry tells Barry that there’s nothing he can do (he’s obviously wrong now) and to be a good boy and return home with Joe.
This week’s flashbacks felt more streamlined than the one’s in the pilot and help keep the pace of the episode. We were given just enough to make sense of Barry and Joe’s present day relationship, which was still rather tense from the flashed back period.
METAHUMAN OF THE WEEK: Danton Black, a.k.a. Multiplex
It’s been a few weeks since the events in the pilot and Barry still hasn’t gone up against another metahuman. In the meantime, and with Cisco’s help, he’s been performing relatively “dull,” but necessary, superhero acts like saving people from burning buildings. This is news to Caitlin, who insists that Barry’s priority should be metahumans. As always, Wells is there to caution restraint, and it might behoove Barry to heed his advice: Something’s been up with his powers, and he suffers a dizzy spell each time he uses them.
Joe, who is somehow unaware of Barry’s extracurricular activities (even though everyone around town is talking about a red blur), calls Barry to the scene of a robbery. Barry, again doing his best Sherlock impression, deduces that the crime was carried out by multiple people based on their shoe prints. Later, Barry accompanies Iris to an event she’s covering for her “boring” journalism class (if only she knew what we knew about her future!). Philanthropist and scientist Simon Stagg (guest star William Saddler) is being awarded a man of the year award for his organ cloning research. Iris tries to get a quote from him, but Stagg brushes her off and she just says she’ll make something up. Unfortunately, there’s no time for someone to teach Iris journalistic ethics and how to be a tenacious reporter because a gang shows up and takes everyone hostage.
On the bad guy’s way out after robbing all of the attendees, a security guard dares to stand up to them, and they start to shoot him, but Barry speeds his way onto the scene and saves the security guard just in time. He proceeds to run after the robbers, but he has another dizzying spell and faints in the alley.
Iris finds him later, and let’s slip to her father and Eddie that she found Barry in the alley. Joe takes Barry aside for another talking to, and tells Barry to cut the superheroics out because that’s not Barry’s job, it’s his.
NEXT: Doubt is the enemy
Back at S.T.A.R. Lab, the team runs tests on Barry to find out what’s wrong with him. After Barry runs a treadmill that’s been “Cisco-ed” (ASIDE: Cisco using his name as a verb is not nearly as endearing or tolerable as Senor Chang on Community), the team deduces that he’s not eating enough and that’s why he’s been suffering these dizzying spells. Cisco tells Barry that his sped-up metabolism requires that he eat the equivalent of 850 tacos, because that helps put it into perspective.
Joe, who went looking for Barry in his lab and instead found Barry’s Wall of Weird, shows up at S.T.A.R. Labs to confront Barry about his recent activities. What ensues is an emotionally tense scene as Joe, who, like any surrogate and loving father, asks Barry to stop what he’s doing because he’s worried about his safety. Barry, again, says that Joe isn’t his father and uses Joe wrongfully imprisoning his father as ammo. Clearly upset by Barry’s words, Joe says that they don’t know what they don’t, but he hopes that they’re clever enough to figure it out before someone gets killed.
Elsewhere, Danton Black, the man who attacked the award ceremony, confronts Stagg’s head of security, and reveals that his “crew” is made up of his clones as he loudly declares “I am an army” and kills the guy. We find out later than Danton Black was researching cloning, and that Stagg stole his research and took all the credit. Using evidence from the crime scene, Barry discovers that Danton is able to clone himself because the cells they find are stem cells.
Joe and Eddie meet with Stagg and warn him that they think someone’s after him, but Stagg doesn’t believe them. However, his disbelief doesn’t last long because right then Black shows up and starts shooting. Joe lays down cover fire as Eddie takes Stagg someplace safe and watches Black multiply right in front of him. Before Black can kill him, Barry shows up, whisks Joe away from the action against his wishes, and returns to the fight. It doesn’t go well and Barry gets his ass handed to him, leading to this week’s mandatory confidence crisis.
While Cisco is complaining about Barry getting blood on his suit, Wells tries to comfort Barry. However, Barry won’t hear it and declares that he’s giving up trying to save people because of his failure. As Wells is paying Joe a visit at the police station, he has a snarky encounter with Stagg, who’s on his way out after declining police protection. In the ensuing conversation, Joe calls Wells out on some of his bullshit and asks if he knew about Barry’s abilities when he came to the hospital and asked to transfer him to the lab. Wells admits that he had his suspicions. Wells also informs Joe that Barry quit, which Joe is somewhat happy to hear. However, Wells points out that Barry is definitely not done saving people, and when he does return and speeds off headfirst into danger, he will fail.
Why, you ask? Because doubt—not the other metahumans—is Barry’s real enemy and Barry will keep doubting himself as long as Joe doubts him. Throughout the conversation, it’s hard not to be aware that Wells isn’t being completely truthful about his motives. He says he cares about Barry, too, but there’s definitely more to it than that. His actions in the conversation, and the episode, give off a Hunter Zolomon kind of vibe (more on this later).
Using the cells they recovered from the murder scene, Caitlin is able to create a clone of Black. They deduce that Black was affected by the particle accelerator explosion, and that the only way to stop him and his clones is to take him out of action. Still doubting himself, Barry says he can’t, but then Joe shows up again and tells them that Black is attacking Stagg’s headquarters again. He admits that Black, along with Mardon and the rest of the metahumans, are beyond the police’s capabilities, but they aren’t beyond Barry’s. With this much needed confidence boost, Barry heads back into the field.
Barry shows up at Stagg’s office building and confronts the clones again. He has a hard time finding the alpha clone, and starts to get beat yet again. During their fight, Black explains that he was close to cloning a heart for his wife, who was dying on the transplant list, but Stagg stole his research and, thus, his wife died. It’s the episode’s first attempt at giving him at least some depth, but unfortunately it comes so close to when Barry’s about defeat him. (It’s a good thing the development of Barry and Joe’s relationship was there to pick up the slack.)
After another boost of confidence from Joe via headset, Barry barrels his way through Black’s army of clones and knocks Black out. He preemptively starts congratulating himself, and Black wakes up and tries to take another run at him. Barry superspeeds out of the way, and Black goes flying through a window. Barry grabs his hand and tries to save him, but Black lets go and falls to his death.
NEXT: Wells does some more shady stuff
After his debrief at S.T.A.R. Labs, where Cisco comes up with the name Multiplex for Black, Barry returns back to his lab. Joe shows up with three pizzas and promises Barry that they are going to clear his father’s name together. Barry starts to apologize for saying Joe’s not his father, but Joe stops him. Barry, however, proceeds to list all the fatherly things Joe has done for him, and Joe’s clearly touched. It’s a moment that’s definitely earned.
Following a closing montage, we cut to Wells showing up at Stagg’s office. The two start discussing Multiplex and the speeding red blur. Stagg, ever the scheming douchebag, declares that he wants to capture the blur and study his body to advance science. Taking off his glasses, indicating he’s about to get real with Stagg, Wells says “The man in the red mask, he’s called The Flash. Or at least he will be someday.” Shocking Stagg, Wells stand up and stabs him while saying that the fastest man alive must be kept safe.
Wall of Weird and Unexplained:
— This week in Barry-Iris-Eddie: Iris is upset with Barry because he’s blown her off and it’s clear that he’s hiding something. Barry desperately wants to tell her about his powers, and definitely comes close to at least once, but doesn’t go through with it. After Barry stands her up after promising to help her with the science stuff in her article, she’s forced to pick a new topic. Her new topic: the red blur that’s saving people in the city. Keeping his secret just got a little harder. Two episodes in and I’m starting to worry that Iris might this show’s Laurel—a.k.a. someone who’s story arc will be hindered by the fact that it’s too early to learn the secret identity.
— This week in Cisco being annoying: After they find out about Stagg’s history as a cloning researcher, Cisco feels the need to point out the irony. Word of advice, Cisco: If something’s actually ironic, the irony will speak for itself and you won’t have to point out the irony.
— Hunter Zolomon: During Geoff Johns’ run on The Flash, Hunter Zolomon is a FBI profiler who specializes in Flash’s rogues gallery. Zolomon already wasn’t easy, but got worse after Gorilla Grodd paralyzed him. He begs Wally West, the Flash at the time, to use Barry Allen’s old cosmic treadmill to go back in time and fix his life. Wally refuses because of the inherent risks in messing with the past, and Zolomon decides to teach Wally a lesson. To teach Wally that sometimes a hero needs to do what is necessary and to make him a better hero, Zolomon decides to cause Wally to suffer a personal tragedy. Thus, Zolomon gets on the treadmill himself and after using it, turns into a new Reverse-Flash and takes the name Zoom. Yes, the same name used by Barry Allen’s archenemy Eobard Thawne, a.k.a. Professor Zoom.
— Wells as Hunter Zolomon makes sense only because Wells, like Zolomon, is concerned with making The Flash a better superhero. The theory seems unlikely, though, because Zolomon wasn’t from the future. Also, Wells killing Stagg at the end of the episode rules out that he’s future Barry Allen and challenges the Jay Garrick theory because it’s highly unlikely that either of them would resort to murder. [COMIC SPOILER ALERT] Admittedly, Barry does “kill” Eobard Thawne in the comics after Zoom, who had already killed Barry’s wife Iris, tried to murder Barry’s fiancee Fiona. (Kill is in quotations because it’s later revealed that Zoom didn’t actually die.)
— Best commenter theory: Harrison Wells is Metron, courtesy of commenter Samurai Jack
— What’s the verdict on Barry Allen’s voiceovers? Do we really need Barry to explain the lesson of the week every episode?