The Flash recap: 'Things You Can't Outrun'
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
It’s a night of rememberance: Joe reopening Barry’s mother’s case and vowing to reexamine every piece of evidence slowly forces Barry to relive how he felt all those years ago when his father was on trial. Back then, Barry felt useless because he couldn’t do anything to save his mother and couldn’t do anything to prove his dad’s innocence. Now, Barry has quickly become accustomed to moving quickly and has a hard time with Joe’s slow approach. As he tells Joe, with his powers, he could free his father from prison in seconds. Joe shoots this idea down because it would only make it harder for them to clear his father’s name. In this week’s edition of “Real Talk with Detective Joe,” Joe tells Barry that he’s going to have to get used to feeling useless. Barry’s hardest challenge, Joe tells him, will not be fighting some monster with powers, but will be those times when he feels useless because his powers can’t fix a situation.
In last week’s episode Joe told Barry that his powers don’t make him invincible, and this scene feels very much like a follow-up to that scolding. Whereas in “Fastest Man Alive” Joe was concerned with Barry’s physical health, here he’s concerned with Barry’s emotional wellbeing. As the show is fond of repeatedly telling us, Barry has been running his entire life, and what Joe is trying to get across to him is that sometimes you need to stop running and deal with your pain head on.
The reopening of Barry’s mother’s case forces Joe to finally confront his guilt about putting Henry away. In the years since the murder, knowing that he put away a guilty man is what helped Joe deal with the fact that he also put away a close friend. Joe decides to pay that close friend a visit to tell him that he’s reopening the case—and to apologize. At first, Henry isn’t all that happy to see Joe, but begins to come around to him after hearing the news. Joe apologizes for believing him all those years ago, and Henry says it doesn’t matter that Joe didn’t believe in him because he believed in his son and that’s all that mattered.
Henry and Joe’s détente is rudely interrupted by The Mist, who came to the prison to kill Joe. You see, Nimbus was set to be executed on the night of the explosion and got his powers after the blast hit while he was in the gas chamber. With this newfound lease on life, Nimbus decided to kill everyone who put him in jail: his former employers, the Darbinian crime family, the judge who sentenced him, and Detective Joe West, the guy who arrested him.
At the prison, Nimbus goes into gaseous form and attacks Joe; however, Barry shows up just in time to save him. As his dad looks on behind the glass, Barry moves his face rapidly to avoid being identified and administers the antidote to save Joe. Having used his only dose of the antidote, Barry is forced to find another way to defeat Nimbus without breathing him in. Because gas is the least stable form of matter, Barry is forced to run around until Nimbus becomes too exhausted to maintain his gaseous state. Obviously, he wins. And Nimbus becomes the first guest at Hotel Particle Accelerator.
By the end of the episode, everyone has started to move on from their painful paths: Cisco tries to apologize for locking Ronnie in the accelerator, but Caitlin says it’s okay and that she’s surprisingly fine, and the two head out for ice cream; and Barry pays his dad a visit and has a much-needed cathartic moment as he and his dad reminisce about Barry’s mother.
“Things You Can’t Outrun” does a fine job of making us feel for Cisco and Caitlin, which is what the show needed to happen. Up until this point, we hadn’t been given much of a reason to care about either of them. (To be fair, we’ve spent a lot more time with Barry: the two part Arrow midseason finale and this season’s first two episodes.) After tonight, however, Caitlin and Cisco have finally started to feel less like exposition machines and more like real people.
In the final flashback of the night, Cisco calls Wells, who’s still up in the lab, to tell him Ronnie succeeded at venting the system and that the lab should hold. On his way down to meet up with Caitlin and Cisco, he stops by his secret room and uses his mysterious future machine. Instead of pulling up that newspaper headline, this time the machine shows camera footage of Barry’s lab and we see Barry get hit by lightning, as Wells says “See you soon, Barry.”
Wall of Weird:
–Check out Jeff Jensen’s review of The Flash. Also, Natalie Abrams talked to Danielle Panabaker ahead of tonight’s episode.
–This week in Iris: Eddie is grumpy because he’s tired of hiding his and Iris’ relationship. They tell Joe at the end of the episode after Iris succumbs to Eddie’s sulking. Being a decent detective, Joe tells them that he already knew they were dating.
–Everyone on this show except for Dr. Wells sucks at lying.
–In addition to borrowing Arrow‘s flashback format, The Flash has also decided to borrow Arrow‘s tendency to spell out each episode’s theme for the audience. The Flash‘s audience is smart enough to read subtext and doesn’t need Barry’s voice-overs to explain every episode to us.
–…That being said, Grant Gustin does do great voice-overs and manages to sell the cheesiest parts.
–Can the writers please resist the urge to make Caitlin a love interest for Barry?
–This week in cheesiness: It’s a tie between Henry telling Barry the story of him running before he can walk and Barry’s voice-over at the end: “Life is tragic. But it’s also precious and sweet, and extraordinary…”
–What event “puts” Wells in a wheelchair? Does he know what actually happened to Ronnie? Also, did anyone else get a Professor X entering Cerebro vibe when Wells wheeled his way into the particle accelerator?
After the success of Arrow, Barry Allen (a.k.a. the Flash) gets his own CW treatment in this comic-themed spin-off.