The Flash recap: 'The Flash is Born'
A metahuman threatens Iris' life, and Joe asks Wells to help him investigate the murder of Nora Allen.
For The Flash‘s first five episodes, there’s been a fairly strict division between police/superhero work and the domestic life. Now, before some of you take to the comments and point to The Mist as an example of how I’m wrong, let me say that the reason I don’t count The Mist is because he never entered the domestic sphere, by which I mean, he never came to The Wests’ home. This week, however, Joe and Iris’ safety at home is violated twice by threats. This works well because not only does it raise the stakes of Joe’s investigation into Nora Allen’s murder (more on this later), but it also brings Iris in from the periphery of the action, which has been part of her character’s problem. The downside is that Iris gets closer to the action via a damsel in distress storyline, which feels rather old school and not in a good way.
At times “The Flash is Born” feels like Iris’ pilot episode as this is her first significant encounter with the impossible. Yes, she’s known about
The Streak The Flash for quite some time; however, by the end of the episode she’s not only checked off several things on her Lois Lane bucket list, she’s also learned that The Flash isn’t the only one in Central City with powers.
[ASIDE: Tonight’s episode further supports my theory that The Flash is definitely supposed to be our surrogate Superman.]
Metahuman of the week: Tony Woodward, a.k.a. Girder
The Flash channels its inner Sex and the City as it opens with Iris writing a blog post, the beginning of which is exactly the same as Barry’s monologue from the pilot. Right after she publishes her piece (without proof-reading might I add), she’s immediately swept up by Barry in costume and taken to the roof, where he tries and fails to convince her to stop blogging about him. However, their
flirting conversation is cut short when the sound of police sirens signals duty calling for Barry.
Across town, the police are in hot pursuit of a tool driving a Hum-V, because only tools drive Hum-Vs in 2014; that wisdom courtesy of Joe and Eddie, who, along with other officers, have set up a barricade down the road to stop the tool. A young boy starts to cross the road as Tony Woodward (recycled CW actor Greg Finley), the tool in the Hum-V and Barry’s bully in elementary school, is barreling toward the barricade. Luckily, Barry arrives in time to save the kid, which allows the cops to unleash their guns on the tool. But their bullets do little damage and bounce off of him, which surprises Eddie.
Now it’s up to Barry to stop Tony, but because we’re less than five minutes into the episode, we know that’s not going to happen. Barry’s first encounter against Tony, who he learns can turn his body into metal—sort of like the X-men’s Colossus—ends with Barry having to flee the fight before he gets his butt kicked any more.
After seeing the bullets bounce off Tony’s head like nothing, Eddie has a lot of questions that Joe has no interest in answering. In the hope that Barry can come up with some fake-science to answer Eddie’s questions, Joe has them work the case together while he does some work on Nora Allen’s murder (more on this later).
Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Cisco has built a machine to help Barry learn how to effectively use his speed when fighting. Apart from the few boxing lessons Joe gave him as a child, Barry has very little experience using his fists and this shows when the machine is able to quickly take Barry out, in spite of his speed.
[ASIDE: As I noted last week, Cisco and Caitlin are really starting to come into their own. With each passing week, the on-screen chemistry between the actors gets better and makes for some fun and funny moments. See them arguing about how many bugs Barry swallows while running as an example.]
Following last week’s episode, things are still tense between Barry and Iris, and Eddie definitely picks up on it. While he and Barry are out investigating the thefts, Eddie tries to talk about it, but Barry shuts him down. Evidence found in Tony’s abandoned car leads Eddie and Barry to Keystone Ironworks in Keystone City, where they find out from one of Tony’s old coworkers that they all thought he had died. See, on the night of the particle accelerator explosion, Tony flipped out on his boss after being fired. His coworkers pulled him off of his boss, and he fell into a vat of hot metal right as the shockwave of the explosion hit Keystone.
Elsewhere, Iris’ coworker at Jitters is asking her about
her shadow’s Barry’s absence when Tony shows up. Turns out, he’s always had a thing for Iris, which comes as a surprise to no one since Iris, and the actress who portrays her, is really hot—but I digress. Once Tony’s done bragging about working out in the gym in his place on the west side of Keystone City, he finally gets to the point of his visit: to find out what Iris knows about The Streak. Since his encounter with The Streak a few nights back, he’s become rather obsessed and wants to make sure everyone knows The Streak ran off like a little girl. His attempts at seducing Iris are cut short when his mug shot is plastered across all the TVs in Jitters. Before leaving, he drops a wad of cash to (a) let Iris know it’s real and (b) to replace her phone, which he just crushed to stop to her from calling her cop father and boyfriend.
Following her encounter with Tony, Iris immediately takes to her blog to alert The Streak, who immediately comes running because of his feelings. Tony approaching Iris makes Barry’s job even harder this week because, unlike Oliver Queen, he has very little control over his emotions and they affect his performance and make him do stupid things like going after Tony before the S.T.A.R. Labs team has had a chance to come up with a way to defeat him. Barry’s second encounter goes even worse as Tony leaves him trapped under a huge stack of shelves.
NEXT: Cisco gets what he’s been asking for since the pilot
Being defeated by Tony twice in 36 hours shakes Barry’s confidence because not only does it remind him of all the times he felt powerless before getting his powers, but also because he’s now powerless and Iris’ life is potentially in danger. As this is the beginning of Barry’s story, each metahuman he encounters has a lesson to teach him, and in this week’s he is forced to learn how to keep his emotions in check; he also has to learn that it’s not always about fighting harder, but fighting smarter. All of this comes up after Cisco and Caitlin rescue Barry and take him back to S.T.A.R. Labs, where Wells gets through to Barry using science that Barry definitely already knew: Any material struck at a high enough velocity can be compromised. Cisco does some quick calculation and determines that Barry will dish out some serious damage if he hits Tony while running at Mach 1, a.k.a. 837 mph—which would also create a sonic boom, something that excites Cisco. The problem with this plan is that Barry will need at least a 5.3 mile straight shot at Tony and if his messes up, he could fracture every bone in his body.
Back at the station, Eddie informs Barry that traffic cameras picked up Tony leaving Central City in a stolen car, thus the FBI have taken over the case. To blow off some steam, he and Eddie head upstairs to punch a punching bag. During this unexpected hang-sesh, we learn even more about Eddie Thawne. Turns out he wasn’t always Detective Pretty Boy; as a kid, he was short, fat, and a son of a politician who closed a factor in his school district, which earned him quite a few bullies at school.
Eddie and Barry’s workout routine is interrupted by a uniform cop who informs them that Tony took out the two cops guarding Iris at home and kidnapped her. (Being kidnapped by a supervillain because of your connection to a hero, CHECK!) Having achieved a new level of zen working out with Eddie, Barry’s ready for round three.
If it wasn’t clear from the writers deciding to not make Tony anything more than a clichéd school bully, Tony still hasn’t outgrown school, or to be specific elementary school as he decides to hold Iris hostage in their old elementary school. Believing he’s killed The Streak during their last encounter, he’s brought Iris there, not to finally get his GED as she sarcastically quips, but to convince her to start blogging about him so that the world knows there’s a new big man on campus.
Eventually, Barry arrives at the school, and with his newfound skills, is finally fighting smarter as he effortlessly evades Tony’s punches. Tony eventually gets the upper hand and throws Barry to the ground. But before Tony can deliver the killing blow, Barry speeds away. Tony, Caitlin, and Cisco take this to mean that Barry is forfeiting, but they’re wrong. Barry’s actually setting up his supersonic punch by putting 5.3 miles between him and Tony. Barry runs like he’s never run before, achieves 837 mph, and supersonic punches Tony. However, it is Iris who delivers the knockout punch as Barry’s catching his breath and nursing his broken hand.
After locking Tony away in the pipeline, Barry pays Iris a visit and the two make up. Barry says he doesn’t know what he’d do without her, to which Iris says he doesn’t need to worry because she has a guardian angel looking after her. (Calling a superhero a guardian angel, CHECK!) As they sit down to catch-up and Iris fawns over The Streak (Develop crush on superhero, CHECK!), Iris informs Barry that she’s found out about other people with abilities—there’s one man who’s on fire, but doesn’t burn (hint hint, FIRESTORM!). Their conversation ends with Barry giving Iris an idea for The Streak’s new name, The Flash. (Giving your superhero a headline-worthy name, CHECK!)
Detective Joe West and Dr. Wells:
As the kids were busy playing and getting caught up in their old childhood problems, the grown-ups were taking care of actual business in the most compelling part of the episode. After reviewing Barry’s description of what killed his mother, Joe begins to suspect that Wells may be connected and decides to ask him for his help on the case as a way of getting closer to him. As they’re working on the case, Joe brings up the possibility of there being a someone with super speed 14 years ago, but Wells says that’s unlikely because there wasn’t a particle accelerator.
Later, Joe takes Wells out for drinks and brings up the possibility of there being a particle accelerator 14 years ago and asks Wells what he was doing in Central City at the time of the murder. At this point, Wells has already caught onto Joe’s plan and explains that it was only a coincidence that he opened his lab in Central City a month after Nora Allen died. At first Joe doesn’t believe him, and he’s right not to because Wells doesn’t seem trustworthy, but he’s convinced of Wells’ story when he finds out that Wells’ lab partner and wife Tess Morgan died tragically in a car accident right before Wells moved to Central City to start over. Siloing Tom Cavanaugh and Jesse L. Martin was a great decision because these two actors play off each other well and their scenes together, while calm, crackle with just as much intensity as the superhero stuff.
At home later that night, Joe is working on the case when his living room is engulfed with a red tornado similar to the one that Barry describes and he sees a yellow man. Once the tornado ends, the case file has disappeared from his coffee table, and Iris’ photo has been pinned to the wall with a knife with the words “STOP OR ELSE” scrawled above it.
Wall of Weird:
— “A man of steel” is The Flash‘s most Gotham-like/on-the-nose easter egg.
— The whole bully v. bullied dynamic came a bit too close to crossing the line between endearingly cheesy and insufferably cheesy.
— How many of you think Dr. Wells is the man in the yellow suit? It’s the only possibility that makes sense after his last conversation with Joe, right?
— The episode also ended with Iris offering her own spin on Barry’s pilot closing monologue.