Tease tease tease, after months of hinting around and cameos here and there, will this episode of “The Flash” finally be the one where we see the superhero Firestorm in his full glory? It had better be, because the title says it all. Meet me after the super speed bump, for my thoughts on “The Nuclear Man.”
Since the very beginning, no, even before that, the ghost of Firestorm has drifted through the history of this television version of the Flash. The particle accelerator explosion is very much like the nuclear reactor explosion that created the hero. Caitlin Snow, in the comics, becomes one of Firestorm’s most dangerous enemies, Killer Frost, and don’t forget, the Flash also fought Multiplex earlier this season, another major Firestorm foe. Caitlin’s fiancée Ronnie Raymond, Professor Martin Stein, and even Jason Rusch, are all identities of Firestorm.
We’ve seen all this, but who is Firestorm anyway? I remember picking up the first issue of Firestorm The Nuclear Man back in 1978. Written by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Al Milgrom, the hero was a win-win for DC Comics. They had finally succeeded to cracking the code of Marvel’s Spider-Man, a teenaged hero with problems, but who was also popular with fans. The hero was quickly initiated into the Justice League, made a featured character on TV’s “Super Friends,” and became one of the more popular heroes of the time.
Origin and Powers
I remember the comic today, as it left a big impression on me. In a freak nuclear explosion, high school student Ronnie Raymond and physicist Martin Stein were fused into one new super-powered being, the fire-haired Firestorm, who could fly, shoot fusion energy blasts, and rearrange the atomic structure of matter – yeah, he could change stuff into other stuff. Bullets into flowers, brick into dust, or even lead into gold – it’s a good power. The best part of this transformation however was that Ronnie was in charge of this new body, while Professor Stein took a back seat, a disembodied voice in his head that could instruct or inform Ronnie who was ‘driving.’
Here in the television version, after some convoluted explanations, we’ve learned that Ronnie and Stein have been similarly merged, but the new being looks like Ronnie as opposed to a new creature. In this case of ‘the burning man,’ it seems like Stein is in control of Ronnie’s body, an intriguing difference. We see some of his simplified origin here in flashback, as well as a pre-accident meeting between Barry and Stein. When we get to know him/them better, Ronnie and Stein are coming across as quite likable, props to Robbie Amell’s acting.
We open on Barry getting ready for a date, changing clothes crazily to “Uptown Funk” by Mick Ronson and Bruno Mars. I loved the bit where he rushes to meet Linda Park at super speed and stops to buy a flower from a bewildered flower girl. Granted the actors have good chemistry, but am I the only one creeped out by Barry Allen with Linda Park? It just ain’t right. Linda is Wally West’s true love.
Despite Cisco’s jokes about Barry’s metahumanly accelerated sex drive, they could make a cute couple, but we all know he and Iris are the ones who belong together. Happily she does seem a little jealous. And as creepy as it was before, it was really icky seeing Barry and Linda doing the half-naked make out. Thank goodness for Firestorm. Unfortunately after a brief tiff over Barry’s past feelings for Iris, he and Linda are back together. Sadly it feels like, much like the New 52 DC Comics, the powers that be at this TV series don’t want Barry and Iris together.
Meanwhile Joe and Cisco are on their own investigating the murder of Barry’s mom while the lovebirds make out and Wells and Caitlin track Firestorm. At Barry’s old house they encounter a frisky stereotype divorcee, after all why should Barry have all the fun, and a mirror that might hold some clues. Yeah, a mirror, did any other comics fans get chills? Do not mess with mirrors in Flash comics.
Despite any possible connections to Flash Rogue the Mirror Master, it seems the mirror may have captured images from fifteen years ago. Ain’t super science grand? They find hologram-like projections that reveal they definitely were two speedsters there, and one of them left blood. While Joe suspects one of them was Wells, much to the shock and horror of Cisco, one of them is definitely an adult Barry… but more on that later.
The Future of Firestorm
Once under surveillance at STAR Labs, after a harrowing aerial clash with the Flash, Firestorm faces facts. He’s a nuclear bomb in Ronnie’s body with Stein’s mind. With very little time left before he blows up, Stein gets far away so he won’t hurt anyone. Nicely, this is in character with both Ronnie and Stein in the comics. Wells sacrifices his quantum device to build something that hopefully will save Ronnie and Stein, nicely shaped like the actually symbol of the comics version of Firestorm.
Once the device is affixed, it still looks like Firestorm is going to blow up, and he does. Can the Flash outrun a nuclear explosion? We’ll find out, but not this week, it’s to be continued. And if that’s not enough to get you back next week, General Eiling has also been watching and tracking Firestorm, and he launches a task force into action. We also had a sneak peek at Robbie Amell’s new movie The DUFF, which made me wonder how long he’ll be doing TV anyway. Maybe this is the end of Firestorm…
There were nods to comics writers Mark Waid and the aforementioned Gerry Conway. One of the biggies in this episode is Barry and Linda going to see jazz artist Mal Duncan on their date, Mal being one of the Teen Titans, and a musician of course. Also the Keystone Combines, Keystone City’s hockey franchise, were mentioned. These little nods and Easter eggs have all but disappeared from sister show, “Arrow,” so I’m happy to see them still being found here.
Next: We finally get the time travel episode we have all been waiting for, and hearing about, we find out how Barry showed up at his mother’s murder, what happened to Firestorm, and who knows what else. This ought to be good, all next week in “Fallout!”