Time travel is a major recurring theme in the comics for The Flash. Two of his deadliest enemies, and even Iris West herself, come from various points in the far future, he even raised a family there. Able to run at the speed of light, our hero could and did breach the time barrier often, and now with DNA evidence that Barry was present at the murder of his mother, time travel comes to the TV series. Strap yourselves in and meet me after the super speed bump for my thoughts on “Fallout.”
When last we left our scarlet speedster he was trying to outrace a nuclear explosion in the mother of all cliffhangers. In the last episode, a device had been placed on Firestorm designed to separate the fused Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein before they detonated and destroyed Central City. Just moments before the credits rolled on “The Nuclear Man,” we saw the Flash, carrying Caitlin, running from a very telling mushroom cloud.
Resolution comes very quickly, and almost too conveniently as we open this episode. First, the blast zone is free of radioactivity; second, the device worked as both Ronnie and Stein are found separated and relatively unharmed both physically and mentally; and third, the blast has ridiculously pulled the Flash’s mask off. Cisco better get to work on fixing that clasp. What is it with superheroes who take off their masks all the time? If you’re an actor, taking on the role of a masked hero – get used to the idea that your face will be hidden. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Andrew Garfield.
The most startling thing about the return of the real Ronnie Raymond, as opposed to Firestorm, is the change it brings about in Caitlin Snow. Actress Danielle Panabaker burns bright in the role, showing us an amazing sincere smile for the first time in the series. Between this episode and “Crazy for You,” she’s come a long way toward becoming one of my favorite characters. It seems almost a shame she might end up as Killer Frost.
By the same token, it was nice to see Victor Garber and get to know his Martin Stein a bit better. I liked the way Raymond and Stein bickered, like an old married couple – or two men sharing a body for months. One issue was over control of the body. I wonder, if Firestorm forms again, will it be more in line with the comics – Ronnie steering with Stein in the back seat? I know Firestorm has been through many changes over the years in the comics, but I have always preferred the original version – Ronnie in control of the body with Stein guiding his conscience.
As I mentioned in the tease intro to this review, the Flash is no stranger to time travel. The giant treadmill we’ve seen at STAR Labs is the spitting image of a device called in the comics the Cosmic Treadmill. With it the Flash can move not only forward or backward in time, but also cross into other dimensions – but that’s a talk for another time, pun unintended.
When Joe reveals to Barry that he was one of two speedsters at his mother’s death, he brings the dilemma to all of Team Flash. Wells admits that time travel is possible (of course he does) but says he doesn’t know how it could be done. So Barry enlists the help of the other physicist on his speed dial, Professor Stein. The Prof is very excitable in an almost Doc Brown way, but he has ideas.
As also mentioned last time, General Wade Eiling, played by perennial villain Clancy Brown, is also after Firestorm. After scavenging to blast site, they tracked Ronnie to Jitters where the Flash tried to save him. Eiling is ready for him with needles attracted to kinetic energy, giving our hero a decidedly porcupine look, sorta like he has in more than a couple issues of The Flash over the years. Pulling the needles out later is extremely painful because of his healing factor.
As if to prove Wells is not as good a guy as he sometimes seems, he sells out Stein to Eiling, even after finding out the General knows who Barry is. With Stein a prisoner of Eiling, a man who believes that metahumans are the next wave in weapons of mass destruction, the commonalities of Raymond’s and Stein’s blending make it possible for one to find the other. One feels what the other does, whether it’s a pizza craving or pain, they are one.
No matter how much I/we wanted it to happen this week, we’re not getting the time travel episode right now. This was more of a fill-in issue where a lot happened on the side stage, but not so much on the main one. Oh to be sure we got some great character moments between Joe and Barry, and Wells and Eiling, and even Caitlin and Ronnie, but that wasn’t really on the agenda… even though seeing Firestorm in semi-costume and in momentary team-up with the Flash was awesome.
We got set up for future episodes with Firestorm, time travel, and even Grodd, but what was really boiling just under the surface was the Iris subplot. Mason Bridge was pushing her to investigate STAR Labs, and the more he pushed, the more she realized Barry and his new friends aren’t exactly being honest with her. This cannot end well.
Easter eggs this episode include Barry telling Iris that Ronnie is from Coast City – the home city of Green Lantern, in the comics, Barry Allen’s friend Hal Jordan. When Raymond and Stein leave, the city they’re headed for is Pittsburgh, one where the character had operated in the comics. Then Caitlin slipped and told Iris that he went back to Midway (City), home to both Hawkman, and the Doom Patrol.
And that’s not counting the references to “Friends,” Back to the Future, Terminator, “Game of Thrones,” and the shout out to The Mist from episode three. The best one however was when Eiling mentioned during the Stein torture that the last time he’d done that it was to a monkey. And that leads directly into our final moment, where we not only see Wells in the Reverse-Flash costume for the first time, but he delivers Eiling to Grodd!
“Not God, Grodd!”
“The Flash” returns Tuesday, March 17th, and it just can’t get here fast enough!