THE FLASH Hits the Ground Running

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Episode 101 “City of Heroes”

It’s here. One of the hottest new shows on the CW, giving Gotham a run for its money in terms of anticipation from fans. These have been the two new shows to watch this season, and now fans (and newcomers) finally get to see the Arrow spinoff.

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This is the show that opens up the CW universe to superpowers, and boy does it ever. First, the bare bones about the episode:

Barry Allen, forensic specialist for the Central City police, is always running late. He’s always not quite there when he needs to be. But he’s got some cover from Detective Joe West, who’s been taking care of Barry since Barry’s father allegedly killed Barry’s mother. In a flash of yellow and red lightning, which nobody believes young Barry saw that night. Since then, he’s been more than a little interested in odd cases. He’s got his own “wall of weird” in his lab.

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Back from Starling City, where he became an auxiliary member of Team Arrow, Barry meets up with his best friend Iris West. This is The Girl. But she’s also oblivious to his affections. They’re in time to get out to the opening ceremonies for STAR Labs’ new particle accelerator, developed by Professor Harrison Wells. But a purse snatcher, caught by Detective Eddie Thawne (with a little help from Barry), keeps them from attending the actual startup. And unfortunately, the particle accelerator doesn’t go quite the right way — actually exploding instead of working right. This is one of these Very Bad Things, as it seeds the clouds and causes the Lightning Bolt that blows Barry back into a shelf full of chemicals.

Nine months later, Barry wakes up from his coma to find that he’s got super speed. Professor Harrison is now in a wheelchair, and his team — Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon — are pretty much the only ones left to help put the pieces back together after the explosion. Wells is convinced that Barry’s body now holds the key to a lot of major medical research they could do. But Barry’s not jumping in with both feet, getting back to work instead.

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The intersection point is where a bank gets robbed with a storm. Controlling the weather, Clyde Mardon — believed killed in the accelerator shock wave along with his brother — moves along a plot line that takes him from two-bit thug to thinking himself a godlike being who can create tornadoes. Once Barry realizes Mardon is still alive, he also figures out that they’re not the only ones. The explosion released X particles and exposed who knows how many people, now categorized as “metahumans”.

Barry also realizes that his ability resembles that of a big yellow and red blur that he saw as a kid the night his mother was killed. Maybe there’s someone else out there like him (and we know there is, but for the purpose of these recaps, we don’t know that yet…). Wells resists the speculation, wanting to study Barry’s ability more to save face than to understand what’s actually going on with the changes in his metabolism. Testing Barry at Ferris Air, they clock Barry’s speed well over three hundred miles per hour. This is also where we learn Caitlin’s fiancée was killed in the explosion that essentially killed her career. And Cisco makes all the cool toys, man.

Barry is trying to come to grips with his new powers, and in his frustration runs six hundred miles to Starling City for advice from Oliver Queen. In a very telling bit of dialogue, Ollie says, “I don’t think that lightning bolt struck you, Barry. I think it chose you.” And for those of us who know the story behind the lightning bolt, that’s a line that has more meaning than casual fans will understand.

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The investigation into the bank robbery brings Barry and Joe to butting heads, with Joe finally letting Barry have it. There was no strange lightning, Henry Allen is not innocent, and Barry just needs to get his head on straight and accept reality for a change. But they figure out Mardon is still alive, and Joe heads out to Mardon’s last known hideout with partner Eddie Thawne (yes, Thawne). Confronting Mardon, West and Thawne trigger some ego-maniacal behavior that gives us the big Wizard of Oz tornado at the end. And it’s here where we get to see the full range of the speed effects.

“Run, Barry, run!” Wells finally comes around and encourages Barry in his decision to use his powers for good. And Barry gets to run flat out to reverse the tornado and beat back Mardon’s powers, saving Thawne and West, who shoots Mardon and learns Barry’s secret.

There’s also more to Wells than meets the eye. The last few minutes of the episode open up so many possibilities that are just hinted at with the existence of Professor Zoom. Wells — and that name isn’t an accident — has a connection with the future. He’s got a secret room at STAR, where he doesn’t have to pretend he’s crippled, and he has access to information from the future. Specifically, April 25, 2024. The newspaper headline shows that The Flash disappears. The date is significant because April is the month of Crisis on Infinite Earths, in which Barry Allen sacrificed himself to save others, and in his race to beat the bad guy he ends up running so fast he merges with the Speed Force and becomes the lightning that struck him.

Note, too, that Wells in a wheelchair is similar to the wheelchair-bound character Hunter Zolomon, who was the second Reverse-Flash.

Pilot

The speed effects are dodgy only in a few places, and they’re much better than the “Blur” effects from Smallville. But when he runs counter to the rotation of the tornado, it works. It really works. The only place it breaks down for me is when the show cuts to a close-up of Barry. But even then, we see his skin pulling back with the wind, showing that the production team is at least thinking in terms of in-show physics.

Some are speculating that Wells could be an older version of Barry. Not sure about that one. And he’s not Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. That’s Eddie Thawn, or a relative of same. But Wells clearly is operating with a time-travel agenda related to Barry’s disappearance in the future. Could Wells be a version of Rip Hunter? Booster Gold?

Easter eggs (Screen Rant has a good sized list here):

  • the Grodd name plate on the broken cage
  • Ferris Air
  • the ever-present channel 52
  • Linda Park the TV reporter
  • Evan Gibson the newspaper reporter (on the “WoW”)
  • Big Belly Burger
  • Keystone City
  • Science Showcase — Barry Allen’s Flash first appeared in Showcase#4 (1956)
  • Jitters coffee shop
  • Cisco’s “Bazinga” shirt — Sheldon Cooper’s favorite hero is… ?

And it doesn’t even bother me that Barry’s not blonde. Much. Well, OK. Yeah, it does.

[Show web site at CW]

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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