Episode 113 “The Nuclear Man”
[Photos: The CW]
In keeping with the theme of trying to separate things, this episode tries to tell three separate stories. Most of it works. Some of it doesn’t.
We do get forward movement on several fronts, and while the focus of the hour is on Firestorm, we also have to deal with a silly love triangle setup and a nice bit of buddy cop story from Cisco and Joe.
We’ve been building up to this episode and next for quite some time, with little bits and pieces of the Firestorm origin dropped in the midst of other villain-of-the-week stories. Now, it all comes to fruition as Ronnie Raymond, controlled by Professor Martin Stein, goes to his former classmate Dr. Quentin Quale, a fellow physicist. But before he can explain anything, he loses control of his powers and blasts the room. Quale is critically injured, and Team Flash finally decides it’s actually not OK for a flaming man to be loose in the streets of Central City.
Like it was before…
Determining that Stein is likely in control of Ronnie’s body, they go visit Mrs. Professor Stein and learn that he’s visited her quite a few times in the last month. Most likely he’s trying to figure out just what’s going on, why he has memories that aren’t his (and a body to match), and it’s slowly driving him insane to be two people at once.
Wells calls for a stakeout, since Stein keeps coming back to his house. He and Catilin have a moment in the van, where Wells actually gets a little more layering as he discusses the meaning of “home” — it’s where you feel loved, not a particular place or house. When Stein/Ronnie show up, they call Barry from his date (more on that in a moment) and The Flash arrives to try to talk reason, even getting a wink in at Marvel by asking Stein not to “flame on”. Of course, he does, and he grabs Flash to take him into the air, where he drops the Scarlet Speedster. Just as it seems Barry’s plunging to his death, Firestorm grabs him and tosses him against the S.T.A.R. Labs van. Still gotta hurt, but it makes me wonder if Ronnie had any influence over the decision to save Barry at the last minute, or if the plan all along was to just scare everyone into leaving him alone?
Turns out, the plan all along was to plant a tracking device on Ronnie so they could find him and convince him to let Team Flash to help him. Which he does, only for them to find that the Firestorm matrix isn’t stable, and there’s no way to separate them before the process reaches critical mass and Ronnie’s body explodes.
Now, Caitlin gets some really good material in this episode. And I’m guessing karaoke night is just going to be one of those crazy stories she and Barry tell… nobody. Because Caitlin is full-on emotionally wiped from the prospect of losing Ronnie again. She insists that Wells take the time they have left and come up with something.
Which he does, choosing to sacrifice whatever agenda he has that involves Barry and the yellow suit. Gideon the Computer Interface from the Future even tells him that this will delay his time table. Wells is OK with that, leaving us to wonder if he’s really a villain or just someone from the future who has to make things happen a certain way because he knows they did.
Wells and Cisco come up with a device that straps itself to Ronnie’s chest, looking very much like the design of the original Firestorm’s costume from the comics. Unfortunately, they’re just shy of too late and Ronnie explodes in the badlands thirty miles out of Central City (minimum safe distance).
[Side note: since Central City is actually Kansas City, where we’re based, I can say with reasonable certainty that we don’t have any “badlands” near here. Lots of flat empty land, yes, but not “badlands”…]
Barry also demonstrates all of that training has paid off, as he can now outrun a nuclear explosion.
Oh, and said nuclear explosion catches the attention of one General Eiling. And I’d better see all sorts of mayhem and chaos in Central City next episode, because they’ve just had a freakin’ nuclear explosion happen.
But wait. Let’s back up to that training. All of that extra work Barry was doing to prepare himself to face off against the Reverse-Flash. There’s no mention of it in this episode, and while most of the hour is spent figuring out how to get Ronnie and Professor Stein separated, there should have also been at least a mention of the training. I don’t recall there being one. Not with the urgency we’ve seen in past episodes.
Intercut in the midst of this is the “Cisco & Joe Show” — it’s a buddy cop story about a detective and a science geek trying to solve a fifteen-year-old murder. And I would probably watch this show. There is a comfortable dynamic between Joe and Cisco now, especially when confronted with flirty Sherry (like the drink), who now owns the former Allen home and probably wouldn’t mind if Joe kicked his shoes off and sat a spell. She even owns some of the furniture sold in the estate sale.
Like the mirror. With the silver nitrate back. Now, it’s a little bit of a stretch to think that the “photos” exposed on the mirror backing would only be concentrated to that one night. If Cisco can pull images off, why wouldn’t there be shots of Sherry (like the drink)? Or even other images of the Allens before the murder date. But let’s assume Cisco filtered all of those out when he converted the images to a 3D hologram (in color, too!) to show what the mirror saw that night.
And no, Cisco is not being set up to be Mirror Master. He’s Vibe.
Within the hologram, there’s evidence of two lightning bolts. Two speedsters, as Joe reckons it. And at some point in the night of the murder, these two speedsters must have been fighting within the Speed Force, and some blood splattered at a distance away from the crime scene. This was probably missed fifteen years ago because it was nowhere near the room where the murder took place.
Joe and Cisco take samples back to the police lab, where Joe wants to run it and see if it matches Wells. This is a line Cisco won’t cross. He doesn’t think Wells would be capable of something like murder, let alone be a speedster (little does he know…), and he walks out before running the test. But at some point, after seeing Wells is willing to sacrifice Ronnie in order to save the city, he runs it and finds that it matches an older, grown-up Barry Allen.
Which now has fueled all sorts of speculation that we’re going to get Flashpoint on this show, and I really don’t want to see that. First, it was a poorly executed story, and it set up the New 52 at DC Comics. And the New 52 is something that should die in a fire.
In any case, we now have solidly introduced time travel into the show, and we know that at least one of the speedsters at the scene of the crime was Barry. The other one? No clue yet.
And now we get to the part of the episode that really doesn’t fit anywhere in the episode. First, let’s stipulate that this rewritten Linda Park is a catch. She’s witty. She loves spicy food. She’s smart. She’s definitely not the one to take home to Mother.
But she doesn’t belong here.
I’m not going to spend any time on the love triangle the show is trying to set up, because it’s stupid. Iris needs better material. She’s smart. She’s independent. She’s not the helpless girlfriend character. Don’t put her in that box, writers. You almost did that with Laurel Lance. No reason to do it here.
Linda Park … she’s The Flash’s wife. But not this Flash. She marries Wally West. This is in the post-Crisis story continuity (referenced in the pilot episode) in which Barry Allen is dead. Not missing. Not displaced in time. Dead. And Wally took up the mantle of the Flash after so many years as Kid Flash. Eventually he got involved with reporter Linda Park. They married. Had kids. Super-speedy kids.
Linda Park does not belong in Barry Allen’s life.
And I’m also not going to spend much time on the meet-cute of Barry and Linda trying to have a date, or a second date, or the whole “vibrating while getting excited” thing, or the hot chili pepper eating display in the middle of Linda’s workplace. Because it’s all just a bad fit for this episode. The tone is so completely off of everything else, it feels like it was shoehorned in to spread out the nuclear explosion build-up. And while some of the scenes are cute and yes, Barry and Linda are adorable… ugh.
But let’s definitely bring back Sherry (like the drink). Because you can never have enough Chase Masterson.