May 29, 2018
The Flash RECAP: How Barry Allen got the runs (S1:E1)
We open with voiceover: presumably the titular character, expecting us to have difficulty understanding and believing what he’s going to tell us. Since we watched Arrow, and probably Smallville, we do not have difficulty. Pan down… a red-and-yellow blur in the streets of Central City… our narrator tells us that’s him. It’s cheesy, but the joy in his voice is palpable, and kind of catching, and definitely preferable to gravelly “I must become something else!” Did DC finally remember superheroes are supposed to be fun? As a comic book nerd, predictably I do get chills when he introduces himself: “My name is Barry Allen. I am the fastest man alive.”
Flashback 14 years. Eleven-year-old Barry is being chased by bullies who catch him and punch him in the arms and legs for no discernable reason. Back at the Allen household, we focus on a framed family photo straight out of the Republican Guide to Family Values, and then pan to Ma Allen listening sympathetically to Barry’s story of Standing Up For the Innocent and tending his wounds. I get this is supposed to be a heartwarming demonstration of what an awesome mom she is, but I have trouble caring when we all know she’s going to die in about four seconds. She tells Pa Allen that Barry won his fight, because dads can only be proud of their sons if they’re capable of injuring other children (moms, conversely, can only be proud of their sons if they have a Good Heart™).
Four seconds later, young Barry wakes up to a lightning storm. His goldfish are floating out of their tank, so naturally he goes downstairs to investigate. Ma Allen is yelling his name despite having no way of knowing he was coming, since it’s dark and whoever or whatever is killing her (comic check—and major SPOILER—it’s totally Professor Zoom) is making a lot of noise while doing it. They stare and yell at one another for too long while red/yellow streaks dance around. Pa Allen shows up to also yell her name ineffectually. Pa Allen tells Barry to run, which seems like unsound advice to give a small child even under the circumstances. It doesn’t matter, though, because somehow Barry gets teleported (?) out onto the street. However he got there, he starts running.
Flashforward (ha) to today, and a Converse-clad Barry is still running, apparently late for something. That something is probably the crime scene we see next, where Detective Joe West (comic check: now a cop instead of a professor) and Detective Fred Chyre (this actor played a different character on Arrow) are expositing that Clyde Mardon (comic check: now a petty criminal, not a scientist) was identified by a bank teller as the shooter in an apparent robbery. Fred laments the alleged return of the Mardon brothers (comic check: Mark Mardon is also known as the Weather Wizard).
Barry goes to work examining a tire track left at the crime scene, and we get Sherlock-esque lines and letters informing us that Barry can identify super-wide tires with 12-inch asymmetrical tread by eye. He then demonstrates encyclopedic knowledge of… tires, I guess?… by identifying the getaway car as some sort of Mustang. Joe looks impressed. Despite having run through downtown Central City with an entire case of forensics tools, Barry uses Fred’s dead father’s pen to scoop up some “fecal excrement” (unnecessary redundancy) for later analysis.
Back at Central City PD, Iris West—daughter of Det. Joe West—strolls into the oddly-brick crime lab (personally, I prefer my crime labs sterile, but that’s just me) to collect Barry for their non-date to the atom smasher smashing. Barry thinks he’s got too much work with the recent shooting, but Iris exposits that it’s Barry’s nerdy little dream to see STAR Lab’s prized machine turn on, in a way that manages to be cute and not condescending. In the same breath, we find out that Iris is not a reporter (comic check) but is in fact working on her dissertation, which is causing her to stress eat. Barry tells her in that creepy way of friend-zoned boys everywhere that she looks “amazing,” and she scoffs like all girls who really, really hope their friends aren’t hitting on them. Barry turns sadly away so we can all be sure that he has a giant thing for Iris. Blech.
She asks Barry why the particle accelerator is so important, and he answers “Harrison Wells’ work in quantum theory is light years ahead of anything they’re doing at CERN.” Iris tells him his words are too big for normals to understand. What exactly is Iris getting her PhD in? Apparently it’s not “completely reasonable English sentences.”
Anyway, the wordily redundant fecal excrement turd poop doo-doo turns out to be cow manure, and Barry finds an antibiotic in it (in about five minutes, somehow) that narrows down the potential locations of the getaway car. Barry’s work apparently complete, Iris uses her daughter-pull to get Joe to allow them both to head to STAR Labs for the accelerator turn-on.
While walking through a swarm of atom smasher fans and protestors, Iris and Barry discuss his recent trip to Starling City (home of the Green Arrow, in case you’re not watching his show). He very obviously gears up to confess his everlasting love for her, but she derails him gently by reminding him that they are LIKE SIBLINGS FFS, BARRY. Thankfully, this painfully awkward scene is interrupted by Harrison Wells (comic check: I have no idea who this is) introducing his particle accelerator. As a scientist, I can confirm that we super love public demonstrations of new things. It’s definitely preferable to controlled testing.
In the middle of Harrison’s speech about the utopian future that will be brought about by…slamming atoms together, I guess… Iris’ bag is snatched from her shoulder. She gasps that her dissertation is on the laptop in her bag, which… I wish I could say it’s ridiculous that a grad student writing their dissertation would only have the document in one place, but that’s not actually ridiculous; grad students are lazy and stupid. (I was one for five years.) Barry chases after the thief, because of course he does. For some reason, the purse-snatcher waits around a corner so he can hit Barry and emphasize his inferiority before escaping… directly into the pulled weapon of a well-positioned Detective Eddie Thawne (comic check: Professor Zoom’s real name is Eobard Thawne; this cannot possibly be a coincidence).
Back at Central City PD, Iris is unimpressed with the savior of her dissertation, and Barry exposits that said savior started a few weeks ago after transferring from Keystone (comic check: Keystone City is home to original Flash Jay Garrick and Barry’s successor Wally West; it’s probably really close to Central City, but sometimes the comics are contradictory on this detail). Apparently Joe refers to Eddie as “Detective Prettyboy” which… is not wholly inaccurate.
Meanwhile, Joe and Fred are investigating the farms Barry identified as being potential hosts to the Mardon brothers. It’s dark and raining and they’re at the last farm on the list. I wonder if they’ll find anything?
Barry returns to his lab, which is leaking rain water (seriously, literally nothing he finds in this place would be admissible in court), and watches the news on his computer monitor a la Arrow. He seems more concerned with showing off his bulletin board of obsessive newspaper articles about his mother’s death and father’s arrest and incarceration than the fact that storms aren’t affecting the particle accelerator at all, nope, they are completely unrelated!
Back in the dark, scary barn, Joe and Fred find a Mustang (the car, not the horse) and have just enough time to exchange knowing glances before Clyde Mardon starts shooting at them and running to his… plane? Why didn’t he just sneak out of the barn? Shooting at them just alerted them to his escape! Fred takes one in the neck and looks pretty dead while the Mardons escape by plane (biplane? Get it?).
The storm seems to be worsening, and on Barry’s computer-news, the reporter is evacuating the facility. The power goes out, and Barry sees an explosion in the distance, apparently STAR Labs. A pulse of red/yellow energy blankets the city. Joe, kneeling in the rain with a dead partner, watches the Mardons’ plane pretty much disintegrate in the sky, so they are definitely 100% dead, yep, no doubt. In the lab, open beakers of chemicals (???) begin floating like kid-Barry’s fish, and he looks up at the lab’s leaky skylight just in time for it to be shattered by yellow lightning, which throws him back into the open shelf of open beakers of strangely colored chemicals. This is the worst lab in existence. Besides STAR, obviously.
Paramedics and doctors rush Barry-on-a-stretcher through dark hallways. The doctor asks how he’s still alive after being hit by lightning. According to the National Weather Service, only about 10% of people struck by lightning are killed, so that is a completely unnecessary line that makes you wonder about the doctor’s qualifications. The doctors claim he is in SVT and then that he has no heartbeat, which are mutually exclusive, but whatever. They then order blood for transfusion, which… he’s not bleeding? Do you need a blood transfusion after being struck by lightning?
Nine months later we’re introduced to Felicity and Digg—er, Fitzsimm—er, Cisco Ramon and Dr. Caitlin Snow (comic check: Francisco Ramon is also known as the superhero Vibe; Caitlin Snow has been known as the villain Killer Frost) tending to Barry’s soon-to-not-be-unconscious body in the bombed-out STAR Labs remnants. When he awakens, we learn that while Barry was in his coma, his muscles have been very busy giving him abs. Harrison-Wells-in-a-wheelchair exposits that STAR Labs has been shut down since the explosion and is a “class IV hazardous location” (note: this is not a classification that exists, as far as I could tell), so it makes perfect sense that Joe and Iris would allow Barry to be treated there.
(Comic check: Barry and Harrison pass an empty cage with a sign saying GRODD. In the comics, Grodd is a gorilla with telepathy and hyper-intelligence; he is often a Flash foe.)
After proceeding to not care about all the science Cisco, Cailtlin, and Harrison really want to do on him, Barry leaves STAR Labs, acquires clothes somehow, and decides not to call his pretty-much-family to tell them he’s alive—instead choosing to show up unannounced at Iris’ workplace. It’s there he gets his first taste of super-speed when he watches a waitress drop a tray of coffee without doing anything to help.
Meanwhile, Clyde is shockingly not dead, and is already robbing banks again. No longer using guns, he has swapped firearms for the power of CGI dust clouds. Joe’s reunion with pseudo-son Barry is interrupted by Clyde’s mess, leaving us with a really awkward interaction between Detective Zoo—er, Eddie Thawne and Iris, and she is way too unnecessarily cold to him so they’ve got to be dating.
Barry super-speedily stops an attempt by a random criminal to snag an officer’s gun, which freaks him out, so he heads outside to literally run into a few police cruisers (I’m sure there are no cameras in that parking lot of police cars) and then crash into an open van of laundry. Count of people who absolutely saw Barry Allen being the Flash: 1 (laundry guy).
Next up, we pan over from a sign reading Ferris Air (comic check: Ferris Air is the company for which Green Lantern Hal Jordan was a test pilot!). Cisco, Caitlin, and Harrison setting up to take Barry for a test run. Which sounds… unnecessarily dirty, doesn’t it. As Barry points out, his unitard is a little snug. Barry blows them all away (I’m sorry now I can’t stop) by running over 200 miles per hour, until he starts thinking about his mom, at which point he runs directly into a bunch of barrels of water. Barry fractures his wrist, but it heals in three hours because of the same powers that gave him abs. Count of people who absolutely saw Barry Allen being the Flash: 4 (+ Cisco, Caitlin, Harrison).
In a DID I CALL THAT OR WHAT, Iris and Eddie are totally dating. She tells Barry they pretend to hate each other in front of her father because she “likes having a boyfriend who isn’t shot to death,” which is frankly kind of insensitive since Eddie literally got his job when Fred was shot to death. Barry is angsty about it, but before he can admit it to Iris, a car chase comes sliding toward them. He tackles Iris out of the way, glimpses Clyde driving the not-police-car, and runs after him—getting into the passenger’s seat of the moving vehicle. Clyde reaches for his gun, Barry jerks the wheel and flips the car, and they emerge into a standoff… which ends when Clyde conjures up another CGI dust cloud and a vehicle slams into the already-wrecked car, exploding everything in a completely unbelievable manner. Count of people who absolutely saw Barry Allen being the Flash: 6 (+ Iris even though the show will have us believe she didn’t, Clyde).
Angry!Barry storms into STAR Labs demanding to know why they didn’t tell him he wasn’t the only one with superpowers. Harrison admits they don’t actually know who else was affected, but they’re looking. Barry demands they work to catch Clyde, but Harrison has another motive: Barry healed a broken arm in three hours; Wells is confined to a wheelchair. He… has a point, actually, though I’m not sure why studying Barry and stopping Clyde are mutually exclusive goals.
Barry angstily runs to Starling City. No, really.
There he meets on a rooftop with the angstmaster himself, Oliver Queen! Oliver is actually a pretty good mentor here, and he totally convinces Barry to go all superhero and accidentally dubs him the Flash. They mutually admire one another’s asses and/or powers/gadgets as Barry heads back to Central City. Count of people who absolutely saw Barry Allen being the Flash: 7 (+ Oliver and Oliver will totally tell Felicity and Diggle so actually 9).
Barry immediately brings Cisco and Caitlin into his scheme, because all superheroes need tech support, and Cisco reveals that he has already designed a Flash suit. It’s dull red, rather like Arrow’s dull green. I like it.
They figure out Clyde is probably back at the same farm where he killed Fred; conveniently Eddie and Joe find him there monologing about how he’s God. Joe speaks for all of us when he tells Clyde to shut the hell up. Clyde knocks out Eddie with an… earthquake? That’s not weather. Anyway, then the CGI dust cloud is back in tornado form. I guess Clyde is going to ride this tornado somewhere r e a l l y s l o w l y and then hold it up?
Barry arrives in the nick of time, suggesting that he run around the tornado in the opposite direction to unravel it. I don’t care how stupid it is, this is the type of ridiculous comic book science that I am ALL FOR. Damn straight we can stop tornados by running around them really fast. And it’s a pretty cool visual. Just in the nick of time, Harrison shows up on comms to motivate Barry into the required 700 miles per hour. It totally works; the tornado falls apart and Barry doesn’t die. Clyde is going to shoot him, even though he can clearly move faster than a bullet, but Joe shoots Clyde first. Count of people who absolutely saw Barry Allen being the Flash: 8 (+ Joe).
I would have been happy with the episode ending there, but Barry has to have paternal moments with both Joe (DON’T TELL IRIS, PROMISE ME) and his actual father (I KNOW YOU’RE INNOCENT, DAD). They love each other very much, which is sweet, but more importantly: HOLY SHIT HARRISON WELLS CAN WALK AND SEE THE FUTURE ALSO HE DOESN’T NEED GLASSES THAT FAKER. His special future-reading newspaper (or special newspaper that he brought from the future, also a possibility) headlines “Flash missing; vanishes in crisis”. An… infinite crisis? WE CAN ONLY HOPE.