The Flash RECAP: Don't Beat Yourself Up (S1:E9)
Previously on The Flash: Ronnie Raymond died, literally everyone but Iris knows Barry is in love with Iris, and Not-Flash is not-down with Joe re-investigating Barry’s mom’s murder.
We open with no voiceover; instead it’s Christmas carols! “Let It Snow” plays while a man puts up Christmas lights, at least until two Flash-blurs speed by and turn them out (why? The other lights don’t go out). One is Barry, as you might expect, and he briefly catches up to the other blur, who’s dressed all in yellow and quickly outpaces his pursuer.
A day earlier, Barry and Joe are decorating a Christmas tree in the West home, and Joe is going way too slow for Barry’s taste, so he takes over the decorating and has the tree done in a second more. He looks smug, and Joe tells him the only red-suited guy allowed in his house right now is Santa. Barry sighs and quickly undecorates the tree, which earns us Joe giggling, my favorite thing. Iris comes in with a tray of Santa mugs filled with eggnog (which we know because Joe remarks how much he loves Grandma Esther’s definition of “light on the bourbon”). Before he can take more than a sip, though, Joe gets a call from the DA and heads out, leaving Barry and Iris alone. Iris immediately drags Barry down to the floor and demands they exchange gifts right that second because she can’t wait any longer. Iris’ gift from Barry is clearly jewelry, which makes me nervous, but it’s actually kind of sweet: it’s a replica of Iris’ mother’s wedding band, which Iris lost on a fifth grade field trip to the zoo. They hug, and Iris presents Barry with a new microscope, which is suitably dorky. Before anything to make me cringe can happen, Eddie arrives to help with the tree-trimming. Thanks, Eddie!
Later, Barry heads to STARLS, passing out gifts to Team Flash, as well as a thermos of eggnog. Harrison is in a bad mood (he doesn’t even want any eggnog!), and Caitlin and Cisco exposit that the car accident that killed his wife happened right before Christmas.
Iris and Eddie are having coffee, and Eddie brings up how Barry didn’t seem super happy to see him earlier at the West home. He wonders if it’s possible that Barry could LIKE like Iris, and Iris laughs that off. Weirdly, she doesn’t explain the significance of the wedding band, which really does come off as a best friend-slash-brother gift when you consider that only Barry (and Joe, presumably) ever knew that Iris had and lost it in the first place. Eddie gifts Iris a suspiciously-ring-shaped box, but his gift is a key to his apartment: he’s asking Iris to move in with him. Naturally, she accepts.
Caitlin is in the parking garage after shopping for Harrison’s Christmas present (with phone consultation from Cisco), when a strange person-shaped shadow seems to be lurking about in her vicinity. Suspicious, she follows it, eyes widening when the man bursts into head-and-hand flames before slowly turning around: it’s Ronnie, like we already learned, but Caitlin doesn’t seem to recognize him what with all the fire.
At Mercury Labs (comic check: strangely for this show, Mercury is an actual company that does something with PR, and not one from the DC Universe, but I’m willing to bet this is a reference to Max Mercury, a speedster who actually studied the “speed force” and is also a time traveler—he got his powers in 1838) in the superluminal (a.k.a. faster-than-light) development department, a white-coated scientist-type wishes Merry Christmas to a pair of security guards, who teasingly ask what they’re working on in the super-secret area before alarms start blaring. The guards order the scientist back into the secure area and he obeys, but they can’t defend themselves against the yellow blur that takes them both out. It (he, I guess) comes to the door and stares at the scientist for a moment, all vibrate-y, and then is gone.
Joe and the police are investigating the murder of the guards later that night, and Barry concludes from the bodies and blood spatter that they could only have been killed by some sort of high speed collision, which seems incongruent with them being in a lab-type environment. Based on the witness statement, Eddie thinks the blur is the Flash, an obvious target for his new task force. When Barry hears that the blur-man was wearing yellow, he immediately hisses to Joe (well within earshot of everyone, of course) that the man who killed his mother is back in action. Joe admits that he knows, and that the man took the case files from his house a few weeks ago.
At STARLS, Barry and Joe recount what happened at Mercury Labs and the parallels to Nora Allen’s death, and Joe asks Harrison what he knows about the place. He exposits that Mercury was a competitor of STAR until the accelerator explosion, and that the lead scientist is Christina McGee (comic check: Tina McGee is a nutritionist by training who has studied the Flash’s metabolism and connection to the speed force for STAR Labs; she also dated Wally West for a while). They discover via the internet that Mercury is working on something to do with FTL technology because tachyons (real life check: no evidence of tachyons as FTL particles has been found; the term was coined to refer to something else that does exist but does not travel faster than light). They decide that Not- Flash was clearly trying to steal a tachyon (yes, Joe refers to a hypothetical subatomic particle in the singular) and therefore they need a tachyon (yes, I’m going to do this the rest of the article) to lure the baddie to STAR.
At the coffee shop, Caitlin comes to see Iris because she’s actually written about Ronnie—well, Firestorm—on the Flash blog before. Iris offers to send her the reports she’s had and then asks Caitlin about Barry; apparently he’s been acting like he’s keeping something from Iris, and does Caitlin know anything about that? Caitlin awkwardly suggests Iris ask Barry.
At Joe’s desk at the police department, for the air of respectability it brings, Barry and Harrison ask Tina questions about the research at Mercury Labs, specifically something involving a tachyon. Barry brings up the idea of Tina lending the police the prototype to act as bait, and I have no idea why they would ask that with Tina’s major scientific competitor present because that’s suspicious as fuck. She declines, presumably because she’s not stupid.
Caitlin is wearing her engagement ring in the treadmill room when Cisco comes in with an idea for a force field to trap Opposite Flash (he’s still trying out nicknames). He quickly picks up that something is wrong with Caitlin, and she tells him that Ronnie is alive—she did recognize him in the parking garage; it wasn’t clear. Cisco gently reminds her that Ronnie was vaporized in the explosion, although given the last few months as Team Flash, you’d think he’d default to believing her. She insists that she saw Ronnie and that she needs Cisco’s help to find him.
Barry is looking at his corkboard of Nora-and-Henry-Allen-factoids and FLASHes back to Nora examining a black eye as she tucks him into bed. Kid!Barry asks her if she was ever afraid of the dark, and she corrects that Barry is not afraid of the dark, he’s afraid of being alone in the dark. She claims that goes away when one realizes they’re never really alone, which is a far more terrifying concept, at least for an introvert. Henry comes in to complete the touching family goodnight, and Barry allows them to actually turn off his bedroom light, apparently for the first time in a while. Hours later, Barry jerks awake because thunder, and also floating fish: of course this is the night of Nora’s death.
Iris snaps Barry out of his memories, amused at his inattention, at least until she sees the corkboard, which apparently she never has before.
She’s really there to tell Barry that Eddie asked her to move in with him and she said yes. Barry comments that they’re moving fast, and Iris says it’s been a year, so they really have been dating pretty much since Barry got zapped, in case anyone needed to know that. I know someone out there is keeping track. Iris pawns off on Eddie the thought that Barry might LIKE her, and Barry agrees with Iris that that’s not the case. He excuses his odd behavior as just a symptom of the year going by really fast because he was literally in a coma for three-quarters of it. Iris is clearly relieved by Barry’s response. While he stares pensively out the window in the wake of her departure, Barry spots Not-Flash (comic check: I guess I should finally do the Reverse Flash comic check, huh? It’s a very broad category, as the name has been taken by a number of Flash villains, including: Edward Clariss, The Rival; a robot, yes, really; Eobard Thawne, Professor Zoom; Hunter Zolomon, Zoom; Thaddeus Thawne, Inertia; and Daniel West. It’s not clear yet which villain this Reverse Flash is, nor is it clear why so many Flash villains needed to give themselves two different codenames) on a building across the street, watching him.
Not-Flash runs down the building, and Barry takes off in pursuit.
Not-Flash leads Barry to an alley and continues to vibrate weirdly while Barry yells that he killed his mother. Not-Flash says that if Barry wants to know who he is and why he killed Nora Allen, Barry will have to catch him. He has a weird, modulated voice, too, and he takes off, bringing us to the scene that opened the episode: Barry in pursuit.
Barry follows Not-Flash into the football stadium, and they stand facing one another for a moment before sprinting directly at one another in speedster chicken, for no apparent reason.
They slam into one another (WHY?) and Barry goes down while Not-Flash doesn’t. He tells Barry he isn’t fast enough, and the chase continues around the stadium and back down to the field, where Not-Flash kicks Barry around a little bit. From the turf, Barry demands to know who he is, and Not-Flash claims Barry knows who he is and that they’ve been “at this” a long time, “this” apparently being Barry getting his ass kicked. Then again, it’s not an episode of The Flash unless Barry has gotten his ass kicked by the Villain of the Week before the twenty-minute mark. Not-Flash growls that it’s Barry’s destiny to lose to him, and it was his mother’s destiny to die, and then he’s gone. No fair using time travel, Not-Flash!
The next morning, Barry is recounting the story to Team Barry Allen’s Hot Dads at STARLS. Harrison and Joe try to reassure him, but Barry is really upset that he can’t use the catchphrase “Fastest Man Alive” anymore. Harrison thinks a force field is going to even the playing field and sends Joe off to get the bait that Tina refused to give to him. Joe tries to get Barry to stay at STARLS, but he’s having none of it, stomping off and leaving Joe and Harrison to exchange exasperated looks over their stubborn kid. There is still no Harrison/Joe fanfic on AO3, btw.
At the police station, Joe tries to use an unsigned warrant to get a tachyon and Tina is having none of it. Barry goes straight for blackmail, telling her that she was happy to give the dumb cops a tour of the facility and he saw lots of stuff that he would love to tell the science news about. She gives in, and not happily. Joe is impressed with Barry’s effort, but Barry seems grumpy still and stomps off again. Eddie approaches Joe to bring up how, according to the witness, the Flash was the one who murdered the guards at Mercury Labs. Joe says that Eddie doesn’t want any part of their weird plan to capture Not-Flash, but Eddie’s not asking: he threatens to go straight to Singh if his task force isn’t part of the take-down.
In the bowels of the mall/parking garage where Caitlin saw Ronnie, she and Cisco are hunting his trail of ionized particles. They corner him in a narrow corridor, which seems like a terrible idea, even though Caitlin calls his name. He tells her that he isn’t Ronnie, and she says they just need to get him back to the labs and they can help him get his memories back. He just grabs her face, creepily whispers “Firestorm,” bursts into head-and-hand-flames, and takes off.
Later that night, bait acquired, the team sets the trap for Not-Flash with the tachyon. Joe tells Barry in the exact tone of “your mother and I think” that he and Harrison think Barry shouldn’t be there to catch the Not-Flash. Barry whines that he’s the best chance they have of catching him, but Joe thinks Barry is way too emotional about him. Barry proves his point by insisting that it’s his fight because Not-Flash killed his mother, and that just makes Joe more resolute. Barry sure does a lot of teenage-esque stomping this episode.
Cisco comes to find Caitlin staring at her engagement ring and crying. He tells her that they’ll find Ronnie now that know he’s there and not to worry. She says there’s no point if they’re just going to have to throw him in the metaprison; she’s already given up on him. Cisco just hugs her, and it’s sweet.
Barry is visiting his dad in prison, telling Henry that he found the man who killed Nora but couldn’t catch him. Barry insists he was this close, which is a lie, since clearly Not-Flash was in control of that entire situation. Henry says Barry’s given up a lot because of his mother’s death and even reveals that he too is aware that Barry is in love with Iris, because literally everyone in Central City is apparently aware of this fact at a glance except Iris. Anyway, Henry thinks Barry should give up the pursuit, because Not-Flash has taken enough of their lives already.
Iris is FINALLY finishing decorating the tree that they started like two days ago when Barry arrives at the West home. She asks Barry if he’s okay, and he just sighs and hugs her, saying that he loves her. She obviously says it back, but he expands—saying that he loved her when they were kids, before he even knew what love was. He claims he wanted to tell her, like, tons of times, but he never did because he was afraid of losing his best friend as a friend after losing his parents, which is actually not wholly unreasonable. Iris doesn’t say anything, and Barry apologizes and leaves.
At STARLS, Team Flash + Eddie (I hope they put away the suit display case) are monitoring their Not-Flash trap. After a few seconds of building music and staring at a blank monitor, Not-Flash shows up, and the force field traps him. They all head down to the force field, where Not-Flash is vibrating angrily.
Eddie and the task force seem twitchy, but Joe approaches the field, demanding to know why Not-Flash killed Nora Allen. Not-Flash is more interested in Harrison, though, who wants to know why he needs a tachyon. Not-Flash says he wouldn’t understand, and Harrison demonstrates his intelligence by telling him about the trap. Meanwhile, Cisco is noticing that the force field is fluctuating. Harrison tells Not-Flash they know all about him because his powers are just like the Flash’s, and Not-Flash officially dubs himself Reverse Flash. All the computer monitors in the labs go haywire, and Caitlin demands to Harrison that they evacuate. Before they do, of course, Reverse Flash breaches the containment field and drags Harrison inside it, pummeling him, while Joe yells at Cisco to turn off the field. When Cisco doesn’t move fast enough, Joe picks up a giant-ass wrench that happens to be lying around and slams it into the generator maintaining the field. It goes down, and Reverse Flash grabs the tachyon but for some reason doesn’t just leave; instead he’s vibrating over at the door, with the task force’s guns trained on him.
Caitlin, because someone on the team is thinking, texts Barry, while Reverse Flash quickly takes out every member of the task force except Joe and Eddie. He steals Eddie’s gun and stands nose-to-nose with him, until Joe fires; then he slams Joe into the wall, demanding that Joe stop hunting him—and then Flash knocks into him. They take the supersonic fight outside STARLS, with Caitlin and Cisco looking on.
Reverse Flash has the upper hand, beating Barry down and ripping off his mask, at least until a wave of fire slams into him. Reverse Flash flees, and Firestorm tells Caitlin not to look for him again before blasting off into the air (yes, this is a thing Firestorm can do).
At the police station, Joe and Eddie are sitting in the dark. Eddie asks why “it” didn’t kill him. Joe says he doesn’t know, but he spills about the metahumans, saying that he and Eddie need to keep it between them so nobody else on the force gets hurt. Eddie asks if Joe knows who the Flash is, and Joe admits that he does—but he finishes it with “the guy that saved both of our lives tonight,” leaving Eddie to wonder if he really knows.
At STARLS, Caitlin is working on a pretty beat-up Harrison while Cisco laments the failure of the containment system. Harrison says it isn’t his fault, but they maybe should think about apologizing for failing to tell him that Ronnie was alive. Caitlin does apologize for not telling him, but Harrison says he understands and promises that they’ll bring Ronnie home.
Barry stares at a snow globe in the Worst Lab Ever, apparently a gift from his world-traveler mother. Joe remembers that he offered to send Barry abroad for a semester in college, and Barry says he just couldn’t leave because he was too caught up in what happened to his mother. He admits that he’s been afraid of the Reverse Flash his whole life, and that’s why he lost to him. Joe admits in turn that when he took Barry in, he was afraid it was going to be too much—he was already a single dad, struggling to make ends meet, and he thought Barry would need too much, having just lost his mother (and his father to prison). But instead Barry brought a new energy to their family because he always had a light about him. Joe says he can’t lose Barry now, even if the world does need The Flash. They hug, and it’s really sweet.
Joe and Barry get back to the West home to find Iris and Eddie, as well as Caitlin and Cisco. Joe asks where Harrison is, but Caitlin says he wasn’t feeling up to it. They head off for eggnog, and Barry approaches Eddie and Iris. Iris looks nervous, but Barry just tells them that he’s happy they’re moving in together. Iris is relieved, but also doesn’t look totally thrilled. On the other side of the room, Cisco tells Joe that he saw something weird when Barry and Reverse Flash were fighting earlier: as they battled, the electricity was red, Barry’s, and yellow, Reverse Flash’s. Cisco remembers that Barry saw red AND yellow lightning the night Nora Allen died, and Joe immediately realizes that Cisco is hypothesizing that there were two speedsters there that night. Joe clearly thinks Cisco is onto something, but Iris calls out that it’s time for topping the tree, so everybody crowds together to watch Joe put the angel on top and light it up.
Predictably, Harrison is back in his secret lair while everyone else is at the Wests’ celebrating the holiday. He puts a lightning bolt ring on his finger and presses his fist to one of the weird dots on his wall, opening a panel containing a yellow speedster suit. He puts some device over the chest of the suit and says, in Reverse Flash’s voice, “Merry Christmas.” WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.