May 13, 2019
The Flash RECAP: Fast Relief for Painful Gas (S1:E3)
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Barry Allen is the fastest man alive. Previously: Joe and Barry teamed up to clear Barry’s father’s name, Caitlin’s fiancé died in the same explosion that gave Barry abs, and Harrison killed a dude.
Voiceover!Barry tells us that everybody is running to or from something or someone, but you can’t outrun everything. Superhero philosophizing at its finest, folks! Actual!Barry, meanwhile, is talking zombie movies with Iris. He tells her about the fungus that zombifies ants (you guys are nerds, so you’ve probably heard about it); but she isn’t interested despite how fucking awesome the zombie fungus is because Iris hates science. They transition into discussing Iris’ journalism class paper on “the Streak,” and Barry objects to Iris’ referring to him as “him.” Which is a fair point, even though we all know Barry’s just being coy. Iris claims she’s “intuitive” about this stuff, and I don’t know what that means. She’s… good… at telling… gender? From the look of your supersonic color trail? Whatever, Iris.
Eddie calls to discuss where he’s hiding his key for Iris to “crash” at his apartment (real life check: that’s a euphemism for sex), which is the perfect opportunity for Cisco to tip Barry off that a bad guy with a gun is escaping from police. Despite the fact that he’s standing on a crowded sidewalk four feet from Iris who will probably notice his absence, Barry takes off in pursuit.
Barry runs to catch up with the car chase in progress. Even though Cisco and Caitlin informed Barry the perp had a gun, which is information they couldn’t have gotten anywhere but the police scanner, the cops in pursuit are shocked when the baddie starts shooting at them from his truck. Luckily, Barry is there to save the day! He has the bad guy handcuffed and in the back of the cop car before anybody knows what happened, and he returns to the crowded sidewalk before Iris gets off the phone. Hey, he’s getting better at this!
Central City’s idea of mob baddies are just at that moment having a public meeting in a public restaurant to show their enemies publicly that they’re not afraid of any public threats. Except then they close the restaurant, so it’s actually a private meeting in a privately rented restaurant in private. Sadly for them, their privacy gets interrupted when a creepy, bald server breaks the key off in the deadbolt and grins manically as smoke tentacles creep along the floor. Then a smoke cephalopod of some kind rises up to privately murder them right in the privates.
The next morning, Joe and Barry talk obviously about Barry being the Flash while walking through the police department. When will superheroes stop discussing their superheroism in public places? Never? Ok, just checking. In the Worst Crime Lab Ever, Joe presents Barry with the box of evidence related to his mother’s murder. He says they’re going to go verrry slowwwwly through every piece of evidence now that Joe believes Barry. In case you missed it, that’s supposed to be ironic, because Barry is very fast now.
Before they can spend any more of the work day on not their jobs, Eddie comes in with reports of last night’s smoke cephalopod-related murders. The victims were, apparently publicly, members of the Darbinyan crime family. At the scene, Barry diagnoses the deaths as by poison gas, because he’s a medical examiner now in addition to a forensic tech. He also immediately breaks out his “sentient gas” theory, which makes sense because cephalopods are really smart.
At STAR Labs Stadium, Harrison is fascinated by the idea of someone who can manipulate poison gas. Is Harrison just faking this excitement? Whether he sees the future or is from it, he must know about all this stuff already. Cisco, Caitlin, and Harrison speculate on the nature of Smoke Cephalopod Man’s powers, and Joe points out that Iron Heights prison isn’t exactly cut out to hold people like that. He tells Team Flash that since they probably won’t be killing every villain in every episode, they need to start working on a solution for holding the ones they catch. Cisco suggests that the particle accelerator itself could be a makeshift prison. What, really? That seems like a good idea?
FLASHback (I warned you) nine months ago. Heh, I just realized it was nine months. Aw, Barry gestated. In the labs preparing to turn on the particle accelerator, Cisco is reporting on the weather; he’s concerned, Harrison isn’t. Caitlin and fiancé Ronnie (comic check: his full name is Ronnie Raymond; in the comics he’s known as the superhero Firestorm) are planning their honeymoon getaway to Tahiti (I hear it’s a magical place) or Italy (less so).
The team gets ready to hit the on switch, and Harrison tells them he feels like he’s waited for centuries for this moment, so leaning toward time traveler over seer now. They all look at each other as Harrison injects the particles, and the accelerator is running. Harrison pops open a champagne bottle, but before anybody can even drink any, the fluid begins floating out of the bottle. Seconds later alarms sound.
Caitlin comes out of the FLASHback, and Barry notices she’s less than eager to go investigate the viability of the accelerator ring as a potential prison since it’s probably where Ronnie died. Ever the mensch, Barry recruits her back to the Worst Crime Lab Ever to help identify to the Smoke Cephalopod. Now they let unlicensed biochemists not employed by or contracted with the police department work on evidence? I guess it’s not like this case is ever going to court anyway…
Joe is watching a tape of Barry’s actual dad (should he get to be in the Barry Allen’s Hot Dads Club too? [Editor’s note: hell, yeah, he should! He was the Flash in the 1990s TV show and Dawson’s Dad on Dawson’s Creek. And I rode in an elevator with him once. – Rick]) telling the questioning detective about the lightning man who killed his wife. Henry’s prints were on the murder weapon, but as a doctor, he claims he was trying to stabilize the knife that was embedded in his wife. On the tape, he pleads with Joe to tell his interrogator that he didn’t do this. Now!Joe is clearly affected, but closes his laptop when Iris comes downstairs. Eddie knocks at the door, looking for Iris, but he can’t admit it because workplace romance—so he promptly tells Joe he thought he was at the morgue and then that he’d been looking for him. Smooth. Iris claims it’s not a good time to tell Joe about their relationship; Eddie is getting impatient with sneaking around.
At STAR Labs Stadium, Cisco and Harrison walk/wheel through the accelerator ring, discussing its potential as a metaprison. Harrison heads off to “decouple the main injection system on the gantry level” when standing in the accelerator ring triggers another FLASHback, this time from Cisco’s point of view.
Nine months ago, Caitlin, Cisco, and Harrison all work frantically on large computers, but they can’t shut the system down remotely, because of course they can’t. It turns out that they have to either manually shut down the system or seal off the accelerator so the explosion doesn’t kill everyone. Are these zero-sum engineering decisions really part of everyday building design? Anyway, Ronnie runs off to try the manual shutdown and orders Cisco to seal off the system if he’s not back in a couple minutes. He is not back in two minutes, and Cisco seals off the system and hyperventilates.
In real time, and back in the Worst Crime Lab Ever, Barry is fiddling with a model of a molecule while Caitlin does his work. He asks her what Ronnie was like, and Caitlin tells us he could make her laugh even though they were very different, like fire and ice. This conversation does nothing to dissuade me from thinking Caitlin and Ronnie will eventually be revealed to be Killer Frost and Firestorm. This touching scene is interrupted by test results, which show no sign of poison in the victims’ lungs. Barry speculates that it evaporated, despite the poison already being a gas, but Caitlin says that the test, which I assumed was mass spectrometry or something that specifically identifies chemicals, has also identified two distinct strands of DNA in the tissue (real life check: the same test cannot possibly tell you both those things at once).
In Central City’s premiere mall destination (probably), a woman who sounds like a judge is picking up a homecoming dress for her kid. She gets on an elevator, even though most able-bodied mall denizens take escalators and stairs, because otherwise the Smoke Cephalopod won’t be able to kill her as privately. She clearly recognizes the creepy, bald guy—who she says was supposed to have died—before he turns into the Smoke Cephalopod. The news comes over the police scanner, and Barry rushes off to help.
Barry arrives too late to help Judge Howard, but he catches a glimpse of smoke tentacle and chases after the Smoke Cephalopod. Our bald friend villain monologues that Howard deserved to die and that Barry should leave him alone because he has one more name on his list. Yeah, that seems like a reasonable request. Barry tries to punch him, but he goes all smoky and attacks Barry, who doesn’t run away because he’s stupid. Did he not watch Lost? The only way to steal a smoke monster’s power to empty the fountain at the bottom of the pit in the cave of light where the cork of evil is. Duh.
Anyway, Barry lets the tentacles get all up in his lungs, and I was all ready to call him a moron (run, Barry!) except he actually did it on purpose in order to bring a sample of the smoke/villain back to Caitlin before it/he can dissipate.
Because of his regenerative abilities, Barry recovers quickly from his brush with the tentacles, waking just in time for Cisco to dub our Smoke Cephalopod “The Mist.”
Despite a paternal “you should be resting!” from Harrison, Barry goes back to CCPD to fill Joe in on the latest. There, he gets all angsty about how he wasn’t fast enough to save Judge Howard and how the original member of the Barry Allen’s Hot Dads Club is still in prison when Barry could just bust him out. Joe humors him, but reminds him that a jailbreak leaves Henry on the run for the rest of his life. He also reminds Barry that he’s been a cop for lots of years, and sudden authority and the ability to help people doesn’t mean you can help everyone, which Barry has to understand and try to combat his helplessness and guilt.
In the precinct, Eddie is fed up with “potheads and crazies” calling the tip line to report the Streak, and he is unamused with Iris’ questions about him for her article. But that’s not why Iris came by. She tells Eddie that she’s never had a serious boyfriend and she’s been avoiding telling Joe because that made it real. He thinks she’s breaking up with him, but then she kisses him in the middle of the precinct, so I guess she’s not.
Barry and Caitlin are talking about death again, this time at STAR Labs Stadium. Barry tells her about how he still misses his mother even though it’s been 14 years. Caitlin, similarly, has been afraid of going into the accelerator ring for nine whole months. She and Barry go down there to face her fear, and it’s FLASHback time.
Caitlin runs down to where Cisco has just sealed off the accelerator ring doors, dooming Ronnie to certain death and definitely not near-immortality and control over subatomic particles. Cisco tells Caitlin that he can’t open the doors again because of lockdown mode just as Ronnie radios that he did something with magnets to direct the explosion up so it won’t destroy the entire city. Cisco runs off to reset some parameters while Caitlin listens to Ronnie die over the radio.
Back in real time, Caitlin laments that nobody will know how many lives Ronnie saved. Why not? It’s not a secret that there was a deadly explosion; I’m pretty sure you could tell people he stopped it from being deadlier. Barry and Caitlin hug before Cisco calls them up for the results of their tests on the Mist. They identify the deadly gas as hydrogen cyanide, with a dash of sedative for taste—the exact combo of drugs being used on hitman Kyle Nimbus for his execution the night of the explosion. Kyle/Mist killed off the Darbinyan crime bosses who turned on him and allowed him to be convicted and the judge who sentenced him to death, so his third and final victim must be the cop who caught him: Joe West, to the surprise of no one.
Barry can’t get in touch with Joe, and Eddie tells him that Joe has gone to Iron Heights to talk to Henry. Caitlin offers Barry an antidote to the gas that she reverse engineered (real life check: an antidote to hydrogen cyanide exists; for inhalation it’s sodium thiosulfate, but way to reinvent the wheel, Caitlin) since he’s clearly going after Joe.
In the prison, Henry is brusque. Joe is there to apologize for not believing Henry/Barry and tell Henry that he’s reopening the case.
Henry, proving that he’s definitely the founding member of the Barry Allen’s Hot Dads Club, tells Joe that it doesn’t matter that he didn’t believe him because he always believed in Barry, and that’s what’s important. They make sad eyes at each other while smoke tentacles choke out the guard over Joe’s shoulder.
Joe is shocked to see Kyle because he was supposedly executed. Surprise!
Mist creeps down Joe’s throat, and he starts suffocating on the floor while Henry pounds ineffectually on the glass. Mist escapes through an air vent just before Barry arrives in Flash gear. Barry gives Joe the antidote. Henry stares at him, and Barry weirdly vibrates his face, which I guess is supposed to prevent Henry from recognizing him. Joe is okay and tells Barry to go catch Mist.
Out in the street, Barry confronts Kyle. I’m not sure how he’s planning to arrest a gas exactly (Tums? Mylanta?), but he seems pretty confident about it.
Kyle mists up menacingly, and Barry dodges. Caitlin and Harrison suggest he just wear Kyle out because he shouldn’t be able to stay in his misty form for long. They know this from… his DNA? Still, that seems like a generally viable strategy for someone with super-speed. Barry runs, Mist follows. Barry keeps cutting their interactions stupidly short considering he’s faster than the speed of sound, but it works: Kyle reforms, exhausted, and Barry knocks him out.
Joe is recovering in the hospital while Barry sleeps in a chair, because, he claims, rescuing Joe is exhausting. Joe laments that he can no longer ground Barry. Iris and Eddie show up together, and Joe is not stupid; he already knew they were dating because he is, after all, a detective. He’s still mad, of course, so Eddie runs away. But Iris admits that she really likes him. Joe promises to try really hard not to shoot him.
Kyle/Mist is in one of the shiny new holding cells in the particle accelerator ring, and he is pissed about it. Cisco, Harrison, and Caitlin watch him, unimpressed. Caitlin is also sort of unimpressed with the idea of working above a prison, but Harrison says she’ll be surprised what she can get used to and wheels off. Cisco tries to apologize for closing the doors the night Ronnie died, but Caitlin doesn’t really let him; she’s not mad.
Barry is back in Iron Heights, telling Henry that Joe will be okay. He misses his mom, and Henry tells him a story about when he learned to walk: of course Barry started walking late, but his mom wasn’t worried because everyone knows there is a wide range of “normal” for major developmental milestones like walking. The first time baby Barry walked, he ran, says Henry.
Our buddy Voiceover!Barry is back, telling us that he thought his life would be easier when he got his powers. But he still can’t outrun his manpain. We see him dissuade a purse-snatcher while telling us that life is tragedy, but also precious. Caitlin and Cisco are getting ice cream, Iris is writing an article about the Streak, and Barry’s going to keep running.
Harrison drinks whiskey in his FAKE wheelchair, staring at the Flash suit. Or… a Flash suit? This one has a visor, and Barry’s wearing his currently. He smiles, and we FLASHback to Cisco radioing to Harrison that Ronnie vented the system, preventing them from dying horribly. Harrison heads down… to help, ostensibly… but instead he goes into his secret chamber from the first episode and removes his FAKE glasses. He activates his future tech machine, which shows him pre-Flash Barry in the Worst Crime Lab Ever just as he gets struck by lightning. SEE YOU SOON, BARRY, he says, ominously.