May 13, 2019
The Flash RECAP: This Girl Is Da Bomb! (S1:E5)
Previously on The Flash: Barry is a superhero, Iris has a Streak blog, Harrison doesn’t need glasses (or a wheelchair). WELCOME BACK! Did you enjoy your week off? Do you prefer recaps without small talk? FINE.
Voiceover!Barry is musing about friendship while in a bar with his friends. He seems confident that Caitlin and Cisco are going to be his friends for the long haul; Eddie he’s less sure about. Me too, Barry, he’s just way too attractive. And Barry’s still in love with Iris, but sort of okay with being friends. I’d be more okay with it if he stopped talking about it every four seconds. They do a shot of something clear, and Iris is off to play darts.
Barry brings an entire tray of shots over to the table with Team Flash, and he’s pretty mournful about how he can’t get drunk. He super-shoots his tray (YOU’RE IN PUBLIC, BARRY), but Cisco and Caitlin are pretty unsympathetic, considering all the benefits of Barry’s hyper-metabolism. Also, they want to do tests, like good little scientists.
In a high-rise, a window-cleaner is washing the glass. At night. Is that a job that happens at night? Because it seems like a bad idea. A security guard is patrolling, and whistling, when he comes across something suspicious. I can’t tell if he saw our baddie’s flashlight or heard her rummaging in a drawer, but he definitely notices the large, singed circle on the door to whatever secure office she’s in. He approaches, gun drawn, but she knocks him down with the door and runs for it. Not very far—the guard draws a bead and orders her to stop. She warns him not to come near her, and seems afraid, but he isn’t convinced. She slides her oddly lit backpack across the floor at the guard and runs—and we see the explosion blow out a chunk of the building. See, I told you window-washing at night was dumb.
In the bar, Eddie gets a text about the bombing (and so does Cisco). He takes off, Iris immediately heads out citing an early shift at the coffee shop, and Team Flash is right on her heels. Real subtle, everybody. Barry and the team discuss how best to save the dangling window-washer (Caitlin vetoes a stack of mattresses) and settle on running up the side of the building. Cisco does the cocktail-napkin calculations on a literal cocktail napkin. In the end, they don’t get a real number; Barry just runs “really fast.” He gets the guy down to safety, only to find Iris waiting at the bottom. He does that weird face-vibrate-y thing again. On the one hand, it looks pretty dumb, but at least the show is acknowledging that a partial mask is not actually going to prevent people who have known Barry his entire life from recognizing him.
The next morning, Barry is on the scene again for his day job. He tells Joe that bombers tend to have signatures. He could definitely get a clue from an explosive fragment, but he hasn’t found any. The security guard, who apparently survived that large blast that occurred at his feet, doesn’t have any idea who the bomber was, but does point the police toward the file room she was breaking into. Joe and Eddie leave Barry to figure out which file is missing, a task which could obviously take days and which he obviously accomplishes in about ten seconds. More impressively, he does that without any indication that there is a master list of what’s supposed to be in the room.
Back at the station there is an unusual military presence in Captain Singh’s office: the Army is taking over the bombing investigation because the bomber is Army. This is a reasonable enough situation, and Joe says they’ll send over everything they have. But General Eiling (comic check: Wade Eiling appeared first in Captain Atom, where he blackmailed Nathaniel Adam into becoming the titular character, then married his wife and raised Adam’s kids, so canonically Eiling is a bag of dicks) is exceedingly creepy when he demands Joe give them all the case files now. They find Barry coming in with a box of trace from the crime scene, which he hands over, save for a super-speedily-snagged file, ostensibly a copy of the one that the bomber stole.
At the West home, Joe is now confronting Iris about her new habit of hanging out at crime scenes. Joe thinks Iris was at the bombing site to check up on Eddie, but she quickly sets him straight: she’s there for the Streak. Joe tries to deny its existence, but considering Iris looked right at the guy, that’s a tough sell.
At STAR Labs Stadium, Cisco is unhappy that all he has to work with is a VA file number. Felicity would consider that a challenge, Cisco! Barry blames Eiling, and it turns out Harrison has dealt with him before: the Army contracted STAR Labs to work on gene therapy stuff for soldiers. Harrison claims that he was in it for the civilian benefits and that eventually he and Eiling split on bad terms, citing philosophical differences. Meanwhile, Cisco has pulled up the bomber’s file: her name is Bette Sans Souci (comic check: Sans Souci, a.k.a. Plastique, was a Quebecois separatist and terrorist, mostly a Firestorm villain, though she later married Captain Atom) and she was an Army EOD specialist. Her file is largely redacted, but there is a next-of-kin listed, and Barry is off to pay them a visit.
Bette, meanwhile, descends a fire escape, checking over her shoulder as she walks down the alley, alone…until Barry appears directly in front of her. That would be really disconcerting. She turns to run, which is obviously a losing proposition, and Barry intercepts her again, grabbing her arm and telling her that she needs to come with him. She shoves his chest, leaving a weird, purply residue, and warns him to take off his clothes. Barry runs down the alley and apparently ditches his costume, because he emerges from the explosion in nothing but his boxers. Nice.
Cisco is trying to contact Barry from headquarters and getting worried when he doesn’t answer, but Barry doesn’t make them wait long—he speeds back into STAR Labs, pulling on a shirt. Worries unfounded, Cisco immediately starts worrying about his suit and is not pleased with Barry’s explanation of how it blew up. Harrison, at least, is more interested in Bette’s explosive-related superpowers. Cisco, creepily, is ready to throw her ass in the STAR Labs metaprison until he sees her picture, which he stares at dumbly while the grownups talk. Newly-arrived Joe is just as skeptical as Harrison about Eiling’s interest in Bette. Barry says they need to find her before Eiling and his obviously nefarious purposes.
Joe takes Barry out in the hall for a private chat. He is blaming Barry for Iris seeing him in costume, which is unfair. It’s not Barry’s fault she’s obsessed! Joe orders Barry to talk to Iris again about the blog. Joe, have you met your daughter? Apparently Joe means Barry should talk to Iris right that second, so he speeds off. I find this fixation of Joe’s very strange. In a universe like this, keeping your adult daughter ignorant of metahumans is like keeping her ignorant of the existence of evil. It’s a nice thought, but not a practical basis of philosophy for adult humans.
Predictably—and I think you’ve gathered by now that I find this to be a very weak storyline—Iris is unconvinced by Barry telling her the Streak doesn’t exist. Because she straight-up saw him. Standing still. So give it a fucking rest, Barry and Joe. Barry tries to suggest that wearing a mask indicates the Streak doesn’t want people to know who he is, and Iris says it doesn’t matter—her blog isn’t about unmasking the masked man, it’s about giving people hope, because he’s out there doing good. All the more reason to give it a rest. Iris wants to know why Barry is being such a dick about the blog, which is so totally fair. She also calls him out on his opposition being entirely out of character, and that he’s clearly not telling the whole truth, and she’s not going to talk about it until he does. Well done, Iris.
Cisco calls Barry to be creepy about Bette some more and exposit that they’ve hacked Eiling’s surveillance and have a location on Bette: the same neighborhood she was in before, which, in addition to her next-of-kin, is home to an army surgeon named Harold Hadley (comic check: Hadley does exist and he was a government tech; interestingly he was involved with the Captain Atom project…that’s a whole trio of characters in this episode that associate with Captain Atom).
At the Center for Inflicted Wounds, which is not a real name that any real clinic would have, Hadley is in his office when Bette arrives. He knows who she is, and she says she remembers waking up to him cutting her open. Hadley claims he was trying to help, that Bette couldn’t control her powers, but she thinks he made her into Plastique in the first place. While they talk, Eiling’s soldiers are on the move, and Barry arrives in Hadley’s office just in time for a sniper to take a shot at Bette. Eiling orders the troops to bring her in. Barry tells Bette that he can help her, that he’s like her, albeit with a more user-friendly powerset. They escape the office as a flash-bang comes in the window. Apparently Hadley has to save himself. Anyway, the soldiers find nobody and Eiling is pissed.
At STAR Labs Stadium (can I start abbreviating this? It’s going to be STARLS now), Harrison is explaining what happened during the accelerator explosion to Bette. Caitlin brings her a pair of gloves as Bette exposits that she was defusing roadside bombs in Afghanistan when she was injured by one, and had been in Central City for months being treated when the accelerator blew. Bette also thought Eiling had made her a metahuman, but Caitlin speculates that the dark matter from the accelerator explosion may have fused with the bomb particulate inside her (what, it makes just as much sense as dark matter + lightning), and Eiling was just taking advantage. Bette asks if others were changed (besides Barry, presumably), and Caitlin tells her a few, with Cisco chiming in that none of them look like her. Bette looks appropriately creeped out, and Cisco does at least apologize. Even better, Caitlin reminds him that she is capable of performing lobotomies.
The team is running scans on Bette to understand her physiology, while Caitlin performs the physical exam, admitting that Bette is the first metahuman they’ve actually been able to test besides Barry. Caitlin quickly discovers that Bette had been shot back at Hadley’s office, and she deadpans a pretty impressive “it just grazed me”. But there’s more than a bullet in the wound: Eiling is tracking them.
Harrison goes down to meet Eiling and his soldiers while the rest of the team tries to get Bette to safety. Eiling wastes some time insulting Harrison, who is having none of it. Quickly, Eiling moves onto threatening, and Harrison is just as much not impressed by that. Eiling tells him they could’ve changed the world, and Harrison watches him walk past while probably counting to five hundred in his head to keep from getting up out of his fake wheelchair and clubbing Eiling in the back of the block-like head.
Meanwhile, the rest of Team Flash has absconded with Bette and some colorful plastic toys to probably the same abandoned airfield where they tested Barry. Cisco and Caitlin are impressed with her bomb-touch power, but she’s a little maudlin and takes a walk with Barry, telling him about some of her EOD-related PTSD, and how she’s afraid to touch anything now, especially people. She asks if Team Flash has helped him, and Barry can only say that they’ve helped him learn to use his powers, and that he feels like he has a responsibility now. He wouldn’t reverse his metahuman-ness given the chance.
They’re interrupted by a call from Joe, who is annoyed that Iris did not immediately stop blogging after Barry talked to her. In fact, what she took away from their conversation was that being anonymous wasn’t enough investment: now she’s putting her name on her stories. Joe says it’s his fault, not Barry’s, but he wanted Barry to know. HOW ABOUT IT’S NOBODY’S FAULT IRIS IS A GROWN-UP. Nonetheless, now Team Flash is worried that Iris could be a target for the enemies they’re quickly racking up, so Flash pays Iris a visit at the coffee shop. Barry doesn’t do the face-vibrate, but he does stand backlit by the streetlight so he’s harder to see, and clearly Cisco has outfitted him with a voice modulator for the occasion.
They meet on the roof, and Iris again tells Barry that she’s writing the blog because people in Central City need to see that there’s hope of relief from the shitty things that have happened in the city. She also tries to interview him, but of course all he does is speed around and show off, and then say that there’s more to him than she can understand, which is relatively insulting. Iris is many things; she is not an idiot. He begs her to stop writing the blog, but Iris says that for her, writing about him is the same compulsion he has to help people. She even tells Barry about her friend Barry, and his terrible childhood, and his need for an explanation for what happened, and now there is one, and she has to write about it for him. Man, Barry so does not deserve her.
At STARLS the next morning, the team is glum as Caitlin reveals there’s nothing they can do to reverse Bette’s condition. While she goes to cry in private, Barry tells the team the solution is obvious: they ask Bette to join them. Caitlin, for some reason, doesn’t think “makes things explode” is a useful superpower, and Harrison says she’s too dangerous. Barry is incredulous that they think adding Bette to the mix would put them any more at risk than they already are, but nobody’s budging.
At Central City PD, Barry heads into the Worst Lab Ever, where Joe is going over some of his mother’s case files. Barry is pretty maudlin over Bette, and he tells Joe that Iris is writing the blog for Barry. Turns out when your BFF, believer of all things impossible, stops believing in the impossible, you don’t take that lying down, so Joe and Barry’s strategy backfired in a big way. Joe is concerned that Iris would recognize them, but actually Barry didn’t have a voice modulator, he can just vibrate his vocal cords to disguise himself, which amuses the hell out of Joe. Barry points out that the only way to get Iris to stop writing is going to be to tell her the truth, and he wants to, because he tells her everything. Joe gives him a Look indicating there is another major secret Barry keeps from Iris, which he has known about since Barry was a little kid. He advises Barry that if he and Iris are meant to be together, the universe will make it happen, which is stupid, but I forgive him because then he giggles at Barry’s stupid voice again and it’s adorable. I would like a whole episode of Jesse L. Martin giggling, please.
At STARLS, Bette is looking at her own body scans when Harrison rolls in. He tells her that the explosion put him in a wheelchair and gets a little scary when he claims he’d do anything to get back what he lost. Bette would too, but she doesn’t know how. Harrison brings up how soldiers call themselves sheepdogs (“happy and normal ‘til someone attacks our flock”), but he’s doing it to manipulate her: he says Barry and the other metahumans are her flock now, and Eiling will never stop attacking. He tells her she knows her duty is to kill Eiling, and then she can go home. I think she knows Harrison is just as bad as Eiling in this moment, but she also wants to kill Eiling, so she doesn’t care. She even steps briefly to attention before she leaves. Subtle, but powerful.
Barry comes in to see Caitlin comforting Cisco over Bette’s departure. Gag. Barry is a lot more concerned about her departure than the rest of the team, Harrison because he sent her away and knows exactly where she is, and Caitlin and Cisco because they trust Harrison a lot more than is healthy.
Apparently there is an Army base in Central City, and Bette is standing in the middle of it. Soldiers swarm around her, but she’s unconcerned. She just wants Eiling. He thinks it vaguely amusing that she thinks she can “pull one over” on him and orders her to stand down. Cisco has plugged back into whatever military channel allows them to hear just Eiling and gives Barry their location, saying it looks like she’s turning herself in. Barry does not think that’s what is happening and speeds off to intervene.
Eiling is giving a speech about unseen enemies to America, and that she can prevent death, and she says all she’s ever wanted was a safer world (presumably why she defused bombs for a living), which is difficult with Eiling in it. She rolls Plastique’d marbles or something at him and walks slowly, hand outstretched, ready to finish the job, when Barry shows up. Naturally, when he tells her she doesn’t have to be a murderer, Eiling gets his shit together in time to shoot her. Nice going, Barry. He wants to take Bette back to STARLS, but she tries to tell him something about Harrison. Of course, before she can say, “Dr. Wells is the one who sent me on this mission,” she dies. All her skin starts going glowy and purple; she’s going to detonate.
Team Flash tells Barry he has to get her out of the city, and he claims there’s no time. But apparently there is time to calculate how fast he needs to go to run on water. The team figures it at 650 mph, and he picks up Bette’s body and runs out into the lake, which is the quickest way out of the city proper (think Chicago, even though the show is filmed in Portland/Vancouver). He drops Bette’s body in the water and escapes; she blows and creates a wave that he also outruns. Everybody is safe, but he pulls his hood down on the shore. In public. BARRY, YOU’RE DUMB.
Team Flash watches a banged-up but very much alive Eiling on the news assuring people that the Army was just conducting an underwater weapons test.
Barry comes by the West home to talk to Iris. He tells her about Bette, at least the gist of the story, and he uses that to talk about the blog AGAIN. He claims it’s dangerous for Iris to have her name out there, and he’s asking one more time for her to stop. She counters with one last request for Barry to tell her what’s really going on. He cannot, however, and Iris isn’t going to stop writing. Barry suggests they shouldn’t see each other for a while, and Iris is clearly angry and sad when she agrees. On the one hand, this is really dumb, but I’m also relieved we’re not going to have to hear about this storyline for a little while.
Barry goes to a bar to drink club soda so we all know how pitiful he is for not being able to get drunk, and Cisco and Caitlin come by for a toast to Bette. He whines that it won’t work on him, but Caitlin has created a superbooze, which is 500-proof (real life check: “proof” refers to twice the percentage of alcohol by volume, so apparently this drink is 250% alcohol. Mmhm). They take their shots, and Caitlin is really pleased that her shot managed to get Barry buzzed for about five seconds. Voiceover!Barry muses again on relationships: the one he just fucked up with Iris for absolutely absurd reasons and he’s coping by zooming around the city.
Harrison is looking at a full-body scan down in the lab when Eiling shows up. He reveals that he totally knows Harrison is the one who sent Bette after him, and he also realizes that the Flash is a product of the particle accelerator. He wants to work with Harrison again, but Harrison is not interested. Eiling threatens him, because that is what Eiling does, but Harrison threatens back with the secrets he knows of Eiling’s experiments that definitely did not go through an Institutional Review Board. Eiling leaves, but he claims that he knows Harrison’s secret. Gee, I wonder which one?
Five years ago, Eiling and Harrison are in Harrison’s office. Eiling is arguing that they’ve achieved the whole point of the project, and Harrison doesn’t care because he doesn’t agree with Eiling’s methods. He tells Eiling that “he” won’t be subjected to Eiling’s cruelty any more, and they’re through. He orders Eiling out of his building, and Eiling leaves, but not happily. And Harrison walks into a testing facility with a cage and tells our buddy Grodd the Gorilla (see the episode 1 recap for your comic check) that Eiling is gone, and Harrison has a different future in mind for him.