The Flash: Yes, Virginia, There Is a Man-Shark!
Previously on The Flash: Francine West is back in Central City, there’s a portal to Earth-2 in the basement of STARLS, Cisco is a metahuman, the Ronnie half of Firestorm died last season, and the Martin half seems to be suffering some…odd side effects.
As Caitlin’s voice calls Martin’s name, we fade into a FLASHback. Two years ago, Barry’s voice waxes poetic about how we think we know how life will turn out as a high school football player breathes in the post-game glory of a winning touchdown, complete with an injured teammate and scouts in the stands and his coach assuring him of his future as a collegiate athlete. As he spikes the game ball, we see the accelerator explosion in the distance, and everyone starts to run for the locker room. Our hero, of course, stops to help his injured teammate inside and is the last one in, turning to shut the door, when the explosion knocks into him, slamming him into the wall and I’m sure ending his football career.
Back in the present day, Cisco is able to stabilize Martin with a similar device to the one that he and Ronnie used as Firestorm, but the team is concerned it won’t last long. Caitlin has an idea, though—she thinks the reason for Martin’s instability is because he needs a partner, another Ronnie. Luckily, she’s been researching candidates already and has two in mind. As you can guess, one is our football star from the FLASHback, namely Jefferson Jackson (comic check: Jefferson has no a.k.a. because his entire comic persona is “high school friend of Ronnie Raymond”). Caitlin’s other candidate is Henry Hewitt (comic check: a.k.a. Tokamak, a villain who was Firestorm-esque, but merged with a clone of himself). She dispatches The Flash to collect blood samples.
Iris is looking at pictures of her and Francine when Joe comes down for work. He tells her about how, in the picture, she had just gotten vaccinated and was angry about the nurse pinching her, so he and Francine took her to park and gave her ice cream. Turns out vaccines don’t cause autism, but they do cause lifelong mint chocolate chip obsessions. Somebody call Jenny McCarthy!
At the police station, Patty and Barry flirt over some shark teeth she found in an alley after a report of a man-shark (comic check: …believe it or not, there is more than one man-shark in the DC universe; this could be Carcharo, a human born with shark traits, or Karshon, a tiger shark that got human traits due to radiation, or King Shark, a humanoid shark). Barry agrees to run some tests on the teeth. Joe sighs about his kids and his partners, but Barry gets a call from Cisco and takes off to STARLS.
Martin is up and moving again with this stabilizing cane thingy that Cisco made him. Caitlin reports that either of her candidates should be a match, but she recommends Henry because he’s a scientist. Barry points out that Jefferson matches a little better and probably they should meet with both of them. Hopefully to find out if they want to become a merged metahuman?? As they head out to stalk new Firestorm halves, Harrison emerges from the shadows at STARLS. Do they have literally no security in this place? The fuck?
Martin and Barry head into the garage where Jefferson (he goes by Jax) works. Martin is being old white guy judgmental about the music playing, but Barry gets to the point—they’re with the “Department of Safety” and they’re following up on people affected by the accelerator. Jax doesn’t want to talk about it, though, on account of it ruined his chances of playing football since he broke his leg badly and tore his ACL when it threw him into the wall. What’s unspoken is that he couldn’t afford to go to college without a scholarship. Barry says he understands but leaves his number, and as he and Martin head out, Jax does pick up the paper.
At Jitters, Joe and Francine await Iris’ arrival, but it’s not a joyful reunion: Iris has clearly though a lot about this meeting, and she all but calls Francine selfish. She says she understands that it might feel like the right time for her to have Iris in her life but that doesn’t mean it’s the right time for Iris. It’s harsh, but it’s also true, and good on Iris (and the show) for understanding the distinction.
Back at STARLS, Caitlin has already briefed Henry, who is a little too perfect for the role of Firestorm (and seriously, anybody who says “I always thought I was destined for greater things” is clearly a villain risk). Even though Barry has misgivings, Martin doesn’t have much time. They hook Henry up to the Firestorm chest claw, and then he and Martin touch. There’s a woosh of fire and then…nothing. They try again, but nothing. Henry is a real dick about it, too, but as he leaves, there’s a little swirl of fire through his hand.
Our old friend Tina McGee from Mercury Labs is leaving work, asking her assistant how the search for a replacement for Caitlin is going, when alarms go off. She follows security to the applied sciences division, where the thief is just escaping, but she does get a look at him. Of course she recognizes him: It’s Harrison Wells.
Tina calls in Joe and by extension Patty to tell them that she saw Harrison, and Harrison walking no less. Joe assures her that there is a 0% chance that Harrison is alive, but she doesn’t budge and gives the detectives free range to investigate. Joe tells Patty immediately not to tell Barry a thing, because Harrison murdered his mother, and she agrees.
When they get back to the police station later, Francine is waiting for Joe, and she pulls out her trump card: she’s dying. She has MacGregor’s Syndrome (wider DC Universe check: both Mr. Freeze’s wife and Batman butler Alfred had MacGregor’s in Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin abomination; in Arrow the Clock King had the fictional disease) and won’t live until the end of the year.
Jax shows up at STARLS after all, interested to see if the team is going to fix his knee. They break it to him that they want something entirely different, and he says hell no, he isn’t interested in super-heroing or anything so crazy. Caitlin goes a little crazy herself, taunting him about not going to college, but he doesn’t bite, taking off. Martin thinks maybe it just isn’t meant to be, but Caitlin is determined. She wants to try again with Henry.
In the Worst Lab Ever, Barry has finished testing the shark teeth and found only human DNA (narrowing it down to Carcharo or King Shark). He’s curious about what Patty will do with the case now, and she tells him immediately that she has another case and that Joe said she couldn’t tell Barry anything about it. Luckily for her, Barry doesn’t really push the matter, aside from commenting on how strange she’s acting; she retreats before blurting out “Harrison Wells is alive and stealing from Mercury Labs while walking!”
Joe is brooding in the squad room, and Barry comes to check out the suspicious Patty behavior. Joe tells him about Francine, but quickly changes the subject to Barry’s crush on Patty after skillfully deflecting Barry’s question about the case he can’t know about. Barry admits that he likes Patty, but she isn’t Iris. Joe offers sage advice about nothing ever feeling like your first love and telling Barry he can’t let that stop him from continuing to live. Says the man who has literally not dated in two decades.
Over at Eikmeier Technologies (comic check: not a comic company, but one of the writers on Flash is Brooke Eikmeier), where Henry works, he’s late with some results, and his supervisor is not happy with his attitude. It’s more than attitude, though—Henry gets angry, sure, but he also bursts into flames. He seems oddly unconcerned about it, too.
At STARLS, Caitlin rapidly deduces from the news report that when they tried to hook Henry to Martin, they triggered his dormant meta abilities, but he’s probably unstable too. Oh, and Cisco dug up his sealed arrest records for aggravated assault and battery, so guess you should’ve looked further than his IQ, Caitlin. Meanwhile, Martin is deteriorating quickly, and they’re running out of time to find a solution.
Joe tells Iris the news about her mother only having a few months to live, but Iris isn’t sure she wants to see her, still. She’s not even sure Francine is telling the truth, though Joe assures her she wouldn’t lie about something so serious. She looks torn, and Joe tells her he has her back either way.
Caitlin goes to see Jax at the garage where he works to apologize for what she said to him. He more or less accepts. It’s wholly dismissive, but he says he never wanted to be a hero. She tells him about Ronnie and how he died, and gives an impassioned speech about protecting people so that nobody else has to lose what he did. Aaaand then Henry shows up, all fire-y and angry and shit. He’s been looking for Caitlin (how on earth did he find her?) and he zaps Jax aside to approach her. Jax nails him in the head with a random car part, which gives them enough time to escape.
Martin is burning up (metaphorically) by the time Caitlin and Jax get back to STARLS, so they go ahead and skip the signed consent form and hook Jax up to the Firestorm device. He doesn’t even have to touch Martin—they’re merging pretty much immediately, and successfully. And not a moment too soon, because Henry is using the stadium lights at Central City High School to siphon more power. Cisco cuts the power in the stadium while Flash ferries straggling players into the building, but the lack of power doesn’t stop Henry. His anger is making him stronger, and Caitlin dubs him Tokamak (real life check: a tokamak is a fusion reaction device; the word comes from the Russian acronym for “toroidal chamber with magnetic coils”), also guessing that as he gets stronger he also gets more unstable. So Jax and Barry set about pissing him off. He gets angry and throws fire everywhere, and Jax punches him in the face. Go team!
Iris goes to meet Francine at Jitters. She did some digging, because she didn’t necessarily believe the story about the dying thing, but Francine was telling the truth! But not about everything, because turns out Francine has a son. A son born 8 months after she left Central City. Joe’s son, probably. Iris is incensed and tells Francine that if Joe knew he had a son who didn’t know him, he’d be crushed, so Francine needs to leave and stay away from them. (Comic check: Just for the record, the first Kid Flash and the third Flash is Wally West, son of Iris’ brother Rudy.)
Henry has been safely secured in the metaprison, and Martin and Jax are headed to Pittsburgh for some Firestorm training, so the whole team says goodbye to them at Martin’s house. As an aside, Martin encourages Cisco to tell the team about his blossoming abilities, and he looks like maybe he’ll think about it, at least.
Voiceover!Barry muses about second chances while we see Caitlin replace Ronnie’s picture with Jax’s in the STARLS database entry on Firestorm, Iris crying by herself, and Firestorm swooping over Central City. Barry heads to Jitters, watching Patty through the window, and he’s clearly about to ask her out…when he’s grabbed by a man-shark. I really enjoy that this show doesn’t shy around from the absurdity of villains like King Shark (it’s King Shark) and Grodd. Anyway, King Shark tells Barry he’s supposed to kill him, and Patty comes out of Jitters onto the scene. She fires at King Shark, who seems unfazed and tosses Barry away to approach her menacingly. Before he can hurt her, though, he’s shot from behind and goes down. Barry dashes after the shooter—it’s Harrison Wells.
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