WARNING: THIS FLASH REVIEW CONTAINS SARCASTIC REFERENCES TO POPULAR THEORIES ABOUT THE GUY IN THE MASK ABOUND. THOSE MIGHT EVENTUALLY TURN TO SPOILERS SOMEDAY.
The Flash Season 2 Episode 19
I kept waiting for something in “Back to Normal” to matter. After last week’s episode (the one where the whole internet lost their minds at the Flash creative team), I assumed we’d get a filler episode, but I figured there would be one or two moments or revelations to make it worthwhile.
This show doesn’t really do throwaway villain of the week episodes. There have been insubstantial episodes before, but they’re usually planned and scheduled better, and there’s usually something that makes it worthwhile in the overarching story. It’s really odd and out of character for the show to be coming into the home stretch on the season and to follow a major revelation with a clunker time waster.
“Back to Normal” picks up with Barry speedless after giving up his powers to Zoom in exchange for Wally’s life. It follows three trails: Wells, knowing Zoom has the ability to come and go from Earth 1 as he pleases with Barry’s speed, goes to find Jessie, his daughter, to protect her; Caitlin has been captured by Zoom and is being held in Zoom’s quarryside hideout; and Wally is trying to get Joe to introduce him to the Flash. And I didn’t even realize until now that this is a huge problem with the episode: none of them involve Barry.
He eventually gets involved in a couple of them, because the show is called The Flash and all, but his role is mostly to mope in the background while Wells gets the screen time. Don’t get me wrong: Tom Cavanagh’s tortured dad Harrison Wells is excellent, but he’s not what I’m here for. He eventually tracks down Jessie, and on his way back from getting shut down by her (because he’s still a murderer and all), he sees a guy standing in the street, who he promptly crashes into, but who’s unharmed by the minivan because he’s a metahuman.
It turns out this guy, who bears a striking resemblance to Matthew Dellavedova, has super strength, but ages with the use of his powers, and he wants Wells to cure him. There’s a lot of hemming and hawing, and then some of Barry being really good at his day job (and a running bit about how Barry is actually better at his job without his speed that is probably the most entertaining and most significant part of the episode), and then some comic book science, and the team eventually gets Griffin Grey to burn out his powers and…die? They don’t really show what happens to him aside from reverting to his natural age.
Meanwhile, Caitlin is allowed to walk around Zoom’s Earth 2 headquarters without any kind of restraints. She discovers the Jay in the Iron Mask frantically tapping on his window, and :gasp: Killer Frost being held (for some reason) in another cell. She eventually agrees to break Frost out in exchange for help escaping herself, but :gasp: Killer Frost double crosses her, and Caitlin has to be saved by Zoom, and Zoom throws her icicle back through her and kills one version of Caitlin. And that’s pretty much it: there’s no big follow up revelation, no major plot development. A couple of nice character moments, but overall a waste of an hour.
-The episode opens with Barry dealing with the loss of his speed and how much more tedious his life is now that he has to deal with being normal. This is strongly reminiscent of one of the greatest single issues of an X-comic of all time, X-Factor #87, where the team (including Quicksilver, their super-speedster) is forced to talk with Doc Samson for psychiatric counseling. You can read that issue with no knowledge of the state of the X-universe at that time and still appreciate it for the masterpiece it is.
-Wells finds Jessie Quick because she creates a “cellular dead zone” around herself because she’s from Earth 2. Cisco’s response: “Is that why I keep dropping calls around you?” Never change, Cisco.
-Is there something about having ice powers in a comic book show that forces you to consume scenery to keep them charged? Because Danielle Panabaker’s Killer Frost is goes full Leonard Snart here.
-Speaking of crossovers, Gray keeps Wells at an abandoned carnival, and to make his cure, he tries to steal material from Ace Chemicals, so I’m worried that Central City is actually turning into Gotham. Ace Chemicals is the chemical plant where the Joker was created, where the Creeper was created, and where Scarecrow set off his fear gas bomb in Arkham Knight.
-Zoom tells Caitlin that he’s “always measured [his] success by the number of victims [he’s] had.” Could the real villain this season be toxic masculinity? Probably not.
-Speaking of Zoom and Caitlin, the show pretty pointedly opened a door to her gaining powers tonight when, to save her and kill Killer Frost, Zoom vibrates right through Earth 1 Caitlin to grab the icicle. I bet you a crisp sawbuck* that they use that to justify her getting powers in like, season 4 or something.
-*I will not pay you that sawbuck.
-Next week on The Flash: Wells tries to pull a Flashpoint. He’s going to recreate the particle accelerator explosion to give Barry his powers back.