The Flash: The Nuclear Man review

Firestorm meets The Flash in the latest episode of The Flash and things get hot with Linda Park. Here's Mike's review...

This The Flash review contains spoilers.

I love The Flash. I did not love tonight’s episode of The Flash. Despite the fact that “The Nuclear Man” was hailed as a momentous, crucial point in season one, it just never quite, erm…caught fire. Like last week’s disappointing effort, it felt more like a disconnected series of scenes than a particularly strong piece of TV. I appreciate that there was no villain this week, certainly nobody for Barry to hit or someone to shoot a super weapon at, and this was a purely story driven episode. The problem was in the delivery.

I’m not opposed to keeping Barry’s romantic subplot with Iris going. They have to end up together eventually. I’m not opposed to giving the dude a sex life, either. I think Malese Jow is great as Linda Park and certainly good fun on screen. “I hate slow,” she tells Barry during a steamy makeout session. Holy moley! I may need a moment.

But the problem is that none of that really fit with the supposed importance of the Firestorm stuff. Virtually all of Caitlin’s flirty, romance-y stuff with Barry was conveniently swept under the rug, and the light comedy and heavily “CW” Barry/Linda stuff felt like it was shortchanging the emotional conflicts of a major supporting character. You’re going for makeout comedy while the most defining character thread of Caitlin’s entire season is speeding towards, if not a resolution, then major progression? Bad timing at best, bad planning at worst.

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What bugs me is that “The Nuclear Man” really should have been better. We all knew going in to last week’s episode that it was going to be a villain of the week offering, and my expectations were lowered accordingly. This week there was actual work to be done, forward movement to be had, and while some of it got done, it didn’t necessarily do it very well. I’ve grumbled a little about how sometimes the Firestorm hints and teases over the last few episodes were detracting from the stories at hand, and while there’s a little payoff this week, you would think that with all those diversions that they’d have spent more time giving him something to do.

For the first time in the show’s run, I found Barry Allen far more irritating than charming. Remember how shortly before midseason they were going out of their way to show us Barry’s confidence improving? Sure, he got cocky and paid for it, but he wasn’t quite the mess that he was when we met him in the pilot. He appears to have regressed to his pre-powered state here, and while I totally sympathize with his general awkwardness, I literally found myself talking to the screen (despite how much I go on and on via keyboard, I NEVER talk at the screen), saying things like “just remind her you’re a cop you dimwit and that you’re being called off on a case!”

I ask you now, which of the following moments do you think was the most poorly thought out? Iris behaving completely out of character to have a relationship heart to heart with a co-worker she barely knows? That co-worker somehow being so perceptive that she realizes what’s actually going on? Linda calling the CCPD to check Barry’s alibi…and the fact that they actually gave her some information about one of their own? Barry going from awkward/shy lousy lover to demonstrative last act of a rom-com boyfriend material in Linda’s office? 

Any one of the above could have been excused, explained, or perhaps even served a purpose as individual moments. Spread out over a few episodes, they could have provided some comic relief, or a dramatic revelation in the case of the Iris/Linda talk. Instead, cramming all of them into one episode, especially one that really had much bigger fish to fry, made things a bit of a mess.

But before I continue making enemies, I will say this: Joe and Cisco were great together. Carlos Valdes is slowly coming into his own (I dug his “Entropy Happens” shirt, too) and I’m pretty sure Jesse L. Martin can just light up any scene he’s in at this stage of the game. The scene where Joe tells Cisco to run the sample against Harrison Wells was solid stuff. I bought every minute of that from both of them.

What I didn’t buy, however, was Cisco’s hologram reconstruction from the back of a mirror that shouldn’t even be there. This makes the very worst of Geordi LaForge’s technobabble mumbo-jumbo from Star Trek: The Next Generation look like unassailable science fact. This and the techno-splicer thing may very well qualify as the two laziest pieces of writing we’ve seen on this show. Had they turned up in different episodes, perhaps it wouldn’t have been so obvious, but stacking them together just amplifies the problems with both of them.

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Speaking of cops, have the Central City PD been taking lessons from their counterparts in Starling City (or worse yet, the morons over on Gotham)? They not only didn’t investigate extraneous blood splatter at a murder scene, but the next owners just wallpapered over it like it was no big deal? And what was with the cartoonishly horny divorcee? 

Some points are deserved for what a terrific visual Firestorm was. This is a character that if you think too hard about the nature of his abilities or his origin story, you’re bound to get a serious case of the eyerolls, but I think they handled all that as well as reasonably possible. I also appreciate that at no point did “The Nuclear Man” feel like a backdoor pilot for a Firestorm TV series. The Flash, as wonderful as it usually is, hasn’t quite earned the right to pull that trick yet. That being said, a little more actual focus on Ronnie Raymond and some more on-screen time for Professor Stein might have served things a little better.

Flash Facts!

– Barry was never known for being punctual in the comics. Neither was Jay Garrick, for that matter. They’ve played with this before, though.

– 52nd and Waid. Mark Waid is not only beloved for a terrific run as writer of The Flash, but he’s one of the greatest comic writers of the last thirty years. The guy is a machine. This and Arrow need to chill with the 52 references, though.

– I found it interesting that they kind of flipped the origin dynamic with Firestorm, with Ronnie working inside the building and Professor Stein as kind of an interloper. In the comics origin, Ronnie was a protester. 

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– Mal Duncan was playing at a jazz club tonight? Well, they did call him the Hornblower at one point…

I’m sure I missed something since I was too busy telling Barry to get his act together this week. You know what to do!

Mike Cecchini isn’t mad at The Flash, he’s just disappointed. You know. Like your parents often are with you. Shake your head slowly at him on Twitter.

Rating:

2 out of 5