The Flash: The Runaway Dinosaur review

Kevin Smith directed this episode of The Flash, which was a welcome relief from recent installments.

This The Flash review contains spoilers.

The Flash Season 2 Episode 21

“The Runaway Dinosaur” might not be the stunning return to form for The Flash Season 2 that I was looking for, but it’s close enough to it. With the series sinking deeper and deeper into alternate universe cartoon cliches with assorted Earth 2 nonsense over the last batch of episodes, getting deep into the emotional core of these characters (and sidelining Earth 2) was the smartest possible maneuver. To give you an idea of just how little I think of this season’s major storyline, even nonsense like zombie Girder felt like a relief.

For my own sanity, and yours, it’s best not to dwell on Girder. He sucked the first time around (and that was a lousy episode, too), so the leftover version of him wasn’t really anything to crow about. It’s a miracle that this element wasn’t a disaster, and I suspect having big screen veterans Kevin Smith (director) and Zack Stentz (writer) helped keep this from devolving into the usual garbage characters like this tend to lean towards.

Stentz’s script was surprisingly low key, especially considering the episode had the rather splashy name of massive DC fanboy Kevin Smith on the director’s chair. While I haven’t been the biggest fan of Smith’s more recent work, I did feel a little bit of an echo of some of his best dramatic work as a director in this episode. Smith first made his name with Clerks and Mallrats, both of which were peppered with dick jokes and fanboy humor. But it was the restrained, romantic Chasing Amy that first brought him true mainstream acclaim, and that movie was a mature departure from his first two movies.

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So here’s Kevin Smith in 2016, working with a writer with a live action superhero pedigree of his own (Stentz has worked on the X-Men movies and the first Thor). When this partnership was first announced, I naturally assumed this would be a big deal superhero throwdown, with Smith looking to play with all the toys in the DC Comics box he possibly could. After all, that’s what he tried to do when he wrote his Superman Lives screenplay in the ’90s, a project I feel deserves reevaluation.

But that’s not what happened here. It’s not broad DC Comics mythology that “The Runaway Dinosaur” plays with. Instead, it digs deep into the show’s mythology. With Barry trapped in the Speed Force (and no, the concept has never been adequately/coherently explained in the comics, either), it’s not about big special effects or comic book Easter eggs. Instead, Barry finally, truly makes peace with the choices he made in the season one finale, dealing with the guilt over “letting” his mother die. 

They even address one of the quieter themes of season two, which also grew out of that season one finale: Barry’s workaholism. Everyone in the Speed Force keeps telling Barry to sit down and relax. It’s true. While in season one Barry was mostly defined by his wide eyed altruism, he’s had an edge this season, refusing to ever let up and constantly taking responsibility for everything. It will be interesting to see where he is next season, and if they’ll finally let him become a more self-assured, easygoing hero.

But these are the kinds of themes you’d expect explored by a creative team that sticks around for much of the season, not for two high-profile guests. It’s a pretty daring choice, and I gotta say, it worked. I was so genuinely moved by so much of “The Runaway Dinosaur” that I can forgive things like zombie Girder and another asinine Zoom ending…and when you think about it, we’re talking about half the runtime here.

For an episode with virtually no action, and one that was far from perfect, “The Runaway Dinosaur” still felt like one of the more consequential episodes of the season. Never mind the goofy alternate world villains, or whatever is going on with Zoom (I’m past caring). The soul of this show will always hinge on how it treats its core characters, and “The Runaway Dinosaur” treats them very well, indeed.

Flash Facts!

– I feel like the fish tank in Barry’s childhood bedroom is a nod to Atlantis.

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– There’s also that “All-Star” pillow on his wall, which is one of those magic DC Comics phrases.

– Anyone think that the prominent “no smoking” sign in front of the Big Belly Burger was a nod to Jason Mewes favorite loitering/smoking spots in front of buildings in Smith’s films?

– Cisco makes an “abby normal” joke, which is, of course, a reference to Mel Brooks’ spectacular Young Frankenstein.

– When Barry tells Iris that her voice will always call him home, that’s kind of a thing. In the comics, it was really a Wally West/Linda Park thing, where Wally could focus on Linda if he felt himself getting pulled too far into the Speed Force. But it is indeed a thing!

– How wonderful was John Wesley Shipp this week? Seriously. I really hope they remain true to their word and find a reason for him to stick around for awhile, because he’s just such a tremendous presence.

If I missed anything, Flashnatics, you know what to do! Put ’em down in the comments or holler at me on Twitter!

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3.5 out of 5