This review contains spoilers.
2.12 Fast Lane
There’s no rule saying that every episode of The Flash has to be a mini-blockbuster filled with big action set-pieces and emotional gut-punches, even if that’s what we’ve grown accustomed to. When episodes like Fast Lane emerge, though, it’s easy to feel shortchanged by a comparatively slow outing. But the show’s allowed a week of filler, especially when it gets us to a place as exciting as this episode does.
A huge chunk of the episode was dedicated to my least favourite part of the show right now – Wally West. More specifically, Wally’s speed racing habit and what Joe and Iris think about it. There’s nothing wrong with exploring the new family dynamic and how Wally fits in with the existing West unit, of course, but I’m not sure The Flash could have picked a duller way to do it. If it’s not going to involve Barry, then it has to be pretty special.
Francine’s death has been pushed to the background in favour of painting Wally’s anger as something to do with a lack of discipline from Joe, despite the alternative being far more compelling on paper. It’s no fun to see Iris be the nagging big sister, either. Even if she’s ultimately in the right, the problem with Iris last year was how often she was the contrarian to other characters we like more, and we don’t want to go back there.
That was also a pretty flimsy excuse to get her to dress in tiny shorts. Not cool, show.
Thankfully, running parallel to this is some really great stuff from Wells as he wrestles with his decision to betray Barry to Zoom in return for his daughter’s safety. Despite Tom Cavanagh having been a feature of STAR Labs since the beginning, this is really our first experience of watching Harrison Wells, rather than Eobard Thawne, work against the team in pursuit of his own goal, and that means we can’t be so quick to paint him as the baddie.
He has a much nobler mission this time around, for one, but a lot less time to have gotten to know Barry and the others. In theory, betraying them should have been a no-brainer, which is more or less what he says when he tells Barry that, given the choice, Jessie would always come first, but things are rarely that simple in this universe.
He feels guilty all by himself, with the two per cent speed reduction caused by his suit tampering leading to Iris being hurt during Wally’s street race. He comes clean, and Joe’s understandable knee-jerk reaction is to lock him up and throw away the key. It’s a great moment, and immediately lifts the episode.
Wells’ face informs every interaction he has with the gang and, as much as Joe inherently mistrusts him, Barry wants to welcome him into his life as a positive force, reclaiming the mentor-mentee relationship he lost. Because this Wells is a father, and a human being not nearly as corrupted as Thawne, he feels that need from Barry. He might try to reject it during their research session, but his honesty later exposes how he really feels about it.
Life isn’t either/or, black or white, and that’s been one of The Flash‘s major themes since the start. Seeing what the show has done with Wells this year has been an unexpected highlight, and a masterstroke in terms of providing emotional conflict for almost every member of the cast. Last week may have featured the return of the Reverse-Flash, but watching Barry come to terms with his entirely separate connection with Wells is just as worthwhile.
It’s this that stops Fast Lane from being a bad episode, despite its flaws, leaving us on a really great cliff-hanger that will lead us into the multiverse proper next week. This episode was a vital cog in the machine to induct Wells into the group to the point where Barry would put himself on the line for him and his daughter. It might not be a classic on its own, but I’d wager we’ll appreciate its existence in the long run.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Reverse Flash Returns, here.