Another Tuesday and another strong episode of The Flash has come and gone. Unlike Arrow, which I admittedly bolted on after three episodes during its debut season, or even Gotham, which I continue to hate-watch for some reason, I’m pretty sure I’m all in on The Flash. While there are some superhero TV tropes that might get annoying eventually — Barry’s unrequited pining for Iris, for instance — there’s enough good to keep me tuning in. Episode three, “Things You Can’t Outrun,” introduced yet another baddie from the DC Universe while foreshadowing the debut of another classic DC hero.
The episode kicks off with Barry and Iris on another platonic night out when she gets a call from her actual boyfriend. Which has got to suck for Barry. And while I’m pretty sure they’re going to drag out Barry/Iris the way Smallville did Clark/Lana, I’m hoping this aspect of the show gets minimized going forward. But this is The CW, after all, so good luck with that.
While Iris is on the phone, Barry gets an emergency call from Cisco about a police chase in progress. In a flash, the bad guys are apprehended and Barry’s back before Iris even turns around. It was a great depiction of Flash’s abilities and a cute moment on the show. The only thing that was unclear was whether Barry changed into his costume or not. And I started counting down the episodes until we get Flash’s ring.
Meanwhile, we’re intro’d to this week’s supervillain at a mob-controlled restaurant that’s already more believable than anything Sal Maroni is doing on Gotham. Anyway, this week’s freak has the ability to turn himself into a cloud of poison gas and suffocate his victims by making them… breathe him in, I guess1? Sure, it sounds ridiculous, but the character, The Mist, is actually steeped in the comics, though he’s typically a Starman villain.
It’s actually kind of interesting that the writers keep choosing non-Flash baddies, considering that Flash has, arguably, the deepest Rogue’s Gallery of anyone not named Batman. While the pilot included a variation of the classic Flash nemesis Weather Wizard, last week’s ep featured a Metamorpho villain (Simon Stagg) and a Firestorm villain (Multiplex), respectively. Though next week looks like it’ll be bringing in Captain Cold, played by Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller.
The Mist isn’t the only character from the comics appearing on the show, however. In this week’s flashback segments, rather than rewinding back to when Barry and Iris were kids, this time we only go back nine months to the fateful night of the particle accelerator explosion. Our first flashback is from the p.o.v. of Caitlin, and we meet her doomed fiancé Ronnie — played by Robbie Amell, and yes he is related to Stephen Amell of Arrow.
For the comic aficionados, though, Ronnie is more than just Caitlin’s doomed fiancé, he’s one-half of the hero known as Firestorm. And we actually get to see the beginnings of his origin! Turns out Ronnie wasn’t only present at the launch of the accelerator, he was an engineer on the team. When things started to go wrong though, Ronnie was first to find out what went wrong and was willing to sacrifice himself if need be. In Cisco’s recall of the events of the explosion, we learn that Ronnie forced him to lock the door of the accelerator, saving dozens of lives in the process.
Not only were these flashbacks filling in key details from the pilot, they also served to add depth to the scientist duo that some have compared to Fitz and Simmons on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The scene was even more special to longtime DC Comics readers. Eagle-eyed fans might have noticed something familiar on the door behind which Ronnie sacrificed himself.
In case you missed it:
This is one of the things that makes The Flash so great: their comic book Easter eggs are actually subtle. (Blink and you’d miss a Blue Devil and Elasti-Girl cameo in the opening shot of the episode, too). I also geeked out hard when Barry, upon facing his father for the first time whilst in costume, began vibrating his head so that he wouldn’t be recognized. A move straight out of the comics! Later in the episode, Team Flash figures out a way to convert the smoldering remains of the particle accelerator into holding cells, turning S.T.A.R. Labs into a supermax for metahumans. It’s a good thing too, because they can’t kill off all the supervillains, since Mist actually survives the battle with Barry.
By the third episode of any show’s debut season, you can start to see the formula fall into place. For The Flash, that formula includes the typical love triangle — that might get complicated soon since Felicity comes aboard next week, not to mention the birth of a thousand Barry/Caitlin shippers (do they have a name yet?) that were probably birthed from their many scenes together this week — and the flashback conceit. The other trope is the post-show stinger that pretends to reveal more about the mysterious Harrison Wells, but is really just the same scene repeating itself three eps in a row. To be honest, ending every episode this way kind of diminishes how cool of a stinger it was in the pilot. Hopefully there will be more forward momentum on that front.
- Interestingly, for the second straight night on a DC show, the bad guy’s M.O. is to make his victims inhale green gas. ↩