I’m going to start by straight up saying that The Flash might end up being my favorite hour-long show on television. Not right now, but some day. This series has so many strengths only six episodes in: a solid feel for its characters (I was a little bit worried about Iris at the beginning, but now she’s getting her spine), a consistently-propelled character arc for the title hero, and continuously impressive (Gorgeous! Beautiful! Mindblowing!) CGI’ed action-sequences perfectly worthy of the art of the comics.
Also, I would like to note that this episode was directed by Millicent Shelton. YAY WOC + SUPERHEROES!
“The Flash Is Born” is episode 1×06 and primarily focuses on Barry taking on this week’s Bad Guy, Tony Woodward, aka Girder. Barry gets his ass handed to him when he discovers that Tony can rip Hummer doors off and turn himself into steel.
Not to mention that this dude is HUGE. Like, douchey, bad guy, former high school bully with a perma-smirk HUGE. We all immediately hate him. It’s that grin I can’t get over that says, “Yeah, I’m most likely going to get what I want from you. I’m a dick.” Ugh. Then he says the thing to Barry that solidifies our dislike: “Looks like you were born to take a beating.”
And then I screamed at my TV, “WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
So yeah, that’s our Villain of The Week. And WE HATE HIM. He represents everything about the entitled, arrogant, self-serving bullies that somehow find power to do even more damage to society. Tony thinks he is unbreakable, made of steel, and that shit-eating grin of his is proof that he has no intention of giving up his status. Oh, and in #FlashFlashbacks, we learn that Tony bullied bb!Barry Allen so we dislike him even more.
Meanwhile back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Caitlin and Cisco and kind-sorta Wells try to figure out how to help Barry beat this jerk. Cisco does a lot for Barry this week: he creates a steel training dummy thingy that beats Barry down real hard real fast (ironically). Caitlin does a lot of patching Barry up, despite her telling him a few weeks ago to not get used to her being his personal nurse. Caitlin and Cisco are adorable, awesome sidekicks this week and provide a lot of the comedic relief for this episode. [More on this trio’s dynamic later.] But also, maybe most importantly, Cisco hypothesizes that Barry could knock out Girder if he travels at him at a speed of Mach 1.1. That is a sonic boom, people. I’m surprised that wasn’t the name of the episode.
Now, Detective West (aka Papa Joe — or Papa West, for me at least) has his own mission this week: he’s delving into Nora Allen’s murder a little bit more. We see him rewatching video’s of bb!Barry’s testimonial and tears spring in our eyes because this man has been there for Barry forever, and now he has realized that bb!Barry was telling the truth and dammit he is going to find out more about this flashing, weird murdery lightforce. So he asks Dr. Wells to help him. (This is the part where I scream, “NO, PAPA JOE! HE’S GONNA KILL YOU! I DON’T KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT HIM YET!”)
Wells is so down to hang out with Papa Joe and get drinks, but when he finds out that Joe West: Flash Detective has been backhandedly researching Wells as a possible connection to the Allen murder, he goes into Scary-Harry-Wells Mode. (I swear, he is Professor Zoom. Or that’s what the writers want us to think and it’s totally working.)
In the final third of the episode, Tony/Girder/DBag of Steel has kidnapped Iris West — after hitting on her in a truly spectacular way that involves mentioning that he works out and smashing her iPhone 6/6+) — and has taken her to their old high school because, like most d-bags of Tony’s caliber, he peaked at 18-years-old. [I know I haven’t mentioned Iris until now; don’t worry, I have a lot to say. She’s my favorite plotline of the episode!] Barry finds out, suits up, speeds over, and, once again, nearly gets destroyed. He speeds Iris to locker-side safety and tells her to wait as she sighs and breathes his superscent in deeply. But Barry races back from 5.3 miles away, fists out and ready! And he BOOM! nails Tony the Metal Asshole right in his pompous face, making his skin revert back into normal people skin. And then Iris finishes him off and I cheered. Loudly. This scene is excellent and satisfying, both as a story and as a stunning piece of visual art.
The cliffhanger this week involves Detective West, at home, alone, going over his research from the Allen murder. He is totally into it when a yellow force-thing circles around him and steals EVERYTHING. It sucks, but it doesn’t suck as much as Papa Joe dying like Nora because for a split second I thought that was going to happen. Furthermore, this yellow streak sticks a knife straight into the heart of a picture of Iris. Dayum.
THE GOOD STUFF
Iris West is getting a backbone. We start off the episode with a voiceover we’ve heard before, but this time spoken by Iris who has presumably written this exact VO about Barry/The Red Streak in her blog. She’s getting a lot of hits, so Barry as The Flash superspeeds her to the rooftop for a chat. He wants her to stop. She says no. He asks her not to call him The Streak. Barry gets sassy sometimes, and I like it.
I love this intro and the Iris/Barry VO parallel. This episode is the episode where we truly “meet” Iris for the first time, much like the Pilot is where we “meet” Barry for the first time. She’s got that Lois Lane admiration/curiosity about her mysterious hero, but also the determination to make it known that he is a Savior to the city. When she gets kidnapped by Girder, there are a couple moments of her helplessly watching the two meta-humans (that she’s known since childhood) fight. But Iris is not a damsel in distress, she waited for her moment and delivered the knockout punch, unknowingly helping her best friend defeat his bully. This was a good episode for WestAllen/RunningWest shippers: not only did it enrich the history between Barry/Iris, it cemented their future relationship as allies. Oh, and you can totally see Iris’s develop crush on The Flash… the name she thinks she thought up. But it was really Barry. But it was really, really Oliver Queen.
Nerds rule, especially Team Flash. We cannot forget that Barry Allen is our Nerd Superhero King. His “Uh oh!” when facing Tony’s strength for the first time reminded us that, Oh yeah, he’s not good at this yet. In this episode, we also see Cisco, a true NOC fosho, as a fanboy nerd and Caitlin as a rational, slightly precocious nerd. They bond over their former school bullies; Team Flash is a group of uber-nerds. But, don’t worry, we kick ass.
I thought this was the first time Barry questioned how much he has changed after acquiring his new powers when faced with someone who used to overpower him in his past. There is a particularly sad moment when Barry doubts himself as not being able to beat Tony, just like he wasn’t able to beat him as a kid. But he has awesome, genius friends now, and he deliver a sonic blow that allows him to lock Girder up in the pipeline prison and chastise him about how Nerds Rule and Bullies Drool. Barry is really calm and intimidating and, well, SUPER about all of this… until the doors shut. And we get this amazing moment:
Papa West/Barry: Joe’s storyline this week is completely driven by his need to do right by Barry. And those #Flashflashbacks (this is my favorite term ever) killed me. Joe is the best daddy on TV, and that is why Barry and iris have become so awesome. That wrap-behind hug with bb!Barry was one of my favorite images from tonight. That is saying something.
SnowBarry: I’m trying not to get too shippy (again), but the chemistry between Grant Gustin and Danielle Panabaker jumps out at me so aggressively, I can’t avoid it. Caitlin’s concern for Barry is endearing, mainly because she won’t take any of his shit; she knows he’s been creeping on Iris, so she just gives him a look before popping his shoulder back into its socket. She won’t call him out on it (yet) because she knows how it is to be in love with someone that she can’t have (Ronnie, for her). I’m wondering if her extreme focus on Barry’s well-being, while admittedly because he is their main project and priority, is also her projecting her desire to take care of someone onto him. It’s not romantic (yet… it’s The CW), but it’s definitely more personal now that they’re established friends beyond the lab.
Barry/Eddie: Now I make the mistake of referring to Eddie as “Rick”, mainly because the actor — Rick Cosnett — already has a freaking awesome name. Oops, my bad. But Eddie/Rick teaming up with Barry and helping him train was totally unexpected, but I like it. I think it’s nice that #Beddy (adorable name btw) bond over something other than Iris: Eddie was picked on when he was younger and purposefully grew stronger as a result of it. Boxing buddies! I think that this marks the beginning of Beddy as allies… especially with the accidental slips Barry kept dropping on Eddie during the Girder case. I have a theory that Eddie may find out Barry’s secret before Iris does! Then Eddie knows something Iris doesn’t, and Eddie is defending Barry/The Flash, awkward love triangle etc. etc. Also, making Eddie a good guy is a nice thing, especially since Iris is eventually going to have to dump him and choose Barry.
- “Man of Steel,” duh. They didn’t reference it as much as I predicted, thankfully.
- Tony being from Keystone City, aka the home of the original Flash Jay Garrick.
- Iris wanting to write a story about a guy who catches fire without getting burnt… Robbie Amell, I want you back! Firestorm pilot is totally going to happen.
- The YELLOW blur is Professor Zoom/Reverse Flash. C’mon. We know this.
- Smallville High! I know those lockers… it’s nice to see the old set. And in my head, Barry with his shirt unbuttoned and his plain white tee underneath was awfully reminiscent of millennium Clark Kent’s wardrobe.
Overall: This was the Smallvillie-iest episode yet, and maybe that’s why I love it so much (while others may disagree with me for it being so cheesy. I live for the cheese!). I love seeing more into the pasts of all of the characters: Barry and Iris and Joe, yes, but also Eddie, Caitlin, and Cisco as victims of bullying. And Wells, too,
even though he’s probably lying about his past. This is the first time Iris is a target of the VOTW, and it won’t be the last. Hopefully, since they mentioned Keystone, we’ll get some Jay Garrick as a new mentor for Barry when he finally learns about the speedforce. And, of course, nerds rule.