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‘The Flash’ Recap: Firestorm Explodes Into the Spotlight With ‘The Nuclear Man’

by  in Comic News, TV News Comment
‘The Flash’ Recap: Firestorm Explodes Into the Spotlight With ‘The Nuclear Man’

This week’s episode of The Flash easily could’ve been a backdoor pilot for a Firestorm series, as it took a deep dive into the lives and psyches of Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein. The Nuclear Man has existed in the background of Barry Allen’s world for some time, but this week Firestorm became a major player on DC television.

But let’s start with a little romance, as things heat up (pun fully intended) between Barry Allen and Linda Park, who’s everything Iris West isn’t — aggressive, confidant and, you know, actually into him. She represents an adult romance for Barry, who’s carried a childhood crush for way too long. It doesn’t take long for the romance to become very adult, a situation briefly discussed by Barry, Cisco and Caitlin as they warn him he might do (ahem) everything quickly. I guess it isn’t easy to find love as a speedster. That little matter aside, Barry and Linda keep getting interrupted by his Flash responsibilities, a classic but effective superhero trope that breaks up the tension of the A plot involving Firestorm.

The scenario also makes me turn against Iris West.

When Linda asks co-worker Iris why Barry keeps running off, Iris basically says it’s because Barry is still in love with her. Iris proves that her ego is the size of a super-powered gorilla by driving a wedge between Barry and Linda. If and when Barry and Iris do get together, it will seem as if she’s a petty narcissist who can’t stand to see her childhood pet running behind somebody else. Iris is secure in her relationship with Eddie, yet she carelessly warns another woman that Barry still carries a torch for her. If The Flash is trying to make me dislike Iris, it’s doing a good job. By episode’s end, Barry does reconcile with Linda by eating a big pepper (it’s stranger than it sounds), but the takeaway is that Iris has somehow developed into either a vindictive or clueless person. I’m still holding out hope for Barry and Felicity Smoak, but with Ray Palmer in the picture, that doesn’t seem likely.

But let’s get back to the main event, Firestorm. I mentioned a few weeks back that the character used to be the backup feature in The Flash comic, but in “The Nuclear Man,” Barry’s story is secondary to Firestorm’s origin. We’ve gotten to known Ronnie Raymond largely through the recollections of Caitlin Snow, but this week we learn a great deal about Firestorm other half, Martin Stein. Played by Victor Garber, TV’s Martin Stein is note-perfect; he’s is kind and refined and brilliant. His status as such a good and intelligent man makes the tragedy of Firestorm all the more potent. It’s a unique take on Firestorm, one that is a far cry from the Spider-Man-like character introduced nearly four decades ago by Gerry Conway (who was name-dropped this episode) and Al Milgrom – one that’s more Frankenstein’s monster than superhero.

However, it works, as this Firestorm plays on fears of nuclear power and science gone wrong. As is the case with most super-powered menaces on The Flash, Harrison Wells devises a way to stabilize the Firestorm entity and prevent him from going all Chernobyl on Central City. The little doodad that Wells comes up with looks very much like the Firestorm symbol fans are familiar with, inching this version even closer to his comic-book counterpart.

It isn’t easy, though, as Stein is willing to sacrifice himself to keep Central City safe. In the process, we get to know his wife and see that Stein is a good man who’s become an unstable menace. We also see an awesome battle between The Flash and Firestorm that I’m sure no Bronze Age DC fan ever dreamed they would see on television. For an episode with no discernible villain, there’s certainly a great deal of gripping action.

I say no discernible villain because the alignment of Harrison Wells is still in question. This week, Joe West and Cisco investigate Barry’s childhood home, where his mother was murdered. Through Cisco’s super-science, the duo is able to take images of the past and see glimpses of the murder, leading them to an ominous blood stain. Of course, West’s suspicions go straight to Wells, which tests Cisco’s loyalty to a man he all but worships. When the blood sample comes back, however, it’s not Wells’ blood — it’s Barry’s, which can only indicate there’s time travel in the show’s future.

The episode ends with as big a cliffhanger as you can imagine, with Barry and Caitlin outracing a nuclear blast after Firestorm detonates, an event that draws the attention of General Wade Eiling.

And don’t think I missed that Mal Duncan reference, you sneaky, wonderful show. Is it next week yet?

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