The Flash has found its story engine, and it works. If you think about it, Silver Age comics were based on the freak-of-the-week (or, rather, month) concept, with a hero battling a villain while also confronting personal issues, rinse and repeat. The Flash has that same formula, powered by the particle accelerator accident. However, the problem is that the series has introduced two rogues, only for them to be killed off. What happens when Barry actually captures a metahuman? Iron Heights certainly wasn’t designed to hold them.
Harrison Wells and company come up with a solution to that dilemma: They’ll transform the massive particle accelerator in the basement of STAR Labs into a super-prison. That decision leads to this week’s flashbacks, which now extend beyond Barry’s childhood trauma to include the perspectives of Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow.
We’re introduced to Caitlin’s fiance Ronnie Raymond (played by Robbie Amell), and right away the contrast to his comic-book counterpart is startling. In DC Comics lore Raymond (aka Firestorm) was always portrayed as a jock, but on The Flash he’s a brilliant young engineer charged by Wells to build the accelerator. During the accident that created The Flash, it was revealed that Ronnie sacrificed his life in a very Dr. Manhattan-type sequence of events to seal off the basement and save the city. Ronnie died a hero, and this episode reveals the moment of tragedy that defines Snow. Most comic fans know where this is going, and the eventual fate of Raymond and Snow is teased when she refers to the couple’s stormy contrasts as “Fire and Ice,” but it was amazing to see how the producers massaged the character’s origin, making it intersect with Barry’s.
And speaking of Barry, this week, our hero had to deal with the arrival of the Golden Age villain the Mist (played by Anthony Carrigan). While other comics-based shows depower their villains or understate the powers, The Flash” goes huge, and the scenes of Barry fighting the Mist look as if they were pulled from an Ethan Van Sciver drawing.
The Mist’s motivations are quickly established: He was a hitman sentenced to be executed on the night of the particle accelerator explosion, and transformed into a metahuman at the moment he was placed in the gas chamber (thus, apparently, explaining his ability to turn into hydrogen cyanide). Now the Mist is out for revenge on all who wronged him during his trial. The vendetta turns personal for Barry, as the arresting officer was none other than Detective West. This isn’t the Mist from James Robinson’s Starman -- it would be hard to achieve that level of character depth in 44 minutes -- but rest assured, he’s a scary villain worthy of The Flash.
The episode’s climax takes place as West visits Barry’s father in Iron Heights to tell him he’s going to help prove his innocence. The Mist attacks, and Barry is off to the rescue. An intriguing little moment takes place when Barry and his dad lock eyes, and Barry does the old Jay Garrick face-vibrating trick to hide his identity. Later, when he visits his father, Barry’s dad reminisces about the first time Barry walked, how he quickly ran -- right to his mother. The scene is poignant and perfectly acted, and a testament to why this series has worked so well so far (and why it received a full-season order on Tuesday): Beneath the powers and the Easter eggs, the villains and the heroes, there’s a heart, and Grant Gustin is just a delight to watch in these moments of vulnerability.
The B story deals with Iris West and Eddie Thawne struggling over whether they should reveal their romance to Iris’ father. They eventually do, while Detective West recovers in the hospital following the Mist’s attack, and his reaction is bemused and wary but supportive. Of course, West knew -- after all, he is a detective -- but he supports his daughter’s choice. That choice, at least for now, leaves Barry alone, and could set up a tragic love triangle as we move forward.
Cisco continues to be a fun character as he keeps up the new tradition of naming all of The Flash’s rogues. However, this week also introduced an element of tragedy to the usually upbeat young man: The night of the explosion, Ronnie Raymond ordered Cisco to lock the doors to the particle accelerator, sealing the young engineer inside as he redirected the blast, saving countless lives. Cisco tries confess that to Snow, but can’t find the words, something that could drive a wedge between Barry’s most loyal team members.
So the supporting cast continues to develop into rich characters, villains continue to be big and daring, and The Flash continues to be the superhero show fans have been begging for.
Oh, yeah, a couple of those Easter eggs: On the marquee to a movie theater were the titles Blue Devil II: Hell to Pay and The Rita Farr Story. Yes, DC, we would all support series for the Blue Devil and Doom Patrol.