FULL SPOILERS FOR EPISODE AHEAD.
I definitely left tonight's episode of The CW's The Flash way more confused than when I entered. A lot happened, so much so that I may have difficulty going about the episode in my normal, sequence-of-events way. There were three main subplots, of which only one pertained to the plot of the episode, one teased major events in the next few episodes, and the other only made for awkward filler. I won't say which are which, I'll leave that up to you. Because that's the fun part.
I'll discuss the elephant in the room, to get us started: Reverse Flash was amazing. Definitely the best villain we've seen on The Flash and probably the best villain we may see the entire season barring the return of Captain Cold and non-appearance of Gorilla Grodd.
Then again, Mark Hamill as the Trickster does have a lot of promise...
It's pretty much no secret that this was going to be the episode Barry got tossed around by Reverse Flash in. From the set photos to the promos, you kinda knew he was going to get his butt-kicked. In this way, I was reminded of the first Arrow mid-season finale, in which Oliver and Merlyn first went at it and Oliver took a couple arrows to the back. Barry didn't really get that, but, he did get the crap beaten out of him.
While Reverse Flash was cool, his appearance definitely fogged up the story way more than it revealed anything. Wells is Reverse Flash, great. That theory is confirmed.
But how were they in the same room together? Cisco mentions to Joe that there were two speedsters the night Nora Allen died, which lends itself to two more theories. Then Reverse Flash keeping Eddie alive when he just as easily could have killed him presents more doors and...
I need a nap.
I really don't remember much of what happens in the early parts of the episode because nothing really happens. Reverse Flash shows up and spooks a scientist, Eddie thinks Barry has a crush on Iris, he and Iris move in together, and then Ronnie pops up out of nowhere and spooks Caitlin. For the first twenty minutes, that's pretty much all that happens. The problem with all of this is that most of the information was given away in news reports and preview photos. We already knew Reverse Flash was coming so having Barry and Joe freak out about it didn't have as much impact. Had we not known Firestorm was in the episode, seeing Ronnie suddenly appear to Caitlin would have been a lot better.
My question is why he even went to her? Throughout the episode, he just sort of appears places and has no real purpose to the plot other than to be a Deus Ex Machina that, like his appearances, makes little sense. Sure, they need to plant seeds of his return and his return does make for an emotional moment between Catilin and Cisco, but the fact is him just being there does not do anything for the plot that Barry is confronting his mother's killer. Heck, most of the episode doesn't even deal with that until the final third, when Joe and Eddie team up with the anti-Flash task force to stop Reverse Flash.
After Eddie points out to Iris that Barry might like her, she goes to him and he tells her that of course he doesn't like her. Of course, he's also a bad liar. Iris apparently can't read him, even though she's a freaking journalist. She's horrendously gullible this episode, too, as she asks Caitlin early on if something is up with Barry. Caitlin clearly looks flustered by this, but Iris doesn't seem to notice. Lady, WAKE UP! Your best friend is the Flash, it's so obvious.
Anyway, Caitlin recruits Cisco into looking for Ronnie, and when they find him, he tells them to stop looking for him and proclaims he is "Firestorm."
I have a few problems with this. One: how does he have his abilities? I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that Firestorm only gained his abilities when he was able to access the Firestorm Matrix along with Jason Rusch/ Professor Stein, and neither of those two characters have arrived yet. Two: why the heck is he calling himself that? Why doesn't he want to be called Ronnie, why is he suddenly crazy? He was a completely rational person before. I know in the comic Ronnie Raymond is a bit of a jerk for a while but he's not a psycho. Three: how are his clothes not catching fire?! This one is a bit of a nitpick, but come on. It could be that the flames are merely around him and not on him, but they should still be crisping his clothing up a little.
I think they would be fine to just show that something is wrong with Ronnie mentally and that there are some spurts of fire coming off of him, not him being able to control the abilities. Heck, it makes it seem like the only reason he's going to merge with Stein and/or Rusch is just because they have to be loyal to the comic. We see at the end of the episode that he's capable of flying off like regular Firestorm and that he can shoot fire, so all that Stein and/or Rusch are there for are just for some mental stability for him; which is what they are, but without the merging, all of them are just normal dudes. Erg. Confusion.
Where are we in the episode, again? I ranted there, I apologize. Oh, right. Barry finds Reverse Flash and gives chase to him, the latter leading the former to a football field where he proceeds to absolutely pummel him by being much faster than Barry. What I like about Reverse Flash is how they show how fast he is. He is constantly vibrating, constantly shrouding his face and moving around. He has so much more speed (force) than Barry that if Barry were to even land a punch at this point it would be incredible. Reverse Flash even tells Barry that they have been doing battle for quite some time now, and he knows exactly who is opponent is. Clearly, he is of the future.
Barry makes his way back to S.T.A.R. Labs where he tries to convince them there is no way he can keep up with Reverse Flash, but Wells and Joe try to cheer him up. Caitlin and Cisco, meanwhile, have a touching moment in which Caitlin explains all she wanted was one more minute with Ronnie, but after what she saw, she regrets it, knowing that his future is at best in the pipeline meta-human prison. Joe, back at the precinct, is approaching by Eddie, who asks for the anti-Flash task force to go to S.T.A.R. Labs for the trap they wanna spring on Reverse Flash.
Oh and there's a minor subplot in which another laboratory, Mercury Labs, hands over a tachyon machine that is capable of generating a force-field and stopping Reverse Flash. It's interesting but just tries to feed us that Barry and Wells are similar, I guess like how Reverse Flash and the Flash are similar but whatever.
Barry gets kicked out of watching the events because Joe is worried for Barry being too close to the case, so he goes to a less emotional place: to see his dad. Nice.
This does provide for a very touching scene in which Barry and his father talk about Barry's battle against Reverse Flash, how he's really been fighting him all his life by reliving that night everyday and never having a life because he was afraid of what Reverse Flash could do to him. Afterward, he goes over to see Iris, where he finally laments his feelings to her, and she can't say the same back. It's a well-played out scene and I don't think Barry really could have told it any better. You did your best, Barry. You did your best.
At S.T.A.R. Labs, Reverse Flash falls right into the trap. Too easy, of course. When Wells points out that he is much like the Flash, Reverse Flash confirms his true powers: that he is actually the opposite of the Flash. I don't recall the exact titles of his abilities, but I am glad that they are sticking with him having different, even stronger, powers than the Flash instead of him being just a Flash replica.
The force-field breaks down and he proceeds to take away Wells and absolutely beats him to a pulp, then kills the rest of the task force, sparing both Eddie and Joe. I do get why he decided to spare Joe, but, Eddie I'm a little unsure of given what we see later. Barry rushes to the scene, and he too gets beaten down until, don don don! Ronnie arrives, literally out of nowhere, and forces Reverse Flash to flee, saying that the battle between them isn't over. Ronnie tells Caitlin to stay away and leaves.
So yeah, that was weird. It was a great action sequence, watching the speedsters go at it, and the effects on Firestorm remain impressive--particularly his flight--but the Deus Ex Machina was very, very odd. I guess the writers just put themselves in a corner and had no way out but that.
Barry heals up, Joe telling him to let go of the past as they now have to take down Reverse Flash, but also have to try and live a little. They go back to Joe's place, where everyone is gathered. Iris is awkward around Barry despite Barry doing his very best to be kind. Iris was kind of a jerk here. He's still your best friend, lighten up a little home girl. Tell him it's cool and you guys will just move past it, continue your lives. It's the theme of the episode.
Cisco informs Joe that there may have been two people in the lightning that night that Nora Allen died, and in the final scene, we see Wells slip on the Speed Force ring from the old Flash comics and activate a Reverse Flash suit, speaking in the same voice as the Reverse Flash.
Alright, let's get this out of the way: they are totally pulling from "Flashpoint" regarding the two speedsters in the lightning. Clearly, they are trying to get across that Barry was trying to stop Reverse Flash from killing his mother. If that's the case, then there are many doors open to us now:
If that is true, then Wells has traveled back in time to keep Barry alive until a certain point in time, maybe the point where Barry goes back to try and save his mother. The reason he kept Eddie is alive is because something may happen to him in which he will need Thawne (get it?) to inherit these abilities. Thus, the Thawne Reverse Flash may well be the one who is seen in this episode, while we have yet to see the Wells Reverse Flash.
Another option I see is that Wells is from a future where Speed Force never became available through an explosion, hence why he has the ring, which has the ability to tap into the Speed Force sort of like a catalyst. So, he goes back in time to develop the particle accelerator, based off of the ring's abilities, to create "natural," if you wish to use the phrase, meta-humans, like Barry or Weather Wizard, so that eventually the Reverse Flash can be birthed by these "natural" abilities, which would explain too why he stole some of Blackout's, uh, "juice" for experimentation. That, or he is trying to become invincible, as he places the tachyon armor over his suit at the end of the episode.
The whole Reverse Flash thing is still a mystery at this point. The fact that there are two gives me double the head-ache, but at least I won't have to really think about it as we go on our mid-season break.
Overall, this was a good episode. The second half was pretty darn awesome but the first half was pretty darn forgettable, with love triangles and random appearance marring it from what it could have been. Had they forgone the whole Iris-Barry subplot and replaced it with more time of Barry trying to figure out Reveres Flash and Firestorm (which, by the way, Barry has little idea about still), then the episode would have been way more interesting. I only hope that the Iris drama gets dealt with quickly because that has the potential to get really annoying really fast.
Until next year, then!