SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't yet watched this week's episode of 'The Flash,' then turn back now! This contains spoilers and key plot points.
This week on The Flash, we spent a very small amount of time on the traditional Flash vs. Metahuman plot line in favor of learning more about the newly added Wally West, and the machinations of Earth-2's Harrison Wells. After spending significant amounts of time recently on Patty and Barry, 'Fast Lane' was a nice shift in focus to some of the other characters on the show, and back to the central big-bad of Season 2: Zoom.
The Tar Pit Cometh
It's the night of the Accelerator explosion at Hudson's Tar and Roofing Industries. Two thugs are dangling a dude over the edge of a vat of boiling tar in an attempt to weasel some information out of him. Lovely. Unsurprisingly, the poor sap gives up the information but ends up being dumped over the edge anyway, just before the explosion. Cut to today, and the shut-down Hudson's Tar is being re-built. As the ground is broken, a zombie-esque black hand bursts out of the tar under the asphalt, just in case we weren't sure who the villain was going to be today.
We learn that Tar Pit has spent the past two years underground and conscious, dreaming of the day that he would pop up and murder the thugs that killed him. Ah, good old revenge plots! Of course, this one is particularly gruesome, as Tar Pit describes it:
"You ever wonder what it felt like when you dropped me in that vat of boiling tar? Since I went in headfirst, I actually felt my ears and nose burn off. The pain of my eyeballs searing was unimaginable. But it was the way that it burned down my throat as I tried to breathe that I thought is really special."
First, he uses his powers to take down Daniel Burge, then attacks Clay Stanley, but is temporarily defeated by Flash's clever name calling ("Hey barbecue!") and use of fire hydrants. Of course, he's not quite done yet...
Over the last few episodes, we have seen Wally slowly becoming a part of the show, but things are obviously still not simple. The family is getting along, but Iris isn't ok with Wally's decision to keep racing.
In general, Iris is about as subtle as a three-dollar bill in this episode, and is absolutely convinced that Wally will meet his end drag racing. As well as bringing it up at literally every opportunity to Wally, she attempts to bring Joe onto her side by looking up all the drag racing accidents she can to show him. When none of this works, she decides to try and take down the entire organization.
She gussies up in booty shorts and purple hair extensions to visit Wally at a race, but also snaps some shots of the organizer on her cell phone. She then heads over to his office to tell him to stop the races or she'll run a piece on his illegal activity. Which is reckless, but kind of awesome. We are seeing Iris as more than just a member of Team Flash. She's actually getting her reporter on for once!
We also hear a lot about Wally's obsession with speed, which is a very pointed reference to his potential future as Kid Flash. He wanted to be an astronaut because "going to space is like, the fastest that a human being can go," which prompts Iris to say, "you are really all about the speed, huh?"
Speed Force Theft
Harrison Wells is the second biggest focus this episode, which is all about the conflict that Wells has — betray Barry to try and save his daughter, or do the right thing. He has discovered a way to attach something to Barry's suit that will allow him to siphon off his speed, but is interrupted by Barry when he is working on it. Barry mentions his recent breakup as an excuse for not being out partying on a Thursday, shows off his ability to speed-learn (how is he not the smartest man alive with that power?!), and convinces Harrison to work with him. Harrison spends much of his working time looking extremely broody, just to hammer the point home that he doesn't really want to hurt Barry, but feels like he has to. When Barry goes to take down Tar Pit, Harrison is back at STAR Labs, gathering a tiny sample of Speed Force and whispering to it (which is less creepy than it sounds, but not by much).
The loss of his Speed Force doesn't seem to be affecting Barry too much, but as the episode continues, Cisco notices that he is slowing down fractionally, and he complains of feeling tired.
When Harry isn't brooding about the terrible thing he is doing, he is bonding (unwillingly) with Barry. The two spend time working on a way to close the various breaches between Earth-1 and 2. When they are not fighting Tar Pit, Harrison and Barry try out their invention, and the Breach Implosion Reactor works! While this is a minor plot point in this episode, this is sure to have a huge impact on the rest of the season as they close the remaining breaches.
Zoom gets a brief cameo, where he injects himself with the stolen speed force and continues to be the biggest bad we have ever seen. This appearance serves mostly to solidify his place as an evil dude willing to torture people, but also brings up something very important. Harrison Wells hasn't just discovered how to steal Speed Force, but how to transfer it to another speedster. That gun will undoubtedly come into play later in the season — potentially as a way to save Jay Garrick.
Back To Barry
'Fast Lane' really isn't about Barry. He spends a lot of the episode mourning his ended relationship, and although he doesn't let it get in the way of his job, he brings it up a lot. His opening narration is about how sad he is. When he is working, his first line is "it's just weird, Patty's not here." Speaking of which... Barry goes back to work! It's been a while since we've seen Barry doing his actual job in forensics for Central City, and it's refreshing to be reminded that Barry has more going on in his life than just being Flash.
Everything Comes Together
With some of the usual Team Flash legwork, Barry discovers who Tar Pit is, and the third person that he is after: Clark Bronwen, the same person who runs the drag races Wally goes to. Tar Pit comes to one of the races and melts the road in order to flip Wally's car onto Clark. Flash, obviously, saves the day when Iris calls him, speeding on over to pull Wally and Clark out of the way. However, his reduced Speed Force means that he's not quite fast enough to save everyone, and Iris ends up with a chunk of glass in her shoulder.
It's ok, though, because Iris's injury is the catalyst for everything else that happens.
Seeing her injured knocks some sense into Joe, who steps up to be less of a friend and more of a father to Wally. He does some Dad-style finger-shaking, tells Wally that he is part of the family, and generally stops being afraid that Wally will leave again. Awesome. Wally, meanwhile, finally opens up to Iris about why he races. It's a way to remember his mother and the drives they used to take together. Which is adorable, and yet another pointed reference to Kid Flash; Wally wants to speed past the world. It's what makes him happy.
Not being able to save Iris from getting injured prompts Barry to realize that something is wrong, so he asks Harrison for his advice. Of course, Wells knows exactly what is wrong, and listening to Barry's fears about losing the people he loves leads Wells to confess. This, understandably, takes precedence over Tar Pit, who is rapidly dispatched by one of Cisco's inventions before Team Flash heads back to their pipeline prison to deal with Harrison Wells.
Finally, 'Fast Lane' wraps up with one of Barry's finest moments as a team leader.
Wells tells the team to send him back home, close the breaches, and forget about Earth-2. He says that he will deal with Zoom, take care of his daughter, all of it. Caitlin reveals that his Speed Force theft would eventually have taken Barry's powers permanently, and the team is all in favor of sending him back and leaving him to (presumably) die.
Barry, however, steps up as the hero that he is. He refuses to stop fighting Zoom. He refuses to leave Harry's daughter to die. He reminds the team that they forgive each other when team members do stupid things to try and save the people they love. And he convinces them to keep Harrison Wells around, and keep fighting Zoom together. Which is incredible. This whole scene shows just how far Barry has come as a hero this season; from trying to shut everyone out to being an incredible leader, not willing to leave anyone behind. Amazing.
Next week, we go to Earth-2! It's time to take some of the fight to Zoom, or at least, to try and rescue Harrison Wells's daughter. This is obviously not going to be the final showdown — Barry isn't strong enough, and there are still around 10 episodes left of the season. However, this is definitely going to re-focus us on Zoom and the breaches, potentially setting us up for the remaining season episodes. We will also see Killer Frost and Deathstorm, the Earth-2 versions of Caitlin and Ronnie.
Things You May Have Missed
- Tar Pit: The Flash's villains are always taken from the comics and Tar Pit is no exception. In the comics, Tar Pit is a petty crook who could (for no real reason) project his consciousness into inanimate objects. He projected into a pile of asphalt, and became Tar Pit, a villain who is virtually invulnerable, toxic, and capable of heating himself up to extreme temperatures. In 'Fast Lane,' we get a Flarrowverse twist on the comic book classic.
- Girls Chase Boys (Ingrid Michaelson): Barry mentions a song lyric when he is narrating his sadness over Patty, which is "all the broken hearts in the world still beat." The lyric is from 'Girls Chase Boys,' which also includes the line "You play me, now I play you too, let's just call it over." Which pretty much sums up the end of Patty and Barry, and was a very pointed choice. Awwww.
- Coast City makes an appearance: When the West's are having pizza at the start of the episode, there is a pizza box on the table from Coast City, a.k.a. Green Lantern's home city. We've seen countless references to the city in both Flash and Arrow, and apparently they make good pizza, as Barry has previously run over there to pick some up. However, if they are delivering without Barry's help, maybe Coast City isn't too far from Central City in this world. (Or maybe Barry "helped" with that delivery, too.)
- Oliver Queen: Before Daniel Burge is attacked by Tar Pit, he is watching the news. The announcer mentions Oliver Queen's Mayoral campaign, a little reference to the Green Arrow.
- Cisco's shirt: Cisco always wears nerdy and quirky t-shirts and this week was no exception. Did you spot the Space Invader logo on this week's outfit?
- Cisco's ringtone: His new app (Tinder for metahumans!) comes with a particularly familiar alert tone: Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana' — a stirring chord set that has been used multiple times in pop culture. So if it was bothering you where you new it from... know you know.
- Felicity Smoak: Another hilarious reminder that Flash and Arrow are connected comes when Cisco manages to find out who Tar Pit is using facial recognition. In triumph, he says "who's the best hacker in the world?" Felicity Smoak. Obviously.
- The New 52: The number 52 appears all over the place this season, which is a reference to the New 52 (a DC comics reboot). There are 52 breaches between worlds, and we are reminded of that when Barry and Harry close one breach, and Barry says "one down, fifty-one to go."
The Next Episode of The Flash 'Welcome to Earth 2' airs Feb 9th on The CW.