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.
After last week's action-packed episode, Kevin Smith directs an emotional follow up that shrinks our focus back to Team Flash. It's simpler than many episodes, but it packs a heckuva punch, and you are going to need tissues. Zoom may be busy taking over the city, Caitlin is still kidnapped, and everything is going to hell in a handbasket for our intrepid heroes, but this week the show barely leaves STAR labs.
Well, those of the cast still on Earth-1 (or any Earth, really) spend most of 'Runaway Dinosaur' in STAR labs, but Barry is somewhere else entirely after Wells's experiment last week seemingly went horribly wrong...
Picking Up Where We Left Off
'Runaway Dinosaur' picks up right where 'Rupture' left off, with most of the team in shock over Barry's apparent disintegration, and Wally and Jesse knocked out by the Speed Force blast. Cisco, optimist that he is, immediately starts looking for Barry via his electronic system - assuming that he isn't dead, he's just not there. Meanwhile, Wells reaches out to Jesse over the com system, and when she doesn't answer, he realizes that Barry may not have been the only casualty of the accelerator explosion.
Welcome To The Speed Force
Just in case anyone was concerned that Barry was actually dead, Cisco quickly vibed his suit to confirm that he's not. He's just stuck in a... lightning... misty... sorta... place.
Otherwise known as: The Speed Force. Finally, we get a real, in-depth look at what it is that gives Barry (and many other speedsters) their speed, and at first it looks like... Barry's childhood home? In fact, Barry spends most of this episode on a journey through some of his "greatest hits" locations in order to fully connect with the Speed Force. It's a move that echoes his story in the comics, where it is revealed that Barry Allen essentially is the Speed Force. His soul is a part of it, and it's been insinuated that he even creates it as another dimension when he runs at super-speed, ever since he was hit by lightning. That same lightning that is also revealed to be Barry Allen as lightning... it's a complex piece of circular comic book reasoning that puts Barry Allen at the center of the entire Speed Force, which is why this episode has to be one of the most incredible in the entire show so far.
However, we don't actually know any of this. Instead, what we see is Barry waking up, confused, in his childhood bed. He meets Joe - except that it isn't really Joe. Immediately, we learn that this is the Speed Force, and he's talking to it in the form of people that he knows. The Speed Force is attempting to help him understand it and reconnect with it - and as soon as he does this (by catching a black speedster blur), he can head straight back to Central City to take on Zoom.
Doctor Henry To The Rescue
While Wally appears pretty much unscathed by the blast that knocked him and Jesse out, Jesse is in much worse shape. She appears fine, but is in a medically inexplicable coma - much like Barry himself was back at the beginning. If we weren't sure whether or not Jesse would be getting some superpowers and becoming Jesse Quick, this pretty much gives it away.
Her coma also allows us to get to know Barry's dad a little better - as a doctor, he's the one who checks her over and takes care of her. It's great to see Henry Allen becoming a bigger part of the show again, and as more than just a father figure to Barry. We can also see where Barry gets some of his heroic attitude from - despite believing his son to be dead at Wells' hands, Henry steps up to try and save Wells' own daughter. Starting by asking Cisco and Iris to go and get the files that Eobard Thawne-Wells had on Barry's coma. (Bonus points to the writers for taking a not-so-subtle dig at themselves and the current complexity of the show here, and Iris and Cisco attempt to explain the good-Wells-evil-Wells thing to Henry!)
Cisco and Iris head down to the STAR labs morgue (explaining once and for all what they do with those metahumans that don't survive to be imprisoned in the pipleline or Iron Heights) to pull up the data that evil-Wells had on Barry's coma. They find it, but just as they do, Girder (remember him?) makes an entrance worthy of the Kool-Aid Man. (But... less smiley.)
Turns out that Girder has been reanimated, and is out to do some serious damage. And no, it's never really explained how the metal man has been brought back to life, or why (other than it's amusing) but we can assume that it's something to do with the explosion that knocked out Wally and Jesse and sent Barry into the Speed Force.
After blazing a path of distraction out of the lab and across the city, Henry theorizes that Girder is looking for someone - Iris. He heads to Jitters (which is what tipped them off), before going to the West home. Luckily, Iris is a fearless badass of a human, and decides to beat him to her home and then lure him back to the labs where Cisco can deal with him. Good thing for her, Girder is one of those classic horror shuffling zombies, rather than the 28 Days-style speedy ones.
Vibe To The Rescue
After Cisco vibes Barry to discover that he isn't dead, Wells realizes that Barry must be in the Speed Force (smart man), and concocts a plan to get him back. Using Vibe's power, he intends to make him the crux of a machine that will use that power to find Barry, then open a portal to him, allowing Cisco to reach in and bring him back.
Pseudo-science, maybe, but it works. While Barry is talking to "Iris" on a bench, Cisco manages to find his way into the Speed Force to find him. However, when the Speed Force tells Barry that if he leaves now, he'll do it without his powers, Barry makes the decision to stay. He turns from Cisco, racing after the black blur that will give him back his powers.
All The Feels
While the gang are dealing with Zombie Girder on Earth-1, Barry is dealing with something very different in the Speed Force. (Tissues at the ready!) We learn that Barry has never been to visit his mother's grave, but the Speed Force has brought him there. In a heartbreaking scene, Barry talks to "Henry" about his decision to let his mother die (at the end of season one). Sobbing, he says "I had a chance to save her. You saw what I chose. How could someone ever be at peace with letting his mother die? With deciding that his life is more valuable than hers?".
After some sage advice from the Speed Force in the form of Henry, Barry chases off after the black blur again, only to find the Speed Force waiting. Back at his childhood home. As his mother.
What follows is one of the most emotionally wrenching scenes of the series, as Barry connects with his mother, and makes his peace with her death. We also learn the reason for the seemingly strange episode name: 'The Runaway Dinosaur' is the name of a book that she read to him as a child about a mother's love. And he has it memorized.
Now that we've wept out every drop of water in our bodies...
The black blur comes zooming into the living room, where Barry immediately catches it to reveal... himself. It's Barry as The Flash, and as he merges with it, we know that this is Barry getting his powers back.
Just in time, too. Back at STAR labs, Cisco's machine to take down Girder has failed, and the team are trapped as the zombie tries to batter down the door. Luckily, they are trapped in the same room as Wells' machine to find Barry, and Iris steps up to find him and bring him home. She reaches through the speed force, and a newly speedy Barry comes home to her. There, it's not difficult for him to use his regained speed to power up Cisco's machine and defeat the meta-of-the-week.
With Barry back and Zombie Girder defeated, it's happy endings for everyone. Barry brings Jesse out of her coma with a little Speed Force touch, Henry Allen confirms that he'll be sticking around from now on, and Barry visits his Mom's grave with Iris, where he has an incredibly sweet moment with Iris. Even though he says that he doesn't know what they have, he finishes up by saying "you are everything to me, and always have been. And the sound of your voice will always bring me home.".
A Final Word From Zoom
Lest we forget the super-villain threatening to take over the world, our final scene is one of Zoom and Caitlin. Zoom offers Caitlin an ultimatum of sorts: he will leave the room, and when he comes back - either she will be there, in which case she is on his side, or she won't. In which case he will hunt her down and kill her along with her friends. After delivering this, he heads out to the central atrium of the Central City police station, where we see him riling up a mob of metahumans from Earth-2 - ready to join him and take the world from the humans.
What's Next? Invincible
Next week is the second to last episode of the season, so things are about to get intense. Zoom unleashes his metahuman army on Central City, and Team Flash has to try and stop them all. To top it all off, Earth-2's Black Canary (Black Siren) is heading the charge, which is clearly difficult for Barry to deal with after the death of Laurel only a few episodes ago in Arrow.
As well as the battle for Central City, we are presumably going to see some of the after-effects of the Speed Force blast on Jesse and Wally - perhaps with evil-Wells's data coming into play to help them get a handle on some new speed? The possibility of Wally as a meta human was briefly mentioned in this week's episode, but it didn't look like he is aware of any changes just yet. Caitlin will also have to make her decision - presumably, she's still on Team Flash, but there's always the possibility that she tries to play the double agent to help Barry. Finally, from the trailer it looks like there may be a major death in the offing - could Henry's plans to stick around all come to naught?
Things You Might Have Missed
There weren't many Easter Eggs or references this week (other than the enormous connection to the history of Barry and the Speed Force, or course), but we've still got a few for you.
- The Runaway Dinosaur We see the children's book that Barry has such a connection to several times in this episode, but can't see the author's name clearly. However, it does look like the surname is Helbing - the same as that of executive producers Todd and Aaron. Could this be one of their parents' names?
- Young Frankenstein As usual, Cisco makes all kinds of pop culture references, and this week it's zombie-themed. The Walking Dead gets a reference, as does Young Frankenstein.
- Jason Mewes Director Kevin Smith's partner in crime makes a brief appearance, as Zombie Girder destroys his mom's car when he is on a date.
- Arrow When Mewes is coming out of the Big Belly Burger, he says that it "sucks" and "the one in Star City is way better" - a reference to Arrow
- So Many Metahumans In the final scene, Zoom presides over a metahuman army, many of whom will be familiar to DC fans in some shape or form. Next week we are sure to meet more of them, but for now, comment below with who you saw in the mix!
The Flash season 2 episode 22 'Invincible' airs Tuesday, May 17th: