But while there are two phenomenal comic book inspired shows on Tuesday (see Dave’s SHIELD review later this week), there is one that I have had the privilege of breaking down every week this season together with you. Because of the work I have done breaking down this show with you each episode, I have been especially enriched by this one and for that I thank you.
This week’s episode is an exponentially different story than the ones before it due to a first time circumstance for Barry and with the narrative compelled to follow this course there were so many options for the creatives, cast and crew to take that getting lost in a muddled and convoluted quagmire was more likely than not and there were few to move the narrative to the final three episodes of the season. Did the gamble pay off or fall short? I broke it down.
So let’s get this monkey smoking…
***************SPOILERS LIKE MAD MAX AT A TEA PARTY*****************
The SYNOPSIS from TVGuide.com
April 26, 2016 airdate
Back to Normal
Griffin Grey, a meta-human with super strength, mistakes Harry for Earth-1 Harrison Wells, kidnaps him and demands that Wells cure him from his current condition. Realizing another brilliant Wells could help track Griffin's location, Barry asks Jesse to help. Meanwhile, Wally corners Joe about The Flash.
What They Didn’t Tell You
Barry isn’t adjusting very well to the loss of his speed. After sacrificing it to save Wally he can’t sleep and is solving police cases with vigorous unrest. He feels like molasses instead of rocket fuel. Meanwhile Vibe has discovered Caitlyn in Zoom’s lair on Earth-2. Joe acknowledges that without Barry’s speed, rescuing Caitlyn is impossible. No amount of consoling from Iris or Barry is working.
While trying to plan their next move they are informed by an irate and alienated Harrison Wells that he has found his daughter Jesse Quick (which name he calls her by the first time directly) and he did this by tracking dead cell phone space. Apparently the frequency difference between Earth-1 and Earth-2 creates a cell phone dead zone. He then states that all of the problems they face rest directly on Barry’s shoulders, refuses his help.
On Earth-2 Hunter Zolomon/Jay Garrick/Zoom professes his love to Caitlyn who is chained to the bed. He tells her she will adjust, frees her and tells her to explore as he races out. Caitlyn meets her doppelganger Killer Frost who convinces her to free her from Zoom’s cell so that she can make a ladder for Caitlyn to escape too. She agrees and when she is out tries to kill Caitlyn just as Zoom races in and kills Frost with her own icicle. She then gets a warning. Do that to the iron masked hostage and he will kill him too.
Wells heads to Keystone City where Jesse has found herself a new life. He is fearful Zoom will return and take her. He tracks her down and she banishes him from her life. On the way home a man steps out in front of the van and smashes it to a wreck. The man removes the door with one hand and reveals an unconscious Wells…who is now his new hostage. When Barry and Team Flash find out they find Jesse who helps analyze the tissue. A plan is hatched to rescue Harry but the assailant proves too strong to be beaten by a powerless Barry and team and Barry is injured in the scuffle while the villain escapes.
Borrowing some dwarf star from Felicity Smoak in Star City Jesse and Cisco alter the Flash suit to absorb one punch from Grey whom they discovered is burning out each time he uses his powers and will age to death very soon. A depowered Flash and his companions head for the amusement park, long abandoned.
While Harry is captured the new super strength meta Griffin Grey reveals why he has taken him hostage and it is revealed that every time he uses his super strength he ages exponential to his strength and he needs Harry to restore him to his barely 18-year-old self. Wells of course cannot and stalls but is caught red-handed by the crafty kid/man.
As Grey is about to kill Wells the team executes their plan. It goes as expected with Grey dying then de-aging. Jesse and Wells patch up their differences and Wells reveals how to get Barry back his speed – by recreating the particle accelerator accident again.
From the first episode it has been restoration that propels the heart of season 2. While linear devices like foreshadowing, time travel and alternate worlds move us through the exciting timeline, it is the thematic undertone of The Flash that makes us care, makes us hope and warms our hearts when the events of the narrative are at their direst. In season 2 we have seen that the primary theme of restoring what was stolen (often through running parallel thematic relations in forgiveness and reconciliation) by The Reverse Flash in season one.
Last week we discussed the necessary exploration of the loss of Barry’s speed to continue building the hero is destined to become from the inside out. Instead of taking an hour to demonstrate how painful and sad this is for Barry (like an entire issue of a comic used to in this often used “hero with no power trope) the CW team headed in with their usual fearlessness and didn’t dawdle about it. They instead focused on the strength of Barry, the inability to stand by and do nothing. When they did this, they created an addition by subtraction effect across all the characters in the usual parallel narratives. What is more they continued the theme of restoration by giving something to everyone else at the same time Barry was earning his new confidence and learning to grieve for his power loss. Iris found the last reason she needed to tell Barry her feelings, Joe earned the last bit of Wally’s trust and Caitlyn found her inner strength and her identity as the opposite of her doppelganger cemented. Harrison and Jesse restored their relationship with honesty and a real commitment to change in the case of Harry. There was liberating freedom in an episode where the only super speed on display was that of the villain. Missing from the narrative so conspicuously is the Velocity -9.
Back to Normal is the breath of pause in the midst of the most unreasonable chaos. While taking the time to give the narrative space the creative team filled it with poignant plot points and thematic tying of loose ends. The Flash continues to exceed expectations with each episode and the biggest remaining mystery is who is in the Iron Mask. With three episodes to go and the last of them directed by Flash fanboy and Mallrat Kevin Smith. I await eagerly this finale – and dread it.
Tell the monkey to crush his butt…