[This is a review of The Flash Season 1, Episode 6 – There Will Be SPOILERS!!]
Having found a solid formula and tone just a few weeks into its inaugural season, The Flash offers yet another weekly dose of superpowered action and light-hearted drama, before the two hour Flash/Arrow crossover event brings a more serious tone to Central City. The stakes may be lower this week, but a small amount of action is bolstered by some surprising story lines from the supporting cast.
In “The Flash is Born”, written by Jaime Paglia (A Town Called Eureka) and Chris Rafferty, the emergence of yet another villainous metahuman – Barry’s childhood bully Tony Woodward (Greg Finley) – forces Barry (Grant Gustin) to push his powers to their breaking point when Iris (Candice Patton) is put in danger. Elsewhere, Barry and Eddie (Rick Cosnett) find common ground of their own, while Joe (Jesse L. Martin) turns to Dr. Wells (Tom Cavanagh) to solve Nora Allen’s murder.
After tangling with Captain Cold, the U.S. military and a human bomb, it’s safe to say that the stakes in this week’s episode have never been lower. In truth, a majority of the tension and impact of Tony Woodward’s brief crime spree is due to his bullying of Barry when both were children. With that bond established, it’s Barry’s desire to finally turn the tables on his former tormentor that drives the action.
It’s a relatively thin justification, but Woodward’s interest in bullying Iris and the world in general is certainly confined to the background, giving way to the real challenge of the episode: Barry’s need to once again press his limits.
Again, this ultimately means a need for Barry to run extremely fast, with the showrunners relying on Gustin’s underdog demeanor and Barry’s personal sense of accomplishment to give the events further weight. And, as usual, it continues to deliver. Though “The Flash is Born” contains very little of ‘the streak’ in action, Barry’s final attack on Tony will nevertheless be another memorable moment for fans.
Where prior episodes of The Flash may have reminded Smallville fans of another hero’s rise to greatness, this installment is sure to deliver deja vu, as Barry must head back to his high school to save the woman he loves from a super-strong bully. Woodward may not be the most memorable villain among the show’s early antagonists (whose own powers resemble – but pale in comparison to – a recent Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. foe), so it’s a relief the writers invested in new subplots as well.
Though the relationship between Barry and Iris is set back on track by the episode’s close, it’s the utter lack of a love triangle that remains one of the show’s more refreshing features. In fact, Eddie Thawne is seeming more and more a gentleman; he’s again shown to be not just a good cop, seeking Barry’s insight into metahuman happenings, but a good man, taking the first steps towards a friendship with Iris’ adopted brother (at the expense of his own image).
It was assumed that Barry would seek fighting tips from Oliver Queen, but fitting Eddie into the role works surprisingly well. Add in a tense subplot between Joe and Dr. Wells to boot, and it’s abundantly clear that the writers know just what cast they have at their disposal. Leaving ‘secondary’ characters to support their own story can lead to trouble, but in The Flash‘s early days, it seems to be one of the show’s most prominent strengths.
The emphasis on ensemble storytelling is clearly looking to make The Flash a more subtle serial (at this point, a ‘Joe-heavy’ episode would seem hardly worth labelling), punctuated by Barry breaking another physical barrier alongside an emotional one. With a demon exorcised and his official moniker in place, ‘The Flash’s march to a full-fledged superhero isn’t showing any sign of slowing.
The Flash returns next Tuesday with “Power Outage” @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview of next week’s episode below:
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for updates on The Flash as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.