[This is a review of The Flash Season 1, Episode 14. There Will Be SPOILERS.]
The minds behind The Flash are holding nothing back, as time travel, a telepathic ape, the hero's arch-nemesis and even another superhero's origin story will all be tackled in the show's debut season. The result proves once more that fortune favors the bold, as The Flash has quickly become one of the most dependable doses of comic book/superhero action on TV - and may have just successfully pitched another series for The CW's Justice League universe.
In "Fallout," written by veteran Arrow scribes Keto Shimizu and Ben Sokolowski, Barry (Grant Gustin) comes to terms with a startling insight into his mother's murder. Elsewhere, Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) and Martin Stein (Victor Garber) return to their individual lives, but slowly realize - with the help of General Wade Eiling (Clancy Brown) - that their fate as Firestorm may be impossible to resist.
Picking up immediately after last week's explosive finale, the cast gets some all-too-rare good news as both Ronnie and Professor Stein are safely separated, and returned to their loved ones. This long-promised moment of celebration is short-lived, however, as Ronnie realizes that during the year suppressed within his own mind and body, his fiancée Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) adopted a heroic cause all her own.
Though Ronnie's role in the film's universe was a small one to this point (and technically still absent in last week's return), he claims the spotlight upon arrival - for reasons which may become clearer in the future. The time committed to developing both Raymond and Stein pays dividends, with the latter providing most of the story's levity. The conclusion of the episode may see Raymond and Stein forging a bond of respect, but the turmoil and scars left by the pair's merging and separation add an unexpected depth to an otherwise crowd-pleasing origin story.
It's difficult, quite frankly, to consider "Fallout" as anything other than an origin story (read: backdoor pilot) for 'Firestorm' (or F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M.). Yet even those comic fans who hope that Firestorm may, in fact, be The CW's next planned spinoff will be surprised by just how successfully the show's creative team demonstrated an unconventional (if somewhat accelerated) proof of concept. The new science, effects and mechanics that make the case for a Firestorm series also offer a welcome change to The Flash - yet remain fertile ground for further exploration - and a worthwhile break from the larger plots and mysteries at play.
We've speculated that the casting of both Robbie Amell and Victor Garber was one indication that a CW spinoff (of which several are currently being discussed) was once more in the works; perhaps looking to repeat Arrow's successful launching of The Flash. "Fallout" has only added to our suspicions, yet the writers' demonstration of the character's potential didn't divert attention from the series around it, instead serving its established structure - the best possible outcome when story is balanced with potential focus-grouping.
The return of Ronnie allowed Caitlin to end her mourning, Barry grew to understand part of the mystery of his mother's murder with help from Professor Stein, and Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) once again showed a darker side. But just as those respective subplots and mysteries were resolved, all new directions were taken: Caitlin's hesitance to replace her new life with her old, Barry's realization that he will fail to save his mother, and Wells' decision to use General Eiling before ending his threat permanently - at the hands of yet another supervillain.
The decision to immediately remove the stable, resolved version of Firestorm from the proceedings is almost too convenient (though Amell promises an incredible return later this season), but the core cast has been given more than enough new material to keep themselves (and fans) occupied. As Barry struggles to win a fight he has already lost, Caitlin is forced to finally make a life instead of regretting the one she lost, Dr. Wells continues his scheming, and viewers continue to ask: Will anything be left to explore in Season 2?
That's a problem for another day. For now, a wealth of fan service is perfectly welcome.
The Flash returns Tuesday, March 17 @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview of the episode below: