[WARNING: This article contains spoilers for The Flash Season 2, Episode 4]
As The Flash' continues to plow through its sophomore season on The CW, the writers seem determined to prove that no matter the genre, no matter the story, and no matter the legwork being done for the network's shared universe, they can churn out a solid hour of superhero action like clockwork. This week, that means introducing the new form of Firestorm prior to his Legends of Tomorrow team-up... along with an appearance from another fan-favorite supervillain.
In "The Fury of Firestorm", written by Kai Yu Wu and Joe Peracchio, the S.T.A.R. Labs team is on the clock to find a new partner for Professor Stein (Victor Garber) before he melts down. The top candidates both prove to be powerful metahumans, but wind up reminding everyone that looks can be deceiving. Meanwhile, Iris (Candice Patton) uncovers a secret about her estranged mother, and Barry (Grant Gustin) has a surprise run-in with another Earth-2 Rogue.
A New Firestorm
As was the case with nearly all Firestorm-focused episode before it, it's hard to overlook the prep work being handled for the network as a whole (if fans had yet to realize that Firestorm was bound for another CW series, things might be different). Even so, the need to find a suitable replacement for Ronnie Raymond is a story tailored to the S.T.A.R. Labs team, even if it isn't particularly groundbreaking for the show.
Once again, Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) shows she isn't the best judge of character when it comes to science-minded geniuses, overlooking the fact that the well-meaning, down-on-his-luck Jefferson "Jax" Jackson (Franz Drameh) is the perfect counterpart to Martin Stein. She learns that lesson in the end, though, in a motivational scene in which Caitlin actually gets to come across as more human than ever.
It would have been easy to define her reservations as a case of Jax "just not being Ronnie," but the writers found an extra level, playing into the classic idea of a common man being given the tools for great heroism. Even so, Jax has yet to show what makes his character truly special in this larger cast, meaning the Firestorm special effects (seen here in top form) are more likely to steal the spotlight. Which, all things considered, still gets the job done.
In a story thread that remains completely divorced from anything else happening in the show - not necessarily a problem - Iris agrees to meet her long lost mother (guest star Vanessa Williams), with predictably awkward results. Although nothing much happens in their actual interactions, the subplot continues to be carried off by both Patton and Jesse L. Martin, showing just how far a believable father/daughter dynamic can go (and giving Iris a role in the story that is truly hers).
The real bombshell dropped isn't that Francine West is dying, but that she delivered a second child not long after she first left town when Iris was still a child. Comic fans (and Flash viewers keeping up to date on casting) know that the child in question is almost certainly Wally West, the DC Comics sidekick-turned-hero beginning his career as Kid Flash (set to be played by Keiynan Lonsdale). How this version will differ remains to be seen, but the casting means that Wally(?) will be making his presence known soon enough. We're still not sure where this subplot is headed, but the honest performances are keeping us on board for the time being.
An Ending With Teeth
The episode wasn't totally filled by Firestorm, Tokamak, or even Francine West's secrets, however. A clip released prior to the episode airing promised that the writers were ready to tease the arrival of DC Comics supervillain King Shark (or "Man-Shark" to the lay person). After abandoning the plot thread (once some top-notch flirting between Barry and Patty Spivot was out of the way), the surprise arrival of the walking shark no doubt sent every DC fan into hysterics.
His appearance was a brief one, confirming that he, too, was one of Zoom's minions lampooned on Earth-1 until they killed Barry Allen. What the scene did accomplish was a final reveal of Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) to the main players. Viewers will need to wait one more episode to hear his explanation for arriving on Earth-1, and stealing a Mercury Labs weapon capable of dropping King Shark, but his actions alone seem to erase any idea that he brings evil with him.
Unless it's well-hidden. That's kind of his thing, after all.
Besides scratching the itch of every comic fan hoping the rumors of King Shark's appearance in the big screen Suicide Squad, The Flash made yet another measurable step forward in The CW's larger superhero universe, and hopefully, in its own 'Multiverse' mystery. It wasn't without some rough edges or on-the-nose lines, but The Flash continues to show it's one of, if not the most reliable comic book TV show on the air.
The Flash returns next Tuesday @8pm with "The Darkness and The Light". Check out a preview of the episode below: