[WARNING: this article contains spoilers for The Flash Season 1, Episode 14.]
There are few entertainment landscapes as harsh as that of the TV Pilot; some make it to air, some make it to fans, and others never see the light of day. Few are able to avoid the gauntlet, but with the success of Arrow, the producers and network tried a more subtle approach: use one DC Comics superhero adapted to television to help launch another. And so it was that the success of Green Arrow helped bring The Flash to life.
Fans have hotly discussed the possibilities once two new superheroes-in-the-making were added this season – Brandon Routh‘s Ray Palmer and Robbie Amell‘s Ronnie Raymond – as The CW looked to expand its shared universe (and a Firestorm series our early favorite). Even so, Episode 14 of The Flash took us by surprise, feeling much, much more like a backdoor Firestorm pilot than even Barry Allen’s introduction into Starling City ever did.
Some may have enjoyed the episode as just another dose of metahuman/science fiction, but when spinoffs are not being teased, but outright confirmed, the amount of time and energy put into establishing the strengths of a Firestorm series can’t be ignored. Some might doubt the character’s staying power, but allow us to lay out the reasons we’re already giving The CW the benefit of the doubt – and awaiting more hints that Firestorm will be the next CW spinoff.
Considering how rarely superheroes are adapted to live-action (or were, before The Flash‘s debut), it was encouraging to hear that Robbie Amell, previous star of The Tomorrow People had joined the cast as Ronnie Raymond – the man who might one day become ‘Firestorm The Nuclear Man.’ With executive producer Greg Berlanti’s past work on Tomorrow People, Amell was just the first cast member to find a new role in the Arrow/Flash universe.
We had minor suspicions at the time that Amell’s casting could hint at a larger role down the road, having previously starred in the comic book-y CW drama. But those suspicions skyrocketed when producers Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim called on their Eli Stone alum Victor Garber to play Firestorm’s other half, Professor Martin Stein. Amell’s time in the spotlight may have been short-lived, but Garber’s involvement seemed far too substantial for a minor role.
With decades of film and TV under his belt – from Alias and Damages to Argo and Titanic – and with an open schedule, we felt his veteran experience paired with Amell’s broad appeal and their combined fanbase could have the makings of a solo series. When appearing in flashback, Amell showed that his cousin (and Arrow) star Stephen Amell wasn’t the reason he had nabbed the part, but the show’s most recent episode allowed the actor to cast off his Garber impersonation, separating ‘Firestorm’ into its component parts/actors.
The result largely confirmed both sides of the equation: Amell is at least as capable of holding the spotlight as his Arrow kin, while Garber managed to play both an authority figure, a pizza-loving mentor, and a man as thrilled at the possibilities of time travel and crime-fighting as the audience.
If The Flash has proven anything, it’s that a charming cast with abundant chemistry is half the challenge of launching a modern comic series. With Amell’s current turn in The Duff proving that, in the words of our own Ben Kendrick, “the up-and-coming actor is more than just a TV heartthrob,” both he and Garber have taken to their respective roles noticeably quickly. Their starring episode – titled “Fallout” – will surely have fans wishing to see more of ‘Ronald’ and the Professor sooner, rather than later.
With each new superhero comes a unique mythology, and Firestorm – or rather, F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. – is no exception. But in a truly devious turn, the writers of The Flash decided to deliver the sci-fi substance in a slow trickle over the course of The Flash‘s debut season. First came Ronnie’s ‘death’ after being vaporized in the particle accelerator meltdown, giving Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) her emotional arc for the first half of the season. But when a dishevelled, schizophrenic, fire-wielding Ronnie returned, fans’ curiosity was piqued.
With a single uttered word – “Firestorm” – both Caitlin and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) set out to uncover the mysterious project, essentially feeding viewers an explanation for Ronnie’s – and Martin Stein’s – fate. To guarantee that everyone understood the central conceit of the science behind ‘The Firestorm Matrix,’ it was offered in layman’s terms by Pied Piper: the two men had become one.
The core premise that two humans could combine into one (and remain permanently in sync mentally and physiologically as a result) isn’t too far out of The Flash‘s usual fiction, but the S.T.A.R. Labs team made sure to walk viewers through the science from day one. As a ‘walking nuclear bomb,’ two minds and bodies occupying the same space can not remain stable – not without a handy Splicer (and well-designed hint of a superhero uniform in-the-making).
Initially used to separate the two men, “Fallout” showed that the Splicer was the key to both men’s survival. Establishing the bond that links these two men forever, it is the Firestorm Matrix (apparently contained within their bloodstream) that draws them back to their union. Made possible without a catastrophic explosion by the Splicer, both men accepting their fate results in balance, the combined intelligence of both, and powers of fire. But fire is just the beginning.
The writers also made sure to plant seeds for the true potential of Firestorm, describing Professor Stein as an expert in transmutation a.k.a. the science of ‘making one substance into another.’ And perhaps most suspiciously, fails to explain just what the device was that Martin Stein was holding when the merge occurred.
The episode concludes by sending the duo to Pittsburgh (where both resided in comic canon) to learn more about their powers – powers that, if faithful to the source material, extend to all matter. That means not only blasts of energy and the gift of flight, but the ability to tear matter down to a molecular level and rebuild it.
It’s easy to see why a hero with control over elements and matter is a unique creature, and with audiences already well-versed in the science beneath it, even a return appearance wouldn’t be enough to capitalize on the potential – only a solo series could hope to. One forever bonded to The Flash in the CW universe, as the Firestorm insignia emblazoned on Ronnie’s chest is the same symbol used for the particle accelerator that forged the two men into one.
NEXT PAGE: Why Firestorm Would Make a Great TV Series
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