Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Flash Season 2, Episode 21: The Runaway Dinosaur

Despite the title, sadly there are no dinosaurs running amok in this week's episode.

With just two more episodes left in the season, this week's The Flash takes time out from the Zoom storyline (again) to give us a yet another filler episode. They even recycle a villain from Season 1!

The Runaway Dinosaur
is one of those "Afterlife Episodes." You know, one in which the main character dies, finds himself in a void populated by loved ones, learns a valuable lesson and returns to his regularly scheduled life. Think the Tapestry episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which Captain Picard is killed and Q (of all entities) gives him a second chance.


It's a very well acted episode, and as usual Grant Gustin knocks it out of the park. But it treads some very, very worn ground, as Barry once again has to deal with the death of his mother before he can return to the living. I kind of thought we'd dealt with this matter once and for all when he phoned the Earth-2 version of his mom in Welcome To Earth-2.

These days pretty much every genre series on TV features a season-long story arc. Unfortunately most shows can't sustain such a story for the typical twenty two episode season. This results in numerous side quests and filler episodes, as the producers desperately try to pad the season.

Maybe it's time shows started reducing the number of episodes to ten or thirteen. That would eliminate the need for filler, as each episode would actually count, and move the story arc along.

Lastly, the big news this week is that super nerd and filmmaker Kevin Smith directed this episode. But you should go ahead and watch it anyway. ZING! Smith only directed the episode, and had nothing to do with writing it, so it's mercifully free from his usual trademarks.

SPOILERS!


The Plot:
Picking up right where we left off last week, Barry's been disintegrated by Harry's attempt to recharge his powers. The STAR Labs Gang and their various friends and relatives are stunned. Harry finds Jesse lying unconscious on the floor, along with Wally. The two were zapped by Speed Force energy last week when Barry exploded. Henry Allen, who was a doctor before he was a prisoner, examines the two. Wally comes to on his own, but Jesse is in a coma. Henry takes her to the infirmary. Meanwhile Cisco vibes on what's left of the Flash's charred costume, and see's Barry alive, standing in the middle of some sort of energy vortex.

Barry wakes up in his childhood home. He goes downstairs and finds the living room is surrounded by police tape. He sees Joe there, examining evidence. He soon realizes it's not really Joe, but a personification of the Speed Force. It says it's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together. Whoops! Wrong franchise! It says it's a force that predated the universe (that's quite a trick!) and will exist long after. Speed Force Joe says Barry needs to get back to his life, because his friends are in danger from Zoom. But in order to do so, he has to catch something that keeps speeding past the window. Sigh... why can't it just send him back now, without all the philosophical "snatch the pebble from my hand" crap?

In the infirmary, Henry says Jesse's vital signs are fine, and can't figure out why she's in a coma. Iris says the same thing happened to Barry when he first got his powers. Eh? Get it? Jesse's going to be yet another speedster on the show.

Cisco and Iris head down to the STAR Labs morgue (!) to look for records of how Earth-1 Wells treated Barry when he fell into a coma. They hear a noise, and see the late Tony Woodward, aka Girder, staggering around. Apparently his body was being kept in the morgue (?) and the particle accelerator energy resurrected him, resulting in Zombie Girder. Sure, why not? He chases after them until Iris shines a light in his eyes. He then staggers out of the building and into the night.

Meanwhile back in the Speed Force, Barry exits his old house and wanders around the neighborhood. He meets Speed Force Iris, who tells him he was given a rare and precious gift, and he rejected it. When Barry asks why the Speed Force gave him his powers in the first place, it replies "Because you're the Flash!" He begs her to help him get back to the real world. She say she can go any time, but if he does it'll be without his powers. Man, speaking in riddles, denying him his powers... sounds like the Speed Force is kind of a dick.

In the real world, Zombie Girder vandalizes a Hummer, then trashes Jitters. Iris deduces that Girder's looking for her, as he had a crush on her when he was alive. She and Joe leave to find Zombie Girder and try and lure him back to STAR Labs.

Barry sees a Speed Force version of his father Henry next, standing in a cemetery. Apparently Barry never visited his mother's grave in the real world. Speed Force Henry says Barry's never accepted losing his mother, and can't regain his powers until he's at peace with her death. The shadowy shape zips by yet again.

Iris and Joe believe Zombie Girder will strike their house next. They wait inside, and sure enough, a bit later they see him coming down the street. Iris jogs back to STAR Labs (!), luring him along. Joe asks Wally how he's feeling, thinking he's turned into a speedster. He purposely drops a coffee mug to see if Wally will grab it in midair, but it crashes to the floor. Apparently Wally's not a speedster yet.

Iris manages to coax Zombie Girder back to STAR Labs. Cisco sets up a magnetic field to trap Girder when he enters the Breach Room. Unfortunately it doesn't work, and everyone gets trapped in the room along with the shambling, metallic zombie.

Barry goes back to his childhood home and sees the Speed Force version of Nora Allen, his mom. He asks her why the Speed Force is torturing him. Speed Force Nora says he has to find a way to accept his mother's death. She says performing heroic deeds as the Flash is awesome, but bad things will still happen in the world, and he has to accept that. Speed Force Nora says she's proud of what Barry's become. She then reads his favorite childhood book (The Runaway Dinosaur, natch) to him. She asks if he's ready, and he says yes. He gets up and manages to catch the shadowy shape that's been zipping around him. To no one's surprise it turns out to be himself. None of this makes the least bit of sense, but let's just go with it, or we'll be here all day.

Harry boosts Cisco's vibe power so he can see Barry in the Speed Force. Cisco asks what happens if he sees Barry and he doesn't want to come back? Iris says to let her help, and she grabs Cisco's hand so they can vibe together. They appear in the living room of the Speed Force house. Iris asks Barry to come home. Barry looks at Speed Force Nora, who says, "Run, Barry, run!"

Barry grabs Iris' hand, and she pulls him from the Speed Force. The celebration is short-lived though, as Cisco fills Barry in on why Zombie Girder's in the room and trying to kill them. Barry runs around Girder at super speed, using his lightning to short him out or something. That was easy!

Barry visits Jesse, who's still in a coma in the infirmary. He touches her hand, and a tiny arc of lightning jumps from his finger to hers. She immediately wakes up. Yep, she's now a speedster.


Henry tells Barry he's decided to leave his Evil Dead cabin and stay in Central City. Uh-oh. I do believe Henry just acquired a target on his back.

Barry finally visits his mom's grave for real. Iris is there as well, and he tells her that she's his everything or something, and he'll always come running when she calls.

Back at the Central City Police Department, Zoom is apparently still holding poor Caitlin hostage. He tells her she can leave if she wants, but if she does, he'll kill all her friends. He then gives a rousing speech to a room full of presumably Earth-2 supervillains, urging them to help him destroy humanity.

Thoughts:

• Last week Wally and Jesse were both hit with Speed Force energy when Barry exploded. I assumed this was an attempt at giving us a two for one origin story, and this week would reveal they'd been transformed into Kid Flash and Jesse Quick, respectively.

Or not, I guess. It looks like something's going on with Jesse, as she fell into a brief and unexplained coma, but Wally seems unaffected by the ordeal. So were the writers just toying with us, or will Wally eventually develop powers as well? We know it's going to happen sooner or later, so they might as well get on with it.


• Apparently STAR Labs has its own morgue. Do I even have to bring up the fact that that's probably highly illegal? Like pretty much everything they do there?

• Girder first appeared in the Season 1 episode The Flash Is Born. He was killed by Blackout one episode later, in Power Outage.


• Since this episode was directed by Kevin Smith, it's state law that it must feature a cameo by his bestie Jason Mewes. He appears as the douchey owner of one of the last Humvees on Earth (they were discontinued in 2010).

• Speaking of Hummers, the producers have good memories. In The Flash Is Born, Tony Woodward, aka Girder, stole a bright yellow Humvee. Even in death he still has a thing for discontinued behemoths that get horrible gas mileage.

• This is some hardcore nitpicking, but whatever. Barry wakes up a recreation of his childhood home, immediately after his mother's murder in 2000. He meets Speed Force Joe, who's snooping around the house, apparently investigating the murder.

Since this is the 2000 version of Joe, shouldn't he look sixteen years younger? Or did the Speed Force use Current Joe as a template, so as not to confuse Barry?


• I'm assuming Barry's The Runaway Dinosaur book doesn't really exist and was made up for the show. It's written by someone named Helbing. In order to fulfill this week's quota of Easter eggs, Aaron and Todd Helbing are executive producers on The Flash.

• At the end of the episode, Zoom gives a speech to his metahuman army, saying, "The humans think they own this world." So... Zoom isn't human? I guess metahuman is a separate species now?

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