Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Flash Season 1, Episode 14: Fallout

With this episode The Flash has now become my new favorite TV show, edging out even Doctor Who. It's not perfect, but it's a lot of fun, and you can tell the people making it love the character in particular and comics in general. I desperately wish the people in charge of DC's TV shows were in charge of their movies as well.

The Flash's weird obsession with Firestorm finally pays off here, as we at long last we get to see him in full, white-eyed superhero glory. I still think it'd been better if we were introduced to these two characters in the first episode, but whaddya gonna do? 

If I didn't know better I'd say this was a backdoor pilot for a Firestorm series, but I haven't heard any chatter about such a thing on the interwebs. Maybe next year? I'd definitely watch a Firestorm show if it was as good as this one.

And Gorilla Grodd! GORILLA FREAKIN' GRODD! I can't believe I'm watching GORILLA JET SKIING GRODD on TV! I'm not ashamed to admit I squeed like a little girl when he appeared.


The Plot:
Picking up where we left off last week, Firestorm separates into Ronnie Raymond and Professor Stein, setting off a huge, but oddly radiation-free, nuclear explosion. Barry and Caitlin find Ronnie and Stein at ground zero and take them back to STAR Labs for testing. General Eiling arrives a bit later and examines the crater, finding two distinct "body prints" in the ground and realizing Firestorm's been there.

Caitlin is ecstatic to have her dead fiancé back, and Professor Stein is reunited with his wife (cue the emotional violins). Ronnie and Stein don't seem too thrilled with one another though. Probably because the Professor controlled Ronnie's body for a year, suppressing his mind and choosing to live like a hobo.

Joe takes Barry to his old house to see the holographic crime scene that Cisco cooked up last week. He shows Barry the image of two distinct speedsters flying around the room, and says one of them is him— not as a child, but as an adult. Barry realizes this means that at some point in the future he'll travel to the past and try to prevent his mother's murder— and fail. He goes into a funk over this for a while, until he realizes that with this knowledge he can now possibly change time and save his mother.

Iris' snarky co-worker Mason Bridge tells her he thinks the STAR Labs particle accelerator explosion, which has been driving the plot all season, wasn't an accident. He talks Iris into investigating STAR Labs.

General Eiling tries to capture Ronnie to experiment on him, but Barry's able to rescue him. Eiling then visits Dr. Wells, revealing that he knows Barry's the Flash (who doesn't at this point?). He threatens to harm Barry unless Wells helps him capture Firestorm. Dr. Wells invites Professor Stein over for a drugged nightcap, and hands him over to Eiling.

Eiling then tortures Stein, trying to discover the secret of Firestorm. Ronnie can feel Stein's pain, and carves the message "WHERE" into his own arm. The crude message then appears on Stein's own arm, and he taps out a less painful Morse code message to Ronnie— he's at the old abandoned Military Base #27.

Barry zooms over (carrying Ronnie) and rescues Stein just as Eiling was about to put a bullet in his head. Eiling lobs a phosphorus bomb and Barry, which begins eating into his suit. Barry's then preoccupied with running fast enough to create a vacuum in order to put out his chemical fire. Ronnie and Stein have no choice but to merge to save themselves, finally becoming the Firestorm of the comics. They make quick work of Eiling's soldiers and head back to STAR Labs with Barry.

Ronnie and Stein, who can now safely merge and separate without all that pesky atomic explosion business, tell their loved ones that they're going to lay low in Pittsburgh for a while until things blow over. 

In the greatest tag scene ever, General Eiling is kidnapped from his headquarters at super speed. He's deposited in a sewer, as the Reverse Flash stands before him. He removes his mask, revealing himself once and for all to be Dr. Wells. We hear a roar in the distance, as Eiling wets himself and says, "My god!" He then telepathically "hears" a terrifying voice in his head say, "Not god. GRODD!" Gorilla Grodd then appears and drags Eiling into the depths of the sewer, sending shockwaves of awe and joy throughout nerddom.

• What exactly does the Quantum Splicer do? Last week Dr. Wells said Firestorm was in danger of separating, which would be a bad explody thing, and cobbled together the Splicer to stabilize his atoms. "Splice" means "to combine," right?

It must not have worked, because Firestorm separated in a big flashy explosion anyway. In this episode Cisco gives the splicer back to Ronnie, saying it may help. But Ronnie and Stein seem perfectly able to merge and split now with no trouble. So what exactly does the Quantum Splicer do again? Other than stick to Ronnie's chest, light up and look cool?

• So how come the first time Ronnie and Stein split there's a huge but conveniently radiation-free nuclear explosion, but not in any of their subsequent separations? Is it really because, as Dr. Wells suggested, they decided to "accept" their merging and splitting ability? That seems like a pretty thin explanation.

• Barry speeds away from the nuclear explosion with Caitlin, but isn't fast enough and it overtakes them. Cisco is back in STAR Labs monitoring things, and says the Geiger Counters (plural!) in Barry's suit indicate there's no radiation (implying Ronnie and Stein absorbed it all?).

Um... why would Cisco install Geiger Counters in the Flash suit? What else is in there? Wifi? Built-in AC? Utility Belt? Adamantium claws?

• When Firestorm separates for the first time, Professor Stein is miraculously wearing his glasses. I guess it makes a certain amount of sense, since he's wearing the same clothes he was before he merged, but for some reason still having the glasses on struck me as funny.

• Back at STAR Labs, Caitlin runs tests on Ronnie and Stein and finds they both have a body temperature of 106º (presumably from all the radiation they just absorbed?). Stein brushes this off, saying, "It's hardly a sweat, my dear."

Not quite, Professor. Any temperature higher than 105º is serious business, and can cause brain damage in humans!

• Joe takes Barry back to his childhood home and shows him the holographic murder scene light show Cisco set up last week.

Why the hell does Joe have a key to this house, when it now belongs to Sherry, the horny cougar we met in the previous episode? Now that I think of it, she was hitting on Joe pretty hard last week. Is there something he'd like to tell us? 

And speaking of Sherry, where is she all during this episode? Does she really not mind that Cisco left all this high tech equipment sitting in the middle of her dining room? Is she cool with Joe barging in at all hours with guests whenever he feels like it?

• Barry asks Professor Stein if time travel is possible. He says traveling to the future is definitely possible. Well technically we're all doing that, Professor Stein.

• General Eiling attacks Barry with some kind of high tech quills that are attracted to "kinetic energy." Later back at STAR Labs, Dr. Wells tells Caitlin to hurry and remove the quills, because Barry's souped-up metabolism is causing his skin to heal around them. 

If that's true, why is she the only one pulling them out, while everyone else stands around wringing their hands and watching?

• Professor Stein tells the STAR Labs Gang, "I'm still inside Ronald." Cisco says, "There's gotta be a better way to phrase that." HAW!

• Barry's getting very sloppy with the whole secret identity thing. He zooms off at super speed in full view of Mrs. Stein, just to bring the Professor a pizzaMrs. Stein has already seen her husband merge with a young man, burst into flame and fly off into the sky though, so it's probably a moot point. Still...

On the other hand, due to his carelessness, General Eiling knows he's the Flash, which ain't good, as we see later in the episode.

• Up until their separation, Stein was in full control of Ronnie's body when they were merged. Once they join a second time, Ronnie's in charge of his body, and Stein's just a passenger along for the ride. Why the change? Because they accepted their merger this time?

• A few things about TV Firestorm:

Ronnie and Stein don't seem very fond of one another after they first separate. They were much friendlier in the comics (at least in the issues I read).

The two of them share a psychic and physical link, even when separated.

Ronnie controls the Firestorm body, while Stein is just a voice in his head, shouting out wisdom and warnings. Exactly like in the comics! Woohoo!

I believe this is the first time Firestorm's eyes have been all white when he's merged.

It appears here that Ronnie and Stein need to touch in order to merge. In the comic either one could initiate the merge no matter how far apart they were. I'm assuming they did this in the comic because they realized it would be impossible for them to touch every time they needed to merge. Whether the show follows suit, we'll have to wait and see.

The only thing missing so far is Firestorm's transmutational ability. I'm betting that'll come eventually.

• After a threatening visit from Eiling, Dr. Wells drugs Professor Stein and hands him over to the military. General Eiling then begins torturing Stein, trying to find the secret of Firestorm.

Eiling has a pretty unusual method of torture. He actually stops in the middle of Stein's interrogation to give him a rest period! That was certainly considerate of him!

• When Stein's being tortured, Ronnie can feel his pain. He then gets the bright idea to carve a message into his arm to communicate with Stein. Yikes!

For their sake I hope they figure out a better way to communicate in the future, other than Skin-O-Grams.

• After Stein's rescued, why the hell doesn't he tell Ronnie or Barry or anyone else that Wells drugged him and handed him over to Eiling? Does he not remember? Does he think he just happened to pass out after Wells offered him a drink? Or is he saving this revelation for a more opportune time? This is a pretty major blunder in an otherwise awesome episode.

• Iris has basically now become Lois Lane, as she sets her investigative sights on STAR Labs. It's no secret that she's my least favorite character on the show, mainly because the writers seem to have no idea what to do with her. Setting her up as kind of an adversary for the Flash is actually a pretty good idea, and gives her a new purpose– make that A purpose– on the show.

• Iris' editor tells her he thinks the particle accelerator explosion wasn't an accident. Did Dr. Wells deliberately explode it to create the Flash? 

• Iris has a chance meeting with Caitlin and Ronnie. Feeling she can't very well say Ronnie is her formerly dead fiancé, Caitlin says he's her cousin Sam, who's visiting from Coast City. 

Coast City was the home town of Green Lantern. Later she goofs and says he's from Midway City, which was the home of Hawkman and the Doom Patrol. DC Geography!

• General Eiling uses a phosphorus bomb to incapacitate the Flash. As the phosphorus begins burning through his suit, Dr. Wells suggests Barry start running fast enough to create a vacuum, which will put out the chemical fire.

I guess in all the excitement no one, including Barry, thought to simply take off his costume.

• Near the end of the episode, Ronnie and Stein decide to hide out in Pittsburgh for a while, until it's safe to return to Central City. In the comic book, Firestorm was based in Pittsburgh! Well done, Flash writers!

Living in Pittsburgh was significant, because most cities in the DC Comic Universe are fictional, like Metropolis and Gotham City.

• The Reverse Flash captures Eiling and takes him down into the sewers. He then removes his mask and reveals his true identity to Eiling. I'm pretty sure this is the first time we've seen Wells unmasked while in costume.

I'm still trying to figure out why the Reverse Flash has veins molded into his costume. Who designed it, Joel Schumacher?

I'm assuming now that Eiling's revealed he knows the Flash's true identity, Wells is eliminating him in order to protect Barry?

I wouldn't count Eiling out just yet though. This is a comic book world after all, and people die and get better all the time. Besides, Clancy Brown's too good of an actor to not have back.

• What an awesome tag scene! I still can't believe I live in a world where I can watch a live action Gorilla F-ing Grodd on my TV screen.

Right before Eiling's attacked by Grodd, it appears that he's hearing his voice inside his head. So I'm betting Grodd's going to speak telepathically. Did they do that because they thought a talking ape would look silly, or to save money on lip-synching? 

• This is the last new episode until March 17. Thanks a lot, Sweeps Month. Just show the goddamned episodes already and quit worrying about the woefully inaccurate ratings!

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