At least the Streak is finally retired. While this week’s episode suggests the possibility of the Flash going public, the show isn’t quite ready to make that leap yet. In its final moments, however, it does lay to rest the nickname better suited to the world’s first nude superhero in favor of the one that’s the actual title of the show. And for once, it’s not Cisco who comes up with the name, but Barry himself, suggesting it to Iris as the new name of her blog. While it’s a relief to get the name change over with, it’s not exactly an earth-shattering event, and the episode overall is a letdown and probably the series’ weakest hour to date.
Although it opens and closes with Iris repeating a variation on Barry’s narration from the pilot episode, “The Flash Is Born” does little to alleviate the show’s growing Iris problem. Her continued blogging about Central City’s hero even after repeated demonstrations that she’s putting herself in danger may be admirable from a journalistic perspective, but it lends itself all too easily to “damsel in distress” scenarios as we saw this week. Tony Woodward, a bully from Barry’s grade school days, resurfaces as Girder, a man who can turn himself to metal. Based on a relatively recent addition to the Flash’s comic book rogues gallery (and created by co-producer Geoff Johns), Woodward is another metahuman product of the particle accelerator explosion. A laid-off steelworker who fell into a vat of molten scrap during the dark matter storm, Woodward is now a literal “man of steel,” as Wells quips.
This new villain is put in service of a rather simplistic pop-psychology lesson as he, Barry, and Iris recreate the dynamics of their elementary school relationships. To Woodward, Barry is still the little kid who was “born to take a beating,” even in his Flash guise. After roughing Barry up a couple of times, Tony tracks Iris down at the coffee shop in order to convince her to stop blogging about the Streak and turn her attention to a real man. Barry must overcome his instinct to react impulsively in order to put Cisco’s ”science-y” plot into motion: accelerating to Mach 1.1 from a distance of 5.3 miles, thus breaking the sound barrier for the first time and generating enough momentum to knock Woodward out.
Barry saves Iris (who at least gets to put the finishing touches on Woodward once he’s reverted to flesh and bone) and has his moment of triumph by revealing his identity to Woodward once he’s safely locked up in the STAR Supermax. (What happens when all the villains inevitably make their escape and start comparing notes? Barry may not have thought this one through.) The whole storyline is more than a little cheesy in the way it plays out, with its “once a bully, always a bully” message, and if the blog is going to be a plot device through which Barry is continually rescuing Iris from one metahuman or another, it should be shut down by Anonymous immediately.
That’s not to say the episode was a complete drag, by any means. The game of cat and mouse between Joe and Wells was easily the highlight of the hour, giving the show’s two best actors a chance to square off. Wells is humanized a bit by his back story about Tess Morgan, although he still comes off as immensely untrustworthy. And Jesse L. Martin continues to be this show’s secret weapon, grounding it in reality no matter how outlandish the sci-fi elements may become. I also enjoyed the awkward bonding between Barry and Eddie, who finally started to resemble a real character this week. That said, I was disappointed that the “separation” between Barry and Iris barely lasted a full hour. If it means I never have to hear her call him the Streak again, however, I’ll consider it a fair tradeoff.
- Your Easter egg of the week: Iris mentions fans of her blog posting about seeing the man on fire who doesn’t burn. Firestorm is out there.
- This week’s stinger has the man in the yellow suit streaking around Joe’s living room, leaving him a threatening message (again, directed at Iris). I sense some misdirection here. Given the proximity of this scene to Joe’s questioning of Wells, the obviously conclusion to jump to is that the evil(?) scientist is the man in yellow (not to be confused with the Man in the Yellow Hat). But since Wells went to such lengths to convince Joe he was on the wrong track, I don’t know why he’d reinforce the notion that the man in yellow exists. And since the episode went a long way toward making Eddie look like a good guy…
- On back-to-back nights, we saw young Bruce Wayne and young Barry Allen being taught how to box by their father figures. Just how closely do these shows coordinate, anyway? Or should we chalk this up to pure coincidence?