The Flash‘s mid-season premiere offers its most dramatic revelations yet as the surprises stack up to a stunning cliffhanger.
Let’s bitch it out…
The return of Mark Mardon (Liam McIntyre) – aka Weather Wizard – is a nice callback to the pilot in an episode that brings a number of percolating story lines to fruition. As a standard case of the week, the narrative is a bit undercooked: the older brother seeking revenge for his younger brother’s death is overly familiar and Joe’s (Jesse L. Martin) lone gunman act feels tired the moment it begins, especially considering he knows how dangerous the Mardon brothers and the metahumans are. I simply don’t buy that Joe would be so brash and willing to sacrifice himself, especially when he’s got Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) in his corner. It feels more like a dramatic contrivance orchestrated by the writers to engineer the cliffhanger.
The simple truth of ‘Out Of Time’ is that the case of the week is a mere vehicle to drive the bigger picture. The real meat of the story is twofold: 1) Iris (Candice Patton) and Barry address their romantic interest in each other and he reveals his secret identity (at last!) and 2) the truth about Dr. Wells’ (Tom Cavanagh) own secret identity is revealed and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is murdered as a result. Let’s break each one down separately:
1) There are several different instances designed to put Barry and Iris’ palpable chemistry <mild sarcasm> on display so that The Flash can prep the big dramatic revelations later. The bowling double date is one of those awkward situations that exists to make everyone uncomfortable by how unaware the pair are. These’s a casual intimacy in the way that Iris wipes sauce off Barry’s face and the way they celebrate each other’s skills that both Eddie (Rick Cosnett) and Linda (Malese Jow) immediately recognize. It’s refreshing to see both disgruntled partners raise the body language and actions as a red flag. What’s most surprising is how quickly and easily Barry opts to reveal his alter-ego when Mardon’s tsunami threatens everything. It makes sense that his rational mind would weigh the cost/benefits of simply coming clean in the face of such a dire threat (and Iris’ unwillingness to bugger off in the face of certain death), but I’ll still admit that I was shocked when it happens.
2) Of course, this all pales in comparison to the biggest moment, which is Wells’ reveal of his true identity to Cisco (and Danielle Panabaker’s Caitlin in some capacity since she’s left staring at his empty wheelchair in the coffee shop). After hearing one too many suspicious rumours about Wells, Cisco acts on his nagging suspicions about the failure of the trap laid for the man in the yellow suit. Lo and behold – in true super villain fashion – Wells appears, explains part of his predicament and motivation for murdering Barry’s mother and then murders his young protege with a heartfelt apology.
The scene is exceptionally well-executed and highly emotional. While we still don’t know that much about Cisco (his off-hand comments about family made me realize we rarely see him outside of Star labs and never off the job), Valdes has done exceptional work making us care about the young genius. Seeing the tears stream down his face as he realizes his mentor has betrayed him and that he is about to die is extremely upsetting and really ups the dramatic stakes teased by the final cliffhanger.
Whether or not either of these major dramatic moments are preventable is the real question posed by the final scene. In an effort to eliminate Mardon’s tsunami, Barry does what he always does: run really, really fast. In this case, however, he runs so fast that he actually runs back in time. We’ve been primed for this moment since his brief glimpse of himself earlier in the episode en route to the coroner’s death scene and Wells’ explanation of speed echoes provides further foreshadowing. Despite the episode’s sudden end, there’s a note of hopefulness embodied in Barry’s predicament. His awareness of what will happen should allow him to rescue Joe and stop Mardon before the tsunami. Whether or not this removes the necessity to tell Iris the truth is uncertain, as is preventing Cisco’s death (since Barry interrupted Caitlin’s call about Wells, he is unaware anything was amiss). We’ll just have to watch and see what happens next…
- Some of the weather-related special effects don’t look very good (echoes of the pilot, I guess), but the lightning and the tsnuami are both surprisingly well done. The sequence when Joe and Barry suddenly realize Mardon is controlling the weather above their car and nearly kills them in a lightning explosion is well done.
- Poor Captain Singh (Patrick Sabongui) could also benefit from a do-over. The show’s sole queer character takes one for the team when he takes a lightning bolt intended for Joe in the precinct. The introduction of his (much younger) fiancé, Rob (Jeremy Schuetze) is a bit strange: should we praise the casual nature with which gay marriage is included or chafe at its awkward insertion? I mean, we literally know nothing about Singh except that he’s gay. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually knew something about him before we’re asked to feel something about the fact that he’s potentially paralyzed?
- It’s good that Caitlin is super smart because she will never be a spy with those covert skills. Checking your watch while delaying your boss over a supposedly innocuous coffee is not going to convince anyone you’re not up to shady business.
- Caitlin (after hearing the name for Cisco’s grounding mechanism is the Wizard’s Wand): “Subtle.”
- Barry (when Iris dismissively refers to Linda): “Like how you always said Becky Cooper in high school.”
Your turn: do you think Barry can undo the damage now that he’s gone back in time? Were you surprised that he just comes out and reveals his Flash outfit to Iris? How did you feel about Wells’ revelation and murder of Cisco? Was Joe acting irrationally by going after Madon solo? Sound off below.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8pm EST on The CW