The Flash: 106 “The Flash is Born” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
Every superhero needs a codename – but it can often take a pretty long time for screen superheroes to get their comics moniker. Take Arrow for example, where Oliver Queen went by ‘the Hood’ for a whole season before getting a renaming in season two. Aside from a couple of future-seeing lines from Wells, Barry Allen’s only codename so far has been the slightly unflattering ‘the Streak’… until now.
The metahuman of this week’s episode, The Flash is Born, was Tony Woodward aka Girder, who has the power of turning his skin into steel. After a rough start with its villains, The Flash has showed signs of rectifying its villain problem recently – and Girder did have some positive aspects; his personal connection to Barry was a smart move from the writers that allows a metahuman to set up conflict between non-STAR Labs characters for the first time, and the effects behind the character were as solid as ever. Disappointingly, however, Girder ranks as something of a dud overall – a cartoon-level bully who regularly spouts the sort of toe-curling ‘jock’ dialogue (as well as wearing a tank top) rarely seen out of terrible high school movies.
There’s an encouraging effort to give Girder some believable motivations and back-story that is actually seen on-screen, but unfortunately Girder fails to be anything but an irritating caricature of a meta-human – even if, to give credit to the writers, the portrayal of Girder as an absolutely awful human being does help us root for Barry just a tad more than normal. What is, however, a little more successful, is the central theme of bullies brought on by Girder’s appearance. It might be a little cheesy (although The Flash has pretty much trademarked ‘endearingly cheesy’ by now), but it’s a theme that does make sense for the show – in particular, the scene where Barry, Caitlin and Cisco reminisced about their childhood bullies was a nicely done, funny scene that gave us a little bit more background about Caitlin and Cisco.
Despite the weaknesses in the meta-human department, however, The Flash is Born gave us some strong material for the show’s impressive supporting cast. Eddie had a little more screen-time with Barry this week, finally shedding some light on a character that had been hanging on at the periphery for the first five episodes. Eddie’s main duty as a character has been to service the fairly dull requisite CW romance plot, and The Flash could quite easily have gone down the predictable path of making Eddie a dislikeable ‘bad boyfriend’ for Iris – but Eddie came across as a lot more likeable in this episode; which not only brings another suspect into the Reverse Flash ring (because there’s no way the writers would try to make the viewers like Eddie before outing him as a bad guy), but manages to make the romance plot a little bit more complicated than it was before. Eddie is still saddled to the weakest part of the show, but the added background we get on Eddie here does elevate him above a fairly blank cipher for Barry to feel jealous about.
In a very smart move indeed, The Flash is Born paired up arguably the two best characters on The Flash – Wells and Joe. It’s good to have some solid advancement on the Nora Allen murder plot – and the suggestion that Wells was connected allowed for some great scenes as the two characters skirted around each other. We also had our first bit of back-story for Wells – and while Tess Morgan’s tragic death is probably just a lie cooked up to throw Joe off the scent, it’s good to see some more layers to Wells beyond getting up from his chair and doing something evil (as fun as that is). It’s interesting to see the possibility of Wells being Reverse Flash being muddied a little (for a few weeks, Wells seemed to be going around with a giant yellow and black arrow hanging over his head). Despite Joe’s thoughts, however, I’m not quite sure Wells should be ruled out of being connected just yet…
Iris featured fairly heavily in The Flash is Born – and the added focus on the character yields both good and bad results. Her meet-ups (and potential interest?) in the Flash remain fairly standard and unexceptional, and there are some questions over her positioning as a damsel in distress for part of the runtime – but The Flash does seem to be making a good effort to make Iris a stronger character. In particular, the twist that Iris was the one to finally KO Girder was a neat move that established Iris as a little more than a standard superhero love interest – there’s still work to be done with Iris, but the character is certainly on the right track now. The Flash is Born also managed to do something a little more interesting with the villain after his defeat. Barry’s supersonic punch was a terrific moment that proved that The Flash is still pretty nifty at using Barry’s speed in creative ways – and the scene with Girder in the metahuman prison was a particularly interesting way to end Girder’s story (for now, at least). Whether Barry’s choice to reveal his identity to Girder comes back to bite him will have to wait for now, but nonetheless, it’s a great, cathartic scene that closes off the bully theme nicely and manages to use Barry’s personal connection to Girder for some interesting deviations from the ‘once they’re taken out they’re gone’ formula The Flash usually follows (aside from Captain Cold, who is presumably comparing sci-fi guns with his fire-loving buddy in a hideout somewhere).
And then, of course, there’s the stinger – and it’s not a sinister Wells one this week (well… probably) this week; rather, it’s something a little more frightening. It was very exciting indeed to see Reverse Flash pop up in the present for the first time (complete with obviously evil red eyes of death) – and the Reverse Flash’s death threat to Iris gives the arc plot a little bit more of a personal edge for Joe… this reviewer can only hope that he’ll make it out of the inevitable confrontation alive. Next week, Barry becomes powerless and the Clock King arrives in town as Central City experiences a minor Power Outage…
The Flash is Born gives us a fairly poorly done villain – but with the clever pairing up of two terrific characters, interesting developments for both Eddie and Iris and a well-executed take on the old bullying theme, it still keeps up The Flash’s impeccable standards.
Scene of the Episode: I’m Gonna Be (5.3 Miles) – Barry takes a very, very long run-up and sprints across Central City, taking out every window in existence (think of the repair costs) before landing a supersonic punch on Girder. Not bad, Barry…