‘The Flash’ Review: “Fallout”
Okay, fine, you win, The Flash: Harrison Wells is The Man In The Yellow Mask.
That shouldn’t be a revolutionary thing to say, and most of this stems from the type of TV logic that makes you look at blue sky and think, “Hmmm, but maybe it’s really orange?” Answers are rarely what they seem since shows often have something else up their sleeve to completely contradict the norm later on. Another reason why an unassailable fact stinks? Having answers is boring because then there’s no way for the audience to “participate,” as it were, in a piece of fiction. Yes, that participation is always an illusion, but simply mulling over possibilities (without the need to actually “solve” them) is one of the chief pleasures of serialized narration.
After all, once Harrison Wells is The Man In The Yellow Suit, then it can’t be anyone else. I’ve been holding onto the “Maybe It’s Eddie In The Future And Simply Harrison In The Present To Fake Us Out” theory for a while, but the last three minutes of tonight’s episode set up a fairly juicy scenario in which Harrison Wells is trying to help Barry Allen save his mother. Why? Well, that’s another mystery to be solved for another time, so things are far from bleak in the world of The Flash right now. Maybe it’s some twisted, Magneto-esque pride in which difference (in this case, “meta-human” instead of “mutant”) forms an alliance in Wells’ mind. That doesn’t explain why he constantly helps Barry capture meta-humans, unless the gulag itself is some form of long con.
Part of why it’s no fun admitting that Wells is The Man In The Yellow Suit is that it doesn’t really reveal anything about Wells, what he’s up to this season, or what he was up to before S.T.A.R. Labs went ‘splodey. (He says he’s a meta-human, but we also know he needs the tachyon accelerator to move at super speeds, and even that provides a temporary boost.) It’s just a “gotcha” moment sans context, and while I’m all about him feeding an evil general to a telepathic gorilla as a fan of things that are awesome, I can’t square the circle between that and what seems like genuine warmth and sympathy towards Team Barry. Wells might say he protects his “own,” but really he’s protecting his “own future,” in which he might have some sort of insight. As with Barry, he thinks that seeing that future offers him the chance to change it, which is some high-level Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban time-travel mumbo jumbo right there. Ultimately, as with most fiction of this type, it comes down to free will versus destiny: If you know the future, can you change it? Or will fate simply force you down an ever-narrower path that leads to the only outcome that can be permitted?
These are all fascinating questions, which is why it was a bit of a bummer that the episode was so Firestorm-centric. It’s not that the Ronnie/Martin material was bad, per se, but once a show explicitly introduces time travel, it’s hard to think about much else, at least in the short-term. Seeing Victor Garber do his best impersonation of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes was a hoot, and Robbie Amell held his own against Danielle Panabaker. The Firestorm effects continue to amaze, and Wade Eiling’s bag of MacGyver-esque gadgets (especially the microfragment bomb) was fun. But it was slammed into the middle of last week’s revelation about present-day Barry’s presence at his mother’s murder, which meant both storylines were fighting for oxygen.
Ostensibly, this will smooth itself out when the show returns a month from now. With Ronnie/Martin on the run from the government, The Flash won’t have all these competing aspects to fit into a single episode. But from a season-long planning perspective, the show is demonstrating slight pacing problems at the midway point of this season. That’s fine, and even normal: 22 episodes are darn near impossible to pace and produce seamlessly. Slam-bang storylines can fizzle out quickly, and the sheer length of the season means certain aspects get stretched out long past their expiration points. In this case, the show teased out Firestorm for so long, and yet had to rush here to actually finish the arc.
But now the show can focus on its final third and regain momentum (pun kind of intended) in the final Spring stretch. I don’t know if the show’s gonna go full Grodd on us come March, but I’m ready to finally get some answers about Wells’ motivations at this point. Once the show lays those out, The Flash is well-poised to produce a series of great episodes to round out what’s been an overall excellent first season of television. There have been bumps along the road, but when you move as fast as Barry, sometimes the smallest things can trip you up.
- I could have watched Cisco explain time-travel theories to Joe via movie references for two hours.
- Iris is on the case of S.T.A.R. Labs! Look out, world.
- I have a low tolerance for meta-humor with my meta-humans. “Impossible’s just another Tuesday for us!” UGH. “Dude, that was week three!” DOUBLE UGH.