Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of The Flash. To catch up on previous coverage, click here.
Let me begin by saying that I don’t even know how to begin with what happened at the end of the episode, so let’s begin with the two biggest plot developments:
Jax Jackson makes for a great hero origin story, and Franz Drameh embodies the other half of Firestorm in a way I’m not sure Robbie Amell ever did. Starting the episode as a promising, college bound quarterback and then reappearing after the particle accelerator explosion as a wandering mechanic was a great way to introduce a character looking for a purpose. With Professor Stein’s health deteriorating, the Star Labs crew needed a compatible other half to merge with him, which is where they found Jax. Caitlin believes she’s found another suitable candidate, mainly due to some unflattering snobby beliefs of what it means to be successful, but it turns out to be a dead end, with the candidate absorbing the powers (and becoming the weeks villain) without the ability to merge. He literally becomes a loose canon.
The episode is relatively Flash free, with Barry being dressed as a civilian for most of it because the hero of the episode is Jax, who needs the same support system that Barry often has to get on his feet and accept that he can be a hero too. It’s satisfying in the way that most superhero origin stories are, with a person down on their luck who ends up believing in themselves in order to achieve new heights that they never believed imaginable. Drameh has just the right amount of confidence from being a former athlete, as well as some built in insecurity to make his hero one worth rooting for.
Also, the CGI for the Firestorm effects were as good as they’ve ever been.
Last week I didn’t talk much about Iris’s storyline with her mom Francine, because it seemed as if the storyline wasn’t actually going to be about Iris, which was more than a little aggravating. This week seems to be pointing the story in a better direction, even if Joe continues to be terrible about keeping secret’s from Iris and Barry when he decides it’s for “their own good”.
Iris has such the possibility of being a strong, empowering character, that in retrospect, the idea that her storyline was delegated to Barry and Joe in a brief conversation was mind blowing. How on earth could they strip Iris of her own agency like that? This is why I was so pleased to see her addressing Francine this week on her own terms. She told her mother that she understands her struggles with addiction, and she wishes her well, but that they haven’t been in one another’s lives for over twenty years, and Iris feels no inclination to start now. It’s rewarding to see Iris stick up for herself and her own needs and Candice Patton is commanding in the moment, radiating steely confidence.
When Francine tells Joe that she’s sick, and only has months to live, it seems like terms may have changed once the news reaches Iris’s ears. Instead, Iris is distrustful, and while doing her own bit of sleuthing learns that her mother had a son, eight months after leaving Joe and her, a son that Joe doesn’t know about. Iris decides that it isn’t worth it to allow Francine to taint their lives, and leaves her. I know it’s not how it was in the comics, but I have to wonder (briefly at least) if this is how the show is going to incorporate the Wally West character? I did guess that Francine would have a son at the start of the episode, so don’t discount my theories, even if they sound crazy at first.
And then, holy shit, the ending.
I really had no expectation on how the ending was going to play out, even with Harrison Wells being teased throughout the episode. At first I was simply going along with Barry’s monologue as an explanation for the inevitable Barry and Patty hookup (as much as I’ve grown to quickly detest the idea) but then it suddenly turns into the shark man hybrid attacking Barry, to alternate universe Harrison Wells saving Barry, and Barry finding out who it is.
I can’t think of a recent episode ending that has given me as much tonal whiplash, but man what a cliff hanger to end on! It almost goes without saying that Tom Cavanagh is a welcome re-addition to the series, and he and Grant Gustin always played so beautifully against one another, that I can’t wait to see what this version brings to the season.
With Iris getting more screentime than ever before, a true super hero origin story for Jax, and the appearance of Harrison Wells anew, “The Fury of Firestorm” is an episode that could have been little more than a bridge to the Legends of Tomorrow crossover, but was instead an exciting installment in a great run of episodes for the series so far.