[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Gregory Smith
Writers: Todd Helbing and Sterling Gates
Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Pannabaker, Tom Cavanaugh, Jesse L. Martin, John Wesley Shipp, Violett Beane, Bernadette Saquibal, Jessica Parker Kennedy
When a nuclear bomb detonates in downtown Central City, Barry, Jesse Quick and Jay Garrick slow down time by entering Flashtime. As everyone in the city is frozen, the three speedsters push themselves to the breaking point to save the city and everyone in it.
I remember a classic Twilight Zone episode in which a man acquires a stopwatch that can stop time while he remains immune, and by the end of the episode his misuse traps him in that state when the watch breaks. And further, writer Mark Waid once described The Flash in his epic Kingdom Come as one who “lives within the ticks of a second.” This episode works in that we are shown how a speedster sees the world when running. Yes, we’ve seen it before, but we’ve never seen a case thus far in which a speedster is trapped in that state without rest. Seeing the physical toll on the three Flashes through sweating is significant because throughout the series we’ve never seen Barry or the others perspire like this.
The overarching motif is both Barry’s and Harry’s inability to make time for their loved ones in the midst of the crisis with DeVoe. While Barry’s overworking of Cisco incapacitates Team Flash when the crisis hits, Harry’s inability to express his emotions to Jesse pushes his daughter away after months of estrangement. A smart move on the writers’ part to temporarily speed up non-speedsters through physical contact with Barry or Jesse is a smart use of an unexplained maneuver of Barry’s several episodes back. Honestly, if it wasn’t used, fans would be going, “But why didn’t he touch so-and-so the way he brought Iris into his time zone in the courtroom?” In any event, the desperation of Barry’s to end the crisis even at the possible expense of the Speed Force puts him at odds for the first time with his mentor, Jay. The fact that he’s willing to fight the man with his father’s face over a very risky gamble is a sharp schism that didn’t exist before.
Garrick’s age also shows for the first time, given he is the first to submit to the effects of staying in “Flashtime” for too long. This prompts the character to hang up his boots for good and devote his energies to training the next generation and a teaser as to who the new female speedster is. For all we know the girl could already have been seen on the show, and fans can easily decipher what that means. The incorporation of the Speed Force into the final solution is a dazzling visual imagining of what Barry’s six-month incarceration must have looked like. Given it resembles a dark room illuminated by the same lightning that plagued Central City in last year’s finale, Barry’s dementia seems very plausible. Anyone trapped in that place for 1,000 years would surely lose their mind. The slow-motion final run works in that it evokes both suspense and the physical exhaustion Barry is experiencing.
The resolution of Wells’s situation via mind reading through tech speaks loudly of the emotional trauma. We’ve seen Earth-1 Harrison Wells and his wife in season one flashback; he is leagues apart from Earth-2’s version. However, given Harry lost Tess early on in Jesse’s life, we are talking years of unresolved guilt and loneliness. The second season showed the lengths to which Harry would go to protect his daughter, and his explanation to his daughter spoke of the pain and shame he felt at those lengths. And yet the source of his antisocial behavior was never covered. The loss of his wife would definitely count. From personal experience, I know firsthand how the loss of a spouse can affect a man’s ability to communicate his emotions, especially towards his children. Letting Jesse hear his thoughts and memories of Tess is a huge leap in character growth for Harry.
Killer Frost also experiences a moment of growth during the Crisis. After months of complaining all season about Caitlin being the weaker of their dual existence, her plea to Flash to not let “Caity” die is the first time the ice queen showed warmth. Caitlin, in return, reveals she’s remembering the moment as opposed to the Jeckyll-Hyde nature preventing each other’s memories to be accessed. Is this a one-time thing or is it a sign that both personalities are starting to merge a little?
The only weakness in this episode is the hokeyness of the antagonist this week. Veronica Dale is the epitome of the a knockoff villain. Her aftermath video is high on the level of cuckoo and the dialogue is as hollow as an old oak tree. She set off a nuclear explosion to ironically protest the use of nuclear arms? Umm, hypocritical much? I mean, it led to a brilliantly-written episode, but she was the weakest link in the chain. Connecting her to DeVoe isn’t an instant level-up. Then there is the question of what will the Speed Force do in response to the “Dummy box” version of Barry no longer occupying his cell? As to whether or not this will be answered in future episodes, I was expecting a return to the lightning storms erupting in response to the jail break.
While not a perfect episode, it took a risk of showing what life is like for a Flash stuck in the zone he runs through, but without the running. The cool 24 feel is keenly felt as the team races against the clock. The emotional quotient was high and you felt the father-daughter bonding increase Harry’s value on the show. This season needs further strong episodes like this one to close things out, so fingers crossed, gang.