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THE FLASH Review: “Back to Normal”

Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of The Flash! Proceed with caution, speedsters. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched this week’s episode, “Back to Normal”, we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.

This week’s The Flash returns to an idea the show first played with last season—what Barry would be like without his speed—and spends a little more time with it. Unfortunately, the conclusion it draws is predictable to anyone who’s ever picked up one of the many superhero comic books to use this trope: yes, Barry is still a hero without his speed.

After giving up his abilities last week to save Wally from Zoom and losing Caitlin to the arch villain, Barry is distraught to find that another of his friends, Wells, has been placed in danger. A danger which he could quickly eliminate if he had his speed. It’s been a while since we’ve had a metahuman of the week, but “Back to Normal” gives us a new one in the form of Griffin Grey.

Created by writers Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo (the producers of the 1990 Flash TV series), Grey first appeared in August 2006’s Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1. Though in his original comic book incarnation, his power differed from that which he wields in this week’s episode (super-strength as opposed to green energy), he exhibits premature aging in both versions as a result of using his power. In “Back to Normal,” he kidnaps Wells and forces him to develop a cure for his condition, for which he holds the Earth-2 scientist responsible. Though it was Earth-1’s Wells/Thawne whose particle accelerator explosion is to blame, “Harry” takes on the guilt of a doppelganger he’s never met. Though he can’t come up with a cure, his experience with Grey, and his reunion with his daughter Jessie, motivate him to develop a means of returning Barry’s speed. And just in time. Because while Barry is able to use his ingenuity, with a little help from Cisco and Jessie, to defeat Grey, he just barely escapes with his life.

Wells isn’t the only one wrestling with a doppelganger’s legacy this week, as Caitlin finally meets her counterpart Killer Frost when the two are held captive by Jay/Zoom on Earth-2. It turns out that their mothers have similar temperaments, but that Frost, unlike Cait, had a brother. I’m guessing this seed will bloom eventually into another storyline somewhere down the road. But the return of a long-lost brother has of course already been the central narrative this year for Iris, the show’s other female lead. So here’s hoping it’s not repeated the same way this year’s central storyline (“a good mentor revealed as evil”) thus far seems derivative of season one’s.

The biggest casualty of this storyline is the character of Jay Garrick: a fan-favorite comic character, a long-held staple of the DC Universe, and the original Golden Age Flash. Many fans were outraged that last week’s episode appeared to confirm that in the DC TV Universe we’re to believe there never was a Jay Garrick, just a monster named Hunter Zolomon who created a heroic persona to hide behind. I’m still holding out hope that the man in the iron mask is somehow the “real Jay.” But even if that should prove true, I’m not sure if it’s enough to salvage this season’s central plot. But we only have four episodes left (in a scant four weeks) to find out.

The Flash -- "Back to Normal" -- Image: FLA219a_0085b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Jesse L. Martin as Detective Joe West, Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon and Grant Gustin as Barry Allen-- Photo: Katie Yu/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Accelerated Particles

—- “What do you know? I can still pull off brunette.”

— I wish I felt otherwise, but I’m not all that sad to see Killer Frost go. I had such high hopes for the character when she was first announced. But whether it’s the writing or Danielle Panabaker’s performance, she comes off as a bit too much like a campy Catwoman or Poison Ivy in her attitude and line readings. Should an Earth-1 version of the character appear, I’m hoping she’ll have some of the drier self-awareness of a Captain Cold.

— Joe doesn’t have a great week. Not once, but twice he stands still while Grey throws things at him instead of opening fire at the metahuman. (Though he does manage to fire one shot in their second encounter, before again standing motionless.)

— And why does Wells tell Grey he has a daughter? Doesn’t that just endanger the one person he’s always worried about?

— “Jessie, I’m gonna need some of that quick thinking of yours.” And Jessie will be getting her super-speed powers in one, two…

— Actually, the thing I’m most curious about regarding Jessie is whether her and Cisco have a future together. To borrow a phrase from The Walking Dead, I like the way she gives him shit.

Next week: Henry Allen returns, and Wells and Cisco make like Dr. Frankenstein and Igor in a bid to get Barry his speed back.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).

Images: The CW

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