The Flash: 102 “Fastest Man Alive” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
The Flash hit the ground running with a fun, snappy pilot last week – but the real test of a show’s mettle comes in the second week, where it has to essentially seal the deal and prove that the first episode wasn’t quite lightning (appropriate) in a bottle. So does episode two of The Flash cut the mustard, or is it a case of diminishing returns?
Despite some niggling flaws, Fastest Man Alive was a solid second installment of The Flash, with a visually impressive villain and some genuinely strong character work. The emotional meat of Fastest Man Alive was the relationship between Barry and his surrogate father Joe – this was vaguely touched upon last week and takes centre stage here, providing the bulk of the episode’s emotional moments. Despite a slightly rapid plot-enforced complete turnaround from Joe in order to spur Barry on, the scenes between Barry and Joe were surprisingly strong; Grant Gustin and Jesse L Martin helping to lift the scenes above the slightly cheesy (even if cheesiness has essentially become The Flash’s MO) writing. There’s a danger of The Flash overdosing on father figure stories with Harrison Wells also in play, but it proves here that it can tackle the bread-and-butter superhero drama with aplomb.
It’s a testament to the show that a good chunk of the show’s main characters feel three-dimensional by episode two (even Iris received some stronger material this week) – and while some characters still need some work in future episodes, (Cisco remains on the precipice of annoying), The Flash has clearly laid some strong foundations character-wise for what’s to come. The Flash is also proving strong at getting some mileage out of Barry’s powers – in a neat and surprisingly ‘realistic’ twist, Barry discovers that his super speed is requiring him to have to eat quite a lot of calories (around 850 tacos). It’s a fairly inconsequential and lightweight plot point, but it’s nice to see The Flash is making the most of its main star’s powers – the scene on Cisco’s treadmill was also an amusing scene with some surprisingly solid effects.
Apart from the more emotional side, Fastest Man Alive served up the second metahuman of the week in the form of Danton Black aka Multiplex, an obscure villain plucked from Firestorm’s (who we’ll be seeing very soon indeed) rogues gallery. Multiplex’s powers looked very impressive indeed for the most part (even if the show did hold back on fully unleashing his powers until the conclusion) and were executed really quite well; the scene where Barry took on an army of clones was another great effects moment to rival the tornado scene from last week. Despite the neat effects work, The Flash makes the same key mistake it made last week – while Danton Black is a little more interesting and developed than the pilot’s half-hearted attempt at a bad guy, Multiplex still feels like a shallow villain; his motivations spouted at Barry in a slightly token concluding scene.
If there’s one main niggle about Fastest Man Alive, it’s that while the second episode deftly balances effects-driven excitement with character work, it does feel a little similar structurally to the pilot. There’s the mid-episode walk out from Barry (even if Grant Gustin does do some strong work here), the first confrontation with the villain that leaves Barry a little worse for wear and a final battle that requires the help of a father figure’s inspiring words after said father figure told Barry he wasn’t a hero (last week Wells, this week it’s Joe). It’s all done very well and Fastest Man Alive’s story is a great deal more interesting than the pilot’s (which mainly flew by on charm and strong introductions to characters), but there’s a definite feeling that The Flash is playing it just a tad safe for its second episode.
Speaking of similarities to last week, Fastest Man Alive likewise ended with an intriguing coda featuring Harrison Wells and his evil legs (which he only seems to use for villainous things). It sheds a great deal on the mysterious Wells’ motivations and confirms that Wells is indeed from the future, if the 2024 newspaper from the pilot didn’t give it away; and considering Barry is just referred to ‘the red streak’ at this point, it was pleasing to see Barry actually referred to as the Flash by Wells. It’s still vague as to what Wells actually wants, but the mysterious Wells and his episode-ending evil doings are lending The Flash a fun serialized mystery that this reviewer is certainly looking forward to seeing more of… most likely at the end of the next episode.
It plays it a little safe, but Fastest Man Alive is a solid second instalment that offers up a visually striking bad guy and a strong emotional sub-plot between Barry and Joe. The Flash will need to start taking some genuine risks if it’s going to keep up the strong work, but the second episode pleasingly keeps up the momentum from last week.
Scene of the Episode – Game of Clones – Barry zips through an army of Danton Black clones to catch the real Multiplex in a scene that shows that after the tornado scene last week, Barry Allen is really quite good at defeating villains in cool ways.