The Flash: 103 “Things You Can’t Outrun” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
The Flash has delivered two strong episodes so far, and competently started the heavy work needed to flesh its supporting cast out last week with the spotlight on Barry’s surrogate father (no, not that surrogate father, or his real father), Joe – but Barry’s crime-fighting pals at STAR Labs (the creepy Harrison Wells excepted), haven’t really had a huge amount to do so far.
Luckily, this week’s installment, Things You Can’t Outrun, put both the icy (ding) Caitlin Snow and the bouncy comic relief Cisco under the microscope for some good old fashioned character development in The Flash’s first attempt at flashbacks beyond Barry’s childhood. Not only did Caitlin and Cisco face some uneasy flashbacks – Barry also found himself up against a gassy foe, Joe began the process of attempting to get Barry’s father out of jail and Iris and Eddie found themselves saddled with the requisite slightly turgid romance subplot. Another packed episode, then – but if The Flash has proved anything in its opening three episodes, it’s that it can spin plenty of plates with aplomb.
The metahuman of the week this time was Kyle Nimbus aka the Mist, yet another obscure villain taken from equally obscure hero Starman’s rogues gallery. The Flash has proved to have a knack for solid effects on a TV budget – and the Mist’s powers once again looked neat visually (even if green gas isn’t quite a showstopper). However, the curse of the episodic villains continued here – while there were some moderately encouraging baby steps towards a successful bad guy (Nimbus’ motivations aren’t spouted in a slightly pointless late-game monologue, or non-existent entirely) and Anthony Carrigan (Zsasz from Gotham) did a decently creepy job, the Mist is once again a fairly bland villain with no real defining characteristics and some lacklustre backstory. Given The Flash’s strengths elsewhere, it’s disappointing to see the show serve up half-baked obscure villains with only some neat effects going for them weekly.
Outside from the misty antics, Things You Can’t Outrun took a trick from Arrow’s book and served up a set of flashbacks, which revealed what exactly happened the night of the particle accelerator explosion. The flashbacks are some of the strongest scenes of the episode, managing to flesh out both Caitlin and Cisco, and introducing a key DC character in the form of Ronnie Raymond, played by Robbie Amell (the surname sounds familiar). Amell gets very little to do, but it’s an encouraging introduction for the future Firestorm, with Amell managing to make Ronnie’s sacrifice resonate after about five minutes of screen-time. Raymond will be put on the backburner for the time being, but it’s a great introduction that bodes well for the fiery (and stormy) future. I’ve been a little harsh to poor old Cisco in previous reviews – the character seemed more like an unneeded comic relief in an already light show – but Things You Can’t Outrun actually did a surprisingly good job of providing some background for Cisco, as it was revealed that Cisco suffers from his own demons stemming from that good ol’ particle accelerator. Carlos Valdes does a good job with the meatier material here, and manages to make Cisco a far more interesting character than he was in the previous two episodes.
Likewise, Caitlin also gets some strong scenes, as she’s paired up with Barry for a great deal of the episode. It’s a pairing of characters that makes clear sense for the show, and the two make an endearing double act that almost overshadows Barry and Iris’ fairly standard scenes. The development here doesn’t make either Caitlin or Cisco the best character on the show, but it’s satisfying to see a little depth added to characters that looked a little two-dimensional beforehand. Iris and Eddie’s scenes, however, continue to be lacklustre – it’s nothing offensively awful, but it’s a plodding and dull subplot nonetheless which adds very little to the show.
There are oodles of good stuff in Things You Can’t Outrun, but surprisingly, the usually entertaining, now-traditional stinger with Harrison Wells only highlighted a flaw running through the episode. It’s a decent enough scene and Tom Cavanagh has proved to be very good at acting mildly sinister, but the reveal that Wells knew about Barry’s transformation doesn’t add very much to the arc plot and comes off as an attempt to fill up a post-credits scene without much care for the content. The fact that there’s now been a ‘sinister Wells’ stinger every episode does flag up an emerging problem with The Flash – despite the strong work it does, it is falling into a fairly formulaic pattern, with a similar structure running through all three episodes (and while this episode’s Flash ‘hero moment’ as Barry defeats the Mist is nice enough, it’s not as exciting as previous episodes). As The Flash is just three episodes in, it’s not a crippling flaw, but there’s a growing need for the show to deliver something a little more out of the box if it’s going to become something special.
Three episodes in, and The Flash is already one of the most reliably solid shows on TV (notice how the review score has stayed the same across all three episodes) – and Things You Can’t Outrun keeps the hot (red) streak up with some good character work for Cisco and Caitlin. There’s a niggling feeling however that The Flash is staying nice and warm inside its comfort zone – wouldn’t it be nice if it stepped outside into the cold? Next week, perhaps…
Scene of the Episode: A (Fire)Storm’s Coming – Ronnie Raymond sacrifices himself to save STAR Labs from the particle accelerator, and dies forever in the process. However, a comic book’s definition of ‘forever’ is a little loose…