The Flash: 114 “Fallout” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
Previously on The Flash: Firestorm, a super-powered amalgamation of Martin Stein and Ronnie Raymond, reappeared on the scene – and after a brief scuffle with Barry in the sky, it was revealed that Firestorm’s powers were becoming unstable, essentially making Firestorm a ticking nuclear bomb. Despite the team’s best efforts, out in the middle of the convenient local wilderness, Firestorm went nuclear as Barry and Caitlin sprinted away…
This week’s episode, Fallout, served as the concluding half of the story last week’s episode began – which meant comparatively little relationship drama, and plenty of big revelations and action. The separation of Ronnie and Stein after the blast may have been a fairly predictable resolution to last week’s cliffhanger, but the dynamic between the two characters was executed well enough to justify separating them. After a brief appearance last week, Victor Garber had a great deal more screen-time – and while his performance sometimes felt a tad overplayed, his mad-scientist act in the scenes explaining time travel to Barry gave Stein an entertainingly lively presence, and allowed him to feel distinct enough from Ronnie himself (who, with his personality back, was a little bland).
After a villain-free episode last week, Fallout brought back an old foe to take on the Flash and Firestorm; Clancy Brown’s General Eiling. Eiling was an entertainingly gruff villain last time, if a little thinly sketched – and the character doesn’t take much of a great leap forward here either in terms of character development. Despite that, Brown remained extremely adept at portraying the zealot general; and, despite his lack of powers, Eiling felt intimidating enough to pose a threat to both Barry and Firestorm, as Barry’s fairly off-hand revelation of his identity as the Flash to Eiling back in his first appearance came back to bite him here, thanks to Eiling’s newly developed arsenal of excruciatingly-painful-looking anti-Flash weapons. The General’s most interesting moment was likely his final one (but more on that later), but it was a successful second appearance for a villain who on the whole earned his return.
We’ve seen Firestorm in action on a couple of brief occasions before, but Fallout satisfyingly gave us the extended action scenes this reviewer had been waiting for. Seeing Stein and Raymond willingly merge together was both satisfying to see and exciting (and, thanks to the development of both characters and their dynamic, it felt earned as a triumphant moment), and the character’s effects continued to be surprisingly excellent for TV as Firestorm effortlessly mowed down soldiers. The Firestorm arc may have felt a little tangential to most episodes that saw development on that front, but overall the origin story we’ve seen unfold over these past few episodes has been entertaining to watch – so here’s hoping that the upcoming team-up spin-off will provide some more Firestorm action (rather than just Martin Stein, as reports have indicated).
The Flash’s willingness to embrace the source material and continuously provide scenes that feel ripped out of a comic book has always been impressive, but it’s especially notable here. Fallout is peppered with four-colour-esque images such as Barry spiked by Eiling’s porcupine grenade, Flash and Firestorm sprinting away from the military base and the final scenes, and it highlights The Flash’s admirable lack of restraint in embracing even the more outlandish comic book concepts as quickly as possible.
Another example of this rapid attitude to plot developments is time travel. Joe’s discovery of Barry being present at the night of his mother’s murder as an adult occurred towards the end of last week, and Fallout wasted no time in delving head-on into the concept of time travel at the top of the episode. The requisite exposition was delivered in an interesting enough way (via time travel movie references) to avoid it feeling too much like a slowly paced lecture in the middle of an otherwise fast-paced episode, and by episode’s end Barry has fully embraced the challenge of rectifying his past (or future) mistakes by travelling back to the night of his mother’s murder again (or not again, seeing as he hasn’t done it the first time yet – essentially, time travel is confusing) and changing the past.
Could the time travel subplot have benefited from a little more development before Barry’s grand speech at the end of the episode? Perhaps, but with many other TV shows stretching out internal conflicts to breaking point, the rapid development of the time travel storyline in Fallout feels commendably compact storytelling rather than feeling rushed, and opens up dozens of new avenues for the season arc to go down in the back half of the season.
With the excellent Firestorm and time travel storylines occupying most of the episode, Iris’ storyline this week was fairly slim, and failed to spark the same interest in this reviewer. Iris has at least become a little more active in storylines lately, but the decision to cast Iris in a role that directly opposes Barry’s interests (though she doesn’t know it quite yet) a little odd. It’s likely that Barry could undo all the damage done to Iris by her inevitable discoveries about STAR Labs by simply revealing his identity as the Flash, so her investigations into STAR Labs therefore feel like mostly prosaic, low stakes table-setting before an impending discovery of Barry’s secret identity.
And then there was the stinger. The Flash’s stingers have always been something to look forward to, providing either a coda to the episode’s events or a revelation about the ongoing labyrinthine plans of Harrison Wells – however, Fallout’s stinger may just have been the one of the show’s greatest moments yet. As General Eiling settles down for a relaxing drink after a day of supervillainy, he’s snatched up by a familiar yellow blur; none other than the Reverse Flash in his creepy, red-eyed glory. He unmasks to finally reveal himself definitively as Harrison Wells, who confirms his identity as a metahuman and declares he protects his own. And by his own, Wells means our favourite mind controlling gorilla, Grodd, who speaks telepathically to Eiling, uttering a line so exciting all of my critical faculties left me: ‘Not God, GRODD’.
I personally have little idea how the stinger came across to those entirely unaware of Gorilla Grodd and his powers, but it’s nonetheless a fantastically unhinged tease for the future, even by The Flash’s standards. I noted The Flash’s willingness to embrace comic-book concepts earlier in the review, and praised the show for even introducing Grodd silently two weeks ago, but the fact that the show has now introduced Grodd’s telepathic powers and indicated that Grodd is working with the Reverse Flash shows that The Flash is still able to impress with just how far it’s willing to go in portraying a villain who seemed extremely problematic to fully realize before… The Flash is taking a week off in the UK (sigh) next week, but in two weeks it’s back as the new Weather Wizard comes to town seeking revenge in Out of Time!
Fast paced, thrilling and entertaining, Fallout was a superlative capper on the Firestorm story arc, as well as pushing the time travel storyline into intriguing new areas.
Scene of the Episode: Not God – If Gorilla Grodd is the bad guy in season two, then The Flash’s writers have done an excellent job of setting him up – and here he is again, snatching General Eiling away (karma sucks).