The last 10 minutes or so of this week’s Flash were filled with so many toppers that if I were covering this show like an old-timey sportswriter, I’d have ripped the paper out of my typewriter a half-dozen times so I could type up a new lede. What’s the headline here? Barry reveals his secret identity to Iris? Cisco figures out that Wells is Reverse-Flash? Wells scrambles Cisco’s internal organs? Barry runs so fast while trying to save Central City that he goes back in time? “Out Of Time” ends with multiple juicy moments, stacked on top of each other.
Before digging into any of that, how about a nod of appreciation for how good “Out Of Time” looks, especially during that last 10 minutes? A month ago—the last time the show produced a new episode—The Flash ended with two of the coolest special effects sequences I’ve ever seen on a live-action superhero TV show. One of those sequences—the tag, with Grodd—is awesome for the circumstances, the payoff, and because it has a super-powered gorilla. But the big final fight that precedes it is also extraordinary, with both the Flash effects and the Firestorm effects having an eerie beauty.
“Out Of Time” features a couple of action scenes about on the same level as “Fallout.” The time-travel is suitably trippy, both in its early foreshadowing—when Barry sees himself—and then again at the end. And because the villain of the week is The Weather Wizard (or more accurately the new Weather Wizard, since the previous one was killed back in the first episode), that means the episode is filled with lightning, wind, and ice-chunks, adding atmosphere. In fact, the best Weather Wizard-related moment is a fairly quiet one. It comes when Barry and Joe are driving around Central City, looking for the late Clyde Mardon’s brother Mark, while talking casually about Barry’s messed-up love life. They barely notice at first that it’s started to rain. But like a lot that happens in “Out Of Time,” that little drizzle proves to be a glimpse of the bigger storm encroaching.
I’ve been thinking a lot since last October about why I love The Flash so much. The character has been a favorite of mine since I was a preteen (in the late 1970s and early 1980s); and in the 1990s I was a super-fan of writer Mark Waid’s run on the series (back when it was Wally West who was The Fastest Man Alive). Somehow, Greg Berlanti and company have kept everything I love about Flash comics—the positivity, the science, the funky rogues—without making the show hopelessly juvenile. Partly that’s due to a certain level of self-awareness, evident this week when Cisco dubs Mardon the Weather Wizard then says, “I’ve been waiting since week one to use that,” and when Wells notes of Joe that, “He’s taking being targeted by a revenge-seeking metahuman fairly well.” The Flash lets me feel like I’m 10 again—or at least like I felt in my mid-20s, when a favorite way to relieve stress was to retreat back to childhood by reading a stack of comics.
Or I should say that The Flash generates that kind of feeling when it’s really working—and some weeks, I have to admit, that’s just for five- or 10-minute stretches. I confess that until the last five to 10 minutes of “Out Of Time,” I had the grade for this episode hovering around the “B” range, because there’s a lot here that’s frustrating. The Eddie/Iris/Barry/Linda love quadrangle remains as flat and dull as… well, a square. It was a relief at the start of the episode to see that their accidental double-date would be so short, but then the ramifications of that date—and Iris and Barry’s obvious affection for each other—keep finding their way into scenes where they don’t really seem to belong.
It’s even more annoying how long it takes for Barry to Flash-up, after Joe gets kidnapped by The Weather Wizard. Even earlier, when Joe tells Barry to keep Iris safe while he goes on a Mardon-hunt, I would’ve liked to have heard Barry say, “Tell you what… Why don’t you keep her safe and I’ll go be The Flash?” And once Mardon had Joe tied up in some mysterious location, I kept waiting for Barry to realize that a good way to find a person who’s missing is to run all over the place, very very fast.
But holy Zoom does the end of “Out Of Time” make up for any lapses at the beginning. The scene where Professor Wells reveals himself as Eobard Thawne (yes, relation) and then sighs, “Forgive me, but to me you’ve been dead for centuries” before vibrating Cisco’s guts… that’s a heartbreaker. (Perhaps literally.) And then when Barry runs back a day, that immediately turns the potentially tragic ending of Cisco’s demise to something that The Flash can now prevent—if he knows that his friend is dead, which at present he doesn’t.
So it seems we’re about to head into the mind-bending, potentially poignant realm of time-travel, which has always been a core part of the Flash mythos, and something the show was bound to address eventually. The question for next week is how big of a reset The Flash is planning. Will Cisco live? Will the identity-reveal to Iris be wiped out? Will Eobard Thane go back to being Harrison Wells? Given how casually Wells tells Barry not to worry about the Weather Wizard and that Joe will “be fine,” it’s almost like he knows that nothing that happens in this episode will have any lasting effect—except to those of us who watched it, and saw each of its climactic jaw-dropping moments supersede the other.
- As you may have noticed, your regular Flash reviewer Scott Von Doviak is out tonight, running around SXSW. (Get it? Running?) I appreciate him giving me the opportunity to fill in. Along with Jane The Virgin, The Flash has been my favorite new show of this TV season, and I’ve been itching to write about it.
- The show hasn’t done that much with Capt. David Singh thus far, so it’s surprising how touching it is when Joe and Barry learn that Singh may have gotten permanent brain and/or neural damage during the Weather Wizard’s attack on police HQ. Credit the introduction of the captain‘s fiancé. Just knowing that somebody cares deeply about David makes his injury more of a real tragedy.
- Not that I want to tell a super villain how to do his business, but shouldn’t Spartacus… I mean, The Weather Wizard… realize that if he wipes out Central City with a tsunami, he’ll die too? Or does he have as much of a death wish as his brother? (Anyway, he needs to stay alive so that he can commandeer Cisco’s cool wand and make it a part of his shtick.)
- Cisco’s movie club this week invites members to enjoy the 1928 silent classic The Cameraman—Buster Keaton’s last great film.
- The director of this episode was first-time Flash helmer Thor Freudenthal, whose resumé includes the second Percy Jackson movie.
- POTENTIAL SPOILER FOR NON-COMICS READERS: Even before Barry became unstuck in time, I couldn’t get too upset about the “death” of Cisco—not because I don’t have a lot of affection for S.T.A.R. Labs’ resident metahuman groupie, but because I know that at some point he’s likely to become a superhero himself: Vibe. In fact, I wonder if Cisco/Vibe is due to have a role in the superteam spinoff that Berlanti is prepping. There are several spots on that show that remain conspicuously open. Might the murder this week be the beginning of Vibe’s origin story?