After two phenomenal episodes, this week The Flash slowed down a bit so that the story could dig a bit deeper into each of the characters’ pasts. Generally speaking, this is a wonderful thing since characters without depth are boring and unneeded. And, honestly, it was important that we learn a bit more about the heroes and villains at the center of the series. Unfortunately, because of its success thus far, even with an ultra cool villain Things You Can’t Outrun winds up being more filler than fun and is a bit of a misstep for the new series, albeit a small misstep.
This week, audiences learned much more about what happened the night of the particle accelerator mishap, which included an introduction to Robbie Amell’s Ronnie Raymond, who will eventually return as half of Firestorm. Viewers learned that each member of the S.T.A.R. Labs team that Barry has joined carry a hefty load of guilt for their part in the lab disaster. As it turns out, much of that guilt was unwarranted but, hey, it’s pretty hard to get rid of those nasty guilty thoughts once they set up shop in your head. Barry and Joe begin an investigation that leads them to a man who can actually turn into a gas and who uses this ability to poison the people who he feels have wronged him, and find out that he is pretty tough to fight. The underlying theme throughout the episode was acceptance and the point was driven home with precision. The main issue with the episode was the fact that it decided to follow a formula that CW shows typically follow, which is taking every opportunity to rehash information that viewers have already received.
I absolutely hate it when an episode of a series decides to recap what has happened in previous episodes by trying to insert the recap into a conversation. It always feels forced and for viewers that have been watching since the beginning, the conversation is also boring. Last night, Barry and Joe had such a conversation and, yup, it was every bit as forced as any other similar conversation. Did the audience need to hear (again) that Joe now believes Barry? Nope, we got that. How about the fact that Joe is now willing to help Barry find his mother’s killer? Yeah, we got that one last week too. The entire conversation was unneeded and only served to slow the episode down and even made it feel a bit like a soap opera. There were a few conversations like this throughout the episode and throughout different characters and they really took away some of the uniqueness that the show has displayed in the past couple of episodes. One of the coolest thing about last week’s episode was the intro narration. While last week, Barry’s narration conceded that we already know about his past and rather than telling us the story again, the episode went right to the “good stuff”. This week, the narration told us the story of The Flash, again, and it was unneeded; it was a step backwards.
None of this is to say that it wasn’t a great episode! The decision to shift the focus a bit to the side characters was not a bad idea. As a matter of fact, Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) pretty much stole every scene that she was in and viewers learned just how heavy the weight on her shoulders has become. Panabaker is a very skilled actress and she really got a chance to stretch some of those acting muscles with Snow, who is a much more complex character than she may appear. Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) also got a bit more screen time here and the scene in which he shares a story from Barry’s childhood with Barry is emotional and perfectly played. Not to mention, The Mist, the big baddie in this one, was handled perfectly and the character has one of the most frightening abilities I can think of. It’s tough to fight someone who can simply jump into your lungs to suffocate you! The effects behind this villain were perfect and I can only hope that we will see more of him in the future when the inevitable prison break occurs.
While it may not have been up to par with the previous two episodes, Things You Can’t Outrun still managed to keep viewers interested despite its missteps. For those quick eyed DC fans, there were plenty of easter eggs to mine from the episode, including a Blue Devil reference which will likely play in the Firestorm story. For me, the best easter egg of the episode was the reference to The Flash museum, which made me chuckle a bit.
Not every episode in a series will be gold. Some episodes simply serve to shed more light on certain characters and to keep the story moving, even if it is a bit slower than the pace it has been keeping up to that point. Things You Can’t Outrun is a perfect example of this. It was an interesting episode but, in the end, I am ready to get back to the good stuff and hope that the series will return to form next week.