The Flash’s first season has been strong and full of plot twists and turns; foreshadowing and consequences. These storylines and twists are a lot to balance but just like an experienced tightrope walker, The Flash makes it seem easy. The series has managed to follow its several plotlines and leave bread crumb trails while simultaneously expanding the universe inhabited by Barry Allen and focusing on the smaller characters to keep the universe small enough to enjoy. In last night’s episode, The Nuclear Man, the series once again demonstrated why it deserves every compliment and award that it receives. For fans, this is a fantastic situation that promises to bring audiences back week after week. Spoilers ahead.
The most interesting thing about The Nuclear Man is that the meta-humans that seem to aspire only to destroy Central City were absent. Instead, the story finally focused on Firestorm, aka Ronnie Raymond AND Professor Stein. As revealed in last week’s episode, somehow the S.T.A.R. Labs explosion resulted in Stein and Raymond being fused together at a molecular level, thus creating a meta-human with almost a split personality. Turns out that every time the audience has seen Firestorm on screen, it’s been Stein’s mind that’s running things, and in last night’s episode, audiences finally saw just why the life of a homeless man is a choice that Firestorm readily accepts. In short, this is a person who possesses two, competing minds, and “home” has almost no meaning. Almost. Luckily, Stein is smart enough to realize that if there is any chance at being saved before becoming a human nuke, he has to give S.T.A.R. Labs a shot to save him, and voluntarily surrenders himself to the team. This leads to a shower and a haircut, not to mention a shave, which was sure to draw a few wolf whistles from the viewers.
Delving into Firestorm’s story would have been enough to carry this episode on its own but, of course, the showrunners really wanted to show off a bit with this episode, so fans were treated to two subplots that were both fleshed out perfectly. First, Joe West just refuses to let his theory regarding Wells’ involvement with the death of Barry’s mother fall to the wayside and decides to enlist Cisco to help with the investigation, though he does keep the Wells theory to himself, at first. Through the brilliance of Cisco, new evidence is found that could finally uncover the identity behind both speedsters that were present the night Mrs. Allen died. Unfortunately, this discovery led to West spilling the beans about his thoughts on Wells, which did not sit well with Cisco. Being a team player, however, he did his part, which led to the discovery that Barry, an adult Barry, a future Barry, if you will, was one of the speedsters that was in the Allen house on that fateful night. I know, try to contain your surprise. This reveal did little in the way of revelations but it did add fuel to the theory that Wells is Barry from the future. Then again, it also doesn’t dispel the Nerd Bastard theory that Barry’s father in the series is actually Barry from the 90’s series, i.e. a different dimension/timeline.
The other subplot that was explored was the Iris/Barry relationship, or lack thereof. Anyone who has followed my reviews of the series since the pilot knows that I have not been a fan of the way that the series handles their relationship. As a matter of fact, the soap opera territory that the Iris situation generally wanders into has been my main source of critique on the show. This week, the soap opera music barely ran as Barry’s new love interest, Linda Park, became a bigger part of the story. After an adorable date that included superheroics in the background that Park never even suspected, things seemed to be on the right track for the couple until Iris came along and derailed that train, thanks to a bit of jealousy from Iris’ side. This may sound a bit soap opera-y (and a bit childish) but it played well and it was nice to see Iris stung a bit by Barry’s cold shoulder.
As with every episode thus far, every answer just brings more questions but, wisely, those questions are more fun than annoying, and if you don’t have your own theories regarding the series and its villains by now, you’re watching it wrong. With momentum like this, it is hard to see how the showrunners can keep up the momentum for the rest of the season, much less future seasons. Then again, this is the (second) fastest man alive and “Momentum” is Barry’s middle name. Here’s a quick look at next week’s episode, which promises to be just as wonderful.
How did you feel about last night’s episode? Are you glad the Iris/Barry drama has cooled a bit?