So the fastest man alive has had his powers for a few weeks and already he’s canvasing the streets of Central City, saving kittens from trees and people from burning buildings. With a bit of help from Cisco, that is. Unfortunately, the uber, always angry Caitlin catches the duo and shares her opinion on their behavior. “People in this city still need help,” Barry counters, “and I can help then.” Wells, though not as vociferous in his arguments as Caitlin, cautions restraint. “Know your limits,” he reminds Barry, a sentiment that has been woven into the framework of so many new heroes.
Then there’s Barry’s day job. Detective West calls him in on a robbery murder where, despite surveillance footage showing one individual, evidence at the scene hints at up to six men at the scene. When he and Barry step away from the investigation crowd, West gets on his former ward for lack of focus and staying within the confines of reality. The tension between Barry and his surrogate father, both in the present and flashbacks to a younger Barry, are the driving force behind the episode. In the flashbacks, Barry’s anger towards West is because the latter refuses to let him see his father in prison. It’s a decision borne out of the desire to protect Barry from the prospect of seeing his father locked up. Though different circumstances, West’s castigation of Barry’s choices as an adult stem from protecting his surrogate son from the dangers of criminals of the real world.Barry is trying his best not to get Iris involved in his new life as the Flash
Speaking of the real world, Barry’s still trying to find a way to balance his new powers with old responsibilities. Namely, his day job and friendship with Iris, all the while keeping his abilities under wraps. He ends up accompanying his bestie to a Man of the Year celebration for Simon Stagg, a top researcher in organ transference/cellular cloning. It seems the bad guys have the same idea, crashing the event and nearly killing a guard, one whom Barry saves. He even tries following the thieves but inexplicably passes out. West and Thawne arrive on the scene and Barry gets another earful from West, though not as bad as Caitlin’s reaction when Barry admits to his bouts of dizziness. Thanks to Cisco’s ingenuity, the STAR Lab scientists put Barry through a few tests on a ‘super treadmill’ and discover Barry’s simply not ingesting enough calories to balance out his super metabolism. After finding Barry’s wall of information on Henry Allen, West tracks Barry to the Lab and ups his pressure on Barry to stay out of the fight. “You’re just a kid,” Joe tells him, “you’re my kid.” Barry’s petulant response is to remind the man that raised him he’s not “your kid, Joe. And you’re not my father.” Though harsh, Barry’s motivation comes from a good place. He was unable to save his mother from dying or father for being convicted of the crime, but if he has the ability, he’s not going to let other innocents die, so long as he has the power to prevent it.
In a dark alley, Stagg’s head of security meets with Danton Black, a former employee of Stagg who’s suing him and, unbeknownst to Stagg, wants him dead. He shows off his multiplying talents when the security head tries walking away. West passes on the murder to Barry and, when Iris catches the tail end of their conversation, knows something is going on between the two. While Barry does research and his best not to open up to Iris, West and Thawne pay Stagg a visit. The three are ambushed by Black and a few of his clones. Barry gets word to suit and does save West from a storm of bullets but, when he tries taking down Black and his clones, gets beat down, barely escaping with his life.
More on Black: he was a biogeneticist (specializing in cloning) when Stagg took his research and fired him. After the perceived failure, Barry thinks West was right. Dr. Wells tries to make Barry understand that all grand enterprises have their setbacks but the fastest man alive can only see his exploits in fighting crime “was a mistake.”
“Be the good boy our mom and I know you are.”
Convinced he’s won’t be living the double life, Barry rededicates himself to being a friend to Iris while Wells pays Detective West a visit. He reminds the detective that the “are the only ones able to protect Central City.” More than that, he believes that Barry can be a hero but “doubt is his real enemy”. The only way Barry can reach his potential is for West to believe in him.
Journalist-to-be Iris and Barry are having their dinner when she tells him about the ‘red streak’ news all over the internet. Not long after, Caitlin calls Barry to the Lab where he comes face to face with a Black clone grown from the skin cells they retrieved from the crime scenes. The clones, when not being controlled by Black are nothing more than empty shells. His will is what gives them their drive and therein lies his weakness. Take out the Prime Black and all the others will fall.
Black decides to make the final move against Stagg at his office and we come to realize that Stagg’s not the pillar of virtue his image cultivates. Black blames his wife’s death on Stagg stealing his research and wants the man to pay with his life. Barry arrives at the scene and starts taking out the clones but there are too many. Nearly overwhelmed, he gets the pep talk he needed from both West and Wells and it boosts his determination to take out the bad guy. He locates the Prime and knocks him unconscious which cuts the string on the hundreds of clones littering the building. But Black isn’t done, charging after Barry only to fall through the window. Barry catches him but the man forces the hand away, willfully falling to his death.Barry and his team. “We were all struck by lightning.”
In the aftermath, Barry wonder why Black didn’t want to be saved. “Some people when they break,” Wells says almost to himself, “they can’t be put together again.” Even the hero, ever the hopeful, Barry contends that “Some people heal even stronger.” It doesn’t stop there. He sees their little group; Caitlin, Wells, and Cisco as all being “struck by lightning.” The heart-to-heart continues when Joe visits Barry and firmly entrenches himself into the ‘Flash’s’ corner.
And then there’s the epilogue where Wells and Stagg speak of meta-humans and the advancements they could create. Wells, seeing Stagg as a threat, takes Stagg out because “the fastest man alive must be kept safe.”
The Hero’s Journey
- From the beginning, ‘The Flash’ has been presented as a story about hope and growth, a story about helping others. The psychology of Barry Allen’s childhood plays into his outlook and drive as the Flash the same way Bruce Wayne’s unfortunate experience in his parents’ murder has steered him towards the cape and cowl of the Dark Knight. “The Fastest Man Alive” truly differentiates Barry from the Caped Crusader as he sees things much like Peter Parker. Though they may not carry the morose demeanor of Bruce Wayne, they care every bit as much about saving those that need to be saved.
- Flashbacks in both movies and television, can be a tricky thing. While it can enhance by filling in gaps, there can also be an overdependence upon using the device. It wasn’t until ‘Arrow’ that a show used flashbacks to ultimately tell two parts of a story. ‘The Flash’ follows this example as we are given glimpses of the young Barry Allen as he wrestles with the pain of his father’s wrongful convictions. Instead of overkill, these flashbacks add depth to Barry’s newfound abilities as he tries to find his way as the fastest man alive.