TV Review: The Flash - Season 2 Episode 21 "The Runaway Dinosaur"
EPISODE 21: "The Runaway Dinosaur"
SYNOPSIS: With Barry gone, the team must figure out a way to handle the return of an old enemy – Girder. Realizing Girder is retracing his steps from his last attack, Iris volunteers to act as bait to trap him in S.T.A.R. Labs. Meanwhile, Barry fights to return to his old life.
REVIEW: Without any fanfare or big marketing push behind it, you may not realize that tonight's episode of The Flash was directed by Kevin Smith. Yes, the man behind CLERKS, MALLRATS, and the upcoming YOGA HOSERS has directed his first superhero project and it is surprisingly not what you would expect. Smith is a massive comic book fan who has written for both Marvel and DC and has shown the ability to script serious material that differs dramatically from the tone and style of most of his films. This also marks the rare occassion were Smith is directing someone else's screenplay. The end result may be the most emotionally resonant episode of The Flash to date and one that introduces another layer to the multiverse concept.
Last week, Barry disintegrated during a particle accelerator explosion meant to give him his powers back. Presumed dead, this episode picks up with the team left stunned by Barry's absence while dealing with the unconscious Wally and Jesse who were knocked out by the particle wave. Both Wally and Jesse are alive but Jesse's heart had stopped and she is left in a comatose state. All the while, former metahuman foe Girder is resurrected from the dead and his zombie-like state hones in on the object of his affection: Iris. While everyone deals with these items, CIsco vibes on the remnants of Barry's flash costume which shows him floating in some sort of energy field. So, Barry is alive, but where is he?
It turns out that Barry has not disintegrated but rather been absorbed into the Speed Force itself. Barry soon finds himself in his childhood home with what appears to be Joe West in his old beat cop uniform. As he speaks, we quickly learn this is not Joe but rather a physical manifestation of the Speed Force used to help Barry acclimate to communicating with the source of his powers. Yeah, the energy that flows through speedsters in the DC Universe can talk. Barry seems very confused by the concept, but after a few minutes he and us as viewers are able to accept this with a modicum of disbelief. The Speed Force tells Barry that he cannot leave this realm until he has managed to catch a speeding shadow figure. Barry scoffs at the idea and leaves. As the episode progresses, Barry is confronted by different iterations of the Speed Force taking on guises of Iris West and Henry Allen. All of whom Barry doesn't listen to. Until one.
Even with Cisco reaching out to him, Barry is told that if he returns to his friends, it will be without his powers until he confronts the speeding shadow. He next is met by the Speed Force in the form of his late mother, Nora. Barry knows this is not his actual mother, but he is comforted by her presence. They talk and eventually she reads to him from his favorite childhood book, "The Runaway Dinosaur". Barry remembers the text which tells the story of a boy and his mother and their powerful bond. It is as simple as that and Barry realizes that his strength comes from what he considered his weakness and he catches the shadow, which turns out to be himself. With that, Barry regains his speed. The emotional heft of these scenes may be lost in the convoluted plotting of the Speed Force, but they resonate through Grant Gustin's performance and Kevin Smith's subdued direction. With that, Barry is pulled back to reality by Iris and Cisco.
Happy to have their friend back, they waste no time in putting him to work. Girder, still a zombie, is busting down the wall. Barry uses his regained speed to charge the electromagnets and takes down his former bully and saves the day. It is a nice moment and one that wraps up the episode nicely. We also get a nice capper scene between Barry and Iris who have gotten closer than ever thanks to his absence. The episode also manages to toss in a nice cameo by Jason Mewes as well as a resolution to what became of Jesse and Wally. While Joe tests Wally's reflexes and he doesn't seem to have been affected by the explosion, a simple touch from Barry is able to awaken the comatose Jesse, hinting that she may now be imbued with speed as well. The final scene of the episode finds Caitlyn being given an ultimatum by Jay/Zoom who goes on to address a room full of Earth-2 metahumans he has brought over to take down The Flash and our world.
This episode of The Flash may be the best thing Kevin Smith has directed in years. The guy certainly has an eye for superhero stories and seems to be much better suited to telling less humorous and more emotional fare. This proves to me that Smtih should be given his own comic book adaptation to helm and quick, as long as he doesn't write it. While Barry's journey was a powerful narrative, I do have to downgrade the score for this episode a bit because of Girder. The entire zombie-metahuman story was incredibly lame and just served to keep our supporting characters busy during this episode. If not for that, this would have easily scored a ten. Next week and the subsequent finale should be quite something with so many metahumans in Central City and the tease of Earth-2's Laurel Lance causing havok in Central City.
NEXT ON THE FLASH: "Invincible" airs May 17th - After Zoom unleashes an army of Earth-2 meta-humans onCentral City, Barry is shaken when he sees their leader is theBlack Canary's Earth-2 doppelgänger, the Black Siren. Meanwhile,Wally takes to the streets to help The Flash stop the meta-humans, which worries Joe. Iris and Henry are concerned about Barry taking on Zoom.