'The Flash' Episode 1.9 "The Man in the Yellow Suit" (10 out of 10) Starring Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Rick Cosnett, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Kavanaugh, and Jesse L. Martin. Guest starring Robbie Amell, Amanda Pays, John Wesley Shipp. Written by Aaron Helbing and Todd Helbing. First broadcast December 9, 2014.
It may be a mark of how good and how accessible "The Flash" is that my wife has decided to start watching it with me and my sons. She hasn't gotten on board with a superhero TV series since "Smallville," so that's saying something. This week's mid-season finale has a payoff for those of us who have been watching since the first episode, but is just as exciting and downright frightening to newcomers. It even has a few payoffs for those of us who have been watching "The Flash" since 1990. Okay, that may just be me. But it paid off.
Billing episodes as "mid-season finales" at all seems forced and silly to me. I mean, only a season finale is big enough to be a real finale, getting everyone to tune in--but here, "The Man in the Yellow Suit" earns the title. It moves the story of Barry Allen and the Flash forward in a big way, but also the stories of supporting characters who are becoming as important as Barry's in this series.
This episode takes place at Christmastime, so we have the Christmas tree going up in the West home, and some awkward gift-exchanging between Barry and Iris, and some less-awkward but more significant gift-exchanging between Iris and Eddie. The kids are moving in together, and Barry, ironically slow on the uptake, gets all moody about it. While he's in that funk, he reflects on his mother's murder (he's spiraling, okay?) and his dad's wrongful imprisonment...and then he shows up. The Man in the Yellow Suit. They guy who fourteen years ago, in a whirlwind of lightning, stabbed Nora Allen through the heart and killed her. Like, dead. We've seen this guy in the pilot, then again three episodes ago at Detective West's home when he stole the evidence from the murder from West, warning him that next time, he'd kill Iris.
While this is happening, Caitlyn Snow is doing some Christmas shopping, and runs into her old boyfriend. Her fiance, actually. Who's dead. Ronnie Raymond, no longer dead, is growling "I'm not Ronnie...I'm FIRESTORM!" and then his head and hands ignite in a not-unlike-Ghost Rider kind of way, and he runs away. We saw him kill some people under a bridge a few weeks ago, and now he's back. And angry. And on fire. Caitlyn flips out, and gets Cisco's help to try and track Ronnie down. They find him, he's still angry and on fire, and she cries. She actually has some good moments there, and isn't as weak as I'm making her sound. The geek part of me (96% of me) was excited that we're seeing Firestorm -- a DC Comics hero who's been around since the early 1980s -- and we may be progressing her along her own path to becoming Killer Frost -- villainess and Firestorm's archenemy. The other 4% of me felt bad for her. Because she's cute.
Reverse Flash is always a step ahead of Barry.
Back to the main thrust of the story -- this Man in the Yellow Suit. We haven't known who he is, just that he's a bad guy. In the comic books he's known alternately as Reverse Flash and Professor Zoom. It looks like in this series he'll be called Reverse Flash. And he's actually frightening. Knowing that he killed Nora is bad. Seeing him kill more people in this episode, you realize that a bad guy with Flash's superpowers would be unstoppable. Reverse Flash is always a step ahead of Barry. Not just in their races across Central City, but in his plotting, his plans, his genius. Barry and the S.T.A.R. Labs crew find a way to trap Reverse Flash using some tachyon technology they get from S.T.A.R.'s competitor Mercury Labs -- and this is where the 24-years-ago shoutout comes in. Mercury's director is Dr. Tina McGee, played by Amanda Pays...who played Dr. Tina McGee on "The Flash" TV series in 1990. I watched that series when it was on, and love seeing that the character has somehow lived on, and has some kind of history with Dr. Wells. She only gives up the tachyons when Barry blackmails her; I hope we see more of her and Mercury Labs in the near future.
Ultimately this episode is about Barry Allen meeting his ultimate enemy. The guy who killed his mother, who imprisoned his father, and who someday may kill Barry himself. The script, the direction, the special effects, the acting, all combine to make a truly menacing villain. No sneering, no mustache-twirling "I'll get you next time, Scarlet Speedster!" ...just a very real threat to everything that Barry loves. He's stronger he's smarter, he's ruthless--he's even faster than the Flash. It's a great introduction to a horrific villain. The episode is 62 minutes long, and that last two minutes is a doozy--we get the reveal. We see who Reverse Flash really is, and even though it's not a complete surprise, the bits of information we quickly get are significant. And some cool technology that has been a part of the Flash's story since the 1950s that we haven't seen yet.
If it comes down to either 100 hours of good superhero television or a good 2 hour movie...I'll take the television.
So yeah. A real finale. We have to wait until mid-January for new episodes, but I'm okay with that. Now that my wife is watching, we may have to go back and rewatch some episodes. All of them, I'm guessing. For a series that only has nine episodes under its belt, it's a great show. The preview of upcoming episodes showed us the return of Captain Cold (yay), and interviews with showrunners revealed that Mark Hamill will be reprising his role as the Trickster (he played the goofy villain in the 1990 Flash series), and Victor Garber as Dr. Stein, Firestorm's assistant/conscience/gestalt/mentor. It gets weird. Loving this series as a geek, loving it as a dad raising geeks, loving it as a DC Comics fan with a bleak cinematic future. If it comes down to having a hundred hours of fun superheroing on television or a single two hour movie, I'll take the television. I don't have much faith in this point in "Batman v Superman," or the movie series that Zack Snyder is building. I'm content with what's happening with DC Comics on the small screen. "The Flash" plus "Arrow," "Gotham" on Fox, plus the upcoming "Teen Titans" on TNT and "Supergirl" on CBS and just-announced "Krypton" on SyFy -- my DVR's gonna be earning its keep. It's about damn time.
And yeah, I didn't include "Constantine." Because it's "Constantine."