Now that it is nearing its finale, the second season of the CW’s Flash is taking an entirely opposite approach than its previous season. Last year, the show decided to get the big showdown between the Reverse-Flash and Barry out of the way so the finale could focus on our hero’s trip through time and his emotional meeting with his mother. This time around, they have decided to switch as Barry’s recent family reunion was the focus of the latest episode, ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’ and his final battle with Zoom is yet to take place. While there is a risk of returning to the same well over and over again, the 21st episode is proof that they haven’t done everything yet because it turned out to be an emotionally stirring period of Barry’s life.
One of the major selling points for this episode was that this important episode of Barry’s life was directed by Kevin Smith who decided to make the trip to Vancouver. He has become quite devoted to this show in the last six months and his attachment can be seen in a YouTube video in which he had an emotional breakdown while watching the season 1 finale. Clearly, he loves the material, but there were doubts how his move from hardcore fan to an active participant would work out. Moreover, Smith’s strengths lie in the editing and writing departments and he is not exactly known for his visual storytelling.
Luckily, he was focused on not rocking the successful boat of The Flash and this episode followed the same route as others in terms of style and looks. Smith did the same thing as other directors, which involves coaxing the best performances from his cast and framing the action. The only notable sign of Smith’s presence was the brief Jason Mewes cameo. This may be because the script for this episode was quite strong and it came from Zack Strenz, another Hollywood addition who wrote the X-Men: First Class.
‘The Runaway Dinosaur’ served pretty much the role of a spiritual sequel to last week’s episode as it explored the guilt Barry feels over the death of his mother and the connection he has with the Speed Force. This is the first time that the show has taken an in-depth look at the source of Barry’s powers and has explored the concept that they can be more than the super-science of comic books that’s behind his speed. Barry finds himself stranded in a sort of metaphysical realm after his disintegration and apparent death in the previous week’s episode.
Wherever he is stuck, a collective consciousness takes the form of his loved ones to guide and test Barry. It is basically his Speed Force that’s helping him understand his powers and is quite similar to the House of Black and White in Game of Thrones. The only exception is that you don’t get smacked in the face so much and you don’t talk about yourself in the third person. A man is the Flash. It was quite fascinating to see how Barry interact with his Speed Force brethren and deal with the consequences of giving up his speed, which was a great gift bestowed upon him.
While the season has boasted numerous strong performances, this was easily one of the best delivered by Grant Gustin. He was given the opportunity to experience and showcase a variety of emotions as Barry had to confront his ‘captors’ and had no choice but to deal with the heartbreaking trauma of his mother’s death. Again, the show takes a risk because there could be a downside to revisiting the issue of Nora Allen’s death over and over again. Earlier this year, the show already delivered an emotional scene involving Barry’s mother when our hero spoke to his mom on the phone during his visit to Earth 2. Nonetheless, the appeal is still consistent so far.
In addition, the scene between Barry and his mother worked out so well in this episode because Barry was initially unsure of whether this was just a manifestation of the Speed Force or he was truly conversing with his mother. But, essentially, it didn’t really matter because whether he was speaking to Nora’s spirit or not, Barry was able to have his moment with her and finally accept her death. This episode was not just about the Flash getting his powers, although that was also important, but it was also the pivotal moment when Barry accepted that he would never be fast enough to save everyone he loves.
Hence, when Barry finally emerged from his confrontation with the Speed Force, he was more mature and had a much clearer sense than before. There was also a lot of emotional weight packed into his return to the actual world. His mother spoke the usual ‘Run, Barry, run’. But, the highlighting point was that it is Iris who tethered him to the actual world rather than Henry or Joe. While we may thing that the show is pulling Barry and Iris together a bit too quickly, the two characters shared one of their strongest moments when Barry told Iris “I’ll always come back when you call”.
While all of this was happening, the Star Labs crew had their hands full with saving Jesse and handling the revived Girder. Sure, he was not a very good villain from Season 1 and his return was mostly a way to keep the crew busy until Barry returned. Nonetheless, it was a source of some great comedy as Cisco was characteristically hilarious, especially the way he greeted Barry. We saw a B-horror movie vibe the first time Iris and Cisco were attacked by Girder in the morgue. Wells and Cisco’s attempt to update Barry about the whole Girder situation also packed some laughs.
It was nice to see that the show doesn’t hesitate in poking fun at its own stories as was evident when they explain the complicated Thawne/Wells story to Henry. Wally’s role in the story was also a humorous element. There had been some concerns about the show’s attempt to turn Wally and Jesse into speedsters. Therefore, it was nice to see that they decided to subvert expectations in regard to Wally and it was fun to see Joe try and explain to Wally about his speed powers, which he doesn’t possess. It is yet to be seen how Jesse’s arc will revolve.
The episode didn’t forget to give viewers an insight into the brewing conflict with zoom as they showed a glimpse of the huge supervillain army that Zoom is assembling. Hopefully, Barry’s tie with the Speed Force gave him a boost because he will have his hands full in the remaining two episodes. Let’s hope that there will be some Zoom wrinkles coming to give the villain some depth. The reveal that he was a speed vampire was kind of disappointing. They have improved on him since then, but simple conquest and death don’t seem like much of a master plan. The reveal of the man in iron helmet may provide us with something.
Last, but definitely not the least, Henry’s decision to stay in Central City could lead to his death and it could be a tactic to achieve the same emotional heights as the previous season.