Spoilers ahead for “The Runaway Dinosaur,” the latest episode of The Flash!
The short version: After Barry dematerialized last week following an experiment to regain his powers, it turns out he was transported to a place where he literally comes face to face with the Speed Force itself. Back on Earth-1, the gang is forced to take on Zombie Girder. But don’t forget about Zoom! He’s quickly amassed a metahuman army. Uh-oh. Oh, and Jesse apparently has Speed Force powers now!
Despite the appearance, this was not just a filler episode
Leading into this episode, it seemed like we’d basically see the gang spend an hour trying to find Barry as he fought to escape some wacky McGuffin of an alternate dimension. But man, this was so much more. When Harry’s experiment went awry, Barry was transported into the Speed Force itself and went on a personal journey to finally embrace his life and what makes him a hero. As we come barreling toward the final faceoff with Zoom, it was the perfect palate cleanser to focus on characters and tell a deeply personal story for Barry. Bravo, Team Flash.
The Speed Force takes on the identities of all the people close to Barry in his life (hey, we do have a budget to maintain, folks), as they all push him toward some personal realizations. They keep telling him he has “rejected” his powers, but that doesn’t mean exactly what he thinks. They’re not talking about him giving up his powers to save Wally, but instead his personal guilt and regrets that keep him from “running free.”
The big thing that’s been holding Barry back all these years? Actually accepting the death of his mother, especially after he chose to not stop her murder when he traveled back in time. It seems that event has, understandably, continued to weigh heavily on Barry’s psyche. So, his journey through Speed Force Memory land finally comes to a head with Barry sitting down for a chat with his mother (well, the Speed Force as his mother). Brutal, but great.
It was a tear-jerking moment, and provided some amazing growth for Barry as he prepares to take on Zoom. It all culminates with Barry catching The Flash, and finally becoming one again with the Speed Force. He also has a poignant chat with his father Henry after retuning to this moral coil, as Barry accepts that all the bad (and good) things that happened to him truly played a role in turning him into the hero he has become. Guest director Kevin Smith (Clerks) brought his A-game to this one, and it shows.
Fear The Walking Metahuman Semi-Dead
With Barry off on a Speed Force-fueled spiritual journey, they needed a B-story other than the search to keep the team busy. So, we got our first zombie-fied metahuman story. It seems the experiment to give Barry back his powers also had the unintended side effect of reanimating former Metahuman of the Week Girder, who was (apparently) still on ice down in the STAR Labs morgue (why would a particle accelerator lab have a morgue, by the way?). The science as to his reanimation was a bit tenuous, but hey, we’re not gonna complain about a zombie story.
It seems that even in un-death, Girder is still crushing on Iris, so the team uses her as bait to lure him in for Cisco to blast him with a magnet (for science reasons). This tactic turns out to be an epic fail, so Cisco makes a last ditch effort to send another homing beacon out for Barry, in hopes he’ll follow it home and save the day. Thanks to some tight directing, this moment coincides with Barry’s great realization that leads to his powers being returned, so he’s able to swoop in and use super-speed to charge the magnets (apparently). Eh, whatever: The Flash sough a zombie, guys. Take it and enjoy it.
Random notes: New speedsters, and Baris begins
Having Cisco use his vibe powers to find Barry was a nice move, and kept the team from mourning him for too long before they ramp up into rescue mode. Good pacing. Keen-eyed Kevin Smith fans were certain to note the Jason Mewes cameo not-so-subtly slipped into this episode (the guy who’s Hummer is trashed by Girder). It was cute, but I’d have preferred a more subtle Jay and Silent Bob moment, with the duo just standing in the background of a shot. Sigh.
Those Speed Force effects in the climactic rescue were beyond cheesy. Yikes. Building the episode around the Runaway Dinosaur storybook was a bit heavy-handed, sure, but it still ripped your heart out and stomped on it. Well played. Can’t wait to see where they go with Jesse apparently having Speed Force powers, but why is it taking so long for Wally to manifest? Is he keeping it a secret, or was that just a big fake out? Last but not least: The show has been leaning into the Baris (WestAllen? Wait, what’d we decide, guys?) relationship in recent episodes, and it looks like Barry and Iris are officially a thing now (#NeverForgetPatty). Here's hoping it works!
Line of the night: “I gave you that mug!” - Iris.
Other line of the night (which also featured great network synergy): “Is iZombie still behind you?” - Cisco
Up next: It looks like the battle with Zoom returns to center stage (so nice of him to spend the last episode on the sidelines while Barry was gone!), and we’ll certainly see more of his apparent metahuman army. Oh, and the Earth-2 version of Laurel!