Spoilers ahead for “Back to Normal,” the latest episode of The Flash!
The short version: After giving up his powers last week to save Wally, Barry is trying to figure out how he can still fight crime without his super-speed. Wells gets kidnapped while searching for his daughter, and the gang has to fight a really sad metahuman to save him. Oh, and Jay/Hunter/Zoom is in the creepiest rom-com ever with Caitlyn.
A hero losing his powers is cliched, sure, but it was handled well
The opening montage contrasting Barry’s super-speed routine with normal ol’ humanity was a great way to kick things off, showing how this loss not only affects his ability to save people and fight crime — it’s also fundamentally changing the way he does everything, from getting dressed to doing work (and stealing coffee, apparently?). It was an excellent compare and contrast, without dwelling too long on it all. Excellent way to tell that story.
Barry does spend some of the time moping around, which is understandable, but not once does he truly lose hope in doing good. Even without his powers, he straps on Harry’s super-gun and tackles the Metahuman of the Week head-on. It’s refreshing to see them not take that route, since the Barry Allen we’ve come to know over the past two seasons isn’t the kind of guy to just hang it up and give up when the chips are down. Heck, he’s even throwing himself back into his CSI work as a way to fight crime without his powers (and actually uses those skills to crack the case). With all the superhero antics typically going on, those skills are woefully underused. This was a great throwback to remind us Barry really does have some detective skills.
That Metahuman of the Week story was a legit gut punch
This wasn’t your typical episode of The Flash, and it didn’t feature a typical villain. “Back to Normal” put a spin on the DC Comics character Griffin Grey, first introduced back in 2006. This version of the story is basically a (very) pared-down retelling, following a young man who gains amazing abilities that come with a tragic cost — they cause rapid aging, meaning the 18-year-old boy is on the verge of dying of old age. When the kid spots Harry looking for Jesse (understandably mistaking him for Earth-1’s late Harrison Wells, something you think would’ve happened more by now), he Harry-naps him to create an antidote.
It’s understandable, even if he does go about it all the wrong way. The kid just wants his normal life, and his girlfriend, back. But he won’t listen to reason, so Team Flash concocts a plan to force him to use up his powers and, essentially, die of old age. But ... how do you do that without Barry’s speed? A timely mini-crossover, of course! Cisco reaches out to Arrow’s Felicity (off-camera) and borrows some of Ray Palmer’s dwarf star alloy to reinforce the suit so Barry can at least survive one hit from Grey. Barry takes a few too many hits, but it works, and the boy changes back to his young self in death (friggin’ tragic, man).
Don’t scorn a serial killer with super-speed
Jay/Hunter/Zoom spends most of the episode trying to convince Caitlyn he’s really not that bad of a guy, and that they can have a life together. Yeah, it’s as uncomfortable and unsettling as it sounds. But, in-between his puppy love, he leaves Caitlyn alone long enough to explore his lair — where she finds her evil doppelgänger, Killer Frost. It’s been a long time coming to get these two on-screen together, and it does not disappoint. The dynamic between the two is just great, as they compare life stories and work out a plan to escape together. Of course, Killer Frost is a bad guy, and tries to kill Caitlyn as soon as she’s free. But, Zoom flies back in at the last second (in a really cool scene) and stabs Frost with her own icicle. Cold, dude (heehee).
But, after realizing Caitlyn will never love him, Zoom vows to head back to Earth-1 and bring it to its knees. Uh oh.
Wally has some great moments, but isn’t very bright
Seriously, how has he not figured out that Barry is The Flash? When he comes to talk to Joe about The Flash, you assume he’s finally put the pieces together that it’s Barry. Then, he literally goes through all this very obvious evidence to reveal his theory...that Joe might know The Flash. C’mon, man. You’re better than this. But, boneheaded-ness aside, Wally does get a nice moment where he thanks The Flash for giving up his powers to save him. It’s a nice reminder for Barry that even saving one life can truly make a difference.
Other good stuff
This episode had a lot of great moments, from Harry comparing her dad to Zoom (ouch), to the little details about how Central City is being affected without The Flash on the streets (crime is up!). The cellular dead zones tracking system for Earth-2 people was a bit strange (that could’ve come in handy when Earth-2 baddies were busting through), but at least they have it in the toolbox for the future. We also get an Ace Chemical cameo for comic fans, plus Cisco’s piñata metaphor was laugh-out-loud funny.
Barry won’t be super-slow for long
If you were wondering how long they’d ride this arc following Barry without his powers, it looks like it should wrap up next week. Which is good. Sure, this episode was a nice break from the formula, but with Zoom looming, Central City needs a Flash. While being berated by Grey about stuff Earth-1 Wells did (though Harry, admittedly, did some similar stuff in Earth-2), Harry has to face some of his own demons. Out of that experience, and after finally reconciling with his daughter (who he calls “My little Jesse Quick,” by the way, comic fans), he vows to help Barry regain his speed.
The plan? Recreate the particle accelerator that gave Barry his powers. Yeah, next week should be interesting.