I promise I didn’t do anything bad to Alyssa this week, guys! However, when she asked me to review this week’s episode of The Flash, Run Iris Run, how could I resist? Two great episodes in a row, and I get to write about them? Count me in!
This was one of the most exciting episodes of the season to me for several reasons, so let’s get into it!
Embracing Its Comic Book Roots
Comic books are wacky, and not just because they’re about people who dress in spandex and punch things. Iron-Man’s super suit once came to life and fell in love with him. Spider-Man once became a giant spider and gave birth to himself. Supergirl once made out with her horse. (Granted, he was in human form at the time, he’d been in love with her when he was a horse, and she didn’t know he was her horse when she made out with him. But still. Supergirl’s horse was in love with her, took human form, and they made out.)
What I’m saying is that comic books can be absolutely bananas.
The only thing that happens more often than human characters getting superhuman powers for an issue in the comics is Barry revealing his identity as Flash to strangers on the show. It’s a fun way to ask the question “what if?” What if Lois Lane had X-Ray vision? What if Loki turned Thor into a frog? What if Supergirl made out with her horse?
I have to let go of the horse thing.
I adore Iris as she is. In fact, I could – and probably will – write an entire article about why characters like her are important on shows like The Flash. So I’m glad that, at the end of the day, we returned to the status quo (in perhaps more ways than one). But I also loved this episode for so many reasons. For highlighting that it isn’t powers that makes Iris a hero and that Barry isn’t just a hero because he has speed. For giving us some humor after the absolutely gripping episode last week. For its callbacks, like Iris flying off the treadmill into boxes of packing peanuts. (Why do they have empty boxes stacked around like that? I guess it’s just in case Barry trips during his morning workout.) And, frankly, for being just plain fun.
The humor and the fun in this episode is exactly why I was looking forward to it so much. If you’re writing a comic book show and you aren’t having fun, you’re just not doing it right.
Harry v. DeVoe
This was really the first episode in a long time that I felt that Harry had a purpose. They’ve floundered with various iterations of his character since he stopped being Reverse Flash. In this episode, he was entirely focused on DeVoe. More, he was willing to take incredible risks to try to take him down. Only Cisco seemed to handle Harry’s suggestion that his brain be blasted with dark energy with the appropriate level of “da fuq?”
Cisco and Harry arguing over the former’s continued refusal to help was a humorous break from the tension between them. However, I had to wonder why Harry didn’t circumvent Cisco and just go to Caitlin for help. As a bio engineer, shouldn’t she be the logical one to assist? (I know, I should stop expecting consistency in what these characters are expected to know how to do, since Caitlin has been everything from an OBGYN to a trauma surgeon.)
Perhaps only because Resolute Harry reminds me so much of Evil Harribard, but I wondered if his reckless determination might be leading to something. Particularly because the Meta of the Week, Melting Point, survived the episode. Could Harry’s obsession with DeVoe take him over the edge? Could they be setting him up to get powers of his own, thanks to the new meta? Perhaps even to become a villain next season?
It seems repetitive for Harry to be the villain next year. However, they’ve never had as much fun with him as they did in season one, so I’m not entirely ruling out the possibility.
Ralph Is Literally the Worst
It’s nothing against the actor. I think he does his level best to give his character some likability. But, man, the writers giveth and the writers taketh away. How many times do we have to see him decide not to be a hero? To run and hide? How often does he need to be told he’s a good person? Or to be given the pep talk that he needs to be brave?
I understand why the rest of the team was at least willing to explore Harry’s idea – if not to nuke his brain than at least to explore the option. I also understand why Cisco was adamant that this seemed like a Very Bad Idea. And while I know his life is on the line, Ralph’s petulance was absolutely grating when he sarcastically thanked everyone. Everyone who was actually in favor of the idea of potentially using their friend as a guinea pig to save him.
On top of that, he berated Iris for always hiding behind her desk and not putting her life on the line. When she has, in fact, more than once this very season, put her life on the line. For him specifically on at least one occasion. Does he not remember when he and Cisco were shrunk to Scooby Snack size? It was Iris in the field who helped save them both.
Man, she should have stomped on him a few more times, for good measure.
And then, after showing himself to be the worst house guest ever with no home training, he spent the rest of the episode cowering in his little hole, refusing to help. At this point, I can’t help but wonder why everyone is so determined to help save him. I would actively shove him into oncoming traffic. I would gift wrap him and deliver him personally to DeVoe. “My bus meta is your bus meta. Please. Take him away.”
Literally. The. Worst.
Holding Out for a Hero(ine)
Fans of Iris have always known she’s a hero. In or out of the suit. This episode demonstrated it more than ever, not only in the actions she took with her powers but her decision to give them back in the end. Be honest. If you had superpowers, would you give them up? I guess it depends on what kind you had. Super speed might be fun. Exponentially multiplying the dust bunnies under your bed would be less so.
Iris and Barry are two of my favorite characters on television, so I was more than happy to see them get a glimpse through the other’s eyes. Barry’s at a definite low point. He’s lost his job with the police (which might have more emotional resonance for the audience if we were ever allowed to see him do it). He doesn’t know how to stop DeVoe. And now he doesn’t even have his speed.
And yet, though he was concerned, he was also completely supportive of Iris this episode. Unlike Ralph, he didn’t react by hiding in a hole somewhere. He didn’t lash out at the people around him. While he clearly would have preferred to be in the field, he took point behind the monitors, still doing whatever he could to help. Which, for the record, is what heroes do.
Still, as much as I love Barry, this episode also clearly demonstrated why Iris is more effective as a team leader. Barry is a hero with a lot of heart, but sometimes that heart gets the better of him. He’s more than once acted impetuously. Recklessly. Thoughtlessly. He has been willing to put others at risk to save the people he loves – whether it’s putting Cisco in Harribard’s path in season one to help his father or leaving Caitlin/Killer Frost to her own devices while he jumps to the future to get answers to save Iris in season three. And more than once this episode, when Iris was in danger and he couldn’t race off to save her, he froze.
Sometimes the best heroes don’t make the best team leaders. I absolutely adore Barry for his heart and never want him to change, but a team needs someone who’s able to put their feelings aside and stay calm when hard decisions must be made. Frankly, it’s one of the many reasons why Barry and Iris work so well together.
Also, while I didn’t enjoy Ralph’s temper tantrum, I did enjoy getting Iris’s point of view about the events of last season. The fear she had to face led to her giving up her job as a reporter and to embrace her role as team leader. It led her to feeling like she had to prove to herself that she wasn’t afraid. But she is a hero in her own right. Not just because she helps Barry, but because she is the one who shares his story. She helps the city keep hope when hope is hard to find.
Barry is a light in the dark for the people of Central City by saving them as the Flash. Iris was reminded that she is a light in the dark by giving people hope, reminding them that heroes exist. For the audience, she’s the reminder that you don’t need superpowers to be a hero. And in today’s day and age, isn’t that something we all need to remember?
It is one of the many reasons I love her – and characters like her in the comics. It’s why I loved seeing her with powers for one episode, but also why I’m glad it was only for one episode. And it’s an aspect of her character that I hope (and have some small reason to believe) will be explored more in future.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.