“Things You Can’t Outrun” isn’t a particularly remarkable episode of television. It features an underdeveloped villain, some pretty terrible dialogue at times, and Iris continuing to be a millstone around the show’s neck, slowing things to a crawl just about whenever she shows up. Despite all this, there are more than a few things that make me very excited about where The Flash is headed and what the creative team will be capable of once they sort out some of the early problems the series is faced with.
In particular, the writers have proven remarkably adept at figuring out clever ways to deploy Barry’s powers. Just look at a scene late in the episode where Barry rushes to save Joe while he visits Barry’s father in jail. Barry arrives just in time to give Joe the antidote to the poison this week’s villain has infected him with, but in doing so he places himself squarely in view of his father. Barry’s in full costume, but when he brings his face up to meet his father’s glance he’s still worried that he might be recognized by his dad. To signal this fact the writers have Barry vibrate his face at a speed that renders his image blurry. It’s an unexpected, yet totally obvious moment that the writers mine beautifully. It manages to be both a fun comment on super hero tropes and it’s a clever way to admit that a father would obviously recognize his son even with a mask on. It’s a unique visual representation of Barry’s motivations.
It’s sound storytelling that’s exciting at the same time, and it’s these kinds of touches that bode well for the series’ long term health. The writers also are proving adept at building out the world of the show. Unlike in the first two episodes, this week’s villain doesn’t wind up dead, which means that the team needs a place to put him once he’s been caught since a regular jail is going to be pretty inept at holding a guy who is capable of turning into poison mist at will. To that end the series makes the smart decision to repurpose the failed particle accelerator as a makeshift prison.
It’s a sound choice, and one that allows the episode to dig into the night where things went wrong. Now, not everything we see here is particularly scintillating or essential, the flashbacks mostly exist to let us see Caitlin’s final moments with her fiancé Ronnie (Raymond) while also showing us the role that Cisco had in his “death.” There’s some overly lovey-dovey honeymoon planning between Caitlin and Ronnie, the expected tragedy of Ronnie being trapped in the accelerator when it blows, and an ultimate conquering of the traumatic past that has hounded both Caitlin and Cisco up to this point. But the actual nuts and bolts of the plotting is unremarkable, though the concept is strong.
Using the accelerator as a prison is, put simply, pretty damn cool, and the design of the accelerator is similarly exciting. The cheese factor is strong in this one, but all for the better. The Flash is inherently outlandish; the lead character is a guy who runs really fast.
It’s these touches on the fringes of “Things You Can’t Outrun” that keep it moving even as it stumbles into go-nowhere scenes, such as when Eddie accidentally arrives at the West household. The score here is almost unbearable. The music doesn’t overwhelm the scene, but the scoring is still so absurdly grandiose that the scene registers as woefully underwritten. If Candice Patton and Rick Cosnett had even an ounce of chemistry as a pairing perhaps they could put these kinds of scenes over, but they still haven’t found a groove together yet and, combined with the lackluster writing they’re working with, their scenes fall flat.
It’s still the early going, and really, most of the problems that occur here are ones that plague almost every new television series. The writers are still honing in on what kind of stories they can tell while also sketching in the outlines of their characters and determining how best to deploy them for maximum effect. The kinks haven’t been ironed out yet, but the imagination of the creatives on the show is still shining through. There are great ideas being implemented, the world is firmly structured, and, most importantly, the writers are consistently coming up with exciting and unique ways to utilize Barry’s powers to further the story. It’s moments as simple as a blurry face concealing a secret identity or Barry utilizing his rapid healing to preserve a bit of evidence within his own lungs that keep me enthused about this show even as it traverses the rocky foothill before the summit.