“The Man in the Yellow Suit” is a pretty big relief, if only because so much of the episode seems concerned with progress, taking many of the plots that The Flash has put into play over its first nine episodes and finally moving them forwards rather than just stagnating. The Flash started out strong, stronger than most young series, but it still hadn’t worked out a good number of kinks. This final episode of the year doesn’t quite solve everything, but it does make a conscious and smart decision to stop holding back.
For one, we finally get to see the Reverse-Flash in action, and even learn the villain’s identity. (Although I’m still not convinced that Dr. Wells is the Reverse-Flash we see throughout the entirety of the episode, if only because he’s been too villainously suspicious up until this point for me to believe that there isn’t another twist coming.) It’s a moment the season has clearly been building to, and while we’ve had hints and brief appearances from the Reverse-Flash up to this point, it’s great to see him actually go toe-to-toe with Barry in a couple of suitably exciting action sequences.
There isn’t a ton of the Reverse-Flash in this episode, and there’s very little closure as well since he gets away with the Mercury Labs tachyon device at the conclusion of this week’s installment, but what we do see is effective at setting him up as a viable and frightening foil for The Flash. We got a hint of just how dangerous a villainous version of The Flash could be last week, and this week we see that potential realized. The Reverse-Flash is all menace and malice, quickly snapping the necks of Mercury Labs guards, beating Dr. Wells within an inch of his life, and staring daggers with his huge, glowing red eyes. It’s immensely satisfying to have a villain live up to the hype after weeks of anticipation, and the Reverse-Flash doesn’t disappoint. He’s a shot in the neck for the series and the kind of big bad that injects a whole lot of momentum into a TV series.
More importantly though, “The Man in the Yellow Suit” takes steps to alleviate some of the series worst elements, in particular, Barry’s secret love for Iris. Things don’t start out strongly, as an overly meaningful Christmas gift Barry gives to Iris sets Eddie on alert about the pair’s relationship. Luckily, rather than just playing things for mildly awkward and interminably boring results as usual, the episode instead has Barry admit to Iris that he’s in love with her. It’s a small scene, and it’s gratifyingly underplayed; Barry admits his feelings, Iris takes in the info, and the show moves on.
It’s not a seismic shift, but it’s an important one all the same, as it does exorcise at least some of the painful plot elements that have plagued the show up to this point. Barry’s no longer going to be hiding his feelings from Iris and he’s either finally ready to move on or pursue her like a grown adult rather than pine for her like a child. It’s not enough to make me truly care about the plot, Iris is still nowhere near endearing enough to live up to the person that Barry seems to be in love with, but it’s still a strong step forward that promises real progress rather than just continual repetition of the same tired story beats.
Another plot that finally pulls itself out of neutral is Ronnie’s, who returns this week after being teased at the end of the last episode and earlier in the season. His burning limbs and general lack of knowledge about his true identity fitting in with the Firestorm mythology that DC Comics fans are already well versed in. Ronnie’s been another looming thread that most viewers, comic readers or not, likely knew would be returned to, if only because his previous appearance was only useful as foreshadowing rather than engaging drama. Firestorm/Ronnie may not get tons to do here, the plot primarily deals with Caitlin and Cisco realizing he’s alive while also allowing for a brief appearance from Ronnie during The Flash and Reverse-Flash’s final fight sequence. All the same, it’s gratifying to know that this thread is moving forward rather than just continually teasing the audience with things to come.
More than anything, that’s what this episode excels at, gathering the disparate elements that The Flash has been developing and throwing them all together in one massive episode. It wouldn’t have been hard to guess from the very beginning that we’d be finally seeing The Reverse-Flash around this point in the season, but it was surprising to see just how many plots that had been slowly building were paid off. Some were overdue, some were played at just the right moment, and others came excitingly early. “The Man in the Yellow Suit” might not end up being a significant turning point for The Flash when it’s looked back on, but right now it feels like it very may well be one. The creative team brought The Flash up to high speed here, throwing caution to the wind and pushing forward on all fronts. Now it’s up to the show to keep plunging forward when it returns next year.