If there’s one thing you can say for The Flash, it’s not scared to swing big. The first season is just past the halfway mark and the series is already delving into time travel, nuclear powered human fusions, and a telepathic intelligent gorilla. The Flash is quickly demonstrating that it’s willing to play in strange, potentially ridiculous arenas of the superhero genre and neither its TV budget nor its more serious parent show is going to stop it from doing so. Arrow’s always had a bit of a ridiculous streak buried underneath its grim exterior, but The Flash has openly focused on this aspect of superhero stories, gleefully heading towards plot elements that could spell disaster if they weren’t handled with the light, hugely enjoyable touch that the series has quickly mastered.
Let’s skip to that final scene quickly, because it just about perfectly accentuates what I mean when I say that The Flash likes to be a little ridiculous. The series has hinted at a proper appearance from Gorilla Grodd twice now, once during General Eiling’s previous appearance and again during another episode’s final scene. Here though we see the first proper on screen portrayal of Grodd and it’s more than a little exciting. Grodd’s not an easy character to get right, pretty much because it’s not easy to sell an ape on a TV budget, let alone a huge, hyper intelligent one with mind control powers. It’s a ludicrous concept, and while Grodd is an iconic Flash villain he’s not one that’s so iconic that it was essential to involve him in the show this quickly. The writers seem to be up for the challenge though, almost daring themselves to get it right, and while the tag on this episode isn’t a guarantee that Grodd will emerge as a fully-fledged villain before the end of the season, it’s still far more of the character than I ever anticipated seeing this early in the show’s run.
Similarly, “Fallout” barrels headlong into the story of Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein as the two finally come to terms with the accident that caused their fusion and ultimately gain control of their new fused identity, Firestorm. It’s a big step forward, and while Ronnie and the Professor decide to head on the road to better understand their new situation, taking them off the table for the moment, the introduction of another metahuman hero to the series at this early date is further proof that the writers aren’t ready to delve deeply into concepts that are more complicated than just Barry Allen beating up the standard metahuman who happens to pop up in Central City each week before tossing them in the jail housed in S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator.
None of this is exactly news, this series has been steadily and consistently showing that while its bread and butter may be freak-of-the-week installments it is still more than capable of mixing things up to tell different kinds of stories when necessary. “Fallout” just happens to be an episode where its primary method of storytelling seems to be built around this side of the series. Almost every plot features some amount of absurdity, whether it’s Barry learning that his future self was the second speedster present during his mother’s murder, General Eiling’s gruesomely engineered anti-Flash traps, or the aforementioned appearance of Grodd. There are a lot of clever ideas being thrown around and they energize the plot nicely, keeping things moving and building to an exciting climax where Ronnie and Martin get to show off the power of their properly achieved fusion.
One plot that’s a bit more sedate is the one dealing with Iris, the purpose of which is primarily to resettle her with a new set of goals and objectives rather than being wholly satisfying in its own right. Somehow, the episode manages to make this mostly work, save for one or two sequences that push the goofiness too far with a few too many ridiculous lies and overly emphatic musical cues. It turns out that Iris’ mentor at the newspaper, Mason, is insistent on digging into Harrison Wells and the team at S.T.A.R. Labs and while Iris is at first reluctant to help him, she ultimately realizes that she’s not getting the full story from the team and establishes herself in a potential adversarial role to the rest of the characters as she decides she wants to help figure out just what Wells has been up to all along. It’s still far too early to tell if this will be a successful avenue of approach, in particular because it could simply lead to more tortured, ill-conceived lies that serve to make Iris look silly. At the very least though it gives Iris a purpose within the series, something the character has sorely lacked up to this point.
“Fallout” is another episode of The Flash that confidently demonstrates that the folks behind this series have a strong vision for the show and increasingly understand how best to execute that vision. The Flash isn’t just Arrow with superheroes and that fact has been clear from the start. The Flash revels in the genre, excited to delve into some of the weirdest, silliest corners of its source material all in service of having a whole heck of a lot of fun.