The Flash – Season 2 Episode 19
“Back to Normal”
Barry has to deal with not having his powers for an entire episode of The Flash as a metahuman captures Harry to make him pay for what the particle accelerator did to him.
It’s an interesting idea as Harry is being made to pay for something that actually had nothing to do with him. He was responsible for a similar event on Earth-2 but the explosion of the Earth-1 Particle Accelerator wasn’t even the fault of a real Harrison Wells.
Accepting consequences is something that he can take from this however as he has never really been made to pay for the things he has done. His murder of Turtle to further his own agenda to save Jesse is the case study for this. Jesse can’t believe that her father would be capable of murder even as a way to protect her so this caused her to leave. That in itself is a consequence of his actions but it’s not enough for him to really consider what he has done.
Griffin Grey (Haig Sutherland) is an effective embodiment of the guilt that he should be feeling even though he had absolutely nothing to with it. He represents the consequence of something that he is fully to blame for coming back to haunt him. Tom Cavanagh’s performance puts that across perfectly as he sees the terrible things he has done every time Harry looks at Griffin as well as seeing how difficult it is to atone for them. Up until this point Harry has been so blinded by making sure Jesse was safe that he didn’t fully consider the implications of what he was doing. This comes back to bite him by his daughter being estranged and being blamed for the crimes of another man.
Harry does find some hope when Jesse is willing to look past it and rebuild their relationship. This moment felt rushed as Jesse back-pedalled on being disgusted with him pretty quickly considering how profound it was previously. I do think it’s for the best that they find a way to put their differences aside because too much repetitive angst drives me insane but I wish it had felt a little more organic. Maybe if Jesse was forced into doing something that she was uncomfortable with for what she considered to be a greater good then it would have worked better but at least these characters are able to move forward and Jesse is back on Team Flash which can only be a good thing even though for now she is filling Caitlin’s role. Hopefully there is a better use for her.
As villains go, Griffin Grey was a nice callback to season 1 in that he is a metahuman created by the Particle Accelerator explosion who uses his powers to cause a problem for Team Flash. The twist in this episode is that Barry doesn’t have his powers to help bring him down so that changes the villain dynamic up a lot.
Griffin Grey is different to his comic book counterpart in that he is gifted with super strength but also cursed with rapid ageing. Any use of his powers causes him to age more rapidly which basically means that he’s on a ticking clock throughout the entire episode. He is portrayed as a tragic figure rather than being an outright villain which gives him considerably more depth than your average metahuman. He comes across as sympathetic as he is only 18 but looks so much older and all he wants is help before he dies much sooner than he would like. It’s simple yet effective and easy to see why someone so desperate would go to such lengths to save his own life.
In terms of threat level, if Barry had his powers then Griffin Grey would have been no problem for him at all, even early in season 1 he wouldn’t have posed too much of a threat but since Barry lacks speed and enhanced healing suddenly he becomes someone that could easily be killed by someone with super strength. It doesn’t dissuade him from doing what he can to help and leads to a clever sequence where Barry tries to bait him into exerting himself to the point that he’s too old to be a threat. Thankfully doing this reverts him back to his original age as Barry tricking someone into killing themselves would be pretty harsh.
Barry not having his abilities isn’t new for this show. They have done this once in the first season as well as earlier this season but this instance is different as he finds himself powerless for an entire episode with no apparent way to get them back. The other times this happened it was more a matter of time before his powers came back to him but this time -at least for Barry- feels permanent.
As such, he has to get used to his new reality which is shown really well through an opening montage that compares how an average day for him with his powers is to how his days are now. It’s easy to see why Barry would be annoyed. It must be frustrating to go from an instant commute to work to having to take the bus.
The whole episode has a fairly morbid tone because of this as Barry tries to settle into his new reality. He doesn’t sit around and mope as his desire to help others is still fully intact but his significantly reduced effectiveness is really getting him down. After nearly 2 years of living the life of a superhero it would definitely be difficult to adjust to being unable to do that any more.
As with any other story where a superhero loses their powers there is a lot of focus on how a hero is more than their powers and this is clearly shown to be the case for Barry who still spends most of the episode trying to help people. It’s a rare opportunity to explore other aspects of his character as well as how he handles true danger since he is now significantly more killable than usual. It all comes across well as being a hero is part of who Barry is. He is also fully aware that Caitlin needs to be saved but there’s pretty much nothing that can be done about it at this point since they need a Speedster to go through the breach and they currently don’t have one.
I can’t help but think that there’s a missed opportunity to let Cisco come into his own a bit as Vibe. With Barry being powerless it would have been the perfect time for him to step up and try to use his powers to fight crime. It’s a shame that this wasn’t at least discussed even if he isn’t ready quite yet.
Caitlin being Zoom’s prisoner creates some interesting scenes that essentially put Zoom in a bit of a holding pattern. He comes and goes throughout the episode while revealing his desire to have Caitlin fall in love with him again. He is so insane and deluded that he thinks it to be an actual possibility. He even frees her as a gesture of trust.
Hunter is shown to be tormented by the night his father killed his mother but these unwanted flashbacks only seem to appear around Caitlin. Granted we only have last episode and this episode to base that on but there definitely seems to be a connection there. His mother does resemble Caitlin in some small way so it could be that Caitlin reminds Hunter of his mother in some way. It’s really twisted but Hunter Zolomon is a deranged psychopath so twisted is somewhat expected.
Caitlin also gets to interact with her Earth-2 counterpart, Killer Frost who was taken prisoner after betraying Zoom back in “Escape from Earth-2”. Danielle Panabaker does a really good job pulling double duty and really highlights the differences in the two characters. I actually feel like she is doing an impression of Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold when playing Killer Frost. It’s all in the way she lingers on certain words and puts on an overdramatic voice. There are worse performances to emulate and she does it well.
The conversation they have about their family situation is an interesting one as it seems they both had mothers who were as “cold as ice” but the Earth-2 version apparently became that way after the death of a brother that Caitlin doesn’t have in Earth-1. As a result it means that there’s no identifiable reason for why our Caitlin’s mother was the way she was. My prediction is there was a miscarriage but we have no way of knowing unless developing Caitlin’s family situation is something that is on the cards. I really hope it is as I’m interested to learn more.
Killer Frost’s inevitable betrayal was really obvious but I’m not sure it would be to Caitlin considering she was dealing with another version of herself so might feel inclined to trust her. It’s a shame that Zoom killed her as I would like to see more of her but any trip to a parallel universe apparently has the death of the counterpart of at least one major character be a mandated plot point.
Zoom killing Killer Frost serves as an important reminder to Caitlin what defying him means. He won’t kill her -at least not yet- but will punish her for her actions in some other way. If she frees the Man in the Iron Mask then he will die as well so that mystery lingers on a bit longer.
This show is really struggling to find a place for Wally. He spends this entire episode trying to get a minute with the Flash to thank him for his second chance at life and promise that he won’t waste it. As a scene it was fine and it reinforced that Barry’s sacrifice was for the right reasons but I’m not quite sure how Wally fits into all of this at this point. The same goes for Iris who gives a pep talk and not much else.
For next week Zoom apparently wants to bring Earth-1 to its knees the same way he did with Earth-2 and Harry is going to recreate the conditions of the Particle Accelerator explosion to give Barry his powers back. I’m sure there is absolutely no way that could go wrong!
Before I finish off the review, I have a theory about the identity of the Man in the Iron Mask that hadn’t occurred to me when I wrote the last review. My thinking is that he is the real Jay Garrick from Earth-3. Hunter Zolomon could have found his way there and abducted him while getting the idea for being the Flash from him. In the comics, Barry Allen calls himself the Flash because he used to read comics starring a hero of the same name. This turned out to be visions from another Earth being interpreted as ideas that were then turned into comic books by writers and artists. As ideas go it’s pretty dumb but it could be adapted into Zoom taking inspiration from another Earth to come up with the concept of the Flash to use in his own deception. This will allow the writers of this show to introduce the real Jay Garrick and allow him to be a separate character from Zoom. That’s my theory, what’s yours?
A great episode that explores Barry’s new reality of being powerless being a barrier to his desire to help others. Harry is forced to face the consequences of his actions in a compelling way though his reconciliation with Jesse feels a little rushed. Griffin Grey is the best one shot villain the show has had in a whole as he manages to be truly sympathetic. Any scene featuring Caitlin interacting with Killer Frost was really good and her being Zoom’s prisoner adds further complexity to his character. The show really needs to find a better place for Wally who just fills time with his quest to thank the Flash.
- Barry adjusting to his new reality while still being a hero
- Harry’s acceptance of his actions having consequences
- the best one shot metahuman villain in a while
- Wally having no useful place in the show
- a quick and inorganic reconciliation between Harry and Jesse