The Flash – Season 8 Episode 8

Mar 24, 2022 | Posted by in TV

“The Fire Next Time”

The Flash deals with accusations and second chances when fingers are pointed at an innocent Metahuman following a couple of murders.

Heroism comes in many forms and a common arc for costumed superheroes is coming to realise that they can do far more than using their powers or skills to fight criminals or super powered threats. Barry is unquestionably a force for good within Central City though the show has rarely tackled the notion of the Flash being connected to the city in a more meaningful way. Episodes play out as if the symbiotic relationship between hero and city already exists but it hasn’t actually been earned through organically growing that over the seasons.


Once a criminal always a criminal

The previous episode addressed the problems Barry creates for the police by bringing in criminals without proper paperwork to pin an actual conviction on them. It stands out that it took until the eighth season to tell that story as it reasonably should have been something that cropped up very early on. Late as it may be it’s a very practical consideration that forces Barry to rethink his approach and work with the police to make the city safer. This episode is similar in that it’s a story that should have been told years earlier; the idea of a Metahuman being wrongly accused and Barry having to work around a system that is ready to convict him without question.

Barry’s feels a strong connection to this case as it reminds him of his father’s wrongful arrest when he was a child. In particular he is moved by the notion of a father being ripped from his son for a crime he didn’t commit. Nobody believed in Henry’s innocence all those years ago and nobody but Barry believes that Jaco Birch (Max Adler) is innocent now. Barry is especially affected by this because it’s Henry’s birthday and his mind is on how he misses his father. It goes without saying that a similar problem appearing on that day is dramatically convenient but things do often happen that remind you of difficult times. The episode uses it as fuel for Barry being motivated to find the truth rather than dwelling on it. Emotional resonance is created through Barry being reminded of how he it felt to have Henry ripped from him while nobody would even consider the possibility of his innocence.

Jaco Birch is a really interesting character and an uncommon antagonist for the show in that the situation surrounding him is the villain. He is successfully set up as a sympathetic character trying to do right by his son Harold (Nicholas Ella). Jaco’s relationship with his son feeds into the sympathetic narrative surrounding him. Harold has no respect for his father and sees him as something of an embarrassment. It’s quickly set up early on through dialogue around Jaco’s failure to secure backstage passes. From here there is an efficient exploration of a massively diminished sense of self worth on Jaco’s part where he considers himself a loser because his life hasn’t amounted to anything he can personally be proud of. His son seeing him that way acts as confirmation of that and he’s unable to resolve those feelings. Being accused of murder adds to that because he knows his criminal record prevents him from being given a fair shake.


Life went in very different directions

All of the evidence against him is circumstantial though Barry is the only one who notices this at first as everyone else is focused on the motive and opportunity rather than the actual details. Thrown into the mix is the idea of former prison inmates not actually being forgiven for their crimes despite doing their time and paying their debt to society. It’s mentioned that Jaco was released early for good behaviour but that fact makes no difference because all many people see is a criminal and immediately leap to the assumption of guilt. The episode doesn’t actually explore this idea but it’s in the subtext that this is easier than actually doing the work to get to the bottom of it because pinning the murders on Jaco would allow the case to be closed.

This is an attempt at commentary on the flaws in the justice system and at least raises the idea of bias colouring criminal investigations. It’s refreshing to see Team Flash divided on an issue as typically everyone is on the same page. It adds some doubt to the narrative as it’s possible Barry’s view of the situation is tainted by his own life experience. The situation is too similar to what happened with his father to not affect him personally so it’s reasonable that he might be seeing what he wants to see and ignoring the rest because he doesn’t want this situation to play out the same way.

That turns out not to be the case and Barry is completely right but it’s still interesting that everyone else in Team Flash is so quick to write Jaco off as being exactly what he is accused of being. It isn’t until Barry passionately points out how badly misjudged Henry was. The observation prompts everyone to give Jaco the benefit of the doubt and work with Barry to prove his innocence. It’s a solution that is a little neat but the internal conflict still exists and there’s a sense that everyone else is only going along with it because they trust Barry so it accomplishes the usual setup of Team Flash being united while having that rare debate.


Being a hero where it counts

Ultimately this plot plays out pretty much as expected with Jaco’s lack of self worth causing his powers to go out of control and endanger the city which prompts Barry to talk him down rather than defeat him. This comes with the father/son relationship being repaired and allowing for a display of heroism of a different kind from Barry who uses the symbol that is the Flash to encourage Jaco to be a better version of himself. It’s nothing groundbreaking but the episode earns the conclusion.

The portrayal of grief from Barry as he tries to get through his late father’s birthday is brilliantly handled. In some ways he is sleepwalking his way through the day which is incredibly relatable. To everyone else it’s “just another day”; something he tries to tell himself but to him it’s a reminder of a profound loss and a very difficult day. It goes without saying that it is made more difficult by the case being so close to his own experience. His conversation with Joe where they reminisce about the last birthday Henry had before going to prison being called off because he had to work is excellent. It’s a great example of the father/son bond Barry and Joe share while being a meaningful exchange that shows how heavily the loss of Henry weighs on them both.

This is continued in the scene where they talk about Henry and celebrate the man that was. It’s low key, natural and endearing to see those present just having some downtime to be together and swap stories. It definitely brings Barry comfort and highlights that Henry made a strong impact on those who knew him. It helps Barry get through the day by sharing it with those he cares about and assures him that everyone who knew Henry had fond memories of him


A little faith goes a long way

The secondary plot involves Allegra and Iris butting heads over a story that Iris wants to run with. Allegra disagrees because she believes the subject isn’t that interesting but Iris tells her to do it anyway and assigns her to work with one of the newer reporters Taylor (Rachel Drance) Allegra disobeys those instructions after encountering an old friend from prison. Lydia (Kaitlyn Santa-Juana) is working as a cleaner and is resentful of Allegra for forgetting about her after they were both released from prison. She also resents Allegra’s success relative to her own and makes some biting comments about how detached from reality Allegra is. Lydia’s perspective is skewed and makes assumptions but there is more than a grain of truth in what she says and Allegra is well aware of that. An uncomfortable truth about herself becomes known around forgetting how fortunate she is to be in a career with opportunities for progression and not face discrimination like other former inmates do.

This encourages Allegra to tell Lydia’s story and present it to Iris instead of the Social Media influencer one. It’s identified as a great piece with a relevant perspective but Iris doesn’t let her off the hook because she didn’t do what she was asked and makes the point that she could have worked with Taylor to make her article better while also practicing her leadership and mentor skills. The main bone of contention is that Allegra disobeyed an instruction from her boss. Iris instructs her to put things right and apologise to Taylor because part of being a supervisor is taking ownership of mistakes and admitting to them. Iris’ leadership experience hasn’t really been earned by the show but it’s a strong conflict to see play out and makes for an interesting learning point for Allegra particularly when here conversation with Taylor runs counter to expectations with Taylor vowing to destroy her for what she did. This show is known for leaning heavily on happy endings and unnatural conflict resolution so this was unexpected.

The problem is that the episode chose to tell the wrong story as the focus should have been on Lydia. There’s an obvious connection between the two plots in that Lydia and Jaco are both former prison inmates and face the same struggle being trusted in employment following their release. With Lydia there’s a potential race angle to add into her plot but there was a thematic link around second chances and the practical difficulties getting them that could have been exploited to make the episode feel more cohesive. Lydia only appears in a single scene to set up Allegra being inspired to tell her story and never appears again. It’s an odd choice to have someone with so much potential act as the catalyst for a less interesting plot. There isn’t even a follow up scene after running the story; something that should have been included to offer some form of closure on the tense interaction they had earlier in the episode. The plot feels incomplete and unfocused which lets it down massively.


Support in the toughest of times


A good episode with a strong Barry centric plot containing an engaging character prompting leaning into a different sort of heroism and a thoughtful portrayal of grief. Barry’s strong connection the case adds a lot of weight to it because of how similar it is to his own life experience. Jaco Birch is a really interesting character and an uncommon antagonist in that the situation surrounding him is the villain. He is set up as a sympathetic character trying to do right by a son that doesn’t respect him. Jaco has a massively diminished sense of self worth supported by the way his son sees him. Being accused of murder adds to that as his criminal record prevents him from being given a fair shake. All of the evidence against him is circumstantial though Barry is the only one who notices this at first as everyone else is focused on the motive and opportunity rather than the details. Thrown into the mix is the idea of prison inmates not actually being forgiven for their crimes. There is an attempted commentary on the flaws in the justice system and bias colouring criminal investigations. Seeing Team Flash divided on an issue is refreshing as it allows for rare debate. It adds some doubt as it’s possible that Barry’s view of the situation is tainted by his own life experience. It turns out that he isn’t but it’s interesting that Team Flash is so quick to write Jaco off. Ultimately the plot plays out as expected but the conclusion is both earned and satisfying with Barry displaying a different kind of heroism in helping facilitate the repair of the father/son relationship. The portrayal of grief is excellent with some really meaningful moments where people reminisce about Henry Allen which helps Barry get through a difficult day.

The secondary plot involving Allegra and Iris butting heads over a story has some merit to it but also isn’t as good as it could have been. Allegra disobeying Iris’ instructions and writing a story she feels strongly about creates an engaging conflict between them and encourages Allegra to grow as a leader by taking responsibility for her actions. Taylor vowing to destroy her is an unexpected outcome that was good to see. The problem with this plot is that the wrong story is told as Allegra’s relationship with Lydia was far more interesting. It would have thematically tied into the idea of second chances being difficult for those coming out of prison and linked both plots. Lydia resenting Allegra for her success and Allegra forgetting her created an interesting conflict that wasn’t followed up on or resolved. It was an odd choice to go with a less interesting plot and abandon this one.

  • 7.5/10
    The Fire Next Time - 7.5/10


Kneel Before…

  • the thoughtful portrayal of Barry’s grief
  • strong scenes around reminiscing about Henry Allen
  • Jaco being an engaging and sympathetic character
  • the expected but satisfying and earned conclusion to his plot
  • the idea of former inmates having difficulty being trusted in employment existing in both plots
  • Team Flash being in opposition on an issue
  • an interesting learning point for Allegra
  • the unexpected outcome of her apologising to Taylor


Rise Against…

  • not exploring the ideas to a strong extent
  • focusing on the wrong story in the Allegra plot


What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below

User Review
8.13/10 (4 votes)

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