The Flash – Season 2 Episode 4
“The Fury of Firestorm”
The Flash deals with the absence of Ronnie Raymond by giving Professor Stein another person to merge with to become Firestorm again.
There’s a lot going on in this episode but I’ll start with the main story. It’s been a recurring plot that Professor Stein has been having difficulties following his -seemingly- permanent separation from Ronnie Raymond when he sacrificed himself to close the singularity. This episode allows him to have a new other half in the form of Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (Franz Drameh) and sets up their appearance in the spin-off Legends of Tomorrow which starts at some point early next year.
Since The Flash and Arrow exist in a self contained shared universe that is soon to be inhabited by another show -any perhaps already is if they make the right decision with Supergirl– it is to be expected that they will all compliment each other in some way. Legends of Tomorrow hasn’t started yet so it’s not unreasonable to assume that the two currently existing shows will be used as a springboard for that show. We saw shades of that last week with the development of Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold and Arrow have brought back Caity Lotz’ Sara Lance in preparation.
This is all absolutely fine as long as it doesn’t feel like the shows only exist to promote another show. So far this has happened with varying degrees of success in both shows. The development of Captain Cold felt like a perfectly reasonable thing to do in The Flash and if there was no knowledge of the upcoming spin-off then it wouldn’t have felt out of place but in Arrow Sara’s return feels abrupt as it’s only happening this quickly because the plot needs it to.
I would say that this episode falls more into the latter column with everything tying itself up a little too neatly by the end of the episode and having none of it feeling all that organic. I fully support how urgent the problem was in this episode and that a solution needed to be found quickly as Team Flash had only just got to the bottom of what was wrong with Professor Stein. As a result a willing candidate needed to be found quickly and not a lot of time was available to really have the candidates consider the ramifications of what they were signing up for.
The episode takes a reasonably clever approach to seeking a candidate by supplying two possibilities in the form of the above mentioned Jax and a man named Henry Hewitt (Demore Barnes). In theory it injects a little bit of mystery into who might merge with Stein and lets the audience consider the possibilities. In practice it was painfully obvious from the opening minutes that Jax would be the choice since he is the focus of a flashback to the day of the Particle Accelerator explosion. Since Hewitt is nowhere to be seen then it’s obviously going to be Jax. It has also been extensively covered in marketing that Jax would be the new Firestorm. I wonder if writers disregard mysteries sometimes because they know the announcement will happen. It’d be an interesting question to ask should I ever get the opportunity.
Despite the obvious knowledge the episode goes through the motions anyway. Caitlin is gushing over Henry Hewitt as he’s a scientist and she thinks that this automatically makes him worthy of the mantle. It’s proven that she is a bit of a snob because she turns her nose up at Jax since he never went to college and apparently has no desire to make something of himself. Harsh judgements from Caitlin but I also get the sense that she’s looking for someone to measure up to her husband in this role and her standards are impossibly high.
I found the execution of the recruitment process to be very head scratching. Apparently some strangers show up on Hewitt’s doorstep, offer him the chance to be a superhero and he accepts without even really thinking about it. I get that he has an ego but I take longer to arrive at a decision about what to have for lunch than this guy did. His immediate resentment of Team Flash after the merging doesn’t work didn’t feel right either. He became a villain far too quickly and it came across as being completely ridiculous as a result.
There is a similar problem with Jax’ decision to merge with Stein but at least more time is given to his deliberations. At first he is unwilling to be a hero as he feels that it’s not the life for him. His confidence has been shaken after the explosion caused his college education dream to be gone overnight since he needed his athletic edge to get in on a football scholarship and as a result he doesn’t feel that he’s destined for anything great. This is all fine as a character arc but it doesn’t feel right when he decides to go through it. I can see that it is out of sympathy and recognising that he has the ability to save a dying man buy as with Hewitt there isn’t enough time spent really considering what this means for him.
I did like Jax as a character. Franz Drameh is really likeable in the role and has good chemistry with the rest of Team Flash. He bounces off Victor Garber well enough and the dynamic that will exist of having Stein be the mentor figure to himself…sort of could be interesting. There is also mention of tapping into the other abilities that Firestorm has to offer which should make him less of a low rent Human Torch as the character develops on the other show.
The Flash/Firestorm team-up against Henry Hewitt when he becomes Tokamak was visually really cool and I liked the strategy that they employed. Using Barry’s speed as a tool for annoyance to make him angry enough to burn himself out was clever and seeing Jax/Stein realise their heroic potential worked really well as long as you ignore the rushed development to get to that point.
To be fair the episode did try to cover up for how quickly it was all happening by having a running theme of not being afraid to try something new. This manifested itself in Barry’s reluctance to pursue Patty despite how attracted they are to one another. Joe urges him to move on as no love is like the first love so it’d be healthy to allow something else to develop that will be different from Iris. Grant Gustin and Shantel VanSatten are great together when they share scenes so seeing their relationship develop is something I am very interested in.
The theme also manifests in Stein’s heartfelt goodbye to Cisco when he urges him to tell his friends about his developing powers. He shouldn’t be afraid to try something new and face it head on. Embracing his power will turn him into something incredible as far as Stein is concerned. I’m going to miss the bromance between these characters. Lastly Caitlin has to embrace life without Ronnie without dwelling on the past and letting it consume her.
Since the episode was mainly about Firestorm it feels a bit like Barry is a guest star in his own show which is absolutely fine now and again. I didn’t mind it here as the story wasn’t about him so trying to make it tie to him in some contrived way would have been a bad idea. Barry is showing more leadership qualities as the episodes go on which is a good fit for him and Gustin adding authority to Barry works really well.
Iris finally comes face to face with her mother and the results are a little melodramatic but actually quite effective. I like that she is strong enough to tell her mother to stay out of her life as she has gotten on just fine without her. Candice Patton does a great job on this scene as she plays Iris barely holding herself together. There is an added complication when it is revealed that Francine is dying of MacGregor’s Syndrome and simply wants her daughter to see what she has become since they last spoke. As if that wasn’t enough it turns out that she also has a son that may or may not be Joe’s child but he certainly will be Iris’ brother. I’m suddenly thinking that this could be the introduction of another proto speedster who has the surname West.
In previous reviews I’ve pointed out that Iris has really irritated me as she often comes across as a princess who always gets her own way but this particular story allows her to get some depth and actually get worked up over something that matters. I like that she’s the one who knows the secret and to avoid becoming a hypocrite she will have to tell Joe about it or every complain she ever had about being lied to will become even more invalid. At any rate giving Iris something to do that doesn’t make her the love interest of some male characters is only a good thing.
I can’t cover this episode without talking about that ending. It’s safe to see that I did not see that coming. There had been mention of a walking shark throughout the episode but it had been completely dismissed as a hoax by the midpoint and I too dismissed it as being a little too ridiculous for this show to pull off but there it was. King Shark in all his giant bipedal shark glory and it looked awesome. I thought it was such a great surprise and I hope that one shot in the back from Earth 2 Harrison Wells isn’t all he has to offer.
Can we assume that Earth 2 Wells will be a good guy who will help Team Flash or will there be more to it like the Earth 1 Wells? The episode does a lot to make him look shady which might just be a misdirection and I suspect there will be a mistrust to redemption plot in the next episode as they deliberate whether he can be trusted or not. As a final point, where was Jay Garrick this week?
An uneven episode that largely feels like pure set-up for Firestorm’s appearance on the upcoming spin-off Legends of Tomorrow.
There’s nothing wrong with the parent shows setting up the spin-off but when it feels like it’s getting in the way of the quality of one of those shows then it sticks out a lot more. I can see what the episode was trying to with the two candidates being considered and leaving it a mystery for a while before one is chosen but the execution was so uneven that it was painfully obvious that Jax would be the one to merge with Stein.
The other character Henry Hewitt was so underdeveloped and both candidates arrived at their decisions far too quickly. It was especially obvious with Hewitt who went from wanting to be a superhero to a resentful villain quicker than the viewer could blink.
Having the decisions be so abrupt was at least attempted to be covered up by the running theme of trying new things. It is true of Barry who needs to make a move on Patty and explore the attraction, Cisco needs to honest about his developing powers and Caitlin needs to consider life without Ronnie.
Since the episode is about Firestorm Barry feels like a supporting character. I don’t have a problem with this as trying to find a contrived way to make it about him would not have worked. I like that he is showing more leadership qualities as time goes on.
Iris’ confrontation with her mother is a little melodramatic but nicely handled by Candice Patton. There are further complications with Francine being terminally ill and her having a son that might be Joe’s. Iris is in the position where she knows a secret and if she doesn’t tell Joe about it then that makes her a massive hypocrite considering how adamantly against the concept she was last season.
The ending of the episode was great with the surprise appearance of King Shark after being teased and dismissed earlier in the episode. Having Earth 2 Harrison Wells appear to save Barry raises questions around his role in the show. We’ll find out next week.