On the D/L – The Flash
Season 1 Episode 3 – “Things You Can’t Outrun”
The Flash continues a really strong opening to the first season with a focus on the supporting characters and how they fit into the world that the show is creating. Barry’s metahuman obstacle this week comes in the form of Kyle Nimbus (Anthony Carrigan) aka The Mist, a man who -funnily enough- can turn himself into gaseous form.
Given that the show is only 3 episodes in it is something of a risk to stray away from Barry’s development so soon to focus on the supporting players. It works really well here as so far The Flash has done a superb job of setting up Barry and exploring his character that pushing him a little to the background to flesh out the people that he spends time with benefits the show greatly. One thing that has been clear since Pilot is that there’s definite depth to the other characters so it is positive to see this tapped into so soon.
Getting the Lion’s share of screen time and development is Caitlin which gives us a bit more of an insight into the event that changed everything for her. One interesting revelation was that the death of her fiancé Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) wasn’t the cause of her guarded -as she put it- nature. Turns out that she has always been like that and Ronnie brought out a more relaxed side to her but his death has caused her to become a lot more detached. Emotionally it makes sense and it was interesting to see her acting differently when interacting with him in the flashbacks. Danielle Panabaker does a fantastic job of playing a happier Caitlin in the flashbacks as well as the present day closed off version and making them feel different. It’s obvious through her performance that there has been a profound transition in intervening time.
In general the flashbacks were used really well in this episode in contrast to feeling a little unnecessary in the previous one. They were used to effectively underpin the events and punctuate the emotional beats being felt by the characters. Robbie Amell is immediately likeable as Ronnie despite the fact that the family resemblance to his cousin on Arrow is painfully apparent, if these two characters ever meet it’ll be hilarious. Ronnie is featured just enough to show how important he was to everyone around him and establishes him as selflessly heroic with his sacrifice being appropriately moving which is quite an achievement that I could be so invested in this character with very little screen time. It’s good to see Robbie Amell finding work since The Tomorrow People saw cancellation after only 1 season; still a tragedy as far as I’m concerned but if it benefits this show then it hasn’t all been for nothing.
A lot of time was spent on Caitlin and Barry’s relationship and setting it up to be a very interesting one. The two characters are pretty equal intellectually and as such their conversations flow naturally with each of them fully understanding what the other is trying to say. Both of them have suffered a massive loss in their lives so their connection obviously begins there and grows through the things they talk about. Caitlin seems comfortable confiding in Barry for reasons she probably doesn’t quite understand and Barry is entirely supportive of her as well as being sensitive enough to sense when she needs to be removed from the situation in order to process everything. I’m not sure whether the producers are setting up these characters for a romantic entanglement or a intellectually based friendship but either way it all seems to be building naturally.
Cisco has some time to develop and shows some real depth. The memories dredged up affect him too since he lost his friend and he feels partially responsible for what happened to him. There’s a nice scene where he tries to open up to Caitlin that underpins the history between these 3 characters really well. I’m glad that a character I felt would become annoying has went entirely the other way. His development was comparatively limited but given that this was more Caitlin’s episode that’s absolutely fine.
The title “Things You Can’t Outrun” ties into the central theme of the episode perfectly. Everyone knows that Barry is fast, that’s kind of the show’s schtick but many of the characters here are trying to deal with loss or another kind of pain in one way or another and repeated references are made to trying to escape it but there are also continuous references to the fact that some things in life can’t be avoided and pain is one of them. Each of the characters is encouraged to deal with these issues directly rather than trying to run away from them. It’s an interesting theme that ties the emotional journeys of the characters together in a really sophisticated way.
Speaking of things I was concerned I would find annoying; Iris and Eddie’s relationship is given a fair bit of time here. The well worn trope of not telling her Dad because she fears he won’t approve for whatever reason is employed here added with the deceit of sneaking around and a few near misses. I didn’t find it offensive really because it was brushed aside so casually when Joe reveals that he’s known all along. It’s another classic resolution to such a story because it works in the context of the characters. It turns out that Iris is afraid of commitment in the sense that if everyone knows about the relationship then it becomes something real and therefore something that can be ruined. She was only using her Dad’s potential disapproval as an excuse to hide her insecurities. It makes Iris something of a damaged character with emotional issues that I find interesting. I also appreciated that Eddie isn’t characterised as Barry’s romantic rival who the audience should hate, instead he’s just a nice guy who cares a lot about Iris. Given the association his character name has with a comic book character it will probably go a very different way but for now he’s a very likeable presence on the show and the two actors have really natural chemistry.
Joe and Barry’s renewed determination to free Barry’s father from prison is furthered nicely. It’s clear that the reopened case is only just beginning to be worked on so naturally there wouldn’t be much movement here but it has become an emotional journey for Joe. He goes back to the beginning and revisits every aspect of the case with fresh eyes since the altering of his perceptions upon learning the truth about Barry. Jesse L. Martin’s scene with John Wesley Shipp is a definite highlight where he apologises for the assumptions he made and the regret on Joe’s face is heartbreaking. I was concerned that Joe knowing Barry’s identity would undermine the show somewhat but the effect it has had on the character has been very impressively handled.
Something the show needs to do some more work on is the villains. The Mist’s powers looked great and his motivations were very clear but there was just something a bit flat about him. I’m not sure if it was Anthony Carrigan’s performance, the way he was written or a combination of both but he seemed more like a force of nature offing people for his own reasons rather than having any character to him. Barry’s final confrontation was nicely done with a good use of the powers and a clever resolution to the fight. One thing this show does consistently well is the imaginative action climaxes. Little flourishes of his powers like vibrating his face so his father doesn’t recognise him are a nice touch.
A very impressive outing for this new show. There are risks in giving the secondary characters this level of focus this early into the run of a show but it’s handled very well here. Deeper insight is given into Caitlin’s character and partially explains why she comes across so guarded. Her relationship with Barry is very well developed into a friendship that should be fascinating to watch. Iris and Eddie’s relationship receives some attention and is handled in a way that puts Iris across as a more nuanced character than I originally thought. Visually the show remains excellent with some great little touches showing Barry using his powers in creative ways as well as imaginative battles against the villains. The main weakness of the episode and the show in general is that the villains always feel undercooked. It’s not a huge issue as everything else is so great but in terms of antagonists this episode had the weakest one.