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The Flash’s “Back to Normal” (S2:E19): Life in the Slow Lane

Posted on the 27 April 2016 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

“I know TV scheduling put a couple of arbitrary stops in there, but if you think about it, we’ve been pedal to the medal at a breakneck pace. This episode where Barry loses his powers was literally designed to slow everything down and let everybody catch their breath before the next four episodes.” is what Andrew Kreisberg recently told the press after an advance screening of “Back to Normal.”

Tom Cavanagh, who happened to be on hand, added, “But the fashion with which we breathe with Barry, as he’s going through what he’s going through, in my personal opinion, is one of the most inventive things this show has done in the two seasons that I’ve been involved.”

What do you think? Was this truly one of the most inventive things the show ever has done? Barry’s lost his speed before, albeit temporarily and both times ultimately due to a lack of confidence (last season, earlier this season). Now he lost it because everyone was too stupid last week to realize how easy it would have been to trick Zoom instead of completely giving in to his demands. With Barry desperately missing his powers, it was a perfect time to pit him against a villain who actually hated his powers, understandably so since in Griffin Dunne’s case his super strength caused him to age prematurely. Moreover, it also helped to remind us that much as the show tends to pull back on this in deference to Harry, Cisco and Caitlin Barry actually is supposed to be remarkably intelligent. Thus it was that he was out in the field using his CSI skills to collect crucial evidence the team used to track down Griffin.

However, the most inventive thing they probably did was the opening montage, so playfully recalling all of those season 1 openings when Barry would show off some new way he was using his powers to make his day-to-day life easier. Except this time after we saw how fabulous Barry’s life in the fast lane was we then saw how much it sucked for him to return to living life at the normal speed limit, just like the rest of us. No more stealing people’s coffee orders from Jitters, Mr. Allen!

Flash Opal City
That opening promised great things, but “Back to Normal” failed to follow through, allowing Barry to actually get a little lost in the shuffle as the focus shifted to Harry and Jesse. I expressed my outrage when the show seriously shipped Jesse out just a couple of episodes after Harry rescued her, thus pulling another Henry Allen on us. However, in truth I still don’t feel like I know who Jesse is as a character, and I had to look it up to remember the specifics of the “Dad, you killed a guy!” situation she kept referencing throughout “Back to Normal.”

Her views on the particular subject are still surprisingly simplistic and reek of an artificial conflict to pad a season’s 20+ episode running length. However, I appreciated her somewhat better explained viewpoint in “Back to Normal.” Beyond the “No, seriously, dad, you killed a guy!” claptrap she has a rightful claim to blame him for everything, particularly for how he completely uprooted their lives. When children have to move with their parents to a new place (town, state, country) it can feel like being dropped into a completely different universe. Yeah, um, that literally happened to Jesse. Girl needed a moment to process, although her claim about fearing her dad as much as Zoom (who held her prisoner for multiple months) was a bit much.

More encouraging was the way Jesse was ultimately folded into the team, ably stepping in for Caitlin and proving that they should have always been trying much harder to actually get to know her and let her pitch in.

Of course, the only reason Jesse joined the team was because Harry was taken hostage by someone mistaking him for Earth-1’s Harrison Wells. This led to a fascinating confrontation which saw Harry attempting to deflect blame to his Earth-1 counterpart before realizing that although he didn’t do what he was specifically being accused of he was still guilty. Griffin’s plight might not have been his doing, but he was speaking for all those Earth-2 metahumans who never got the chance to confront their maker. Cavanagh, as per usual, played this creeping realization beautifully, which is why is it so vexing that it then ended with him proposing to do another particle accelerator experiment to give the speed back to Barry.

It recalls the Age of Ultron moment when Bruce reacts to Tony’s suggestion that they repeat the experiment which created Ultron but just use Jarvis this time:

Have you learned nothing, Harry?

Then again, maybe he has. Maybe it is only because of his face-to-face with a particle accelerator victim that he feels compelled to atone, and helping Barry defeat Zoom is the first and best step he can take. What do you think?

Oh, and about that storyline with Caitlin, Killer Frost and Crazy Hunter

1. Nitpick: Can Zoom please stop killing all of the cool Earth-2 dopplegangers? At this point he’s pretty much killed everyone over there other than Barry and Iris. It doesn’t make Zoom seem that much scarier and powerful; it just annoys us that these far more entertaining characters are getting offed while Teddy Sears plays out his hand as what has turned into season 2’s very disappointing big bad.

2.  So, Caitlin’s Totally Going to Become Killer Frost, Right?: I don’t mean the evil part of the transformation, but with the Earth-2 Killer Frost gone and Harry plotting a second go of it with the particle accelerator it seems fairly obvious to me that Caitlin will gain the powers she somehow missed out on after the first particle accelerator “accident.” Maybe then she’ll have ice powers when we inevitably meet her apparent ice queen of a mother next season (assuming that’s in the cards).

3. Nitpick: If Zoom is really that completely unhinged how are we to believe that he was ever able to stay in character as “Jay” for as long as he did?

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