Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Flash 'Back to Normal' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILER for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.

With Barry having given his powers over to Zoom in order to save Wally 'Back to Normal' literally takes a slower pace as we watch Barry try to adjust to life as a normal human being again, whilst still trying to combat meta-human threats and protect innocent people.

One of the best decisions that the writers made for this episode was not to have Barry wallowing in self pity for not being the Flash anymore.  It would have been easy to fall into a trap of having him sad and angry over the situation, but that just wouldn't have been Barry.  Instead he's getting on with his life, he's working through his CSI cases as fast as he can, he's working with Star Labs still and when a meta-human poses a threat he willingly puts his life on the line.

This episode goes a long way to show that a hero is not measured by their powers, but by who they are as a person.  Barry doesn't have his powers but he stays as the same person we've come to know and love.  This is what makes him the Flash, not his speed, but his heart.

With an active breach to Earth-2 and the possibility of Zoom returning, Harry decides to try and track down Jessie and make a run for it before the monstrous villain can make good on his threats on Harry and his family.  

The meeting between Harry and Jessie could definitely have gone better for him, as she not only refuses to go with him, but tells him that she is more afraid of him than she is Zoom.  Her reactions to her father are a little understandable, he killed someone in order to get Jessie back, and that's completely destroyed her faith in him.

On his way back to Star Labs Harry is intercepted by Griffin Grey, the meta-human of the week.  Grey was given his powers, super-strength, when the particle accelerator exploded way back in the pilot episode and wants revenge for what happened to him on Harrison Wells.  Believing that Harry is the Earth-1 version of Wells he kidnaps him in order to force him to make a cure for his condition.

Despite having enhanced strength Grey's abilities have a severe physical toll on him, where everytime he uses his strength it causes his body to age rapidly.  Grey is only eighteen, but looks to be in his forties at this point.  This gives him a very different motivation to a lot of the 'villains' that we've had throughout the series so far.  He's not driven by a desire to commit crimes or do evil, but a desire to save his own life and be normal again.  It makes him more of a tragic figure than anything else.

Without his powers the team has to try to find a way of combatting Grey that won't get Barry killed in the process, not an easy task to say the least, but thanks to some distraction techniques and some dwarf star alloy the team manage to come up with a plan that lets them beat the villain.

Whilst it's nice to see the team, plus Jessie in place of Caitlin, work on a scientific solution to a bad guy that would normally be fairly easy for Barry to go up against, it's a shame that the writers didn't take this opportunity to explore Cisco and his emerging powers a little more.

With Barry out of commission this could have made a perfect time for Cisco to explore his own abilities in order to help pick up the slack of being without a super powered person on the team.  After seeing what his Earth-2 counterpart was able to do, and having figured out how to open a breach, I felt that this would have been a great opportunity for Cisco to try out some of his abilities.  Sadly they missed this opportunity, though hopefully it will be something that will be explored in the third season.

It's also nice that Grey had something of a happy ending here too, what with him having a more tragic story.  Instead of having him age to the point of death by the end of the episode he ends up reverting back to his original age.  What's a little worrying is that Barry and the rest of the team didn't know that this was going to happen, and were quite happy with letting Grey age to death in the end fight.

Over on Earth 2 Caitlin is still being held captive by Zoom, who is trying to force her into falling back in love with him.  It's something of a disturbing element that's been introduced to the character, that adds to the level of mental instability he has.  It also means that the team might have something they will be able to exploit in future episodes.

Whilst being held captive Caitlin also comes across the man in the iron mask, as well as Killer Frost, who we'd all believed was killed by Zoom weeks ago.  It turns out that Zoom kept her alive due to her being the Earth-2 counterpart of Caitlin.  With the fact that the version of Zoom that was on Earth-1 pretending to be Jay Garrick was killed by Zoom it raises some questions as to why the version of him now would have feelings for Caitlin.  Does he have the memories of the other version of himself, did he spend some time pretending to be Jay too, or is he just naturally predisposed to love Caitlin?  It's not very clear why Zoom has such a strong emotional bond with her, but I'm sure that this relationship will be explored even further before the season ends.

Caitlin teams up with Killer Frost and agrees to help her escape from her cell in return for help getting out of Zoom's lair.  Using her scientific knowhow Caitlin is able to help Frost out of her cell, but unfortunately Frost fails to keep her side of the bargain and attempts to kill Caitlin.  Luckily for her Zoom arrives on the scene just in time to save her from an icicle heading straight for her.

The scene is probably the best one in the episode, and has a hell of a visual effect as Zoom speeds into the room and runs straight through Caitlin, phasing through her and grabbing the icicle out of the air and stabbing it into Killer Frost all at super speed.  It's definitely an interesting moment, and I might be wrong but this could very well be the first time we've seen a speedster run through someone too.  It's a shame that we've lost Killer Frost, but then again we all thought that there was a good chance that she was killed several episodes ago, so at least we got a little more time with her.

The episode ends with Harry coming up with a plan to try and recreate the particle accelerator accident that initially gave Barry his powers in order to try and give him his speed once again.  

I was initially worried that 'Back to Normal' was going to be a boring episode that would focus on a sad and frustrated Barry, instead the episode managed to tell an engaging and well told story that kept me interested for the entire running time.


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