This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.
'I'll always come back when you call.'
With a title like 'The Runaway Dinosaur' I was expecting something a little crazy from the latest episode of The Flash, instead we get a very personal story about Barry, with the occasional bit of zombie meta-human action thrown in to keep thing moving at pace.
After tricking no one in the audience into believing that Barry was killed during the events of the last episode his friends and family quickly discover through Cisco's vibes that Barry is stuck inside the speed force.
Inside the speed force Barry finds himself going through something akin to a spiritual journey as he interacts with the speed force itself, who is taking on the forms of his family in order to both guide him back onto the path to being the hero he needs to be, as well as testing his resolve.
Making the speed force into some kind of sentient being was an interesting direction to go, and one that I was initially unsure of. After all, in the comics the speed force has always been treated as something scientific, like gravity or time and there's even a moment here where Barry addresses that by saying it's like having a conversation with gravity.
Thankfully the choice to make it into some kind of supernatural force works more down to the writing of the interactions between Barry and the people the speed force is appearing as, as well as some superb acting from our main cast. My only concern is the idea that the speed force chose Barry, rather than his metahuman ability allowing him to tap into it. It moves away from this simply being who Barry is and more into the realms of a 'chosen one' type scenario. I just hope the show doesn't go down that route, as 'destiny' is a very lazy plot device that has been used poorly a lot in the past.
Whilst Barry is taking his mystical journey the rest of the team are working frantically to find a way of bringing him back to the real world, save Jesse after she's been hit by the particle accelerator energies, and to stop a reanimated Girder who was brought back to life as a shambling zombie like creature.
Whilst the first two are legitimate plot lines that would happen following on from the last episode the Girder story does feel very forced here as a way of adding extra drama and a sense of impending trouble. Despite that the story does give Iris and Joe a lot to do as they are the ones who take on the job of finding Girder and getting him back to Star Labs whilst everyone else works on the other problems.
With Barry stuck in the speed force this is a really good episode for taking the time to look closer at the supporting cast and giving them more to do, rather than them acting as the support.
At the end of the last episode both Wally and Jesse were hit by the particle accelerator explosion, in what appeared to be the writer's attempt at giving them both their comic book counterparts speedster abilities. Whilst that does initially appear to be what has happened with Jessie (she does end up in a similar coma to Barry after he got his powers, and he wakes her up with a spark of energy when he returns) so far it seems like there was no effect on Wally.
Whilst it might be possible that Wally will develop speed powers after a short while the idea that the writers have subverted expectations and not given him powers is much more appealing to me. We don't know if Jesse and Harry will be sticking around for season three or if they'll be returning to Earth-2, but we may already be looking at three speedsters in the finale, and a fourth would definitely crowd things a little.
Speaking about Harry and Jesse sticking around, whilst I'm not really attached to Jesse that much I'm really hoping that Harry does stay on as he's developed some great chemistry with the rest of the cast. The moment where he and Cisco try to catch Barry up on what's happening when he returns was incredibly funny and enjoyable to watch.
There was a lot of fuss made around this episode because it was directed by Kevin Smith, and whilst many were eagerly awaiting to see what he would do with the show thankfully the only thing that makes it stand out as a Kevin Smith affair is the terrible and unfunny cameo from Jason Mewes. This might be down to the fact that Smith wasn't allowed near the script, so it kept its regular quality of writing, but I'm also thinking that he was probably asked to keep his episode in line with those that have been done in the past.
'The Runway Dinosaur' is a good character driven episode that gives us a brief moment of downtime to tell an emotional story before we head into the action packed finale.