Tuesday, October 27, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Flash' - Barry and the Team Look For a New Partner For Dr. Stein in 'The Fury of Firestorm'

The CW's The Flash - Episode 2.04 "The Fury of Firestorm"

Barry and the team look for another Firestorm match for Dr. Stein. When the team meets Jefferson "Jax" Jackson, Caitlin has her reservations about whether he is the right match for Dr. Stein. Iris surprises Joe while Barry and Patty grow closer.

Ronnie's death in the season premiere devastated so many characters. He became a crucial member of the team. He was someone that Barry came to rely on. His death affected all the characters in different ways. And now, it's creating a physical ailment that could end up killing Dr. Stein. Without Ronnie to main the Firestorm molecules inside of him, Stein is growing more and more combustible. He only has a matter of days before his body completely shuts down. It's a race against the clock for the team to find a new pattern for Stein to serve as Firestorm.

That search is quickly narrowed down to two candidates: scientist Henry Hewitt (Demore Barnes) and ex-high school football star Jefferson "Jax" Jackson (Franz Drameh). It's pretty apparent early on who will successfully become the second half of Firestorm. Even if you didn't know that Drameh was attached to star in the upcoming spinoff Legends of Tomorrow, the episode still shows what Jax was doing on the day of the particle accelerator explosion. That's an early sign that indicates that this guy is going to be special even if his entire world changed on that day. Now, it's only going to be even more different as he becomes the hero he was destined to be. It just took some time for him to embrace that destiny and for the team to see him as the ideal match for Stein.

On paper, Hewitt is the more impressive candidate. He clicks with Stein easily because of their shared profession. And yet, there's a hidden darkness to Hewitt as well. Caitlin was so certain that he would be the ideal match. She was trying to find the person who could perfectly honor Ronnie's memory and be worthy to take on the mantle of being Firestorm. Of course, Ronnie and Stein didn't always see eye to eye in the beginning. But they became quite an effective team later on. Caitlin wants to believe in Hewitt so much that she ignores all the potentially troubling signs from his past. Instead of creating a hero, she wound up creating a villain. One who would go on to terrorize Central City.

Hewitt was transformed after his day at STAR Labs. His own fire powers were activated as soon as he came into contact with the Firestorm matrix. He may not have been able to merge with Stein and that really pissed him off. It got to the point where everyone had to accept that Jax was the only person left who could save Stein's life and stop Hewitt before he does more harm to the city. This hour is all about Firestorm. At times, Barry feels like a supporting character to a story that will play much more prominently on the upcoming spinoff. That is a sight problem here. The show has to tell this story in a way that gets Stein and Jax ready for their own show on The CW. But The Flash also gets some tremendous value out of saying goodbye to those characters. Even though Firestorm is different, he is still an important ally to the Flash in the climatic battle of the episode. Plus, he helped bring even more closure to Caitlin because she knows Stein is in good hands now. Sure, it's all just establishing story and character for the future - and a different show - but the emotions of the moment still land very effectively.

Plus, the show is also doing something very intriguing in the Iris corner of its universe. Now she is the person who knows something that nobody else does. It was so frustrating last season when she didn't know that Barry was the Flash. She has become a phenomenally more interesting character now that she knows the big secret. Her family drama with the sudden appearance of her mother ties in very thematically to the rest of the episode. She wants nothing to do with her mother. She makes that known very clearly and effectively. But Francine can't leave because she has a terminal illness. This may be the last chance for either Joe or Iris to see her. And yet, that just makes way for an even bigger reveal later on. Eight months after Francine left Central City, she gave birth to a son. Iris has a brother and Joe might have a son. That's a secret only Iris knows about. She should know what it feels like to have something that big kept from her. And yet, she wants to keep it a secret because it would absolutely destroy her father. That may not last long. But at least now, she understands the amount of weight and responsibility that comes from holding a big secret like that.

The episode also ends in a very exciting way. Throughout the hour, Patty is convinced that there is some new shark man meta-human roaming around the city. It's not something anyone takes seriously. But when Barry goes out for a run as the Flash, there the shark man appears. It's probably this show's version of King Shark who was sent to this world by Zoom to kill the Flash. It's a completely ridiculous and funny sight to behold. The special effects team did do a great job rendering that creature for the few seconds of screentime he appeared. But his death was even more significant as the Harrison of Earth-2 appeared to kill it and reveal himself to Barry. Now Barry will have to deal with a version of the man who killed his man. That's such an enticing way to end the episode as the two Earths are set to collide in an even bigger way.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Fury of Firestorm" was written by Kai Yu Wu & Joe Peracchio and directed by Stefan Pleszczynski.
  • Stein and Jax are heading towards Pittsburgh in order to get some more formal training. That means they may have some new abilities and skills in the future. That's exciting.
  • Joe also has a great heart-to-heart with Barry about being open to the possibility of Patty as a romantic interest. The Barry-Patty banter has gotten so much better over these last few episodes. She may actually be an interesting companion for him right now. But it all depends on how long he keeps his big secret from her. It could be long considering she's a horrible liar.
  • Stein is the only other person who knows about Cisco's developing abilities. And now, he's leaving. But at least he tells Cisco that he should let his friends know what's going on with him. It could make him an even more invaluable member of the team.
  • Dr. McGee also makes a brief return appearance in order to tip Joe and Patty off that Harrison Wells may be back in Central City.
  • The Firestorm effects continue to be amazing.