Synopsis of 2×12: Harry’s treachery is revealed; Tar Pit arrives to menace Central City’s underground street racing scene.
Rating: ★★★1/2 out of Five
There is so much happening on The Flash this season it is almost possible to forget that the city is full of random reality holes that need to be closed. Between Patty, Wally, Jay, Cisco becoming a soothsayer, setting up for Legends of Tomorrow, and a freakin’ manshark, it’s easy to lose track of a plot thread here or there. Or figure out that here, ten episodes after he arrived, this is Barry’s first real sit-down with Harry. Gorilla Grodd was back just a few episodes ago.
For a fun superhero show, The Flash requires rapt attention.
The best scenes tonight were between Harry and Barry as they try to solve Central City’s Breaches problem.* It’s weirdly refreshing to watch the show slow down and just have some quiet scenes between two characters. I mean, character interaction is the prevailing reason to watch television, and The Flash does far too little of it. The show just moves so fast that we forget what it’s like to have one-on-one scenes that aren’t Joe making us cry, and it’s always suffered a bit for that.
*It has very little to do with pants.
Some of the greatest episodes of Lost were always things like Sawyer and Hurley working on a van together. They would bash heads and banter, and eventually reach a nice emotional climax. It is the blood running through the veins of television, the character-based center around which great shows revolve.
“Fast Lane” delivers that in a really effective way. There are lots of funny moments (like Harry’s continued annoyance at Barry’s study habits), and delivered several points of potent emotion. When Barry hugs the man who is actively working against him, it hurts. You feel for both of these men, one of whom doesn’t even know the larger shape of things.
And it all leads up to a wonderful showdown. Harry, overcome by guilt, confesses to stealing 2% of the Flash’s speed. Joe, fraught with anger from the episode’s other plotline, throws the first punch. He tosses Harry in S.T.A.R. Prison** and we wait to see how Team Flash will come down on his fate.
Barry, in a fit of empathy brought on by his break-up with Patty (a break-up that would have killed a lesser man), pleads that they show him mercy. They’ve all made sacrifices for love (Cisco himself developed the Rogues’ temperature gun contraptions). And so Team Flash gears up to invade Earth-2. I am amped.
**It is still disconcerting that Team Flash refuses to acknowledge the questionable morals of their supermax. I get that Captain Cold called them out on it last season, and to be fair they don’t exactly know what else to do with these people, but there are some for real civil rights violations going on here. I don’t think anybody is currently being held there, but it still should make you queasy.
“Fast Lane” is a great example of storyline cross-pollination and should be studied by anyone who wants to write in TV. When shows engage in multiple storylines, those episodes are always best when the stories both metaphorically and literally intersect. It’s what elevated classic episodes like Community’s “Conspiracy Theories & Interior Design” or Rick & Morty’s “Rixty Minutes” to their incredible heights.
The Wests dealing with Wally’s reckless street racing fixation would have been just fine on its own, but the way it intersects with Barry’s reduced speed raises it to another level. Iris almost dies from Harry’s actions. Joe beats the man because of it, and has to restrain himself from killing him outright for putting two of his children in such danger. It all rallies Wally around to his new family, at the same time that Harry finally accepts his.
That’s some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Wally’s on board. Zoom is still terrifying. Let’s go to Earth-2.