Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Flash: Dude Tears And Speed Force Feels


The Flash is my favorite show on TV because it knows how to balance all the best parts of all the best fiction - thrills, laughs, and feels. This week's powerful episode, "The Runaway Dinosaur," was no exception - because it provided us with proof positive, once again, that when Grant Gustin cries, angels' wings shrivel all across the universe.

Also, his tears are highly contagious.
The CDC's got a warning out.

Before last night, my favorite Flash episode was 1x15, "Out of Time," because of its intense final five minutes - which proved to be an absolute game-changer. (It helped that, at the time, I'd not read any of the comics, and was thus genuinely surprised when Barry suddenly gained the ability to travel through time through the use of his speed.)

Who else remembers screaming their heads off when this one ended?

My new favorite, however, is last night's episode - 2x21, "The Runaway Dinosaur." Whereas "Out of Time" benefited from a strong surge of action, this episode benefited instead from a surfeit of emotion, best summed up by this here "Out of Time" meme:

At least this time, Harry was only indirectly responsible for said feels.

Kevin Smith directed this episode with so many metric tons of awesome, it wasn't even funny. Oh wait, it's Kevin Smith, so of course it often was. And those funny scenes were typically paired with those of the highest action - like, when Cisco discovered that the latest particle accelerator explosion, in addition to sweeping Barry into the Speed Force and knocking Wally and Jesse out cold, managed to revive the long-dead Girder as well. Cisco's reaction just said it all: "A zombie? For real?!"

But the real magnificence of this episode lies in the scenes where Barry deals with being stuck in the Speed Force. This all-powerful, all-mysterious entity takes on multiple human avatars throughout the show, each one representing a member of Barry's family. The first two are his West family - Joe and Iris, each being, respectively, the Speed Force's trippy wise man side and the frustrating, clue-dropping side. Then we get his Allen family - his father coming across as hurtful and judgmental and just being the anti-Henry, trying to make Barry really feel his pain by showing him his mother's grave.

Speed Force, why do you make us feel these things?

But while this phony Henry's encounters with Barry are devastating, they're nothing on when the Speed Force takes on the appearance of Nora Allen. A huge part of why we the fans are so attached to Barry is because he spent much of Season 1 trying to avenge his mother's death - and, once he discovered time travel, considering the possibility that he could save her life. The universe seems pretty bound and determined to prevent that from ever happening, however, but we can always hope and pray. And, in the meantime, every single time Barry meets his mom again, Grant Gustin and Michelle Harrison slay with their performances. But never more than last night. Who knows how much of those heart-melting words of encouragement were the Speed Force and how much were Nora Allen's immortal soul? I'd like to believe that the Speed Force started out talking to him, but then when they read the old "Runaway Dinosaur" picture book together (and Barry recited huge chunks of it from memory!), that was when Nora herself took over.

And this was when my heart fractured beyond repair.

When they first announced Kevin Smith was directing a Flash episode a few months back, it didn't take long for my favorite fanart master, Lord Mesa, to sketch a drawing of Barry and Cisco reacting to Smith crying. At first, it seemed like just another reference to Smith's legendary visit to the Star Wars set. But after seeing this episode, I'm forced to conclude that Lord Mesa is the most remarkably prescient fan around, because there is absolutely no way Smith could direct this episode without breaking down. 

I'd like to imagine Barry was by my side during my viewing,
holding out a box of tissues for me too.

Unless you're not attached to these characters, or you're a big old creepy-ass psychopath like Zoom, you will not make it through this episode without crying your eyes out, and that is a promise. These are the most Amazing Spider-Man, most Big Hero 6-level weapons-grade feels in Flash history. The joke among the fandom right now must be, "No, you're the one crying!" But me, I won't even attempt to deny it - I got a terrible, ugly case of broken dude tears. I'm still choking up as I type this, reliving the episode with every image search I make for "The Runaway Dinosaur." After three episodes of painfully powerless Barry, seeing him wreck his heart to get his speed back was the therapy we all needed. As someone who feels a distinct lack of freedom in his life, speed is one of the powers that most appeals to me (that and flight, the predominant superhero ability in my writing.) And, just as it hurts me deeply when I see flight-enabled people de-powered (just look at the scene where Angelina Jolie's Maleficent wakes up wingless), normalized Barry was an agonizing fallen angel to watch.

Two more episodes remain this season, and I really can't wait to see how they finally bring this Zoom storyline to a much-needed close. This season has already reached its emotional peak, I'm sure. Action peak, maybe not so much. But there will never be feels like this again - at least, until next year and some other major tragedy befalls our favorite speedster.

Sorry, Quicksilver. You didn't see that coming? XD

Till next time, Pinecones...

Remember - Denis Leary is always watching. Always.

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