NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of The Flash are present in this review
The Flash felt kind of… Off this week. Perhaps it’s because “The Fury of Firestorm” has the troublesome duty of introducing a substitute for the apparently dead Ronnie Raymond, to give a renewed Firestorm a place in the roster of next year’s Legends of Tomorrow series, and to be fair, the show doesn’t do a terrible job of that by any means. Overall though, this week’s episode felt strangely paced and delivered, with a scattered story that didn’t seem to paint most of the characters in a good light.
As Dr. Stein’s condition worsens, Caitlin has to scramble together candidates to replace Ronnie as the second half of Firestorm, so that Stein can be stabilized. She manages to narrow the search down to two possibilities, those being Jefferson “Jax” Jackson, a former high school quarterback-turned-mechanic who had to abandon his career and college prospects after he was injured in the Particle Accelerator explosion, and Henry Hewitt, a respected physicist with an esteemed academic background. Of course, if you’ve been keeping up with the preview press for Legends of Tomorrow, you already know that Jax is the proper match, which deflates this otherwise interesting conflict pretty fast.
Not helping matters is that Hewitt’s character feels very strange and contrived. If you’re a DC fan that’s been digging into the obscure C-list villains of New Earth, which is a frequent source for The Flash’s throwaway villains-of-the-week, you may also already be aware that Hewitt is actually a fellow called Tokamak in DC lore, a nuclear-powered menace that is naturally not very nice. Even on The Flash however, Hewitt starts out as the perfect, seemingly flawless candidate for Dr. Stein, but the second his attempt to fuse with Dr. Stein fails, he turns into an over-the-top dick with no provocation. He then has a police record unearthed by Cisco shortly afterward (how did Cisco find this when Caitlin didn’t?), which reveals he has assault charges, and yet was somehow hired by an esteemed scientific firm. Even for the DC Universe, that’s an incredible stretch, and it’s a plot turn that The Flash clearly pulled out of its ass to make an easy villain when it didn’t have enough material for a proper one.
On the bright side however, Jax is portrayed better, and his initial resistance to being the second half of Firestorm is more understandable. Moreover, his character is more sympathetic, and comes from a real place of being a young man coming from a rough upbringing that had his one shot at a better life taken away from him. His journey feels a lot more real, which is not only beneficial to the episode, but beneficial to the prospects for Firestorm on Legends of Tomorrow. It’s tough not to miss Robbie Amell, but Jax looks like he’ll be a solid replacement.
As Hewitt continues to pursue the path of wanton dickery, his attempt to fuse with Dr. Stein unlocks latent metahuman abilities, and he starts going on a rampage… Sort of. He mainly just blows up his lab, blasts his boss with radiation, then goes to Jax’s old high school football field to recharge. Why a football field of all places? I guess because it’s dramatically convenient for Jax, who finally steps up to successfully fuse with Dr. Stein shortly beforehand.
As much as the story is problematic up to this point however, at least the final scrap with Hewitt is pretty decent. It provides an entertaining Flash/Firestorm team-up, as the two must anger Hewitt to the point where he exhausts himself, and can be easily knocked out, before being tossed in the pipeline with the other captured metahumans. It’s both amusing and emotionally satisfying, leading in to a scene where Jax goes with Dr. Stein to undergo proper Firestorm training, with Dr. Stein teasing new techniques to learn that he didn’t quite master with Ronnie.
The episode contained two subplots beyond the Firestorm material, one for Barry, and one for Iris. The Barry plot mainly involved some romantic tension with an increasingly transparent Patty Spivot, who tries to convince Barry to study shark teeth that came from a supposed man-shark, while Detective West teased Barry about having a new object of affection. Beyond some mildly amusing scenes, this arc sadly felt like it mostly just took up space in the episode, even if it did feature a good speech from Detective West about Barry having to move on from Iris, and not let disappointment rob him of future opportunities in life. Man, that guy is good at speeches, especially when they echo the theme of the episode so well.
Right as Barry appears to man up and confront Patty however, the lead pans out in an unexpected way, with a surprise appearance by DC villain, King Shark, who is the latest villain that Zoom has sent to kill Barry. Yes, freakin’ King Shark is on The Flash! Don’t get too excited though, as he’s immediately neutralized by being shot in the back with an electric gun by a mysterious figure, which Barry naturally catches up with, and unmasks as… Harrison Wells?! Oh yeah, that’s right. Wells, presumably the Earth-Two Wells, skulks around the episode a bit, and steals said electric gun from Mercury Labs, presumably because he knew that King Shark was coming for Barry. This is a cool tease about the Earth-Two Wells possibly being a better guy that’s not a falsely disguised Eobard Thawne, but sadly, none of this has any payoff in this episode proper.
As for the Iris subplot, it involved Iris finally meeting and confronting her mother after two decades. This was very emotional, particularly when Iris surprisingly rejects her mother, and tells her to stay out of the lives of herself and her father. Francine relentlessly tries to get ahold of Detective West at the CCPD precinct however, and reveals that she’s dying of MacGregor’s Syndrome, that convenient fictional disease from DC lore.
After Iris meets with her mother again, she reveals that she looked into Francine’s background, and confirmed that she’s telling the truth about dying from MacGregor’s… But she lied about an earth-shattering fact; She was pregnant with a son when she initially left Central City! Iris is enraged and tells her mother to leave the city and never return, since Detective West would be shattered if he knew he had a son that grew up without him. DC fans however will no doubt be excited, since this seems to be the first mention of Barry Allen’s Flash successor from DC lore, Wally West, who we know is coming this season. In DC lore, Wally is normally Iris’ nephew, but obviously, given that Barry and Iris are far younger in The CW’s DC Television Universe, he’s been retconned to be her brother in this universe by the look of things.
As exciting as the mention of Wally is however, he still hasn’t properly shown up yet. On the bright side though, at least the Iris plot was better and more emotional, even if Iris came off as a wee bit cold to her dying mother. I get that she’s angry at her mother abandoning her and Detective West so many years ago, but sometimes, her hostility felt like a stretch, especially given Iris’ normally sweet-natured character on this show.
Not every bit of the episode was a clunker, but for the most part, “The Fury of Firestorm” was uncharacteristically weak for The Flash’s high quality standard. Jax Jackson is a fine Firestorm successor, and at least we had a creative final battle with our latest disposable villain-of-the-week, but so much of the story was disjointed, and felt kind of sloppy and heavy-handed with how the characters’ emotions were portrayed. Hopefully, the show recovers next week, now that it’s finished with the burden of having to re-arrange the character dynamics.
The Flash sadly disappointed this week, with an awkward, heavy-handed story that dealt too much in cheap drama, even if a few bright spots still made this latest offering at least acceptable.