Despite the fact that tonight’s episode of The CW’s The Flash was all about the search for a new Firestorm, the hour was a bit of a slow burn. Then that last thirty seconds hit. I can only imagine that the folks who aren’t familiar with that particular character from the pages of DC Comics were quite confused, while comic book readers probably leaped off their seats with excitement. That was a pretty audacious move to make (which we’ll talk about in a second), but don’t expect a full episode with the villain any time soon. Now, onto the recap!
This was a tough one to break down into Barry / The Flash segments because a fair bit of it actually focused on other characters besides our title hero. One was introduced in the cold open, which took place two years before the current timeline, just moments before the particle accelerator explosion. We’re briefly introduced to Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (Franz Drameh), a high school quarterback whose game-winning performance has pretty much sealed a free ride to college … except that the S.T.A.R. Labs explosion wave is currently racing towards him. In heroic fashion, Jax clears the field and gets his injured teammate to safety, but he’s soon blasted by the wave, breaking his leg and rearranging his molecules.
As we soon discover, once the timeline jumps back to the current setting, Jax is one of two candidates who are uniquely suited to merge with Dr. Stein, the other being a dual PhD scientist named Henry Hewitt (Demore Barnes). It’s a good thing the S.T.A.R. Labs team was able to track these two down because Dr. Stein’s condition is becoming increasingly unstable (despite a stylish power-cane developed by Cisco that keeps him buzzing along for a few more days). The first step to testing their compatibility with Stein is a blood sample – which Barry solves quite quickly and easily thanks to his super-speed – and the second is the actual merger itself.
While Caitlin would prefer that the two scientists, who actually seem to get along quite well on a personal level, should be the ones to merge, Barry isn’t so sure. His suspicions are supported when Hewitt’s merger with Stein fails, and the younger scientist walks off in a huff. You could tell this guy’s attitude was going to be a big problem from the get-go when he whisked right past Barry’s outstretched hands and started fawning all over Stein. And it’s never a great sign when someone is offered incredible power and they immediately start to salivate. The problem is that some of the residual Firestorm powers followed Hewitt out of the lab, but more on that soon.
Let’s take a moment to remember that Barry Allen is also part of the show, even in this episode. While most of his time is spent flirting with Patty Spivot (and testing the shark teeth she found in an alley for meta-human DNA), checking on Joe, or pining over Iris, he does get to suit up eventually.
Speaking of Iris, she finally comes face to face with her mother Francine for the first time since she abandoned her family 20 years earlier. Iris, and by extension Candice Patton, handles the meeting with maturity, but opts to keep their lives separate. Though Joe reassures his daughter that she doesn’t have to keep her birth mother at a safe distance to protect him, Iris knows something he doesn’t. Even after it’s revealed that Francine has a terminal illness, Iris plays her own trump card saying that she knows Francine had a son eight months after she left Central City. Whether it’s Joe’s or someone else’s, Iris isn’t sure, but fans can safely bet that this interaction will explain the arrival of Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) in future episodes.
Another character’s arrival that bears a bit more explanation is that of Harrison Wells! Or, at least, Tom Cavanagh, who appears to be playing Harrison Wells in some capacity. After Wells is seen creeping around after Cisco in S.T.A.R. Labs, he later breaks into Mercury Labs to steal something (which is revealed later). Dr. Tina McGee sees him and reports the sighting to Joe and Patty, even though she can hardly believe it herself.
Meanwhile, Stein is still getting worse, so Barry convinces Caitlin to try and convince the reluctant Jax to attempt the merger, save the ailing professor, and become a hero. Though Caitlin initially chastises Jax for quitting too easily, he soon proves his heroic tendencies by saving Caitlin from an enraged Hewitt. After escaping to S.T.A.R. Labs, they successfully complete the F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. Matrix merger. Just in time, too, because Hewitt is now a force to be reckoned with.
Barry finally gets to suit up as The Flash, though it’s for a pretty brief fight. Flash and the new Firestorm zip over to the stadium where Hewitt is currently wreaking havoc. Though they try to cut off his power source, Caitlin and Cisco figure out that his own rage is fueling his abilities, dubbing him Tokamak after the experimental nuclear fusion device. This fight is short-lived as all Flash and Firestorm have to do is exhaust Tokamak and basically make him rage quit. It’s not that great from an effects or plot standpoint, but the fact that the writers referenced Tokamak earns them bonus points.
After taking out Hewitt/Tokamak and dropping him in the pipeline, Stein and Jax are headed back to Pittsburgh to get more training from an academic colleague. Caitlin seems to be going through her last phases of getting over Ronnie Raymond as she gives Jax Ronnie’s chest device and swaps Ronnie’s image out of the Firestorm file for Jax’s. Cisco, who has smoothed out the Firestorm transition, receives parting advice from Stein about embracing his powers even though he’s scared, and telling his teammates about his abilities. We’ll see if he’s feeling the vibe…
Up until this point, “The Fury of Firestorm” has been a fun little PSA of an episode that is mostly centered on Jax, one that stresses the importance of taking a leap of faith for the greater good, and not for personal gain. Then we get to the last few scenes. While Barry, as The Flash, is taking Joe’s advice to heart and checks in on Patty, KING SHARK steps out of the shadows, picks him up, and holds him five feet off the ground! Though Patty sees the monster in his full – and surprisingly fantastic – computer-generated glory and unloads her clip into him, it’s an electric zap that finally puts King Shark down.
But who fired it? None other than Harrison Wells, presumably using the gun he stole from Mercury Labs. Despite Joe warning Patty not to tell Barry about Wells’ return, the two are now quite aware of each other’s existence. What exactly that means will have to wait for future episodes to reveal.
“The Fury of Firestorm” had a great balance of moral platitudes and comic book action, but it lacked a lot of the tension that makes certain episodes of The Flash so good. It was an hour of fun TV with good nods to the comics and fun bits and pieces for the fandom, just not the best it can be.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Cisco: “Merging with Stein and bursting into flames sounds like the biggest “swipe left” of all time.”
Barry (to Patty): “I’d love to work on … anything with you, but meta-humans aren’t really my thing.”
Joe: “What is it with you and Iris and my partners?”
Dr. Stein: “I never imagined the Sphynx’s riddle about the man with three legs would apply to me, but if it keeps me mobile, I’ll happily oblige.”
In the DC Comics, Henry Hewitt is best known as the villainous head of the Hewitt Corporation whose experiments to replicate the Firestorm conditions end up creating Firehawk. He later ran the experiment on himself and ended up having to build a containment suit dubbed Tokamak in order to survive.
Stein: “Prone to allergies. That’s definitely a negative, as is his taste in music.”
Caitlin: “Isn’t he great?” Cisco: “He’s got an ego the size of Texas, but yeah, he’s alright.”
Okay, so would you jump at the chance to be bonded on a molecular level with an older professor, even if he was your idol, so that you could become a walking nuclear reaction? Hewitt sure seemed excited…
Hewitt: “Next time, try to get your act together before you get someone’s hopes up.”
Patty: “First a Shark-Man, now a dead man walking.”
Francine’s MacGregor’s syndrome is the same thing afflicting William Tockman in Arrow and Mr. Freeze’s wife in the Batman universe.
Jax: “Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on Grey…”
Caitlin: “He said ‘No’ to being a superhero. Who does that? You didn’t. Cisco, would you?” Cisco: “A chance to have super powers? Sign me up…”
Barry and Iris, or Barry and Patty? Even Joe’s trying to get Barry to move on at this point.
I like this new Firestorm but his all-white eyes creep me the hell out.
Joe: “That was a helluva leap of faith that kid took, merging with Professor Stein.” Barry: “Yeah it was.” Joe: “Maybe that should be a lesson for you.”
King Shark: “Zoom wants you dead!” This reveal was my favorite nerdy moment since Gorilla Grodd.