The Flash continues its winning streak this week with ‘The Fury of Firestorm,’ a finely tuned episode that combines heart and weird science into an explosive whole. Easily, the best episode of the season, in a season packed with hits.
The press release describes it as such:
“INTRODUCING FIRESTORM — Barry (Grant Gustin) and the team look for another Firestorm match for Dr. Stein (Victor Garber). When the team meets Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (guest star Franz Drameh), Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) has her reservations about whether Jax is the right match for Dr. Stein. Iris (Candice Patton) surprises Joe (Jesse L. Martin) while Barry and Patty (guest star Shantel VanSanten) grow closer. Stefan Pleszczynski directed the episode written by Kai Yu Wu & Joe Peracchio (#204).”
The episode opens up with a flashback to the night of the explosion at S.T.A.R. Labs, where we find Jefferson “Jax” Jackson, played by Attack The Block’s Franz Drameh, basking in the afterglow of a winning game. His life is full of promise and a clear path to college via football, but the explosion changes everything with a career ending injury that has left him with metahuman potential. Which is a very good thing for Team Flash, because in the present day, Stein is flatlining after last week’s seizures.
Cisco is able to stabilize Stein using Dr. Wells’ Stabilizer but the good doctor is living on borrowed time and they only have a few days to save him. Caitlin has a theory that Stein’s cell’s need another human to bond with, in order to stabilize, and they can save him by finding a proper candidate. Cisco kills with the best joke of the season, which I won’t spoil, but it proves he’s an online dater. Caitlin believes she can locate a candidate using genetic markers, on the organ donor list, but she’ll need samples to expedite her search. Barry darts off and gets a sample from Jax and an unnamed scientist. I’ll forgive Barry for ignoring informed consent, because at least he acknowledges this ethical failing with a joke, whereas the team’s use of lethal force has gone undiscussed.
Now that the stage has been set for the main plot, we get a brief overview of the interpersonal relationship B plot, with a conversation between Iris and Joe, in regards to Bio-Mom. Joe supports her decision on her Mother either way; and she does not have to meet her if she does not want to have her in her life. Iris is adamant and will meet her Mother. Later at the Police Station, Patty brings Barry a tooth, believed to be the tooth of a MAN-SHARK. Joe arrives, and after Patty leaves, he calls Barry out on his flirtation with P. Spivot, but Barry continues to resist the very obvious attraction.
Barry returns to the Lab to find Stein with a Pimp…er.. Power cane allowing for mobility and matrix stabilization. As a man that requires a cane, I think I have found my inspiration for a great last minute cheap Halloween costume. The team reviews the two candidates: Hewitt the scientist, and Jax the mechanic. Caitlin is very in favor of Hewitt, who appears on the surface to be the safe and familiar choice, for a team of scientists. She even makes the super condescending comment that Hewitt is trying to do something with his life. I don’t want to hate Caitlin, so I’m going to accept that this behavior is necessary to establish her arc for the episode, and that she will see the error of her bias by the credits.
The premise of finding a candidate to fuse with Stein is a pretty heady spiritual and metaphysical conundrum, but Team Flash treats it more like a craigslist ad for a roommate than a person to complement Stein and share a body with him. But before I can get creeped out by the existential questions glossed over, for the sake of tone, Harrison Wells, of Earth-2, peers around the corner ominously, before the commercial break.
Stein and Barry arrive at the garage and attempt to connect with Jax, but he’s got some bias of his own and refuses their offer of assistance. He tore his ACL in the explosion and he prefers not to talk about the day his dreams died. Meanwhile, Joe and Iris are at the Coffee shop meeting with Bio-Mom. The meeting is awkward and uncomfortable, and before Bio-Mom can even get started, Iris gives her both barrells of real talk. “This is the right time for you to want me in your life, but that doesn’t mean it is the right time for me. I don’t hate you Francine. I wish you well. We’ve lived separate lives for twenty years, let’s keep it that way,” Iris says. #coldblooded
When Barry and Stein return to the Lab, Hewitt is already there and up to speed on the situation, because Caitlin feels that as a scientist he could be trusted with the whole truth. Cisco notes that Hewitt is arrogant but he proceeds to explain the merging process anyway. Hewitt and Stein attempt to merge twice but it just isn’t working. Hewitt is angry and offended, showing no compassion or empathy for Stein, who is dying. And as Hewitt storms out of the Lab, his hands glow with nuclear fire. Cut to the Applied Science Lab where Dr. TIna McGee spots Harrison Wells evading her security force with an unknown piece of technology.
After the break, McGee and Joe discuss the break in, and her surprise to see a living and walking Harrison Wells. Joe shoots down Patty’s request to contact Barry, and proceeds to gently explain to her that Wells killed Barry’s Mother. Patty is nervous because she is a bad liar, and Joe tells her she better learn real fast.
Bio-Mom meets Joe at the Police Station, and Joe is immediately protective and livid. But his resolve melts when she reveals that she is dying and that she wants her daughter to know her, to miss her. Lesser actors would have left this scene as maudlin as it is on paper, but god damn Jesse L. Martin is a national treasure.
Jax and Team Flash meet at the Lab, and give him the backstory on the science of the explosion and what they need from him. Cisco and Barry try to sell him on the superhero life, and Jax has the most human response ever, disbelief and incredulity. And when Jax attempts to make his exit politely, Caitlin loses her temper and calls him a quitter. An insulted Jax exits. An dumbfounded Caitlin asks Cisco if he would want powers, and poor Cisco gives a hilarious deadpan affirmative. Caitlin storms out to find Hewitt.
Back at the Police Station, Barry debunks the Shark-Man theory. An awkward Patty excuses herself, leaving Barry confused. Barry asks Joe about the case and Joe keeps the secret of Wells-2 from him. They discuss Bio-Mom and Iris, but Joe is quick to change the subject to the Patty/Barry Ship. Barry confides that Patty is nice but she will never be Iris. Joe responds, “You are never gonna feel that for someone else, but you can’t stop yourself from exploring someone new.”
Hewitt’s boss confronts him for his sloppy work and his missed shifts, and Hewitt loses his temper and his dormant powers short out the lab and cover his body in fire. Cut to the Lab, where the team has realized that Hewitt is a danger, and that unless he bonds with another person he too is unstable and a danger to others. Cisco reveals that he has uncovered the sealed criminal record of Hewitt, and the man has a long history of violence. Caitlin is sorry that she pushed Jax away, Stein is growing weak, and things appear to be bleak for Team Flash. “Great possibilities are right in front of you, but you choose not to see it. We have to be open to something new,” Barry says. #message
Iris and Joe discuss Bio-Mom’s health, and Iris is skeptical about her mother’s motivations. Joe wants Iris to make an informed choice and he has her back either way. Meanwhile, Caitlin has gone to the garage to apologize to Jax and recruit him. She tells Jax all about Ronnie and his sacrifice to save the city. Caitlin believes this is Jax’s chance to join a team and be a hero. Hewitt arrives on cue and attacks them, and Jax throws uses his quarterback skills to knock him out just long enough for them to escape.
Stein is dying, and Jax accepts his opportunity to save him and help people. Stein hobbles to Jax and the fuse into the newest version of Firestorm. The strength of the Flash and DC has always been legacy characters and here we have the mantle of Firestorm passed on to a new man inspired by his predecessor. This show gets what makes the comics work and translates it beautifully.
Hewitt is at the football field from the beginning of the episode, and he is absorbing all the power. Barry saves the bystanders and Cisco cuts the power, but the newly named Topamax is still a threat. Caitlin tells them to make him angry and he will lose control. They tease him and Firestorm is able to land a knockout punch saving the day. Stein and Jax are already a fine team, more in line with the original depiction of young Ronnie in the comics.
Iris meets Bio-Mom at the coffee shop and confronts her with information she has dug up with her investigative reporter skills. Yes Bio-Mom is dying, but the big reveal is that she has an undisclosed son. A son that might be Joe’s kid. Iris tells Bio-Mom, “Stay away. Stay away from Joe. If he finds out he has a son that grew up without him, it would crush him.” Iris walks out on Bio-Mom.
Team Flash meets up with Stein and Jax at the Stein house to say their goodbyes. Stein and Jax are off to work with a spiritual guide, so that they can further unlock the potential of the Firestorm Matrix. Caitlin gifts Ronnie’s compass to Jax and both of them have learned how to embrace the opportunity life presents them with, it’s a touching moment, and I forgive Caitlin for her ridiculousness earlier in the episode. Stein then advises Cisco to embrace his gift, that the thing that makes him different is the thing that makes him special. Firestorm flies away. The team departs, and Joe reminds Barry to take his chance with Patty.
Barry narrates over a montage, “Hidden behind our fears are second chances waiting to be seized. Second chances at life. At glory. At family. At love. And these opportunities don’t come along every day.” Barry has made his way to the coffee shop to take his chance on Patty, when a giant shark man grabs him. First Gorilla Grodd in season 1 and now King Shark. I love this show. Barry is in trouble but a hooded figure arrives and shoots Zoom’s latest Earth-2 assassin. Barry chases the man in the hood and he turns to face our hero; Barry has come face to face with the Harrison Wells of Earth-2.