This week on The Flash we had explosive action (literally), romance at every turn, a surprise revelation, and an ending that raises more questions than it answers. I’m completely hooked on this show, and this week’s episode really drove home to me the fact that it’s the best of the (many) superhero shows on TV right now–maybe the best one ever. Sorry, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, but you had your run.
“The Nuclear Man” picks up the Firestorm plot that got advanced last episode when Pied Piper revealed that Dr. Martin Stein and Ronnie Raymond had merged together into one person. (By the way, I agree with Aaron on this one, they should let Cisco do all the naming.) This episode picks up that plot thread immediately. I really appreciate how well-paced this show is. They could have strung out the Ronnie subplot all season, and I love that they’re jumping right into it.
We get to spend a bit of time with pre-Firestorm Dr. Stein, played by Victor Garber, in a Flash-back (see what I did there?) where Barry meets Stein on the train the day of the explosion. Garber is a great actor, and he manages to convey a lot of personality in only a couple scenes. He’s a guy who appreciates the beauty of science, but seems a bit suspicious of Dr. Wells’ flair for the dramatic.
Team Flash decides to track down Firestorm after he injures a former colleague of Dr. Stein’s, but after an awesome fight where Firestorm nearly kills Flash, they decide a more subtle approach is called for. Stein’s wife, Clarissa, convinces him to come to S.T.A.R. Labs for help, where we learn that Stein’s mind is in control of Ronnie’s body. Firestorm’s been acting crazy because he can feel Ronnie’s emotions even though it’s Stein in control, so they give him some anti-psychotics to even him out. I really like Robbie Amell’s portrayal of Stein in these scenes, because I can picture Victor Garber saying the lines even though I’m looking at Ronnie Raymond. Amell must have studied Garber’s diction before this episode, because he really nails it. Incidentally, I just realized that Robbie Amell is the cousin of Stephen Amell, AKA Oliver Queen on Arrow. Small world!
Unfortunately, it transpires that Firestorm is a living nuclear bomb, and there’s nothing Team Flash can do to stop him. Stein decides to go out into the desert and take himself out to spare everyone else the pain of having to do it, but Wells comes up with a last-ditch idea to use his stolen tachyon device to make a quantum splicer that just might separate the two without causing a nuclear explosion. Caitlin and Firestorm’s scene together when she gives him the device was really touching, but of course it doesn’t work properly and Flash has to bail her out before Firestorm goes nuclear. This can’t be the end of Stein/Ronnie, though, which is all but confirmed by Clancy Brown’s General Eiling appearing at the end of the episode to track down the source of the explosion. No show can ever have enough Clancy Brown, so his return is most welcome.
This week also gave us a ton more romantic subplot development, with Barry going on a couple dates with Linda Park (played by Malese Jow, who’s actually the second actor to play the role on The Flash). I thought their first date was really cute, with Barry having to twice rush off and save the day while Linda was distracted. Caitlin was clearly uncomfortable with Barry dating Linda, but it was subtle, especially with how distracted she was by a sort-of reunion with Ronnie. Barry’s discussion with Cisco and Caitlin about “not going too fast” with Linda was hilarious, and a legitimate concern. Seriously, dude’s gotta pace himself or it’ll be over all too quick!
It’s also pretty clear now that Iris is developing feelings for Barry, given how uncomfortable she is with Barry and Linda dating. She nearly sabotages their relationship, possibly subconsciously, by letting slip to Linda that Barry was still hung up on “someone.” Of course, their relationship also suffers from the typical comic book show trope of the hero having to rush off in the middle of a romantic moment but not able to explain why. I doubt Barry and Linda’s relationship will last long-term, but I’m hoping Barry at least gets some lovin’. Dude deserves it! I just hope he doesn’t follow Oliver Queen’s example and sleep with every female he comes in contact with.
Lastly, the most interesting plot of the episode, Joe and Cisco’s investigation into Nora Allen’s murder. Cisco’s become my favorite character on this show thanks to his irreverent sense of humor. I loved his super light, and I love how Carlos Valdes completely sells whatever technobabble they write for him. I don’t know what the hell a multispectral ultraviolet laser-enhanced scanner is, but it sure sounds like a thing.
Cisco comes up with a crazy plan to use the silver nitrate on the back of a mirror at Barry’s old house to recreate some images from the night Barry’s mom was killed, leading to the discovery of some blood spots the police missed, belonging to both mystery speedsters. Joe asks Cisco to test the blood against Dr. Wells, which is honestly a great idea given how shifty Wells has been acting, but Cisco gets indignant and storms off. The big reveal at the end of the episode is that one blood sample is unknown (but not Wells), and the other belongs to Barry Allen. Time travel confirmed! Bring on the cosmic treadmill.
Personally, I think that Wells is not the Reverse Flash, or at least that isn’t the whole story. I think he’s using his tachyon device to steal some Speed Force from Reverse Flash’s costume, but he’s not the original owner. This explains how we could see them in the same room together and why the blood samples don’t match. The real Reverse Flash? Probably Eddie Thawne, given that Eobard Thawne was the name of the yellow-suited speedster Professor Zoom in the comics. How they’re going to pull that one off, though, I haven’t the foggiest.
With ten episodes to go, I’m very excited to see how the first season concludes. Did Firestorm survive the explosion? Will Dr. Wells’ duplicity be exposed? Can Barry stop the Reverse Flash? Will Flash, Arrow, and the Atom team up to save the day? And will Barry ever get some lovin’? If there’s any justice in the world, the answer to all of these questions should be “yes.”