Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The Flash 8x16 Review: "The Curious Case of Bartholomew Allen" (Aging Ain’t Easy) [Contributor: Deborah M]

“The Curious Case of Bartholomew Allen”
Original Airdate: May 25, 2022

With this season consisting of episode after episode weighed down by death, grief, and general doom and gloom vibes, “The Curious Case of Bartholomew Allen” boasts more lighthearted moments... for a little bit, at least. Then it becomes about growing old and it’s right back to all that depressing stuff. I did end up putting some funny quotes in the “Other Things” section of this review, though! It feels like forever since I did that, which is really saying something because funny quotes in the bullets used to be a good chunk of my word count for reviews of this show. Ah, the times they have a-changed. Remember when I used to do cute puppy GIFs for every episode?


Barry races around the city, saving people from petty crimes and distracted drivers, all while Chester implores him over his earpiece to return to whatever fight the team is involved in. Of course, when all of Barry’s hero errands are run, it’s revealed that the fight was actually taking place in the Dungeons & Dragons game everyone — including a miserable-looking Joe — is playing. Joe’s grumpiness during his next turn ends the game for the night, which makes me wonder how the game progressed at all. Like, what did Joe do during his turns for the past few hours the game had clearly been going on?

After a heart-to-heart with Joe and a brief reminder to the audience that Iris is still stuck in another dimension or whatever, Barry gets a call from former police chief David Singh. Singh, visiting town for a bit, asks for Barry’s help stopping a gamma ray thief and Barry tracks the guy down in a matter of minutes, heading out to the docks to confront him. The thief has fully embraced his life as a comic book supervillain (Mad Scientist variety) and hits Barry with the newly-modified gamma ray.

Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry goes through some diagnostics and testing that conclude he’s been aged — internally, so far — about 30 years. He’s got arthritis and osteoporosis and his more advanced speedster powers, like phasing, no longer function. Chester says he could reverse the effects, but only if he can look at the machine that caused them.

Barry runs off to confront Dr. Villain again, and the guy looks significantly younger. Considering that he was wearing a watch that read “Energy Consumption Complete” when Barry got hit the first time, I’m connecting some dots here. Instead of hitting Barry with another gamma blast, Dr. Villain throws a fancy tech grenade at him and Barry fails every attempt to stop it because he’s just not fast enough anymore. Barry gets electrocuted into unconsciousness.

The next we see Barry, he’s at S.T.A.R. Labs and he can’t see. Well, he’s nearsighted now. Welcome to the club, Barry. Allegra also notices that Barry’s aging is no longer just internal, and he now has gray hair. Again, welcome to the club, Barry. Chester runs some more tests and declares that Barry has aged another ten years, then theorizes that the gamma radiation is activated by Barry’s Speed Force energy. He runs, he ages. The others insist Barry stop using his speed, but Barry continues to believe he’s the only one who can stop Dr. Villain.

We learn that Dr. Villain’s name is actually Dr. Pytor Orloff, which means I should probably stop calling him Dr. Villain. When devising a next plan of action, Barry forgets Orloff’s name, which prompts Cecile to tag along with him just in case more old person symptoms disrupt the investigation. While looking through files at Orloff’s former place of employment, Barry finds a laptop with a failsafe that will erase the data if he doesn’t get it to Chester for hacking. Cecile tries to get Barry to think of a plan that doesn’t include speeding to S.T.A.R. Labs but fails, which ends with Barry accidentally speeding the two of them to China instead.

Yet again, the next scene finds us in S.T.A.R. Labs. Look, I get chopping out the details of travel for the sake of time, but it’s a bit ridiculous how often Barry is just suddenly in S.T.A.R. Labs this episode. How many tries did it take for him and Cecile to get back from China? Whatever it was, if Barry uses the same amount of speed again, the gamma radiation could kill him. Barry wants to check the Starchives for info while Chester tries to hack into Orloff’s laptop and heads off.

Cecile later finds Barry wandering the halls and he confesses he forgot where he was going. She finally outright questions his stubbornness, which also parallels the B-plot with Joe and Singh this episode. Like Barry dealing with aging, Joe seems frustrated with retired life and getting old. Singh insists that Joe’s problem isn’t retirement, but being too set in his ways and refusing to embrace new ideas and experiences — like his grumpiness during the D&D campaign in the episode opener. 

Echoing Singh’s words to Joe about embracing changes, Cecile shares a touching story about her grandmother and then tells Barry that — despite his new aches and pains, his fading memory, and his worries about the future — he can’t outrun time. He can only embrace it. Pity all those speed-obsessed villains Barry has to deal with constantly can’t get that through their thick skulls. Anyway, I’m really glad the show decided against the usual path of putting an actor in old age makeup for a plot like this, because it would definitely distract from emotional moments like the one between Barry and Cecile here.

Chester breaks into said moment with the news that he’s cracked Orloff’s laptop and, as pretty much anyone would have figured out the moment they discovered an age ray, Orloff is trying to suck youth out of other people in order to stay young himself. They’ve also clued into the guy de-aging. Did I jump the gun on that? Was that not obvious when Barry confronted Orloff the second time? Anyway, if Orloff uses that amplifier he stole with his gamma ray, he’ll become immortal and Central City’s entire population will age hundreds of years and die.

Orloff starts up his machine and Barry plans to overload it with energy to stop it from sucking the life from everyone. It could potentially kill Barry and Cecile protests, but her earlier pep talk has inspired him and earned her a chance to deliver a “run, Barry, run.” Congrats, Cecile!

Through science fiction nonsense I refuse to understand, Barry runs fast enough (despite being biologically over a hundred years old) to overload the machine, regain his youth, and age Orloff in a single blast. In fact, when everyone is back at S.T.A.R. Labs again in the next scene (of course), Chester tells Barry that he’s technically 29 again. Wow. Throw some gamma rays at me, please. I liked being 29.

Cecile and Barry have another nice little moment, and then we get a flash-forward to one week later, where Captain Singh has joined the team for another D&D session. This time, having taken the lessons of the episode to heart, Joe has fully embraced tabletop gaming and even dons a nerdy costume. 

Unfortunately, as with any levity in this show these days, the fun is interrupted by doom and gloom. In this case, it’s Barry finding out about Caitlin’s Frankenstein plans and destroying her at-home laboratory.

Other Things:

  • Why do people constantly want to rob the Jitters coffee shop? How much money can they hope to gain from a coffee shop in 2022, when most people don’t use cash?
  • Barry about Kramer knowing he’s the Flash: “She figured it out on her own.” Singh: “Well, I figured it out first!” Barry, alarmed and reassuring: “You did.”
  • “Hey. You’re the bad guy, aren’t ya?” I really miss snark on The Flash.
  • They should’ve crazied Caitlin’s look up a bit for her appearance this episode. She’s gone off the mad scientist deep end but still finds time to ever so slightly curl her hair? Let mad scientist women have bedhead!


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