Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Flash 2x19 Review: "Back to Normal" (Unfortunately Ordinary) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Back to Normal”
Original Airdate: April 26, 2016

Barry Gloomy Level is at a solid 10, people, and the gloominess is seeping into the rest of Team Flash! We’re at DEFCON: GLOOMY! We are enacting the buddy system, so please find your buddy — I recommend one of the baby animal variety, but to each his or her own. Secure fuzzy blankets and comforting drinks, prepare for a flood of frowny faces, and be aware that sad music is prohibited until further notice!

This is not a drill. I repeat: this is NOT a drill.

Adorable puppy GIFs will be provided at the end of the review, as per our mandated Crisis Guidelines, which can probably be Googled? Or maybe I just made them up in my head. Aaaanyway...


Understandably, much of Barry’s gloomy demeanor this episode stems from the fact that he lost his Flash powers and has been turned unremarkably normal until the team can find a way to get them back. Barry has to fit his new normalcy back into his life, which I’m sure is pretty hard for someone who’s gotten used to speeding his way through everything for the past year or so. Like, how much do you want to bet that Barry forgot to re-set his alarm to something that gives him enough time to get ready without his speed and it went off about three minutes before he had to be at work? It’s a good thing that Barry’s got that ironic reputation for being constantly late that comic book writers attach to all heroes with superspeed.

Barry faces his normal life with the same degree of enthusiasm that I’m sure a lot of people face their normal lives (that is to say, not all that enthusiastically). He drearily gets ready for work, sadly rides mass transit, boredly waits in line for coffee, and — hilariously, from my point of view — looks at a broken coffee mug like it’s everything wrong with the world and Barry personally blames it for all his troubles. The coffee mug did nothing wrong, Barry! Stop projecting!

All in all, I think that this version of the old “Barry can’t be the Flash anymore” story was better executed than season two’s previous incarnation of basically the same thing: when Zoom broke Barry’s back and Barry was confined to a wheelchair for the episode “Gorilla Warfare.” Maybe it’s that Barry seems to have accepted his new fate as an regular ol’ forensic scientist (albeit one with insider’s knowledge on superheroes, villains, Infinite Earths, and other wacky things) with some grace this time, or I was just charmed by the montage we get at the beginning of the episode contrasting Barry’s average day when he had his speed versus his average day without. Either way, “Back to Normal” sits better with me than “Gorilla Warfare” did.

It’s not just Barry’s powerlessness that mimics “Gorilla Warfare,” either, because a few other key plot points crop up: Wells is mad at Barry and wants to save his daughter, Caitlin has been kidnapped again, there’s a supernatural/metahuman threat, and Zoom is still a top priority for Team Flash. I don’t know if this was all intentional, or if the show has really just been repeating the same stories and I haven’t noticed because I’ve been distracted by the feeling of being trapped in a room with a bunch of grim people watching that sad Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial on a loop.


While the team is still absolutely focused on protecting the world from Zoom, whose next move is decidedly unpredictable, there is an immediate threat in the form of a super-strong metahuman who is so insignificant in the long run that Cisco doesn’t even give him a metahuman name. Poor guy. Cisco names everything, but not you — because you’re boring, and you talk too much, and your powers are cliche, and you’re gonna die, and did I mention that you’re boring?

Griffin Grey, the boring metahuman who has super strength and rapidly ages every time he uses it, seeks out Harrison Wells to fix him. Griffin thinks that Earth-2 Harrison Wells is actually Earth-1 Harrison Wells, who was actually Future Eobard Thawne, is responsible for the fact that he’s a teenager who looks 40. Harry is already having a bad day because his daughter, Jesse, refuses to be around him on account of him being a murderer and all, so getting kidnapped by a metahuman who never shuts up about his angst and pain? Not a good addition.

There’s no fixing Griffin, so Harry just assumes he can stall for time until the cavalry arrives — with the assistance of his estranged daughter, who is still mad but at least doesn’t want to see her father killed by a 40-year-old teenager with super strength — to save him. It basically works, as Wells (mostly) puts aside his urge to tell Griffin to shut up and keeps himself alive long enough for Team Flash to devise a rescue plan, equip the Flash suit with something that will absorb one of Griffin’s super-punches, and get Harry out of danger. The plan just involved tiring Griffin out until he aged himself to death but, hey — they can’t all be plots of pure, unrestrained genius. Especially not with this group. I mean, did you see last week’s episode? They tried making a deal with Zoom, for God’s sake! And got one of their team members kidnapped because of it!


Meanwhile, on Earth-2, Caitlin has to deal with Zoom’s creepy infatuation with her. As a show of faith, he releases Caitlin from her restraints and allows her to wander freely about his windowless, dank lair. She meets with Helmet Guy, who is still wearing a helmet and tapping on things, and her Earth-2 doppelganger. Not a whole lot else happens on Earth-2, but I thought it necessary to check in, since Caitlin’s experience has more to do with the “major plot,” while Team Flash’s adventure is just focused on the metahuman of the week.

It looks like Zoom (or “Hunter Zolomon”) really did fall in love with Caitlin, at least a little bit. Killer Frost was kept alive despite her betrayal of Zoom largely because she resembles Caitlin, and Killer Frost knows it. As soon as Caitlin weakens Frost’s carbine cage and releases her, she turns against Caitlin and attacks because being the only version of Caitlin Snow around Zoom is her best chance of survival.

Luckily for Caitlin, but unluckily for Killer Frost, Zoom arrives just in time to stop the metahuman’s icy attack and stabs her with her own icicle. Hunter Zolomon warns Caitlin that trying to rescue the remaining prisoner (i.e., Helmet Guy) means death for him, too. The good news is that Caitlin doesn’t die, but the bad news is she’s still trapped in Zoom’s lair, her friends can’t get to her, and she’s got her handcuffs back because Zoom works on the honor system.

Later, Hunter tells Caitlin that he’s feeling unfulfilled by his current supervillainy. He’s killed so many, but he needs to set more impressive goals for himself if he’s ever going to grow as a chaotic evil mastermind. He decides that he’s done conquering Earth-2 and wants to conquer other worlds to prove how truly powerful he is, starting with Earth-1. Hey, at least it’s a better goal than becoming the fastest fast person in all of the multiverse. Aim high, Zoom. It’s the only way to progress.

Thankfully, the news of Zoom’s impending attack on Earth-1 comes alongside Harry’s announcement that he’s going to help Barry get his speed back. By re-creating the particle accelerator explosion. What could go wrong?!



Other Things:
  • I’m not sure that the 1960s ska music was the best choice for Barry’s mope-montage.
  • Side story: Wally wanted to thank the Flash for saving him; failed to recognize Barry even when he pieced together the connection between the Flash and Joe.
  • Earth-2 people creating cell phone dead zones sounds super inconvenient.
  • I still really like The Flash’s use of Zoom. He’s unhinged and dangerous and they don’t try to make excuses for him.
  • “What, is [five majors] not common here?” “Girl, no, that is not common anywhere.” Iris, I love you, and you need to be around more.
  • "I’m guessing the suit will only absorb one of Grey’s punches. Anything more than that, you’ll be like a piƱata! Only it won't be candy coming out, it'll be—" "Me?" "You. Yeah, you." Oh, man, I love these two actors to pieces.
  • Some really great acting in the scene between Wells and Jesse, by the way.


  1. The fastest person in all the multiverse is still a good goal all things considered. Nobody can touch you or stop you and you could visit every place on every earth. Its not just having speed its what you can do with it that counts.

  2. There were a couple of things that I really liked about this episode.

    I liked that they took Barry's powers away. It forced him to think outside of his usual "race in without thinking" habit. He was much more willing to take time and listen to his friends, partly because he had to. I'm hoping that those qualities will continue. Sometimes the fancy superpowers can get all the attention and I don't think it is coincidental that this episode had some really good character development. Beyond whatever powers Barry may get he needs to be a well-written character and we need to see what makes him who he is apart from the speed. Otherwise, every speedster just becomes boring and interchangeable.

    I actually like the inclusion of Griffin Grey. It was a good reminder that, as Griffin himself said, not everyone got cool powers. He was just a regular teenager who got completely messed up, and not even in an interesting way. He was a little boring but I found the sad pathos of his life kinda touching. He just wanted to go back to normal which was a good contrast to Barry who is extremely frustration and depressed about going back to normal. The particle accelerator gave some people some cool showy things but it also just plain destroyed a lot of lives. Which made the plan to recreate it sound a little extra scary.

    I liked learning more about Caitlin and spending some time concentrating on her character.

  3. Barry, to my mind, is not nearly guilt-ridden enough. OK, the metahumans are Harry's fault (or Thawne's, depending on which Earth), but BARRY caused the huge rift and BARRY went back in time to tip Thawne off and BARRY ran off half-cocked to Earth-2 and BARRY decided to re-open the portal. Dude, this is totally YOUR fault. Harry is right, it wasn't a team decision. Joe said no. Harry said no. Cisco didn't want to vibe anymore. But what the hey, go for it. Do the dumb. It's your thing. I can't even with idiot Barry any more.

    And OMG the fact that everyone is or will be a speedster is hurting my brain. Enough with the speed already, Jessie Quick and Wally West aka Kid Flash, not to mention the at least five other speedsters we've seen (Jay/Zoom, Reverse Flash, girl Flash whoever she was, etc....)

    On the other hand - Tom Cavanaugh gets sexier every episode. Please get that man a love interest.