The Flash Zoom-In: Fast Lane (2×12)
“There’s this one song lyric that I like… all the broken hearts still beat,” explains Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) during his classic opening omniscient narration. “Fast Lane” ironically is a slow-paced character driven episode. The writers divide their time between wrapping up the disjointed and underwhelming introduction of Wally West (Keiyan Lonsdale) into the series; and Team Flash business. Barry takes his turn partnering up with Harry (Tom Cavanagh), and move forward with their plan to close all fifty-two breaches. This season I have really enjoy the B-plotlines featuring Harry working alongside either Cicso (Carlos Valdes), Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker), or Barry. Typically these story lines further the central story, while presenting strong character moments. The Flash, episode 12 takes one step back thanks to it’s lack luster villain of the week, Tar Pit (Joey Monteleone); but it contains a great set up for our team to finally cross the universal divide.
“Which you, are you trying to get Wally to know,” asks Iris to Joe (Jesse L Martin), “Because the person I saw tonight, I don’t recognize that dad.” Following Patty Spivot’s abrupt departure in the previous episode, the writers finally have time to tell an Iris West (Candice Patton) centric story. In past episodes Joe almost overshadows Iris’ own arc following Francine’s return and Wally’s arrival, but not this time. The writers could have easily had Joe be the one to use his profession as a police officer to pivot him against his newfound son. Instead they have Iris step up as an overprotective big sister, as she writes an expose about Wally’s deadly nighttime activities. “This entire conversation is being recorded by CCPN, if you or any of your friends lay a hand on me, my colleagues will send it to the CCPD,” explains Iris to the man behind the races, Clark Bronwen (Teach Grant). Candice Patton gave a great performance and upheld this material; my main problem is in terms of Iris as a character. She still reminds me way too much of the Lois Lane archetype; a stubborn, hard working journalist, who writes about “the impossible.” The writers really focus on fleshing out those differences that exist between Iris West and Lois Lane; especially if they’re going all in on #WestAllen.
Now even though the episode was divided between the West family and Team Flash drama plot lines, the writers effectively tie both threads together through Tar Pit. His vendetta against Clark Bronwen leads him to the drag races, placing Wally, Joe, and Iris all in his crosshairs. Iris even ends up in the hospital after Tar Pit disrupts Wally’s race and destroys his car. A shard of glass ends up heading straight for Iris and unfortunately Barry’s too slow to deflect the piece; luckily it ends up only hitting her shoulder. I kept thinking about the similarities between this sequence and Gwen Stacy’s death in The Amazing Spiderman 2. Sorry, #WestAllen fans this episode is more about having Wally at Iris’ bedside than Barry. More importantly, I am warming up to Wally West, after he explains how his obsession with speed is derived from grief over his mother’s passing. Hopefully, this episode closes the door on his awkward introduction and begins building up to his inevitable turn as a real speedster.
Barry’s inability to save Iris again connects these two divergent plot lines together, as he begins to question his speed, or lack thereof, over the past few days. “The difference seems negligible, I mean fast is fast,” says Barry, brushing off Cisco’s concerns following the team’s first encounter with Tar Pit. This line is one of many dialogue teases foreshadowing the third act turn, where Barry’s unable to protect his own family. Finally, we receive payoff from Wells’ choosing to help Zoom steal Barry’s powers all the way back in the mid-season finale, “Running to Stand Still.” Harry creates a device from The Turtle’s brain matter (2×10) and knowledge from the Reverse Flash (2×11), that steals Barry’s speed; well “exactly two percent,” but slow enough. Caitlin also informs Barry about the possible chromosomal damage that could happen if he were to lose any more speed force; a subtle nod to Jay Garrick’s (Teddy Sears) current health condition.
Tom Cavanagh and Grant Gustin really shine in their respective roles throughout the entire Team Flash arc in “Fast Lane”. Harry may have agreed to help Zoom a few episodes ago, but his decision comes with a hefty burden of guilt. An emotional weight he shoulders, while working alongside people who are eager to help him save his daughter. Harry even warns Barry about his eventual betrayal in one particular, brilliant, scene, “Life is either a yes or a no, black or white, love or… hate from the dawn of time till this moment now.” Barry refuses to see the world from Harry’s “binary” perspective. Pause. I highly suspect that The Flash writers binged Mr Robot during the hiatus. These lines are very reminiscent of dialogue found in the second episode of that show. Resume. I had almost forgotten about the chemistry between these two actors. Grant’s even able to be funny again, with his “ten year old determination.” More importantly, the writers re-establish Barry’s complex relationship with Harrison Wells, as a former mentor and substitute father figure. While, Barry and Harry work together on figuring out a way to close the breaches, there are flickers of a mentoring relationship to form in the future. Ultimately, Barry even is able come up with a solution, actually, “You did. The other you [Wells]… evil not stupid.” They are only able to close one breach before Barry has to speed off to save the West family
“I stole your speed and I gave it to Zoom,” explains Harry, finally relieving himself of his guilt; and earning him a right-hook from Joe. Seems like Team Flash has gone full circle, locking Harry in a meta-human holding cell; that recently held the Eobard Thawne/Harrison Wells back in season 1. Harry proposes a plan that will give everyone what they want. Send him back to Earth-2, close all the breaches, and Zoom can never cross over again. “I may not be fast enough to beat Zoom, but I’m not going to just close the breaches and forget about it either,” explains Barry to his team. The writers really earn this final scene, as Barry defends Harry’s actions, “none of us our above making a wrong decision.” Harry chose to help Zoom only in an effort to save his daughter. See? This universe is not “binary.” Alright, so maybe “Fast Lane” earns some brownie points for name dropping Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards); it’s a great moment.
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Editors Note: Thanks to Sarah for guest authoring The Flash Zoom-In this week. I wasn’t super enthused with this episode, but the West family drama was decent. Sarah’s still guest authoring Arrow Re-Nocked: Unchained (4×12) as well and she gave the point in the weekly The Flash vs Arrow competition to Arrow! With The Calculator and Roy Harper making an appearance, this week’s Arrow just barely nudged out The Flash. – Everett