Season One, Episode Three – Things You Can’t Outrun

By Molly Jane Kremer and Jarrod JonesThe third episode of The Flash, Things You Can’t Outrun, is ironically the first episode of the show to slow down. After the breakneck pace of the first two episodes, we’re starting to delve into what makes the series’ supporting cast tick, and while it’s (comparatively) not as compelling as the Barry-centric plotlines we’ve gotten used to, it’s still as vibrant, interesting, and – most importantly – fun as the rest of the series thus far. With all this added baggage, there’s a considerable amount of flashback to wade through, and coupled with that, this episode’s freak-of-the-week is an unfamiliar (and quite random) DC Comics villain. Without as much focus on Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen – our beloved Fastest Man Alive – that ol’ formula is beginning to show.

Some of that formula works flawlessly though, and it continues to do so for the third week in a row: Barry’s opening narration is always top-notch, and this one is no exception. From the onset, our hero’s opening monologue avoids an eye-rolling monotony by infusing itself with memorable lines like “… it doesn’t matter if you’re the slowest kid in gym class or the fastest man alive, every one of us is running.” (Kudos to writers Alison Schapker and Grainne Godfree on that one.) This facet of The Flash‘s formula lends itself beautifully to the comic books the series has spawned from, chiefly those of co-showrunner Geoff Johns, whose seminal run on the Scarlet Speedster is a primary source of inspiration to this entire show. When these episodes begin, we can almost read Barry’s words on screen, contained in brightly colored caption boxes. For a pair of comic book readers, it’s a fantastic feeling.

Other parts of the show’s formula may serve a functional narrative purpose, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying: Iris Allen (Candace Patton) is still keeping love-struck Barry at a distance, and the episode begins with the would-be couple bouncing adorable witticisms back and forth, all while Barry makes his most strident (and ultimately useless) attempts at not dorking all over his best friend. And even though these grating moments do occur, Schapker and Godfree salvage the episode’s opening by sending Iris off on a quickie phone call with her creepy boyfriend Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), which means Barry has plenty of time to zig-zag over to a dangerous police chase, snag the perp from his truck, and dump him (handcuffed, even!) into the back of the pursuing squad car, all before Iris – our intrepid reporter – even notices he’s gone. It’s those little super-heroic flourishes that keep the rest of the episode from teetering too far into mundanity.

That’s not to say that Things You Can’t Outrun is a step backward for The Flash. It’s more of a step over, a middling, easily forgettable installment to a series that needs some padding in its large, 22-episode freshman series. There are still many things to appreciate here, and once again, some of the strongest and most affecting moments the show can offer are featured in this episode. Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) has yet another beneficial one-on-one with Barry that touches on the difficulties of having all this power and responsibility, and the seasoned police detective warns our upstart super-hero that “[there’s a] feeling of uselessness when you can’t do anything, and there’s the guilt that weighs on you when you make a mistake.” And towards the end of the episode, Joe has yet another affirming exchange with the imprisoned Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp), and Barry’s two dads have a pretty heartwarming conversation about their shared charge.

Permeating throughout the entire episode is The Mist, this week’s rando-villain: a violent criminal that was once sentenced to die, The Mist miraculously happens to be able to turn himself into a cloud of sentient hydrogen cyanide (which makes hanging out on Death Row an asinine endeavor). After S.T.A.R. Labs’ calamitous explosion, Kyle Nimbus (which, yes, that is his actual name) decides to revenge all over those who put him in prison, beginning with the decimation of a family of mobsters (although they were calling each other “Uncle” and “Nephew”, so it really wasn’t all that traumatizing to see them go). Yet again we have a C-List villain pulled from the annals of DC Comics history, and yet again the villain fails to resonate within the episode. Hopefully this is one aspect to the overall formula that won’t stick.

A good portion of this episode takes place in flashback, to the night of the particle accelerator accident that caused, well, the whole show. We see a whole lot more of the S.T.A.R. Labs team, with a focus on Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and her deceased (?) fiance Ronnie Raymond (a name more than familiar to most DC Comics fans) unfortunately played by a lackluster Robbie Amell. (And, why yes, you are experiencing the vague smell of nepotism when you realize that is the same last name as Stephen Amell, Oliver Queen himself and star of Arrow: Robbie is his cousin.) While fleshing out the supporting cast is vital (and witnessing the possible origin of Firestorm is an enticing prospect), scenes that should have been riveting instead bordered on dull, and felt callously inserted to only further a future storyline that has no discernible payoff for the show at hand. Hopefully more care will be taken in the future to get everything synchronized.

Three episodes in, and The Flash maintains its exuberance. None of us have forgotten the dreaded headline that the pilot so mercilessly teased and its vague promise of a cohesive television DC Universe, and nor should we: the little hiccups that the series endures are easily brushed off in the shadow of the bigger picture, where superheroes unite to fight for a common purpose, a crisis of infinite merit. “It’s not like I want a museum built in my name,” Barry protests. But if Grant Gustin continues to inspire confidence as Central City’s resident super-hero, as he has for the last three episodes, Barry Allen won’t only have a Flash Museum to boast, he will have a legacy that endures, one that may even transcend time.

Flash Facts:

It’s not like I want a museum built in my name,” said Barry Allen. (And then we both died.)

The effects continue to be surprisingly good, especially during the final fight with the Mist: the Flash runs back and forth through a billowing green cloud, with streaks of lightning illuminating the scene.

Barry tells Joe that he’s “been figuring out how to break into [Iron Heights] since I was eleven.” Man, our Barry musta been a strange little kid.

Barry’s meeting with his dad at the end tugged at the heartstrings, again showcasing some great writing. When telling his son how he didn’t learn to walk as soon as some of the other kids did, he said, “[when you finally figured it out] you didn’t just walk, you started to run. And you ran to your mom, Barry. Right into her arms. You had someplace to go.” Aw.

Despite being a not-exactly-engaging villain, it’s nice to have The Mist remain alive by the end of the episode. Absolutely no need to kill off villains as quickly as was done in the first two episodes, where the bad guys seemed to be destined to one-episode stands.

Oh, Eddie Thawne. How is it that there are all these criminals running around with their weird, inexplicable powers, but the idea of “The Red Streak” is preposterous? Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen.

Making the Mist’s origin work within the context of this show by having his gas chamber execution happening as the accelerator accident occurred, really was an inspired bit of writing.

The epilogues with Harrison Wells doing something secretive and/or dastardly are getting to be a bit much. There needs to be a payoff to the hardcore tease, or it needs to let up for an episode or two. We’ve got all season for that kind of stuff, guys.