Season Two, Episode Twelve — “Fast Lane”
By Jarrod Jones. For a show as consistently sappy and squishy like The Flash, it was only inevitable that we would be treated to A Very Special Episode sooner rather than later. Actually, that’s not right. Maybe “Fast Lane” is more like an after-school special. I can see the advertisements now: “Fast Lane: The Wally West Story”. Or maybe “Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die.” (Wait. That one’s taken.) Well, anyway. The point is, Wally’s on a path to destruction, and the only person who can save him is… his half-sister. Break out the hankies, people, The West’s are due for a reckoning.
“Fast Lane”, while a lovely detour into the crazy-ass lives of the West Family, was a slog of an episode with a nobody of a villain (Tarpit? Geoff Johns insisted on that one, didn’t he). It had so much wiggle room that we could have probably fit another, better episode inside of it and nobody would have noticed. It’s an hour of filler to clear out the cobwebs, y’know, before the real crazy begins. (See below.)
WHAT WORKED: Iris displayed some real Lois Lane-level journalism this week, in what has to be her first actual, bonafide exposé: cracking an underground drag racing circuit. (That, apparently, is so far off the radar over at Central City PD that her dad is the only cop who knows about it. But whatever.) Her startling act of bravery — you know, that bit where she went and dropped a bomb on the shithead in charge of all that illegal racing Wally likes so well — was enough to get me wondering about an Iris Allen spinoff series, where she hustles her way out of the Central City Picture rag and right into the Gotham Globe (or somesuch). While her motives were decidedly selfish (so… if your brother wasn’t risking his life, you’d be perfectly fine with letting all those other kids kill themselves?), it was nice to see Iris matter to The Flash in a tangible way.
WHAT DIDN’T: As it is with most Very Special Episodes, there’s rarely enough room left for nuance after all the speeches and emotional peril. So instead of the show tackling the rather complicated dichotomy between Barry Allen and Harry Wells of Earth-2 with care, we’re given a reliably unfathomable moment with the show’s leading man, who goes on at length about how wonderful Dr. Harrison Wells was back in the day to the chagrin of a far more pensive Wells-2. I know that Barry’s little soliloquy was meant to stir up an emotion or two within Wells-2, but… we’ve already established that The Flash doesn’t look too fondly upon the man who killed his mother. The Wells Barry knew was always — always — Eobard Thawne. So what’s the deal, Show? Forget where you came from for a minute there?
I tip my hat to the writers of The Flash for making big, bold strides in order to get some of The Scarlet Speedster’s more out-there villains to work on screen. The Pied Piper became a DoomRocket favorite last season, and not two episodes ago, The Turtle had a short-lived stint as the creepiest baddie the show had up to this point. But Tarpit, a Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins innovation from way back, matters so little to the episode the writers are forced to toss in a connection between the baddie and Wally West’s dangerous lifestyle before the hour’s up. It’s all too convenient, even in a nutty world like this. As quickly as he appears, he disappears, like a big ol’ chump.
What are you doing here, Show? Are you setting Det. Joe up for a super-dark third season arc? The man willingly watches Cisco Ramon hack into protected court documents, uses a detained suspect as bait for Tarpit, and decides he’s going to punch people in the face and toss them into that soooo-not legal prison in the basement of S.T.A.R. And don’t think I’m not seeing your casual drinking seep into every episode lately, Joe. I swear. If Internal Affairs decided to take a look at Joe, S.T.A.R. Lab’s entire house of cards would come tumbling down.
“What are you doing here, aside from sending me to therapy?” – Wally, to his oh-so fine sister.
“That’s disgusting.” – Barry. Hope no one ever says that over your smoldering corpse, Allen.
Cisco: “And there it is, who is the best hacker in the world, people?” Barry & Caitlin: “Felicity Smoak.” But that’s only true because Barbara Gordon doesn’t exist in this world.
BEST MOMENT: Eh… look. I dunno about any of you, but watching Det. Joe punch people out weirds me like crazy, Tarpit’s comic book form was a far cry from the glory of Grodd (or even King Shark, for Pete’s sake), and I can’t stand phony racecar posturing. If “Fast Lane” had a Best Moment, I likely glossed right over it.
EPISODE’S MVP: Harry. Another week, another wacky compromised position for The Harrison Wells of Earth-2. The man has been letting his mushy side slip out from underneath him so many times during this season that it was only a matter of time before his betrayal of Barry got cinched away — who could tell those baby-blue eyes to hit the road? Certainly not Barry Allen and The S.T.A.R. Labs Kids. So no, his quiet subterfuge didn’t exactly pin me to the couch cushions this week. But Tom Cavanagh’s performance remains so deft and nuanced that when I watch him barely dig himself out of hole seconds after lobbing a shitty insult in order to compliment Barry in the clumsiest of ways, my heart melts. Tom Cavanagh just might be this season’s MVP.
– Joseph Monteleone, aka Tarpit — who looks like what happened when The Parasite ate Clayface, or maybe the other way around — first appeared in The Flash #174.
– Wells-2 keeps a journal recorder on his wristwatch so… he can keep his creepy secrets to a dull roar?
– Hey, Barry. Maybe don’t show off in front of the guy who’s secretly plotting against you.
– Did Iris go and make an appointment to get extensions put in just so she could spy on her half-brother?
– Arrow Shout-Out: Yep, Ollie Queen is still running for mayor.
– Cisco’s app alert is ‘O Fortuna’?
– “These people, Iris, they live in the dark. They’re cockroaches. Except they don’t scatter when somebody turns on the lights. They’re looking to bite.” Maybe Wally should quit drag racing and become a pulp novelist.
– When, oh, when is Wally ever going to ask about that red-clad superhero running around his family? It’s almost like Barry is wearing some next-gen stealth camo whenever Wally’s around. Get Wally on The Flash train, and soon.
6.5 out of 10
Next: “Welcome To Earth-2”, soon.
Before: “The Reverse-Flash Returns”, here.