Season Two, Episode Twenty-One — “The Runaway Dinosaur”
By Jarrod Jones. The Flash has mired in the muck of inadequacy for so long that an entire episode dedicated to its own existential angst was probably inevitable. Barry Allen’s been pinballing around his own show with a comically exasperated look on his face for months now, finding other people’s problems to fix while actively avoiding his own. Now he’s met with the Speed Force that gave him his power in the first place, encouraged to take a load off long enough for a proper gaze into the abyss. It would be simple to confuse this experience with our hero’s own brain death — he’s experiencing that moment when your entire life, er, flashes before your eyes, right?
“When the last proton decays, stops vibrating and plunges the universe into heat death, we’ll be there too,” The Actual Speed Force tells Barry in this week’s tonally disruptive but still very emotionally-charged episode. So the Speed Force is… what, exactly? An omniscient hive-mind? An aloof deity? A speedy mixture of the two? It definitely appears to be the latter, and apparently it’s also kind of a jerk. Dangled in front of Barry is the very speed taken away from him just three episodes ago by the cantankerous Zoom. (More on him after a bit.) Is the Speed Force deliberately toying with our hero? If so… why?
It would be a pretty brave thing to dwell on Heaven metaphor for an entire hour, especially after the rote superhero procedural we’ve been sitting through for weeks now. But a ponderous jaunt through the never-realm that is the Speed Force isn’t enough for The Flash, there must come a threat o’ the week — the tropes of television practically demand it — but thankfully it isn’t dipping into the Zoom well this week. What it is doing, however, is dragging one of the older Flash baddies back from the dead. Literally. “Zombie-Girder. Didn’t see that one coming,” Cisco says. Hey, neither did we!
WHAT WORKED: “The Runaway Dinosaur” might be one of the sweetest, saddest episodes in The Flash‘s short history. I don’t know if that’s due to the teleplay by Zack Stentz or the direction of Kevin Smith (yes, that Kevin Smith), but I’m happy it came when it did. The Flash has been bouncing off the walls for what seems like forever now — at least since its midseason finale last year, certainly — operating as though it had forgotten what made it so strong in the first place. The missing component to The Flash has been Grant Gustin, shuffled around subplot after subplot of Earth-2 nonsense for no reason other than to further this season’s Zoom agenda. (A conceit that has largely failed.) If Season Two is going to end with a whimper, Mr. Gustin simply has to be brought back to the epicenter. “The Runaway Dinosaur” did precisely this.
WHAT DIDN’T: I won’t pick on the episode for not keeping its entire focus on Barry this week, but all the ancillary stuff Smith tossed in was the same crap-tastic nonsense we’ve endured for too long. A vague description of Barry’s location leads Wells-2 to surmise that Barry’s trapped in the Speed Force? Why not. Greg Finley’s Girder returns to the show to stomp about as a metal-plated zombie? Sure. S.T.A.R. Labs stores its dead bodies — of which it has too many — in an actual morgue in the basement? And we’re only finding out about this now? Kevin Smith, you fool. You’re supposed to be the King Dork around here. If anyone was to address the gaping plot contrivances of this show, it should have been you.
“A zombie? F’real?” – Cisco, articulating my thoughts always.
“I’m so glad you’re back… because we’re about to die.” – Cisco.
BEST MOMENT: “Come home to me.” Barry’s finally understands the meaning of life (or something), so he’s granted his speed. Cisco and Iris vibe into the Speed Force to bring their friend home — because all sorts of death is about to break through the door. So Barry turns, Iris’ voice ringing through the air, drawing him near. He looks back at Nora Allen. “Now run, Barry. Run.” *sob* That line just isn’t getting old, guys.
EPISODE’S MVP: Barry. Grant Gustin spent his time ensconced in a philosophical debate with some sort of omnipresence beautifully. His George Bailey-esque reflection of his own family and self-worth could have been a schmaltzy groaner — and the weeks that preceded this episode certainly forecasted it — but Gustin kept his emotions directed outward. As Barry contended with his own mortality, Gustin probably made the entire crew of The Flash weep openly on set. He probably made Kevin Smith cry.
– Girder’s first appearance on The Flash was Season One, Episode Six — “The Flash Is Born”.
– Did Iris really just run from her house all the way S.T.A.R. Labs?
– That Jason Mewes cameo was the absolute worst. Oof, the things Smith does for his friends.
– So what the hell was the Speed Force doing to Barry this week? As an entity, the Speed Force is one of those wack-a-doo omni-energies like The Source, or Star Wars‘ The Force. It’s the source of Barry’s speed, but it’s also served as a resting place for speedsters in the afterlife. Whatever its purpose was this week — which is certainly open to interpretation — it would seem that Barry was spending some downtime with the Speed Force on the verge of his own imminent death. Deep.
7.5 out of 10
Next: “Invincible”, soon.
Before: “Rupture”, here.