Season One, Episode Nine – “The Man in the Yellow Suit”
By Molly Jane Kremer and Jarrod Jones. It’s hard to believe that ten weeks have passed since The Flash premiered on October 7. We look at the calendar and understand that two months have come and gone, but how could so much great show have happened so quickly? When we consider the wealth of rich character growth and maddeningly incremental paradigm shifts that have occurred so far, it’s easier to accept the passage of time: yup, two months have flown by, all right. And here we are. At the mid-season finale. It may sound a bit selfish in saying so, but we don’t want to wait until January for more Flash. We want it all now. But that’s the thing about time: it blurs past us when we don’t want it to, and it slows to a crawl when all we want is for it to hurry up.
Time is a crucial factor in the ninth episode of The Flash, and when you think about the implications that come from this week’s title, “The Man in the Yellow Suit”, time also becomes a terrifying concept. Since the show’s crackerjack pilot episode there has been a dreaded acceptance that the titular yellow-clad monster that killed Barry’s mother would return some day. And after weeks of silence (save for a violent outburst here and there), it looks like the Reverse-Flash is finally making his presence known, though who he is and why he’s here are questions that’ll have to keep for the duration of the holidays. It’s funny: during a season where giving is custom, The Flash is keeping all of its darker secrets to itself.
Though in keeping with the spirit of the season, the episode has much to give to The Flash‘s cast of characters. In between the requisite tree-trimming and boozy eggnog, as it is with any family get-together, Barry & Co. realize that honesty isn’t always the best policy. With all the craziness that happens to Barry (more on that later, cause it really is some crazy ish), compounded with a haunting discovery made by Caitlin (also crazy, with big ramifications for the rest of the series), Barry’s personal life goes a little batty in this episode – even moreso than usual.
The conflicts that exist in Barry’s life, be they external or internal, are articulated and examined in a very thorough and potent way in “The Man in the Yellow Suit”. As life keeps moving around him, situations change and become far more complicated: when he finds out the literal (and unrequited) love of his life, Iris West (Candice Patton), is going to move in with her boyfriend, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), Barry (Grant Gustin) finally summons the courage to confess his feelings to her. He tells her that he’s in love with her, and though that had to have taken an incredible amount of courage, Iris offers no reaction. The scene is heartrending in its emotional – and romantic – sincerity, especially when compared to the blandly trivial relationship Iris and Eddie have nurtured since the very beginning of The Flash. (Earlier, the two love-birds discuss whether or not Barry “likes” her – Iris even puts it that way when she first brings it up to Barry, waving it away with the dismissal of a junior-high crush.) The sequence has a maturity and sophistication to it that causes an entire half-season of Iris and Eddie’s shallow fumblings to feel ultimately inconsequential.
With all of these feelings flying around, the episode earns its “Christmas Special” vibe, but this is a show where we’re used to that: The Flash tugs on the heartstrings just as often as it stretches the mind, or punches the gut, and with “The Man in the Yellow Suit” we’re blessed with not one, but two Barry Allen heart-to-hearts. The first is between Barry and his father Henry (John Wesley Shipp), who – in spite of looking through plated glass – sees the visible toll that the search for his wife’s killer has done to his son. The second features a reliably heart-warming back and forth between our hero and Det. Joe West (Jesse L. Martin)”, who in true Joe West fashion decides to tell Barry, “the world may need the Flash… but I need my Barry Allen.” (They have a cry and hug it out and it’s all very teary and lovely.) All of these scenes utterly tax Barry’s emotions, and Gustin performs each one with splendid aplomb, effectively making us feel every dip and turn on Barry’s happy-sad emotional rollercoaster.
And while The Flash is set on putting its hero through the wringer, the episode’s heartwrenching drama isn’t reserved just for Barry and his family: Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) endures a shock to her system when she comes across her long-considered dead fiance in S.T.A.R. Labs’ parking garage right before his head and hands burst into flames. She drags an uncharacteristically skeptical Cisco (Carlos Valdes) into her investigation where they find Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell, wearing a floppy wig just as terribly as his cousin Stephen), who has no memory of who he is, and yet feels comfortable referring to himself as “Firestorm”. But the episode feels it necessary to shelve Ronnie’s sub-plot for now, and that’s fine: sometimes we have to remind ourselves that there is still another half of a season only one month away.
While affairs of the heart seem to be the Flash’s main adversary in this episode, the real danger lies elsewhere: in the midst of Barry’s wistful navel-gazing, he spots the man in yellow watching him from outside. And for all the mooshy tear-jerking this episode doles out, there is finally a catharsis in watching Barry race through Central City, just milliseconds behind the man who killed his mother. There’s no longer any doubt – this is the Reverse-Flash, and he’s not only hungry (for tachyons, particles that give him impossible speed and strength), he is righteously pissed.
Having a better understanding of what they’re dealing with after a break-in at Mercury Labs (which leads to a cute cameo by Amanda Pays, co-star of the 1990 series The Flash), Dr. Wells (Tom Cavanagh), Cisco and Danielle conjure an elaborate apparatus with which to trap the villain. Coordinating with Det. Joe and Eddie Thawne (who you’ll remember has assembled a task force to apprehend the Flash) the CCPD lies in wait at S.T.A.R. Labs, where Mercury’s tachyon device lies waiting to be snatched. It’s almost too easy, but Reverse-Flash ends up there anyway, in a bone-chilling face-off where more questions pop up than answers. But before anything tangible can be ascertained (and really, the episode doesn’t give us much time to process the information), the jittery, vibrating yellow blur escapes, but not before putting a serious beating down on Dr. Wells. (While Joe is served with another reminder of what happens when you muck about with Reverse-Flash, Eddie is conspicuously left unharmed.) What follows is a horrifying display of power as the two Flashes battle it out.
There is so much packed into this episode, and none of it is filler. The Flash exceeded expectations well before “The Man in the Yellow Suit” even aired, and the fact that it did makes this mid-season finale feel that much more gratifying. There are secrets being kept from everyone, even from hardened, jaded comic book kids like us. Just when we think we’ve got The Flash figured out, something rushes up on us to knock us dead on our asses. Who killed Nora Allen? Who is the Reverse-Flash? The villain seems to have at least one truth to share: “If you want to know… you’ll have to catch me.” Well, then. The race is on.
– “Detective Thawne? Would you like to read him his rights?” Dr. Wells. You can’t tease us like that.
– You should have seen MJ when Eddie gave Iris a small box for Christmas. Before Iris even opened it, she was all, “NUH-UH. NO,” like marrying Eddie would be the worst thing in the whole world. (But, then again…)
– Nothing could endear you to us more, The Flash, than opening your episode with a Dean Martin-sung Christmas carol.
– Apparently Iris makes the eggnog with extra bourbon? Attagirl, Iris. We almost forgive you for your wretched taste in guys.
– On her blog, Iris’ nickname for Firestorm is “The Burning Man”? How bout we let Cisco name all the metas, eh…? He seems to have a knack for it.
– When the Reverse-Flash tells Barry, before their big chase, “You’ll have to catch me” in his creepy vibration-voice, it legit gave us shivers.
– That chase scene-slash-fight that ends at the stadium was thrilling and chilling and everything in between. We were left speechless.
– For being in the midst of a particle reaction, and living rather rough of late, Ronnie’s teeth are still startlingly white.
– Every time Grant Gustin gets all teary-eyed, we do too. WE CAN’T HELP IT.
– What’s crazy about the S.T.A.R. Labs sequence is that it’s possible that there are three Reverse-Flashes in the room. Everything about this scene is handled very deliberately. Everything is a clue: Reverse-Flash dodges a question about killing Nora Allen, attacks Wells, and gives Eddie a good look without harming him… is he Thawne from the future? Is he Hunter Zolomon, the Reverse-Flash who wants to make Barry a better hero by ruining his life? Is he both??? Our head hurts, and that final sequence doesn’t help matters. All we know is this: Zoom is here.