The Flash "S1E13 The Nuclear Man" - Review

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The Flash "S1E13 The Nuclear Man" - Review

Billy Joel didn’t start the fire but somebody sure the hell did as did as on this week’s trip to Central City we take a look back at how the Firestorm was always burning since the exploding particle accelerator was turning. The Flash didn’t light it but he’ll try to fight it.

The Nuclear Man – After Firestorm injures an innocent scientist the team try to track him down before he gets out of control. They discover that the fusion binding Dr Martin Stein and Ronnie Raymond together has become so unstable it will cause a nuclear explosion; forcing the team to a make difficult choices with unthinkable consequences for Catlin. Meanwhile Joe and Cisco take a fresh look at the murder scene of Barry’s mother to find some shocking new evidence.

Ever since we glimpsed Firestorm igniting and taking to the skies in easily the coolest moment of the mid-season finale our feelings towards him have been akin to 5-year old throwing a floor pounding tantrum at the grocery store screaming “I want, I want, I want!!!!”.  After a few more weeks of teasing and little insights we finally decode the matrix with an episode that primarily serves as a Firestorm origins story; and a rather good one too. It focuses on the most interesting aspect of the hero (that keeps geeks defiantly screaming “no he’s not just The Human Torch”) which is the mental duality. While we don’t get any floaty head self conversations, we do focus primarily on the less known Martin Stein character as he adjusts to being the mind in a strange body. Robbie “Stephen’s brother” Ammell does some fantastic work here as adjusts his speech patterns and mannerisms to feel much older than he looks. As well as the mental conflict of Ronnie’s recessive but not totally repressed mind; sharing some of his memories and even at times feeling his emotions. This creates emotional awkwardness and conflict with Catlin and Danielle Panabaker is revealing in having such a complex story to work with. Her reactions to the more permanent solutions to the impending broken arrow situation are as dramatic as they should be. The pre-merger Martin Stein also gets some good screen time in the explosion night flashbacks from his perspective and the incorporation of his wife and her coming to terms with the baffling transformation adds a nice human element to his story. Final of the subject of Firestorm we have to mention the awesome battle of the red f’s as Barry Allen has a go at fire fighting. Although brief, it’s great to see the pair trading blows and the flight sequence in particular is a real highlight.

While the main focus is on the nuclear man himself the episode also does an impressive job of keeping the bigger running plotlines moving thanks to Joe & Cisco’s spout of CSI Time Team. While seeing the pair react to the new hungry cougar residing in the old Allen house (her expression as closes the door behind them is a picture) is worth it alone; their ultimate findings throw some big new clues in our faces along with a couple curve balls. Making an audience convincing find 14 years on was no easy task but full credit to the writers (show runner Andrew Kreisberg and Flash/Arrow digital comic contributor Katherine Walczak) for convincingly pulling it off with the silver nitrate mirror backing. Cisco’s subsequent holo-show might be stretching things a little but the simple truth is it’s too dam cool to get hang up on. The recovered blood samples from the two battling speedsters has given us a hell of a lot to go on. Starting with the obvious; while we as audience have known time travel is a looming and integral part of the story for a while, the is the biggest conformation to the characters to date as Cisco states that one sample is definitely an adult Barry.  So we can bet (almost certainly in the season finale) that his big epic rematch with his bullying Reverse Flash will see both of them racing back through time and battling for the life of Nora Allen. The big question becomes whether or not history will repeat itself? Given Harrison Wells “the future remains intact” scenes we know that such actions can alter both the past and future. While seeing Barry failing to save her seems the most likely destination for the series, how incredible would it be to see Barry to actually save her only to trigger a catastrophically altered timeline to be played out over season 2? This could ultimately result in a greater good situation of moral dilemma in which someone must travel back to the past again and make sure Nora Allen dies to avoid this alternate reality. We could even see Barry playing the villain; unable to set his personal feelings aside and desperately trying to stop someone else finally sealing his mothers fate. The possibilities are positively geek garden wetting!

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Anyway, returning to known present we also have a second kind of known but affirmed development when Cisco confirms that despite Joe’s suspicions the second speedster was not Harrison Wells. This supports the theory from the mid-season finale that there are multiple (at least 2) Reverse Flashes in play here and not just the same person from different time frames. We can fairly assume that whoever the yellow suited unknown that kicked Barry’s red leather clad arse was will be the fellow time travelling combatant. In fact Harrison Wells lays down several clues, big and small, to an entirely different and less destructive agenda. Firstly we see him sacrificing the tachyon generator that’s recharging his powers to create the Firestorm stabilising/splitting Quantum Splicer (how cool was it, when in morphed into the Firestorm emblem on Raymond’s chest!) despite Gideon telling him it will delay his timetable; to the response of “there’s not going to be a timetable if Central City goes up in a mushroom cloud”. So we know that he needs life in general and the city population to live on normally for his plans. Then there was the subtle little bombshell while on the van stake out with Catlin as he commented on Stein’s/Firestorm’s actions towards his wife. When he speaks of Martin viewing his wife as home and that “we all want to home again” it’s brewing with his usual magnificent double meaning and harks directly to a Hunter Zoloman story arc in which the character is trying to time travel back home to his wife. So although may make a few crazy in love decisions (and even killings) along the way to get there, this would imply that overall he’s not an evil person. With 10 episodes left there’s plenty of time to throw down yet another twist down on his delectably complex character but right now we’d have to lean him into the good guys catagory.

Finally you have the hi-jinks of a superheroes dating life which delivered plentiful lighter and comedy moments but crucially offset against the more serious elements in the episode and create the ideal balance between the comic and dramatic tones. From Barry’s nervous quick changes to all the ill timed Flash signal call outs as he tries desperate work hard and play hard (the building jumper scene was perfect) there’s plenty to smile about. The double entendre references ran the risk of going too far yet actually felt very in keeping with the character based on the similar issues already explored with his powers on eating and not getting drunk. Grant Gustin absolutely nails the awkward premature climax to their second date and is nothing but fun throughout these scenes and although it really needed a “do not try this at home” warning; who didn’t love the chilli pepper ultimatum? Malese Jow is also incredibly likeable as Linda Park and the episodes pledge of keeping her around is a very welcome one. The big literal loser here is Iris as without an ever drooling Barry she’s struggling for story relevance and does not come off well when (accidentally?) sabotaging things between Linda & Barry. She’s many fans least favorite character and this won’t do that any favors.

This Radioactive Man gets up and atom with a fantastic episode; It may not fly quite as high as last week due to having so much plot work to burn through but excels none the less. The ending labels this as a surprise 2-part episode as other people start seeing fire in their eyes. This episode may still be judged on how well those payoffs play out next week but for now; it’s a scorcher!

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