So the story is that despite Kevin Smith being a huge comics fan and collaborator, he wasn’t convinced by the CW’s Flarrow-verse shows at first glance, and gave them a miss. That is until his beloved stoner BFF, and more vocal on-screen partner in-crime Jason Mews, who was hooked and obsessed with the days from day one, finally convinced him to start watching. He loved what he saw so much that Mr. Clerks himself was keen to be of it, and so he came to be the guest director of this The Flash episode. However, this union came to be just be glad that it has because the results are a fantastic episode.
The Runaway Dinosaur – After the attempt to restore his powers saw Barry disappear he awakes trapped within The Speed Force itself. Meanwhile, Jessie and Wally recover from being hit by the accelerator blast and the rest of the team face their own blast from the past.
Now, meaning no disrespect to the show’s great directorial team, Smith’s presence and expertise really shows here in just how much the camera becomes a living, breathing part of most scenes. In keeping with the trippy and unhinged feel of the episode, the typical static framed shots are abandoned for a lot of handheld work, especially as Barry moves through his purgatory like state; we’re unsteadily following his confusion. There are also some superb dynamic filming techniques with the circling of Jessie and Wally when the group find them being a real highlight as it perfectly captures the panic of the situation. You could watch that on mute and still understand all the emotion involved. Yet let’s be clear here, this is still an episode of The Flash, not a stoner dick joking project of Smith’s despite a terrific Jason Mewes cameo, “That was my mom’s car!” (he also appears again in the final scene with his face obscured: he’s wearing black in the top left corner). Smith brings in his own touches which play perfectly to the weirdness of Barry’s Speed Force story arc any Flash viewers that aren’t a fan of his have nothing to fear.
Speaking of the Speed Force that impressively sees the episode take another big step in expanding The Flash’s Universe, it’s biggest since setting up the multi-verse, in fact. The Speed Force is more than just a power source but actually a conscious entity, which Barry spends most of the episode in conversation with. Though the real cleverness comes from how this is achieved without actually giving much away. Watch the episode back again and notice how despite implying the Speed Force has been present throughout time, no further specifics are confirmed, which sets up a season 3 arc of its very nature being explored. There are certainly some implications of destiny to Barry as he’s actually accused of “rejecting his gift” by sacrificing his powers to save Wally. Writer Zack Stentz (Thor, X-Men First Class) makes excellent choices in the familiar cast faces the Speed Force inhabits as each progressively builds in impact to ultimately heart-wrenching levels as Smith ensures viewers get soaked in every drop of intended emotion. The story presents a very meaningful personal journey for Barry as he must accept a key part of his past before continuing with his future. Plus some serious bonus points too for how the episode title is incorporated in such a touching fashion.
Now the rest of the team/back in reality story of zombie Girder was a risky move but it pays off because it gives everyone something to do rather than just wait around for Barry’s return. The explanation is passable enough (his body in the basement morgue was hit by last episode’s accelerator explosion, causing some form of reanimation) and of course, it gives Cisco something to shamelessly geek out over. His initial reaction is priceless as just like so many geeks watching would be: he can’t hide his excitement at actually seeing a zombie despite the imminent peril, and of course, he gets a Walking Dead reference in, especially fun when Beth/Emily Kinney appeared on the show last season (and recently on Arrow) as Bug-Eyed Bandit. There are odd moments when Greg Finley’s Girder groaning and staggering feels a bit too silly but overall, it’s a fun element to just go along with and develops into good moments of desperation as Cisco’s plans cycle through the alphabet.
As a minor element, we get some good teasing over whether or not both Wally West and Jessie Quick will be feeling the need for speed any time soon by giving both different after-effects and having different characters speculating their meaning. Jessie seems out of it; is she going through the same process as Barry’s coma or is she in a real coma? Wally seems okay. Is that because he’s unaffected or is the Speed Force lying dormant until triggered? It successfully sustains plenty of intrigue without showing any cards. It still seems a certainty that we’ll see at least one, if not both, riding the lightning before the end of this season, especially with the odds Barry is now facing.
The Runaway Dinosaur is an ideal offbeat episode to break things up before plunging into the big events of the final two (which now look rather epic!). From looking at social media posts, Mr. Smith seems to have loved every minute of working with the show and based on these results, let’s hope it won’t be his only visit. It’s a highly-emotional episode yet with plenty of great humour, beats to take the edge off it culminating in highly-entertaining results.