The Parking Mechanism
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Nuclear Man really is two episodes pushed into one. The first episode is some of the most awkward romance that the show’s ever dealt with and the second episode is the origin story of Firestorm. I’m going to go with the reality that the second portion of the narrative was the far stronger one. That isn’t to say that I have some predisposed prejudice against romance (sit next to me when I’m watching Pride and Prejudice). It’s just not done very well here. The Barry-Iris romance was terribly awkward in its beginning stages but it got better as it got along and as it delved into their friendship, it became quite sweet. Throwing Linda Park into the mix simply doesn’t work because it moving forward seemingly accomplishes very little. The opening bedroom scene was hilarious because in all honesty I hadn’t thought of the Flash’s sexual performance considering his speed and the episode doesn’t provide us an answer either. That portion was fun and games until we got to the significantly awkward part. There was a spark between Felicity and Barry that simply doesn’t exist between Barry and anyone else. So when Iris essentially tells Linda that Barry has a crush on her and that was that, before Barry inexplicably begs Linda to go on a second date with him by threatening to eat a ghost pepper. I just don’t get it. Sure, Barry has every right to go fool around and date other people who are not Iris and he really needs to move on. There’s just nothing there with Linda.
Normally the show is really good at tonal balancing, unlike another certain DC Comics upstart on FX but tonight was just bonkers. The romance stuff as noted certainly doesn’t work heavily in its own context but it really falls flat when it’s juxtaposed next to everything else, which is that much more somber. I get that DC Comics is developing a reputation for being unnecessarily dark and moody and I enjoy that this show feels free enough from that to be its own thing. The Flash’s sort of unbridled exuberance is refreshing, but if the show is going to down such a dark origin route, then it can afford to have an episode that is consistent in its sobriety. That being said, the Firestorm origin story is impeccably done, with the appropriate amount of tragedy and emotional catharsis. To really get into the meat of things, we take a quick time travel trip back to before the accelerator explosion sped things up (see what I did there?). Barry had met Dr. Stein on a train, who happened to be carrying the FIRESTORM experiment with him. The explosion then happens with predictably dire results and the doctor’s mind fuses with Ronnie’s body. There’s a well-executed aura of tragedy to the whole thing and I’ll admit, when Firestorm visits Dr. Stein’s wife and she can’t recognize him, I teared up a bit.
Danielle Panabaker is the standout tonight. Long the best actor in the ensemble in my opinion, she carries the entire emotional heft of this episode on her shoulders and makes it look absolutely effortless. It’s terrifying and consuming for her to be in this state and it makes complete sense. In many ways, having Ronnie dead was at least resembling of some semblance of stability. To see him again and to not be sure of where life is headed has now stranded Caitlin on a strange, terrible crossroads she never imagined herself standing at. Speaking of crossroads where people are standing at, Cisco and Joe’s investigation of the murder of Barry’s mother yielded a bombshell. It’s a stunning little piece of revelation that honestly had the complete potential to play itself out as season finale material. After constructing what looks like a fairly dubious but impressive holographic replica of the murder site (a bit of a stretch, considering it happened fifteen years ago), the two stumble upon something that would have seemed impossible mere episodes ago. To a logical mind, it would still be impossible but Joe and Cisco are both aware of time travel and those possibilities have now become infinite. Because, you see, the blood found at the site of the crime was that of adult Barry. What a beautiful cliffhanger that was.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Some great scenery this week
+“I just got a little excited.”
+Cisco’s adivce to Barry on his sex life was a highlight
+“You know, Einstein was not only brilliant, he had a great sense of humor.”
+General Eiling is back!
+“You change one more time, I’m going to shoot you.”
+Dr. Stein: “I thought people your age didn’t read actual books anymore.”
Barry: “Oh, I’m the only one.”
Title: The Nuclear Man
Written By: Andrew Kreisberg & Katherine Walczak
Directed By: Glen Winter
Image Courtesy: IGN