We were teased last week and right away, the episode gives us that sweet, sweet confrontation we’ve been anticipating since those initial on-set leaked pics — Barry is chasing after the man in the yellow suit. While Cisco has yet to officially name him, since MIYS looks silly to type, I’ll just refer to him by his actual name of Reverse Flash.
Flashback to a day ago where the West household is getting set for their annual tree-trimming. Joe gets on Barry for using super speed to decorate the tree and Barry packs them back up so Iris can scold them both for not getting the decorations up. The writers always manage to work in some fun practical use for Barry’s powers that real people would do if they had super speed.
While Joe is called off to a case, Barry and Iris exchange gifts. Barry goes well beyond best friend/brother with a replica of her mom’s wedding band while Iris gives the more appropriately oblivious gift of a my first microscope. Geesh, Iris, way to low-ball Barry. Eddie arrives and he rightfully finds it a bit odd that Barry got Iris such a heartfelt present. After Barry leaves, Eddie asks Iris if she thinks Barry might like her. Iris continues to be the least instinctual reporter by blowing that off just in time for Eddie to give her a small jewelry box. Is it what Iris thinks it is? Well, it is if instead of a nice five-carat diamond she’s happy with a plastic key to Eddie’s place serving as an invitation to move in. So Eddie’s oblivious too. They’re perfect for each other.
Barry has gifts for Team STAR and in a rare moment of restraint, no one opens their gifts. Booo. I was hoping for some random gift for Cisco that he could tie into some DC comic. Wells isn’t in the mood to celebrate though as it reminds him of his dead wife’s favorite holiday. Caitlin thinks a present will brighten his mood (you’re fooling no one Caitlin), but she encounters a man who she thinks just may be her presumed-dead fiance Ronnie. This scene was a bit weird as Ronnie comes right up behind her, but then freaks out and runs off before igniting his head and hands when she follows him.
Ronnie’s death has been a significant subplot to Caitlin’s backstory so it was nice for Caitlin and Cisco to have something else to do besides giving scientific advice from the desk to Barry. While I enjoy their characters, Flash doesn’t need their help on every mission so it’s good for them to branch out and have their own non-Barry dependent storyline. They use a geiger counter to track Ronnie, but he doesn’t appear to recognize them and when Caitlin offers to have him checked out at STAR, he flames up and tells them he’s not Ronnie, but Firestorm.
A science lab gets attacked by the yellow blur leaving two guards dead. At the crime scene, Barry realizes this is the work of someone traveling at superspeed and since he isn’t into sleep walking, he realizes the yellow blur is back. Joe confirms his suspicions and tells Barry Reverse Flash threatened Iris a few weeks back.
Back at his investigation board, Barry is reminiscing on the night of his mother’s death when Iris arrives to tell him Eddie asked her to move in with him. Before he can get too bummed out about that bombshell, Reverse Flash stares at Barry from a window and Barry speeds after him. Finally cornering RF, Barry asks why he killed his mother and RF replies, “You’ll have to catch me.”
Cue a fun race through a football stadium that handles this clash of speedsters as well as you would hope for even with a TV budget. RF taunts Barry saying they’ve done this dance several times already as he leaves Barry laid out on midfield. Just like Arrow’s first encounter with Merlyn, Reverse Flash easily handles his arch-rival putting Barry in the rare underdog position.
With the news of the lab break-in, Eddie wants to bring Flash in with his handy anti-Flash task force even if he has to go over Joe’s head to do it. The writers are really working hard this episode in planting some seeds for us to finally start disliking Eddie. Getting rightfully concerned about Barry is one thing, but turning on Joe is something else entirely.
Wells guesses RF is after a tachyon particle device, which would allow even faster speeds. Barry and Joe convince the device’s developer (Amanda Peys, another alumn from the 1990 “Flash” show) to let them borrow the device to lure Reverse Flash. Wells is confident he can rig a trap that can catch him. This has bad idea written all over it. Wells and Joe tell Barry he’s sitting this one out as he’s too emotionally involved to be of any use. Barry, predictably doesn’t take this well and lashes out at them.
Caitlin is less than concerned about that as she laments finding Ronnie now that he’s become a metahuman nutjob like the others locked away at STAR. Cisco consoles her and it’s a nice moment between the two friends that’s only topped by the following scene where Barry goes to the prison to visit his father. Barry apologies for not stopping the man responsible for his father being in jail saying now he’s to blame for him staying in prison. Having John Wesley Shipp play Barry’s father is a treat for nostalgic reasons, but he strongly delivers explaining to Barry that he’s sacrificed too much of his life chasing after the man in the yellow suit, including not revealing his feelings for Iris and it’s time Barry lived for himself. This was an immensely powerful scene and both Shipp and Grant Gustin left you feeling the true cost of the hero’s burden in one scene instead of Barry relentlessly moping after Iris.
In an aggressive, series-advancing move, Barry finally confesses to Iris that he’s in love with her and has been even when he was little and didn’t fully understand what it meant. He’s been afraid of losing her if he told her just like he lost his mother and father. Iris’ tears say more than any words could and Barry admits his timing is terrible and he did miss out, but he couldn’t go on lying to her. This reveal was far more important in the Barry/Iris subplot than him telling her he’s The Flash and opens up far more story potential than yet another person knowing his superhero alter-ego.
Time to catch a speedster. The tachyon trap is set and RF springs it, getting caught in Wells’ force field snare. Joe wants to know why RF killed Nora Allen. RF ignores the question and starts taunting Wells just as the trap is starting to weaken. RF breaks through long enough to bring Wells in and proceeds to beat him bloody. Joe smashes the trap as RF starts wiping out Eddie’s Task Force, but curiously just pushes Eddie away. The non-violent attack on Eddie would lend credibility to the Eddie is Reverse Flash theory. Caitlin texts Barry S.O.S. and before RF can take out Joe, Flash arrives and brings RF out of STAR Labs. We get another well-executed speedster fight, but again, RF comes out ahead. Just as RF prepares for the death blow, he’s struck by flames.
Firestorm for the save! RF races off saying they’re not done yet and as Caitlin and Cisco head over, Ronnie warns them not to look for him again and flies away. Only minor gripe with Firestorm is that he was more Human Torch than molecular-changing hero and with Heat Wave set to debut, the show doesn’t need two fire-based characters.
Joe tells Eddie they have to keep the two speedsters a secret and Eddie questions if Joe knows Flash’s identity. Joe comes to Barry’s workspace and Barry apologizes for lashing out saying he’s afraid of Reverse Flash and that was why he can’t beat him. In another really well done emotional scene, Joe tells Barry he brought light into he and Iris’ world and while the rest of the world may need The Flash, he needs his Barry Allen. Time to go home to a tree-trimming with the gang. Barry tries to put on a happy face in telling Eddie and Iris he’s happy for them, but he’ll need to work on his poker face. Wells wasn’t feeling up to partying and is back at STAR Labs, but Cisco tells Joe when Barry and RF clashed, the energy pattern looked like what Barry described so there must have been two speedsters on the scene when Nora Allen was killed.
Wells of course isn’t relaxing, but walking in his secret room. He puts on a Flash ring (like Barry Allen did in the comics!), but in a shocking reveal, Reverse Flash’s suit is revealed. Wells clamps the tachyon device to the suit, which seems to charge it with residual energy from RF’s attack. Wells speaks in the same dark voice as Reverse Flash and it looks like we may (?) have finally gotten a clear-cut indication that Wells is indeed the big villain of this season.
To my earlier point, I don’t know what WB/DC can do with a feature film that could top the show at this point and I’d argue, you could cut these first nine episodes into a great two-hour movie — even without the “Arrow” crossover — and it would top the official film. When the show returns from its winter break, it looks like Barry’s efforts will be solely focused on his rematch with Reverse Flash, but he’ll have to deal with Gorilla Grodd, The Trickster and The Rogues first. Amazingly, the best of this first season may be yet to come.