Episode 2.21 – “The Runaway Dinosaur”

After last week’s intense episode that had Barry and the team contemplating whether or not they should recreate the particle accelerator explosion to give Barry back his speed, “The Runaway Dinosaur” was equal parts intense, but in a completely different way. With so much hype going into the episode, and with writer-director (and massive fanboy), Kevin Smith, directing, there was a lot riding on this episode to deliver. And I’m happy to say it did. Very much so!

Photo: Katie Yu/The CW

Photo: Katie Yu/The CW

“The Flash” has never been afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve. In fact, this is what’s always kept the show going and given it life. It’s not the metahuman of the week, of which isn’t always its strongest aspect, or the theatrics from time to time, but it’s the grounded and layered emotional aspect and character relationships that have always fueled it. “The Runaway Dinosaur” revisits the impact of Nora Allen’s death on Barry. Even though he went back in time in last season’s finale, fully intent on saving his mother, her death, coupled with the fact that he didn’t save her, still haunts him to the point that he’s never fully moved on from it. In a manner of speaking, he’s been running away from his past all this time.

Even The Flash can’t outrun the tragedies the universe is going to keep sending your way. You have to accept that. And then you can truly run free.

The episode is littered with powerful psychological themes of loss, guilt, and embracing the past that’s helped shaped the present. Unlike the last episode led us to believe (although, let’s be real, we knew Barry didn’t die), Barry finds himself trapped in the speed force. It’s the source of his powers. At the same time, it’s also an entity all on its own. It presents itself to Barry through the people he loves most in the world: Joe, Iris, Henry, and Nora. As Barry gets frustrated and pleads for the speed force to send him back home, it has a valuable lesson that it needs Barry to learn before he can regain his powers, which comes in the form of a shadow zipping around that he has to catch. (The shadow is ultimately revealed to be him, of course).

Photo: Katie Yu/The CW

Photo: Katie Yu/The CW

See, Barry hasn’t gotten over his mother’s death. Even when he went back last season to save her and didn’t, he still hasn’t moved on and this ties back into the very beginning of season two when Wells says that Barry will never be happy. But, it’s this final interaction with Nora in the speed force that helps him to face his fear of moving on and his guilt for not being able to save her. At the risk of devaluing her significance, “The Flash” instead makes Nora not just a memory, but a person all her own. Yes, she exists within the scope of how Barry remembers her, but the fact that we come to get to know her somewhat helps solidify her as a character.

There was a lot happening in this episode and it was phenomenal on all levels, emotionally and otherwise. It doesn’t take long for Cisco to realize that Barry is alive, he’s just stuck somewhere, which Wells deduces is the speed force. Using his vibe abilities, Cisco is able to see him, but Barry doesn’t come back with him. While Barry is trapped in the speed force, the team is dealing with two things: the reappearance of Girder, reawakened because of the explosion, and the consequences of Jesse and Wally being zapped by the particle accelerator. Various results come of this. While the show teases the future of both speedsters, the reactions are different. While Jesse ends up in a coma-like state, Wally seems ok. Joe even tests the possibility of his son being a speedster by… dropping a mug, which doesn’t get him the reaction he expects.

Photo: Katie Yu/The CW

Photo: Katie Yu/The CW

Girder is back as a zombie version of himself, and while “The Flash” has never fully utilized their metahuman of the week, the biggest reason this works here is because it allows Iris to take the lead and truly shine. With Barry gone, she takes charge in many ways, helping Cisco, coming up with a plan to stop Girder, and being the one to bring Barry back from the speed force. This is Iris West at her best and the Iris Barry has been in love with for all these years. The show is weaker when she isn’t around as much (2A, I’m looking at you) and Candice Patton breathes such kindness, bravery, vulnerability, and kick-assery into the role that to sideline her again would be a tremendous mistake.

Thankfully, her utilization is becoming more fully realized and I’m happy to see it. Another step is also taken in the Barry/Iris relationship department and it’s the relationship that I have been waiting to see play out. The show is taking it much slower than with either of their previous relationships and it’s been working in their favor so far, moving organically forward. When Barry finally visits his mom’s grave for the first time (in real time and not in the speed force), he brings Iris with him, beautifully telling her:

The truth is, Iris, I don’t know what this is between us or where we go from here. All I know is you’re everything to me, and you always have been. And the sound of your voice will always bring me home.

Photo: Katie Yu/The CW reserved.

Photo: Katie Yu/The CW

With Kevin Smith in the director’s chair and writer Zack Stentz, there wasn’t a dull moment to be had. “The Flash” was at its best here, with everyone taking part, but Barry’s emotional journey through the speed force and Iris’ take-charge attitude (thank you, Zack Stentz, thank you) at the forefront. The one singular thing that kind of bothered me was Henry’s frustrated reaction to Joe about him having Iris and Wally, but Henry only having Barry left. Look, I feel for the guy, I really do, but belittling Joe’s equally significant worry about Barry was uncalled for. Having said that, Henry vows to stick around Central City and be a permanent fixture in his son’s life, which is TV speak for he’ll probably be dying before the season is over. It would honestly be tragic, especially after this episode. Ultimately, “The Runaway Dinosaur” is a highly entertaining hour of television, with “The Flash” gaining its momentum and using all of the show’s strengths in one practically perfect episode.

Random Thoughts:

  • S.T.A.R. Labs has a morgue. Ok, then.
  • Grant Gustin is a great crier. Truly, he is.
  • The music in in the speed force scene, the graveyard, and when Barry is talking to his mom are particularly exceptional.
  • Wells’ facial expressions as Cisco’s catching Barry up to speed about Girder are hilarious.
  • Iris and Cisco make a great team. Their scenes are what we need more of moving forward.
  • Joe West vs. Mugs, part 2
  • Barry wakes Jesse from her coma using the speed force. Does that mean he’s awakened Jesse’s potential powers?
  • I need someone to tell Wally about Barry being The Flash. He’s in the midst of all this chaos. SOMEONE TELL HIM! Or, you, know, he should find out on his own somehow. It just needs to be done.
  • Iris and Cisco explaining to Henry about Eobard Thawne while he stares at them confused as hell. Oh, and Cisco telling Iris to get behind him, which she quickly replies, “No, you get behind me.” Did I mention how much I love their scenes in this episode?
  • Barry and Iris glancing lovingly at each other as they connect inside the speed force. Such a show of unspoken emotion, summing up their relationship and importance to each other in just one scene. Fantastic.
  • The speed force felt a bit like “A Christmas Carol” without the ghosts of past, present, and future.
  • “I am so glad you’re back because we’re about to die.”
90%
90%
Fantastic

With Kevin Smith in the director's chair and writer Zack Stentz, there wasn't a dull moment to be had. "The Flash" was at its best here, with everyone taking part, but Barry's emotional journey through the speed force and Iris' take-charge attitude at the forefront.

4.5star

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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