As much as I generally enjoy The Flash, a lot of season 1 has been hit and miss for me. On the one hand, I very much appreciate the incredible sense of fun the show has about itself, and I am impressed by the effects they do on a TV show budget; but on the other...despite knowing that The Powers That Be are culling directly from DC canon, and thus should suffer no blame for this, I think 90% of the villains on the show are terrible. Terrible names, terrible dialogue, terrible acting. And speaking of acting...this isn't limited to the villains. They've improved a lot, I'm going to give credit where it's due, but I spent a great deal of the season wincing through Caitlin and Cisco's scenes. Danielle Panabaker's (Caitlin Snow) acting can be especially painful. However, the show has always been saved and balanced by the stronger actors in the cast, actors such as Grant Gustin, Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin.
All that said, this episode, "Fast Enough," was a beautiful example of how far the show has come in one season. All the actors brought their A-Games, the story itself was compelling and emotional, and several loose plot ends were fairly neatly tied up.
The plot: "Harrison Wells" (real name Eobard Thawne) is in the superhero jail at S.T.A.R Labs and the Flash team is trying to decide what to do with him. Barry and Wells have an intense conversation where finally it's explained why he's in the past and why he trained Barry. *Takes a deep breath* Basically, Wells traveled back to the past to kill Barry as a child and prevent him from growing up to be his nemesis who foils all his evil plans. Seems legit. However, adult future!Barry traveled back to stop him. Unfortunately for Wells, he saves his younger self. Wells, because he hates Barry and he's pissed and evil, kills Nora, Barry's beloved mother. But uh oh! He used up all his speed juice traveling to the past! An unexpected side effect of evil time travel. Wells is now trapped in the 20th century with the realization/situation that in order to get back to his own time, he will have to make sure Barry becomes the Flash. He has to mentor and train the enemy he went back in time to kill. Haha irony. But first he has to wait for him to grow up. It's a long 14 years. Wells is understandably bitter.
Wells in the present makes Barry an offer he assumes he can't refuse: If Team Flash fires up the particle accelerator (which Wells purposely set to explode the first time in order to give Barry his powers) and it works like it's supposed to, and Barry runs faster than he ever has in his entire life, he can go back to the past and save his mother, keep his father from going to prison for her murder, and have his family back. In return, Wells wants a time machine built and the freedom to go back to his time. Win-win, except for the part where Barry will never have lived with Iris and Joe. Barry has to choose between his birth family and his found family. Much of the episode is devoted to Barry talking to the people he loves the most in order to make the hardest decision of his life.
What works best in the episode?
Grant Gustin. Hands down. Gustin does his best work of the season in this episode. Every one-on-one conversation Barry has with all the people he loves is heartfelt, sincere and deeply moving. His conversations with Iris, Joe, his father and his mother give nearly all the emotional weight to the episode. Let's look at each one.
Full disclosure: I am a WestAllen shipper and this episode made me very happy. And not just because of this scene. One thing I've loved about The Flash from the beginning is the Barry Allen/Iris West relationship. I love it because it's not "just" a romantic ship. Barry and Iris are best friends before they are anything else and the show never forgets it. Barry is in love with Iris, but he also just loves her. He never sees their friendship as second best or a consolation prize. Yes, he's sad that she's with Eddie because he thinks he missed his chance with her, but he never tries to sabotage their relationship and he never takes his feelings out on Iris or Eddie. He wants, more than anything, for Iris to be happy--with him or someone else. All this is beautifully displayed in this episode. Barry goes to Iris and asks her opinion about traveling to the past and saving his mother. Barry reiterates that Joe and Iris are his family and growing up with them was a privilege and the idea of losing that--even if he would never know it--is devastating. Iris, with tears in her eyes, knowing that she will likely lose her best friend, tells Barry to think about himself, for once in his life. The parallels were not lost on this viewer (Barry broke his own heart to let Iris to be happy with Eddie; Iris breaks her own heart to tell Barry to trade their life for another one). It's never been more clear how much these two love each other.
The Barry/Joe relationship has been so crucial to the show's success in my opinion. Grant Gustin and Jesse L. Martin have fantastic chemistry and from the very beginning I was completely invested in and sold on their relationship. So many of the show's most poignant and emotional scenes have been between Barry and Joe. Joe has been a father, mentor and role model to Barry and this episode puts Joe in the heartbreaking predicament of doing the whole "if you love something, set it free" thing and telling Barry that he should go back and saving his mother (thus erasing their history). Joe is literally giving up one of his children. My emotions spilled all over the floor when Barry and Joe had that "I love you, dad/I love you, son" hug as Barry is about to go to the past.
Barry/His Dad (Henry):
Barry visits his dad in prison to get his opinion. He thinks his dad will be pleased by his decision--I mean, surely he wants his wife back as much as Barry wants his mom back. Right? Not to mention the whole not being in prison bonus. But he's not. Henry tells Barry that all the events of the past, even him being in prison and wrongly accused of killing his wife, have led to Barry being the person he is today. He doesn't want Barry to undo that. Even if it means getting his wife and freedom back. And as the clincher, he tells Barry that he doesn't think his his mother would want that either--even to save her (I'm a wee bit skeptical about that but).
After Barry talks to his dad, Iris and Joe, he decides to take Wells up on his offer. Wells is completely unsurprised. Eventually someone asks the important question of what happens if Barry can't run fast enough. The answer is nothing good. Probably death. For the record, Cisco is really, really not okay with this plan.
Barry IS able to run fast enough and gets back to his house 14 years ago. Yay! He spends a few seconds watching himself and Wells battle it out around his mother and unconscious father. He waits until his older self gets his younger self out of the house. He's about to intervene and save his mother when his other self motions for him to NOT do anything. To let the past play out like it originally did. Barry obeys and it's clear that this is literally killing him. His face is a mask of anguish. He hides and listens to his mother being murdered. He then steps out of the shadows and goes to her. Nora is clearly dying. Barry removes his mask and Nora remarks that he looks like her father. Barry tells her that it's him, her Barry, her little boy all grown up. He tells her that he's happy and he and dad are doing well. Nora and Barry get to finally say goodbye. The scene is beautifully shot and wonderfully acted. Grant's best acting of the entire season. Right here. I was in tears.
Eddie really endeared himself to me in this episode. And that's how I knew he was going to die. When an under-utilized side character is suddenly kinda awesome and gets a lot of lines/screen time, you know it's the swan song. In S.T.A.R. labs Eddie and Martin Stein have a heart-to heart (it was very random. Another sign of impending death). Eddie tells Stein that he feels useless in this situation and that he's going to just leave. Stein, rather uncharacteristically, gives this impassioned speech and tells Eddie that he's the most important person there (your minutes are so numbered, Eddie), because he's the "wild card", the one variable no one expected. Of anyone, Stein says, he has the MOST choice. Eddie, who has broken up with Iris after he finds out that she and Barry get married in the future, takes this to heart and decides to say "f*ck you" to fate and gets back with Iris (oh Eddie, my sweet summer child). After Barry comes back from the past-without changing it-Wells is enraged and attacks him. Also, the particle accelerator is kinda going haywire. Oops. It's clear that Wells is going to probably kill everyone. Until Eddie shoots himself and draws everyone's attention. Wells begins to literally unravel. He's being erased from existence. Eddie has saved them (Remember that Eddie is Wells'/Eobard's ancestor. If he dies, Eobard/Wells is never born). Iris, Barry and Joe are shocked and devastated. They have to tear Iris from Eddie's body as they flee the lab.
I give kudos to the writers. Killing Eddie was a smart move on multiple levels:
1. It's the one effective weapon and seemingly permanent solution against the supervillain no one was strong enough to defeat alone.
2. Eddie gets to die a hero. Which is very convenient for...
3. Clearing the way for endgame Iris/Barry. If they hadn't killed Eddie, the show would have had to do a do a romantic triangle. This season it wasn't a triangle because Iris, in terms of feelings, wasn't torn between Barry and Eddie. She loves Eddie and was devoted to him. There was acknowlegement that she felt *something* for Barry, but it isn't defined and she isn't ready to face it (and she certainly wasn't leaving Eddie for Barry). However, as that changed, as her feelings for Barry surfaced, it would have become a triangle. And a problem. With Eddie as the Nice Guy boyfriend betrayed by his friend/coworker and the woman he loves. It would be hard to keep Iris and Barry not looking like a-holes in that sitution. This way, Iris and Barry get to mourn Eddie, honor his memory and sacrifice, and move on with a clear path. Thank you, Eddie, for your selfless act of noble sacrifice that lets my ship sail.
Other Stuff That Happened (That I Didn't Care Too Much About):
Ronnie and Caitlin got married.
We got a look at Hawkgirl in the crowd.
Central City is possibly going to be destroyed by a singularity.
Conclusion: I am excited about season 2 and 8/10 I would recommend this episode.