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The Flash – Fast Lane Review

"Harry bares all."

When thinking of what score I should give an episode, a benchmark for me has been “The Flash of Two Worlds,” the second episode of the current season. The episode had some really awful moments (Martin Stein’s frustrating explanation of the multiverse, most notably), but it was able to compensate with a strong second half that encapsulated the best parts of the series. As a result, I awarded it a 6.5. Like most critics, I value episodes that make mistakes but take cool big swings more than those without serious errors or that I don’t have much of a reaction to – as was the case for “Fast Lane.” However, this week’s episode was an interesting example of one of Season 2’s most common problems.

Harry - The Flash
Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Flash has done a poor job this season of resolving character arcs in a timely and thoughtful manner. Keeping Patty from the truth felt like it was going to be a season-long charade, and just when I thought the end had come, the storyline was the focus of the next episode. In a similar fashion, after agreeing to help Zoom steal the Flash’s speed three episodes ago, Harry started to make good on his promise, felt guilty about doing so, and came clean about everything, with the episode giving time for Harry to be forgiven and the course for the next episode to be charted. Now, I actually liked the fact that Harry felt guilty and told the truth – I especially enjoyed the way Harry was forgiven, as the show usually isn’t smart enough to call out its own hypocrisy – but it all felt a little too neat given how big of a moment Harry’s deal with the devil seemed in “Running to Stand Still.”

The same could be said of Wally’s angst, but to a lesser degree. Again, I found myself relieved that this part of Wally’s storyline “ended” before he did something that made him unlikeable, and again, its conclusion felt a little abrupt. But not only did Wally enter the story with unresolved family issues (while Harry lurked around before becoming Zoom’s agent), his storyline never had the high stakes of Harry’s betrayal. Surprisingly, Joe’s dialogue went a long way to making this subplot almost enjoyable, as he was able to explain where he was coming from in a very refreshing manner (“This ain’t a blame thing. Just hear me out, okay?”).

Part of my annoyance with Wally’s storyline stemmed from Iris’ stereotypical big sister concern about his street racing. I thought her sounding this way was a product of last week’s overcrowded episode, but her asking “Is that why you’re still drag racing?” at the beginning of “Fast Lane” felt forced. Not only that, but isn’t her concern for Wally kind of hypocritical? I mean, she doesn’t get injured in the episode because of Wally’s racing…

Wally West - The Flash
Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

To harp on Harry’s betrayal a little more, I thought it was weird that he wasn’t even trying to use Turtle’s brain matter to stop Zoom. How hard could it be to make the speed-siphoning process faster or have a greater area of effect? And while we’re on the subject, why did Zoom need Harry to steal Flash’s speed in the first place? Didn’t he do the deed himself with Jay Garrick? Where was Jay, anyway? Did he die off-screen like Francine (which, now that I think about it, was pretty weird)?

As for Tar Pit, he was easily one of the worst villains in recent memory. His presence in the episode demonstrated how constraining the villain of the week format can be, as “Fast Lane” built up his character with the usual before/after the particle accelerator explosion scenes, only for him to be taken out with little to no effort because he was secondary to the rest of the episode’s events. (I don’t think he even landed a hit on Barry in the entire episode, which is unprecedented.) The show also seemed to employ more narrative shortcuts than usual while they were going through the motions with his conflict. Instead of giving Tar Pit some kind of “no one’s going to stand in my way” spiel, he goes straight to attacking Barry after being goaded. Later, the problem presented itself again when Tar Pit somehow knows that his would-be killer is being used as bait, and not only that this is happening, but the exact moment when he should appear. Honestly, the best part of his debut was when he dumped the “drowned in ink” look for his more traditional comic book appearance.

“Fast Lane” wasn’t the sign of improvement I was looking for (and have been for a while), but next week’s episode should show what The Flash is really made of. The promise of Caitlin Snow’s Killer Frost has been building up since the series began, and the expectation of more insight into how different Earth-2 is will be a real test of the show’s ability to deliver compelling television (even though they failed to execute on Zoom’s original concept, for me).

Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.
Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Slowpokes:

  • Why would they want the nitrous grenades to explode at the boiling point of asphalt? Wouldn’t they want it to explode at the melting point? (What Tar Pit is?)
  • The impact of Wally’s meeting with the Flash wasn’t really seen in this episode, but we’re getting closer and closer to Wally becoming a speedster.
  • Wally was really committed to the cockroach metaphor when describing the people he races with.
  • I thought it would be cool if Harry’s speed-drainer made Barry work harder to compensate for his lost speed, resulting in him being faster than before when he eventually got it back.
  • It’s weird how the show forgets overarching storylines when it comes to dialogue. In response to Cisco suggesting that he was going slower than usual, Barry says, “fast is fast, right?” Sigh. Zoom beat you to a pulp, Barry. You’ve spent too many episodes on this topic to just forget.
  • Other than narrative convenience, there was no reason for Tar Pit leaving the race track while Bronwen was still alive.
  • A lot of Cisco’s jokes this season have been duds, so it was nice to see the physical comedy of him catching nitrous grenades actually hit.
  • I’ve written about this before, so I’ll just put it here. Joe’s over-aggressive dad persona needs to be put to bed. I was genuinely surprised that they had him enter the scene of Harry’s confession solely to punch him in the face and express his uncharacteristic desire to shoot him. It’s bordering on becoming a trope, and it needs to stop.
  • “Fast Lane” was so weirdly busy that Barry went to help Wells close a breach instead of going with Joe and Iris to protect Bronwen.
  • The Flash has a long way to go before all of its inconsistencies are acknowledged in a semi-smart fashion, but talking about how they forgave Cisco for helping Snart was a start.

All images via ComicBook.com.

  • How quickly Wally and Harry's issues were resolved
  • More time in Earth-2 next week
  • The resolution of Harry's betrayal felt a little easy
  • Tar Pit
  • Joe continuing to be a parody of himself
  • No big swings

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