The Flash 1.13: The Nuclear Man
The Flash took a slightly different approach this week after three episodes in a row - four if you count the mid-season finale - which saw the titular hero face off against a new super-powered Meta Human each episode. Instead the focus was all on the current characters, with Caitlin's fiance Ronnie joining the mix after a surprise return just before Christmas.
It was also, in many ways, The Flash's first two-parter with an explosive ending (pardon the pun). But before we got to that point, we discovered more about the mysterious Dr Stein, played by Alias's Victor Garber. Last week we learned that he was merged with Ronnie in the explosion at Star Labs. This week we saw that incident through a number of flashbacks, that saw Barry Allen meet the doctor on a train back from - we assume - Starling City and the Arrow season two two-parter that introduced the title character.
We also learned, through Stein's wife that the doctor was a rival to Dr. Wells who like Hartley Rathaway, foresaw the catastrophe that resulted in the Flash and a city full of meta humans. Just why he was carrying what looked like a miniature sun on the way top Star Labs - something to do with the Firestorm project? - remains a mystery for now, but that device plus a dash of vaporized Ronnie created the Firestorm character first seen four episodes ago.
The battle between Firestorm and Flash provided the episode's action quota but it was the tragedy behind this that fuelled the drama this week. Stein's wife confronted by her husband in a young man's body, and Caitlin talked to the Doctor while he wore her fiance's body. This was some of Danielle Panabaker's best work yet and she wore the heartbreak, particularly in the episode's final scene, brilliantly. As for the character of Firestorm, he remains the most fascinating meta human to date with the whole two people in one body scenario.
The mystery behind Wells deepened too, as he 'postponed' his timetable to create the device that would split Ronnie Raymond from Martin Stein before he went nuclear and destroyed the city. As for Robbie Amell as Ronnie, he played the older Stein well; an old man in a young man's body, though I wonder if he took lessons from his cousin Stephen Amell - aka Oliver Queen from Arrow by parading around topless for the female fanbase?
Of course it wasn't all tragic drama, as Barry juggled his life as a superhero with his new relationship with Linda Park. Rather predictably, Iris's jealousy began to show, even if she wasn't aware of it, but the scenes between barry and Linda were fun, particularly his attempts to re-woo her by eating the chili!
Added to that we saw Joe and Cisco return to the house Barry's mother was killed in and uncover one secret; an adult Barry was there that night, fighting the Reverse Flash. This past - Barry's future - will provide an interesting dynamic as the show progresses, particularly in light of the future we have seen Wells study before.
There was a lot to take in this week and it will probably prove to be an important episode in hindsight. It ended in a dramatic cliff-hanger with Firestorm going nuclear, Barry and Caitlin fleeing the blast and the event tracked by General Wade Eiling, last seen hunting poor meta human Bette Sans Souci in episode five Plastique. The stakes have been raised for next week and it shows just how confident The Flash has grown week after week.