When the Arrowverse was just two shows, they each had their specialty. Arrow was about street level crime and action Flash was more about powers and emotions and/or relationships. Powers and relationships dominate this episode, and while there’s some action, it takes a back seat to several other things. We see the return of an old foe, some complications on the various jobs, and the beginning of a new subplot in “The Fire Next Time.”
The episode starts off in a bar that may be the same one Frost and Mark keep hanging out in. I’m not sure. At any rate, the manager closes the place up, sends his bartender home, and then gets a late-night visitor. Clearly there’s something amiss, and the two have a prior, and not great, relationship. At the end of it, the manager ends up functioning like the Star Trek redshirts, showing us how the monster works. At the loft, Barry is uncharacteristically somber, and it takes Iris a while to work out why. Barry assures her he’s fine, clearly isn’t, and then speeds off to start the day with the crime scene we saw a few moments ago. The scene is so bad that it rattles Chester, now working as a CCPD meta-consultant since they lost Cisco to ARGUS (I still miss him). With a bit of investigation, utterly ignoring what actual police roles are, and some help from the now ubiquitous Officer Kormer, they home in on a suspect.
The major subplot of the week is over at the Central City Citizen, and I’ve taken to calling it “Everything You Shouldn’t Do At Work.” There’s a line from a song that I like a lot that runs “Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong,” and that seems to be where this one goes. Initially, Allegra has a meeting with Iris about a new profile feature the Citizen is doing. The two disagree, and while yes, obviously Iris is the boss and gets to make the call, I disagree with the way some of this happened, and certainly see Allegra’s point. Also, unless we’ve missed a lot of time jumps on the show, I’m not sure when Iris got to be a skilled business manager, or Allegra became a veteran reporter. A large portion of the dispute centers around Taylor, one of the more recent add-ons to the Citizen staff that I recall being unpleasant last time we saw her. Elsewhere, a man is trying to connect with his son, which goes badly. It gets worse when CCPD shows up to arrest the father, who proves to have a fiery temper and things escalate to the point that the Flash gets involved. As a general note from what I’ve seen: if the fight ends early in the episode with Flash getting the damper cuffs on someone with minimal effort, things are not going as well as they seem.
Very conflicted because of some personal history, Barry brings the case to Cecile, asking her for some help. She listens to his request, and talks about some hard lines she won’t cross with her clients that I’m positive she has, in fact, crossed before. Cecile is basically taking the “This is what it really looks like” approach, and Barry’s “Something doesn’t feel right” rebuttal isn’t really helping persuade her. Allegra and Taylor go to do their assignment, and Allegra is clearly not happy about the whole thing. Something pops up that captures her attention, and she goes her own way, with Taylor making snotty comments. Cecile interview Birch, the suspect of the week, and most of his concern is about his son. Cecile lays out how bad the case is against him, and Birch clings to his claim of innocence, outraged that he might lose his son. While Barry and Cecile confer, there’s a lot of commotion, and Kromer (the only CCPD officer with a name), relays some bad news that doesn’t look good for Birch, and also seems to indicate a serious lapse in security along the way.
At STAR Labs, the team tries to figure out how to find a fugitive, and gets an alert through the various systems they’re tied into. For the Fastest Man Alive, Barry spends a good few minutes talking about what’s going to happen instead of going to resolve the situation. At Cecile’s urging, Frost goes with him, and they take off at superspeed. Not to overthink things, but it’s kind of weird that they leave in civilian clothes and get there in costume. Now, Flash has been able to speed-change for years and it makes sense. But Frost can’t, so either she’s got a new ability we haven’t been before, or he’s changing her at superspeed on the way, which is kind of creepy. While Flash and Frost deal with a new crime, things continue to get worse between Allegra and Taylor, while Iris seems to be out of the loop.
In the lounge at STAR, Barry is sticking by his guns, while everyone else seems to be taking the “Well, this is what it looks like” approach. Again, this could have been resolved earlier, but Cecile declined. Barry makes a few good points, and the others all are surprisingly unwilling to allow for unusual circumstances, especially considering how many unusual things they’ve all seen. Finally, Barry races off, vowing to do whatever he can with or without their help. Upset, Barry takes refuge in his lab, and that’s where Joe finds him. We learn a bit more about why he has such a personal stake in this case, and Joe offers some memories and wisdom. His resolve strengthened, Barry zips back to STAR after getting a text from Chester.
Things continue to go badly at the Citizen, where Iris goes over the piece Allegra turned in. It’s a very odd conversation with a lot of ups and downs. A lot of what Iris seems to be complaining about are thing she herself could have done. After they disagree some more, Iris essentially pulls rank and leaves Allegra annoyed at best. Barry gets back to STAR, and Frost and Chester share some new findings with the Scarlet Speedster, and it seems he had the right idea after all. While the team is relieved about one thing and worried about something else, Birch makes a very emotional choice which doesn’t help his case at all. Once again, Officer Kormer is in danger, and Flash and Frost arrive to save the day. There are several things wrong with this scene, but those all get ignored. To the heroes’ credit, things don’t degenerate into a big punch-fest, but there are some side effects from an earlier problem that cause some serious issues. Flash does some really unlikely stuff, even with comic book science, and then he and another meta manage to avert a big disaster and they seem to be heading for a happy ending.
There’s a happy reunion and a lot of thanks in Cecile’s office, where some serious legal issues are utterly ignored. While Cecile worries about Barry, Allegra tries to talk to Taylor. I can understand Taylor being upset, but she goes on a rant that should be enough to get her fired and probably qualify her as a supervillain in the making. There’s a small family gathering as Joe, Cecile, Barry, and Iris talk about some things from the past and offer a toast to someone they (well, some of them) lost. The episode ends with Barry telling his team to look for some grisly indications that their mysterious new foe has been operating longer and with a wider range than they first thought.
What I liked: Barry is a good guy who sees the best in everyone. It can be a serious liability for a superhero, but he had the courage to stick by his convictions even when all his friends were having serious doubts. The big sort of confrontation near the end was handled well. It was nice to see Chester working with CCPD again. Joe remains a source of warmth and wisdom that many shows are lacking. We could all use a Joe in our lives.
What I didn’t: There are a lot of legal complications they just brushed under the rug for the sake of the story. The whole story at the Citizen was just weird. I would think that by this point, the team would have more faith in Barry’s instincts.
It was a good, but not great, episode. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5. I suspect our new mystery villain will be a big part of the rest of the season.