Season 2, Episode 19 - "Back to Normal"
Grant Gustin, Keiynan Lonsdale, Teddy Sears, Tom Cavanagh, Violett Beane, Haig Sutherland, Carlos Valdes, Jesse L. Martin
Regular airtime: Tuesdays, 8 pm
US: 26 Apr 2016
Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is no longer the “fastest man alive”. Forced to give up his speed powers to Zoom in order to save his step-brother Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale), Barry’s life has returned to normal. Groggy mornings. Bus rides to work. Spilled coffee.
The opening scenes of “Back to Normal” had me convinced that we were going to get to see Barry go through a normal day as a police scientist and ordinary guy, a character study, perhaps, that would reinforce the quiet heroism of the character even when he’s deprived of the physical qualities that make him special.
Instead, Barry’s return to normal allows focus to shift away from him and onto other members of Team Flash.
Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) remains trapped on Earth-2, a prisoner of her former love interest, Jay Allen (Teddy Sears), a.k.a. Hunter Zolomon, a.k.a. Zoom. She discovers that her Earth-2 doppelganger, Killer Frost, is also a captive in Zoom’s prison. The interaction between the two characters, both played by Panabaker, isn’t as fun as it should have been nor is it particularly revelatory of Caitlin’s character. While we learn, for example, that Caitlin and Killer Frost were both raised by frosty mothers, Caitlin still seems to be defined more by her unlucky romantic life than by her own personal history or character traits.
Meanwhile, Harry (Tom Cavanagh), upset that the team decided to open the portal to Earth-2 against his advice, decides that it’s time to track down his missing daughter, Jesse (Violett Beane). Fortunately, people from Earth-2 vibrate at a different frequency than the world around them, thus creating cell phone dead zones that Harry uses to track her. Their reunion does not go as planned, however, and on his way home Harry is abducted by Griffin Grey (Haig Sutherland) who mistakes him for the Harrison Wells of Earth-1, a man he holds responsible for the accident that transformed teenager Grey into a super-strong, but rapidly aging, super-villain.
Since Flash is now powerless, battling the villain-of-the-week requires a real team effort. Jesse, in particular, proves to be a nice substitute for her captive father in the “brilliant scientist department”. (She had five majors in college, after all.) With a bit of off-screen help from Arrow‘s Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), she and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) beef-up Barry’s suit just enough for him to be able to take a couple of punches from the graying bad-guy.
Yet another plot line follows Wally as he comes to term with the fact that he was almost killed by Zoom, a fate from which he was rescued by the Flash. Wally, one of the last of the regulars who doesn’t know the hero’s real identity, convinces Joe (Jesse L. Martin) to arrange a meeting with so that he can express his thanks. Wally’s is definitely the C (or maybe D) storyline in this episode, but for those fans who know the character from his long history in comics, his scene with the Flash portends some important developments that are sure to come our way.
The episode ends with Wells being inspired to help Barry regain his powers. We can only hope that he succeeds. It wasn’t bad to see a powerless Barry for one episode, but I don’t know if this problem is one that we want to see play out over several weeks. The sidelining of the Flash helped to make this episode seem a bit like a filler episode in which the larger season-long plotline wasn’t advanced very far. One of the charms of The Flash, of course, is its non-stop momentum. Individual episodes can sometimes feel like they pack a whole season’s worth of story. In “Back to Normal”, however, things mostly remained unchanged. The story opens with Barry without powers and Caitlin trapped on Earth-2, and that’s exactly how things end.
One of my favorite parts of this show is seeing the Flash run and hearing Harry, or Harrison, encourage him to run faster. It’s a dynamic that has served this series well since its inception: move things along quickly and, when in doubt, move them along quicker still. Since that was missing this week, I’ll do the honors myself. I’ll give the encouragement and the advice.
Run, Barry, run!