The Flash is dead. Long live The Flash.
Following last week’s seemingly fatal attempt to regain his powers, Barry is alive and kicking in his old house. At least, that’s what it appears. Let’s rewind slightly… Last week saw the Flash attempting to perform without his powers after he gave them to Zoom. But when Zoom exposes their charade of a hologram attempting to foil would-be criminals, Earth-2 Wells reveals that meta-humans were hiding from the Flash. With nobody left to stop them, Central City will be under the control of metas in a few weeks.
Barry decides to undergo a risky procedure to get his powers back only to seemingly dissolve into nothing. But Zoom has noticed the attempt and arrives in time to find the still smoking chest of Barry’s suit.
Beginning mere seconds after Zoom has left them, Team Flash is still reeling from the loss of their hero. Harry fears the damage from the particle accelerator overspill and tries to contact Jesse and Wally. When neither answer, he and Joe rush off to check on their respective children. Although West junior is seemingly unharmed, Jesse is unresponsive with no heartbeat. Harry is able to locate a pulse whilst Joe goes to find Dr Allen. Henry is mourning the loss of his son when Joe arrives and forces him to focus on the problem at hand. In a desperate move, Cisco vibes on the burnt remnant of Barry’s costume and sees Barry in some form of a vortex. Upon hearing this, Henry is given renewed hope and goes to check on Jesse.
Following the opening title, Barry wakes up in his old bedroom from the Reverse-Flash killed Nora. Although initially happy at finding all of his old possessions, he goes downstairs to see Joe squatting in the crime-scene aftermath of his mother’s murder and going through his notebook. Somehow, Joe recognises the older Barry and reveals that he is not, in fact, Joe. Not-Joe explains that “we thought that you might be more comfortable talking to somebody familiar in a place you knew.” Barry asks for clarification on “we” and Joe directs him to sit before talking. Not-Joe tells him that he’s both wrong and right about the Speed Force being the source of his powers and that ‘we’ will exist for as long as the universe. Barry realises that he is talking to the Speed Force and begs to be let back into his world when a shadow flashes past at speedster levels of fast. Not-Joe says that the only way to get home is to catch the shadow. When Barry runs off, he is still without his speed. This is a key moment in Flash history. The Speed-Force in DC comics acts as both the source of Barry’s power and a ‘Valhalla for fallen speedsters’. Somehow, the CW Speed-Force is sentient enough to converse with Barry. Pure speculation, but it could be using the memories of other speedsters as a rough guide to human experiences. The more we discover about the Speed-Force, the more questions we have.
As Cisco informs the rest of the group about Barry, Harry identifies the area as the Speed Force. Henry, Iris and Cisco recognise the condition Jesse is in as identical to the same Barry was in after the first particle accelerator explosion and that Eobard might have left records of treatment in their morgue. As they search for the records, they hear a noise that they initially blame on each other. Enter Tony Woodward, freshly undead following the accident. Displaying little intelligence or any form of his personality, Girder smashes his way out of STAR Labs.
Back in the world of the Speed Force, Barry encounters Not-Iris at the same spot where they once kissed in an aborted timeline. Iris discusses with Barry how he rejected the gifts the Speed Force gave him and Barry denies it. The only reason he relinquished his powers was to save somebody’s life. Barry asks why they gave him the powers if they could have chosen somebody better. Not-Iris tells him it’s because he’s The Flash. Over in STAR Labs, Cisco and Iris tell the others that Tony is now undead. Joe forces the group into action as the zombie meta-human steals another yellow sports car. This is the first indication that some part of Tony is still functioning on some level of his psyche.
As Cisco attempts to reach out to Barry, a tornado forms over the water and Cisco sees his version of Barry turn around. Although Barry experiences the Speed-Force as his own world, Cisco is only capable of seeing it as a vortex. It could be that only those with speed abilities or a connection to the Speed-Force can properly interpret it. Not-Iris reveals that although Barry can leave if he wishes, but he will not have his powers. Cisco watches Barry turn away as Barry runs off after the blur again. Fearing the damage being done to Cisco, Iris forces them to abort the attempt. Using Cisco’s meta-human sighting app, the group realise that Tony is re-enacting the last few days of his life and make a plan. Now in a graveyard, Barry encounters another figure who turns out to be Not-Henry. The Speed Force seems proud that Barry has saved so many people but claims he is the only thing between his world and ‘unspeakable evil’ and forces Barry to face his mother’s grave. For some reason, Barry has never actually been to his mother’s grave in the real world.
Whilst Joe and Iris wait for Tony to attack their house, Joe tries to talk Wally about potentially becoming a meta-human. Despite questioning criminals for a living, he ends up sounding like he’s giving a puberty talk. Trying to prove his point, Joe drops his mug, believing Wally to have speed powers but appears mistaken. Tony then attacks and Iris lures him back to STAR Labs. Not-Henry questions if Barry has accepted losing his mother as he hasn’t faced her grave to ‘make it real’. Barry is distraught over his choice not to save her and Not-Henry asks if Nora would have wanted Barry and all the people he would save as the Flash to have died in her place. Barry runs off after the blur again. As Barry didn’t answer the question, we have to ask: does he believe that Nora would have been worth the trade?
The plan to use electromagnets to disrupt the energy powering Girder fails and the team retreat back to the Speed Cannon. In the Speed-Force world, Barry chases the blur back to his house and discovers his mother. When the two talk, Barry reveals that he hasn’t accepted her death and probably never will. She praises his actions and calls him a miracle but he will still have tragedy in his life like anyone else. Barry understands but still misses her. The figure tells him she is proud of who he has become and Barry asks who is talking: the Speed-Force or his mother. Nora reveals that she is currently speaking for both. Although Nora isn’t a speedster, could it be possible that she is still somehow at rest in the Speed-Force?
With Tony mere moments for making his way in, Cisco remembers how Barry looked: like he didn’t want to come back. As Barry and Nora read a book from his childhood, Barry remembers how much she loved him. Standing up, he reaches out a hand and the blur runs into his grasp, seemingly at his whim. It slows to reveal that it’s The Flash part of him and Barry is immediately back in his costume. Cisco vibes Iris with him and another vortex appears within the Speed-Force. This time, Barry reaches out and takes Iris’ hand. After a moment’s celebration, Cisco quickly fills Barry in on the situation. Barry lures Tony away so Cisco and Harry can figure out how to power their machine again. When he arrives, the pair aren’t ready and Barry tries unsuccessfully to reason to with Girder. Using the residual energy left in his wake, Barry charges the magnets and allows Tony to go back to his final rest. Although Tony bullied Barry and almost killed him before, Barry used his boundless compassion to let them poor soul rest.
Checking on Jesse, Barry takes her hand and there’s a slight spark as she wakes up. Although he doesn’t know how he did it, Harry realises it was the Speed-Force. As Henry checks on Barry’s health, Barry says he is glad for all the events that made him The Flash and Henry decides to move back to Central City. Barry and Iris visit Nora’s grave and although Barry is unsure of what they have or where they are going, Iris is everything to him and she always will be.
Back at the Barry’s lab, Zoom asks if Caitlin is with or against him. He goes to give a speech to his followers and says that if she stays, she is with him. If she leaves, she will get no more mercy than her friends. Standing above his meta-human army, he proclaims the world as theirs as the camera pans to reveal dozens of meta-human villains waiting to follow his orders.
Runaway Dinosaur is a brilliant episode, answering exactly what happened to Barry, expanding on the Speed Force and setting up several key moments. Is the sentient Speed-Force capable of interacting with non-speedsters? Will Jesse take her first running steps in the next few episodes? With Barry now back in touch with the Speed-Force, it remains to be seen if his powers are just back or better than ever.
I’ve previously written that the Arrowverse is quickly running out of foes but the influx of meta-humans from Earth-2 could provide the answer. A brief count showed about forty criminals, enough for another season for Flash and Arrow each. Earth-2 is based off, well, Earth-2 and that allows us some leeway in identifying characters. Amongst the brief glimpse of Zoom’s forces, I believe I spotted a Sandman and somebody using green flames to stay afloat. Alan Scott, anyone? With the end and climax of the season just around the corner, things are surely stepping up for The Flash.