With all the business last season about the Reverse-Flash, who was another speedster exactly like Barry, I always felt that a villain who was actually the reverse of the Flash ought to be really, really slow. Amusingly, ‘The Flash’ actually delivers that as it returns from its brief winter break. Amazingly, that villain turns out to be a credible threat.
Episode ‘Potential Energy’ opens with Barry and Patty on a date, when suddenly the girlfriend is kidnapped by Zoom and Barry is helpless to save her. Fortunately, this turns out to be a bad dream Barry has while in bed with Patty. (The fact that they’re in bed together suggests that Barry and Patty’s relationship has progressed to the point of physical intimacy. This begs the question of whether Barry is super-fast during sex. If so, poor girl…)
Joe, who recently learned that he has an adult son named Wally that his ex-wife never told him about, brings the boy to the police precinct to proudly show him where he works. Sadly, Wally is a total pill who has no interest in hanging around with his dad, and makes a snarky comment about how come such a great detective didn’t even know he had a son. A perp being hauled in for booking recognizes Wally and calls him “Tail Lights.” Wally tries to pretend that he doesn’t know what the guy is talking about, but he clearly has a bad secret.
Patty asks Iris for relationship advice. She’s growing frustrated by how guarded and secretive Barry still is around her. Iris can only tell her that she’ll need to talk to Barry about that. Later, she meets with Barry and begs him to tell Patty that he’s the Flash. Keeping that secret from her does no one any good.
Dr. Wells V2 is petulant that he hasn’t figured out how to make Barry as fast as Zoom. Cisco suggests that instead they should work on making Zoom slower. Wells reminds him that their attempt to shoot Zoom with super-tranquilizer darts only pissed him off. Cisco says he has an idea for how to steal Zoom’s speed. Wells, who’s currently being blackmailed by Zoom into helping him steal Barry’s speed, perks up when he hears this.
Cisco tells the group about a thief whose exploits he’s been tracking. Cisco calls him “The Turtle,” and his meta-human power is the ability to make everyone around him slow to a crawl or freeze in place. Barry questions why he’s never heard of this guy before. Apparently, Cisco has been keeping a file of meta-humans who either aren’t dangerous or are just nuisance criminals. The Turtle’s M.O. is that he steals items of great personal value to their owners, whether they’re of much financial value or not. Some are, and Cisco predicts that the Turtle will try to steal the famed Vandervoort Diamonds from a public ceremony at police headquarters. (Is this a winking reference to ‘Smallville’ actress Laura Vandervoort, who’s scheduled to make an appearance on producer Greg Berlanti’s ‘Supergirl’ later this season?)
Barry races to the police station, but even with all his super-speed, he’s affected by the Turtle’s power and is barely able to move. The Turtle slips away. Cisco theorizes that his power works by swallowing the kinetic energy of anyone around him, leaving them with only potential energy. Cisco dubs this “Turtle Time.” Cowabunga!
Caitlin uses her computer magic to identify the Turtle as small-time thief Russell Glosson (Aaron Douglas from ‘Battlestar Galactica’). Cisco predicts that he’ll next try to steal a famous painting called “The Crystal Ball” that’s going on display at the Central City Museum. Barry considers this a fine opportunity to not just catch the meta-human, but to invite Patty on a fancy-dress date and reveal to her that he’s the Flash. Most of his friends support him in this, but Wells cautions him against it. He says that Zoom will take Patty from Barry if he ever learns that she’s important to him. Why Barry telling her his secret is somehow the differentiator in Zoom finding out about her is not explained (or understandable at all).
While Barry, Joe and Caitlin go into the museum, Cisco and Wells wait outside in a stakeout van. When Cisco asks how Zoom got his nickname, Wells tells him a terrible story about Zoom murdering a bunch of cops just to prove that he was uncatchable. One was spared to tell the story about a strange flash of light “zooming” around the room. Zoom later invaded the man’s home at night and murdered him as well – again, to make a point. Cisco is horrified at this.
Patty arrives at the museum dolled up in the same dress from Barry’s dream. Uh oh.
Barry dances with Patty and struggles to find a way to tell her his secret, when he’s interrupted by the Turtle. Barry zips out of the room before the Turtle uses his power to freeze everyone else. When Barry tries to go after him, the Turtle causes a chandelier to fall from the ceiling and plummet down toward Patty. Barry races to save her. Although he’s greatly slowed down by the Turtle’s power, he just barely manages to push her out of the way and take the hit himself. The Turtle grabs the painting and gets away. Joe hauls Barry out of the room before anyone can try to unmask him. Patty is pissed at Barry for vanishing on her and is apparently incapable of putting 2 and 2 together.
Patty goes home to her apartment. The Turtle smashes in her door, grabs her, and brings her back to his secret lair. When she asks what he wants with her, the Turtle explains his back story. His own wife used to take him for granted, so after he got his meta-power, he started collecting things that other people took for granted. He tells Patty that she’s the thing most precious to the Flash. Patty doesn’t believe it. She thinks the Flash would have saved anybody in the same situation. (Why is this girl so dense?)
After Barry realizes that Patty is missing, he and the team put their heads together until they figure out that the Turtle’s lair must be in an old disused library, which would give him plenty of space to display his collection. Barry jets over there without any plan to counteract the Turtle’s energy-sucking ability. He tells Cisco that he’ll just have to power through it.
I had hoped that the show’s writers would have been clever enough to call back what Cisco said earlier about the Turtle leaving people with only potential energy, and have Cisco devise a clever solution to utilize that potential energy to stop him. Sadly, no. Barry runs in, gets frozen, manages to get free and run out, only to run back again and do a Speed-Punch to plow through the Turtle Time field and knock out the villain. Barry then locks the Turtle in the Pipeline where he’ll be harmless, and gloats that now he’s part of their collection.
Barry makes another attempt to tell Patty his secret. This time, the plan is foiled when Patty tells him that she’s leaving Central City to go to CSI school, because she got tired of waiting for him to open up to her. Well, he’s certainly not going to tell her now…
Late at night, Dr. Wells visits the Turtle’s cell and kills him to take a sample of his brain tissue, which he’ll presumably use to make a speed-stealing weapon.
Even though he’s refused to do much of anything to help them, Jay Garrick continues to hang around our group of heroes – only so that he can be with Caitlin. They’re officially in a relationship now. However, Jay is depressed that he still has no speed. Caitlin suspects that something else is up with him as well, and surreptitiously swipes a DNA sample to send to a lab. When she gets the results back, she learns that Jay is sick with some mystery illness that isn’t explained to viewers. Caitlin confronts Jay about this. He says that that only cure is to get his speed back and stop Zoom. That sounds like a pretty dubious medical diagnosis to me.
After Wally is a no-show to a planned family dinner, Joe tracks him down and discovers that he’s an illegal street racer (hence the “Tail Lights” nickname). That’s why he really came to Central City, not to meet his father, but because he’s so good that nobody else back home will race him anymore. He tells Joe that racing is how he earns money to pay for his mom’s medical treatments. When Joe offers to pay for some of the treatments himself, Wally is too proud to accept. Eventually, Joe acknowledges that he tried to push his relationship with Wally too fast, and offers to slow things down. (Heavy-Handed Episode Theme Alert!) Rather than jump right into full-blown father/son mode, perhaps they should get to know each other a little first.
The episode ends with a head-scratching twist when Eobard Thawne, in full Reverse-Flash costume though sporting his original face, suddenly appears on a quiet street. He pulls up his interface with the computer Gideon and asks where the hell he is.
This episode is a little frustrating. Although the Turtle turns out to be a surprisingly interesting villain and his power is very neatly visualized, the way Barry finally defeats him is pretty anti-climactic.
Also, all of Barry’s consternation about telling Patty his secret could have been resolved a long time ago if he’d just, you know, talk to her. Is she being written out of the show now? I liked her character.
I’m not sure what to make of the Reverse-Flash’s return yet. I almost dread whatever pseudo-science nonsense the writers will come up with to explain that. Is he perhaps the Earth Two version?