Following last week’s really disappointing episode, ‘The Flash’ sets aside the nonsensical time travel stuff and focuses on a good ol’ meta-of-the-week case. That’s a wise decision, though I still wouldn’t call this a standout episode.
Starting with a flashback to two years ago – yes, you can guess the night – a couple of gangster thugs at a factory dangle a man named Joey over a boiling vat of tar. They make him give up some information about a bank account and then toss him into the tar anyway. As they leave, the S.T.A.R. Labs reactor explodes in the distance and the tar is covered in that black matter stuff that made all the meta-humans. Two years later – today! – new construction at the site of the factory digs up a chunk of pavement and unearths Joey from his hellish containment. Of course he’s still alive. It’s a good thing meta-humans don’t need to eat or breathe.
At S.T.A.R. Labs, Dr. Wells secretly experiments on that sample of The Turtle’s brain he stole and makes a device that will siphon Barry’s speed force. He plants it on Barry’s suit under the Flash logo chestplate.
Barry arrives, looking for something to keep his mind off his breakup with Patty. He offers to help Wells close the dimensional breaches. Wells tries to brush him off by saying that Barry wouldn’t understand the science, because Earth 1 hasn’t developed it yet. Barry proceeds to speed-read through some of Wells’ books (he brought books with him when he crossed universes?) until he’s up to speed (no pun intended) on the subject. Wells is annoyed. How can he work on betraying our heroes if they’re always up in his face all the time?
Tar victim Joey takes revenge on one of the gangsters who wronged him by spewing tar all over the man. Barry is called to investigate the crispy-fried corpse. When Cisco gets word that there’s a new meta with tar-based powers, he coins the rather unimaginative nickname “Tar Pit.” I suppose it could have been much worse.
Cisco has been toying around with a new app on his phone to immediately notify him of meta-human sightings. As soon as he locates Joey, Barry races to stop him from killing the second gangster. He uses a fire hydrant to cool and harden the tar, making Joey’s power useless.
When Barry gets back to S.T.A.R. Labs, Cisco and Caitlin inform him that the speed they tracked him running was 2% slower than usual. Barry isn’t overly concerned about it. “Fast is fast, right?” he asks.
Barry continues trying to help Wells solve the breach problem. An irritated Wells tells Barry that he doesn’t want to be his mentor. He then flat-out warns Barry that, if he’s forced to make a choice between Barry’s team and saving his daughter, he will absolutely betray them. Later, Wells has a clandestine meeting with Zoom and gives him a shot of Barry’s speed force. He asks Zoom to return his daughter, but Zoom tells him that he won’t give her back until he has every last drop of The Flash’s speed.
Despite Wells’ treatment, Barry comes up with an idea to close the breaches using some theories developed by the previous Dr. Wells/Reverse-Flash. With Cisco’s help, Barry and Wells develop a “breach implosion reactor.” They test it on one known breach (Barry tosses it in), and it works. The breach closes. That’s 1 of 51.
Throughout the episode is scattered a really boring storyline about Iris being upset about her brother Wally’s drag racing. She thinks the races are too dangerous. Stupidly, Iris threatens to publicly expose the organizer of the races, a surly thug named Clark Bronwen, unless he shuts them down. Bronwen isn’t intimidated by her.
That storyline only has relevance when Caitlin discovers that Bronwen is the boss of the two gangsters that Tar Pit attacked. Tar Pit comes after Bronwen while Wally is racing and tosses Wally’s car in the air. Barry rushes in to save Wally, but when the car smashes onto the ground, a shard of glass flies toward Iris and Barry isn’t fast enough to stop it. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your feelings about Iris), the glass doesn’t hit anything too vital. She recovers at the hospital afterwards. Nonetheless, Barry is suddenly worried about his small speed loss after all.
Feeling guilty, Wells confesses to stealing Barry’s speed. A furious Joe tosses him in a Pipeline cell.
Cisco invents a new weapon called a nitrous grenade that will turn Tar Pit into a popsicle. Joe uses the remaining gangster as bait to lure Tar Pit out. When the meta turns into a giant tar monster, and Barry tosses the grenade at him, causing the tar shell to harden and shatter, leaving regular Joey inside.
With that problem solved, the team has to decide what to do about Dr. Wells. Wells himself asks that they send him back to Earth 2 and then close all the breaches behind him. Zoom is his problem and he’ll deal with it on his own. They never need to see him again. Barry can’t accept that. He sympathizes with what Wells did to save his daughter, and he can’t bear the thought of sitting idly by and letting Zoom destroy an entire world. Barry talks to the others and they all agree, not just to let Wells out of the Pipeline, but to travel to Earth 2 and help him defeat Zoom on that turf.
Let me get this straight: We’ve got a villain whose power is the ability to manipulate tar, and at no point does he think of using that tar to trap or slow down The Flash? That’s one idiot villain, and an obvious missed opportunity on the part of the show’s writers.
That aside, this is a decent enough episode. The stuff with Wally is boring, but the Wells storyline is stronger. I think the show can have a lot of fun transporting all of our heroes to Earth 2 next week.