Barry Allen really needs to stop describing himself as “the fastest man alive” in the intro to every episode of the ‘The Flash’ if he’s going to keep getting outraced by other speedsters. First was the Reverse-Flash, then Zoom, and now even some penny-ante villain of the week can run faster than he does.
This week’s episode is a heavy-handed parable about the dangers of performance enhancing drugs. Seriously. Because that’s what this show needs right now.
We start with Barry once again pushing himself to run faster. Even though, as far as he knows, Zoom is trapped on Earth-2, he still feels that it’s necessary to get faster just in case. This time, he tries to jump over a waterfall (which I guess is just outside the city limits?), but unfortunately comes up short and has to be saved by a drone-borne net that Cisco set up beneath him.
With that plan a failure, Cisco advocates that the team needs a break to recharge their batteries. He recommends that they go clubbing. Dr. Wells’ daughter Jesse, who’s been feeling cooped-up in the lab ever since arriving on Earth-1, begs her dad to let her go with them. Eventually, he relents.
At the club, the gang’s fun is interrupted when a new speedster – a female speedster at that! – zips in and robs the place, stealing purses and wallets and cash from the registers. Barry chases after the perpetrator but can’t keep up and loses her after she punches him in the face.
Back at the lab, Barry can’t figure out where this new speedster came from. All the portals to Earth-2 are closed, and if she got her powers in the particle accelerator accident when Barry did, surely they would have encountered her long before now. (Somehow, it never occurs to anyone that she could be from the future like Reverse-Flash.) Caitlin then suggests that there’s one other way the speedster could have gotten her speed, and reveals the Velocity-9 formula that she developed for Jay. Barry is upset that she kept this a secret from him. He’s been working for so long to get faster, and here his own friend had a drug in her possession that could boost his speed. He remains pissy even when Caitlin explains that the drug is unstable and made Jay sick. (Wait a second, isn’t the Velocity-9 formula supposed to be the final version that didn’t have adverse health effects?)
We’re still left with the question of how this speedster could have gotten her hands on Velocity-9 when the last remaining vial is still in the S.T.A.R. Labs office. It turns out that Caitlin had to outsource some of her work to a scientist friend named Eliza Harmon who works at Mercury Labs. Although Caitlin never gave her the complete formula or told her what the drug was for, Eliza is smart enough to have figured it out and reverse engineered it. She’s been doping ever since.
Despite Caitlin’s warnings, Barry still wants to take the V-9 and rationalizes excuses for why it would be OK to take shortcuts. However, Caitlin finally gets through to him and they break the last vial.
In addition to giving her speed, the drug has turned Eliza into a junkie for V-9 and caused her to go schizo. She hears a voice in her head that goads her into being a bad girl. When she runs out of the drug, she invades S.T.A.R. Labs (the security there still sucks!), tosses Barry into a Pipeline cell before he even realizes what’s happening, and threatens Jesse at gunpoint. She demands that they give her V-9.
Caitlin tries to talk to her friend, but Eliza insists that her name is Trajectory now. Cisco finds it annoying when metas name themselves, but quite frankly, he’d probably just call her “Lady Flash” or something stupid like that.
Wells caves and agrees to whip up a new batch of V-9. After doing so, Eliza suspects that he might be trying to trick her (clever girl), so she injects the drug into Jesse first, then runs off with the rest. Jesse’s body isn’t ready for this and goes into a seizure. The only way to get the drug out of her system is a blood transfusion from her dad.
Although the V-9 that Wells made was real, Caitlin was able to implant a micro-tracker in it that leads Barry to find Eliza causing chaos on a bridge. She runs back and forth repeatedly so much that a big chunk of the bridge collapses. Barry has to push himself (without drug assistance) to run Mach 3.3 in order to jump the gap, and this time he successfully does so.
Barry knocks Eliza to the ground and tries to talk her into not doping again. She laughs in his face and shoots up anyway, then runs off. Barry notices that her body creates a strange blue lightning when she moves, as opposed to his yellow lightning.
The drug ultimately proves too powerful for Eliza. As she’s running away, she pushes herself so hard that her body simply disintegrates into the air.
Barry returns to S.T.A.R. Labs and tells his friends about the blue lightning. He thinks this is important because he remembers that Zoom created the same blue lightning when he moved. This must mean that Zoom is a V-9 doper, and consequently must mean that he’s dying and must be desperate for a cure.
Barry has a terrible thought and wonders if Zoom might really be Jay Garrick. He talks Cisco into touching Jay’s helmet and vibing. Sure enough, Cisco has a vision of Zoom removing his mask, under which he sees Jay’s face. Caitlin is horrified that her boyfriend could have been a villain all along. Barry runs out of the lab back to the waterfall from the beginning of the episode and screams into the open air.
Miscellaneous Other Story Points
During the height of Trajectory’s crime spree, Iris’ new boss, a hunky editor named Scott (Tone Bell from ‘Whitney’ and ‘Bad Judge’) who apparently has no sense of journalistic ethics at all, orders her to write a story that The Flash has gone bad – based on no research or evidence of that actually being the case. Iris stalls on writing the story by asking Scott out for coffee to discuss it, and realizes that he has a (wholly inappropriate) crush on her. After the truth is revealed about the second speedster, Iris writes a flattering puff-piece about The Flash instead – and then flirts with her boss to let him know that she’s into him as well. Somebody needs to alert their HR department!
Throughout the episode, Jesse argues with her father about the bad things he has done in the name of keeping her safe – such as assisting Zoom to steal Barry’s speed, and now handing over the Velocity-9 to a new villain. At episode’s end, after recovering from her seizure, Jesse leaves her dad a note and hops a bus to Opal City.
As I mentioned, the heavy-handedness of the episode’s message about performance enhancing drugs is really overdone and annoying. I’m also bothered by the episode’s ending. After Cisco has the vision of Jay’s face, everyone immediately assumes that it must be their own friend Jay who betrayed them. No one considers the possibility that it could be an alternate universe doppelganger, despite the fact that Barry encountered evil doppelgangers of Cisco and Caitlin while he was on Earth-2. True, their Jay originally came from Earth-2, but why couldn’t the evil one have come from Earth-1 first and crossed over there? (Viewers of course have more knowledge than the characters and saw evil Jay kill friendly Jay, but that doesn’t excuse Barry and friends from jumping to conclusions like this.)
At the end of the day, this is a pretty middle-of-the-road episode. The show has had far worse, but it’s also had a lot better.