‘The Flash’ has a pretty fun premise this week, but the episode is strangely very slow to deliver on it. That seems ironic for a show about speedsters.
Even if you happened to miss all the network promos that explicitly spoiled its big plot twist, the episode title ‘Run, Iris, Run’ should be enough to confirm right up front that Iris becomes a speedster this week. For some reason, that doesn’t happen until a good 20 minutes (one-third of the run time) go by.
In the meantime, we watch Harry and Cisco struggle to think up a plan to defeat DeVoe. Finally, Harry gets an idea. He wants to build an “intelligence booster” just like DeVoe has, which will allow him to outthink The Thinker. Cisco objects, pointing out that the exposure to Dark Matter turned DeVoe evil. Nevertheless, Harry wants to press on. Cisco refuses to help him.
This upsets Ralph, who is terrified of DeVoe hunting him down and can’t believe the team would reject any possible ideas to stop him. Ralph petulantly announces that he’s going to hide out in his room and won’t go on any more missions until the threat is over. Nor will he put on his DeVoe disguise and meet with the mayor, who’s been asking questions about Barry’s acquittal and wants to speak to DeVoe himself. Without Ralph’s help, Barry remains on indefinite leave from his job and can’t go back to work. When Iris tries to have a talk with Ralph, he accuses her of having the safest and cushiest job on the team, getting to stay behind in the lab while the others go out on missions. I guess nobody filled him in on last year’s Savitar business.
When a meta-human with flame powers tries to rob a bank, he’s stopped not by Team Flash, but by a brave bystander who somehow takes away the robber’s power by touching him and another hostage at the same time. The robber is dumbfounded as to why his power stopped working. Cisco and Harry are puzzled by that as well.
Reviewing security camera footage, they identify the bystander as an EMT named Matthew Kim (Leonardo Lam from ‘Westworld’). Joe goes to question the man, and Iris, who has been doubting her importance to the team thanks to Ralph, volunteers to tag along. This seems like an easy enough assignment, but the man panics when Joe announces himself as a cop. He grabs a scalpel and takes Iris hostage. Iris hits her panic alert and Barry races to her rescue. He pulls Iris away from Kim, but Kim touches the both of them in the process. Suddenly, Barry loses his speed powers and Iris gets them!
Iris is psyched to be a speedster and really enjoys testing out her power, but Barry is left depressed. He has no speed and no job, and when he tries to fill in for Iris coordinating team missions, he kind of sucks at it. Cisco theorizes that Kim has the power to swap the DNA of any two people he touches. With an explanation that doesn’t actually make any sense, he dubs the meta “Melting Point.” (You’d think that would be a better nickname for the guy with flame power, but no.)
Harry manages to build a prototype Thinking Cap that boosts his intelligence 20% even without Dark Matter. Caitlin gives her support to continue its development, but Cisco still won’t help.
Iris gets her first mission as a superhero when a call comes in about a skyscraper on fire. Barry thinks she hasn’t had enough training yet, but she insists on going anyway. Wearing a simple black outfit with a mask that Jesse Quick left behind, Iris races into the building and saves five people. However, when she goes back inside and tries to put out the fire, her efforts only make it worse and she gets pinned under falling debris. Barry tells her that she needs to phase through it, but she hasn’t learned how to do that yet. Fortunately, Cisco is able to portal over and pull her back to the lab safely.
Cisco changes his mind and agrees to help Harry with the Thinking Cap, but only on the condition that he not use Dark Matter. That works for Harry. Even with all this work load, Cisco also somehow finds the time to whip up a swanky hero costume for Iris as she continues training with Barry.
It takes a while, but the other guy Kim touched during the bank robbery eventually figures out that he gained the flame power. It turns out that the man, Jaco Birch (Max Adler from ‘Glee’), is an even bigger scumbag. He tries to rob a bank himself and has a standoff with the police. Kim attempts to intervene and talk him down, but Birch won’t let him get near.
Iris races in and quickly slaps a pair of anti-meta cuffs on Kim so that he can’t go swapping anybody else’s DNA. She then tries to confront Birch, but her inexperience gets the best of her and she freezes when he creates a gigantic fire cyclone that threatens to destroy the city. Barry and the others in the lab prove just as ineffectual, until Harry puts on the Thinking Cap and comes up with a plan. He instructs Iris to run across the water in the nearby bay and whip up a giant tidal wave that extinguishes the fire.
Birch is taken into custody. Kim promises that he’s done playing hero. Iris admits that she’s not as good at being a superhero as Barry is and agrees to let Kim swap their DNA back. Barry is very relieved to have his speed again. He asks Kim to join their team and help defeat DeVoe.
Iris has another heart-to-heart with Ralph, who agrees to disguise himself as DeVoe again and talk to the mayor. Iris then tells Barry that she feels fulfilled enough contributing to the team by writing a blog about how great the Flash is.
With Cisco’s help, Harry successfully completes the new Thinking Cap. He uses it and immediately determines the names of the final bus metas that DeVoe is hunting.
For the most part, this is a pretty entertaining episode, even despite the structural problem. I actually like the idea of Iris becoming a speedster. That might have given her some purpose on this show beyond being a damsel in distress, as she was all last season.
What I don’t like is the way the episode depicts her as so incompetent at being a hero, ultimately making her give it up entirely so that her man can take over again and clean up the mess she made. Even with the excuses about her lack of training or experience, the message this episode sends is very regressive. Iris has to content herself with being Barry’s cheerleader, as if she should know that’s a woman’s place.
The episode also has some weak plotting. I see no reason that Harry or anyone else in the lab needed the Thinking Cap to figure out that the best way to put out a fire is to use water. It seems to me that they’ve all solved much harder problems in the past on their own without artificial enhancement. In this one, they all stand around dumbfounded at what to do when the answer is literally five feet away from Iris.
I’m also mystified at how the Thinking Cap supposedly gave Harry the names of the remaining bus metas. Does it make him psychic too? He simply didn’t have that information beforehand and there’s no way he could guess the names out of thin air without any additional information, no matter how smart he is.