Technically, the mid-season finale of The Flash had two major reveals that should have made "The Man in the Yellow Suit" an episode to knock our socks off: the reveal of the Reverse-Flash's identity, and the proper debut of Firestorm. So why did my socks stay on so firmly during this finale?
I have an answer: First of all, neither of the two major reveals were very revealing. We've already seen Firestorm, and here all he does is basically show up again and tell the main cast he's alive and some kind of flammable hobo, while the identity of the man in the yellow Flash costume isn't going to truly shock anyone who has even have paid attention to the first eight episodes of the show. More problematically, the Firestorm/Reverse Flash stuff takes up maybe 10 or so minutes of screentime, while the rest of the episode packed full of things that don't matter, including a needless Christmas theme and a ton of characters making shockingly poor decisions.
Seriously, it's not worth getting into now but there are a few developments that happen worth mentioning that are non-Reverse Flash-related.
1) We get the introduction of Christina McGee, played by the original Flash TV series' Amanda Pays. She's the head of Mercury Labs, and a professional rival of Harrison Wells. The man in yellow wants on of Mercury's Tachyon prototypes for some unknown reason.
2) Thawne asks Iris to move in with him. Iris says yes, but no actual moving is done.
3) Barry tells Iris he loves her, romantically. Nothing comes of this.
4) After seeing the Reverse-Flash in action, Joe confides to Eddie that metahumans exist.
5) Caitlin learns her fiancé Ronnie is alive, can generate fire, is homeless, and is calling himself Firestorm. Only one thing comes of this, but it's not exactly going to blow your mind.
The real story, brief though it is, is Barry discovering that the Yellow Blur Man is in Central City, finally giving him an opportunity to catch his mother's killer and free his dad. Unfortunately, Barry's quest is hampered by the fact that the Reverse-Flash is not only faster than him, but more than happy to beat the crap out of him, taunt him, and then run off. The first time is at an empty football stadium, which I have to admit The Flash used impressively well to convey a battle at 700mph, despite a limited budget.
The second time is when Barry pressures Tina McGee into letting the SuperSTARS use the Tachyon prototype in order to make a trap for the Reverse-Flash. Wells sets it up and catches R-F, but he's in full supervillain taunt mode. He manages to grab Wells and begins beating the shit out of him before Joe shuts down the field. Only the arrival of the Flash keeps the Reverse Flash from killing everybody… presumably. We then get another fight between red and yellow speedsters, which also ends with Barry getting his ass kicked and a smarmy Reverse-Flash running off; but this one is slightly more obnoxious because it takes the sudden, coincidental arrival of Firestorm to save Barry's butt, after which Ronnie immediately flies off. It's a total Firestorm ex machina, and it doesn't do the Reverse-Flash or the Firestorm storylines any favors.
I wish I could say I wasn't disappointed in this mid-season Flash finale, but after the incredible tour de force of last week's Arrow crossover, I definitely had my hopes up for "The Man in the Yellow Suit." Instead we got more characters doing, saying and feeling dumb things… just with a bit of assorted awesomeness and a smattering of Christmas decorations.
But I don't want to sound like I hated this episode, because there was some genuinely cool shit in here. In fact, I've made a list.
• Everything about the Reverse-Flash. His suit looks great, and his glowing red eyes make him super-ominous.
• The Firestorm effects are also pretty good, but most especially when he takes off from STAR Labs.
• The way the episode tries to keep you guessing which of its two primary candidates are the Reverse Flash until the very end.
And of course there's the reveal itself, which I'll get to in a second. Unfortunately, the cool moments were outnumbered by the characters doing or saying really dumb things. I've made a list of these, too!
A brief Christmas cavalcade of dumb decisions and bizarre feelings by the cast of The Flash:
• When Caitlin tells Cisco Ronnie is alive, Cisco doesn't believe her. This is hardly the most egregious item on this list, but given everything they've seen, it seems like Ronnie surviving the explosion is hardly beyond the realm of Cisco's overactive imagination.
• Iris' continued inability to recognize Barry has the hots for her when literally every other person on the planet know, including Barry's dad, who's been in jail for the last 14 years. Addendum: Her complete lack of a response when Barry confesses his love.
• Speaking of, when Barry confesses his love to Iris but not the fact he's the goddamn Flash.
• After Caitlin confirms that her fiancé is alive, albeit homeless, possibly suffering some kind of personality disorder and occasionally on fire, she says out loud that she'd rather Ronnie died than see him that way. You mean alive and with super-powers? Caitlin is officially the worst.
• When it comes time to spring the trap on R-F, Joe and Well tell Barry he can't be there because Barry is "too close." Oh, for fuck's sake. Yes, he's emotionally involved but he's also the only guy with superpowers. Don't you think that takes precedence when you're trying to catch a dude with super-speed?
• When Joe finally admits the existence of metahumans to Thawne, he stresses that he can't tell anyone "for their safety." This is still incredibly dumb. How does not knowing help anybody? Wouldn't it have been slightly better for Thawne and the other cops to know what they were about to go up against? Wouldn't it be better for all of Central City's cops to know that they could potentially be facing a super-powered villain at any time? And what the fuck the point of denying their existence to Iris, when the Flash already admitted they exist anyways? Arrgh.
Anyways, all that's left is of course the Wells Epilogue, which is without any doubt the high point of the episode, even if it's not particularly surprising. Wells goes into his special hidey-hole, pulls out a ring with a very familiar lighting bolt on it, uses it to open a nook that contains a suit… a suit that when he puts some kind of thing on there (the Tachyon prototype?) powers it up and becomes the yellow flash suit.
No, it's not a surprise; obviously, only Thawne and Wells were contenders to be the Reverse Flash, and Wells was leading with his knowledge of and access to the future (the Reverse Flash being from the future in the comics) but it's still cool to see. The Flash ring, an iconic part of the Flash comics lore (Barry keeps his suit in there because comics) is cool and could lead to some interesting revelations, and then of course there's a whole new series of questions: Is the Reverse Flash from Harrison's past or future? Was beating the crap out of himself part of his plan or something else? What is Wells trying to do with the suit now? And if Wells really is the Flash's greatest villain, why exactly is he trying so damn hard to make sure Barry fulfills his destiny?
These are all great questions, and ones I'm looking forward to getting the answers to in the second half of the season — hoping more than a couple, and hopefully during the course of the rest of the season, not just in the last two minutes of the finale. But now that the Flash has a real nemesis and we know a bit more about Wells and what he's capable of, hopefully this increased focus will benefit the show. The second half of the first season was when Arrow really started picking up, so it would be lovely if The Flash would follow suit. Or, failing that, maybe the Reverse Flash could just grab Iris, Caitlin and Cisco and drop them in the middle of the Indian ocean? I mean, it seriously couldn't hurt.
• Um, Iris, doesn't the Central City PD provide Barry with telescopes to do his job? He doesn't have to bring his own from home, does he?
• Cisco's first attempt at naming the Reverse Flash: "Speed Psycho." Honestly, I kind of dig it.
• Reverse Flash upon seeing Wells: "We meet at last." An obvious misdirect, or is perhaps something else going on here? Hmm…
• Speaking of misdirects, Reverse Flash kills a bunch of cops but leaves Thawne alive. Even Thawne wonders about it. Smart move by both Wells and the show.
• At the episode's closing Christmas party, Barry walks in to see Iris sitting on Thawne's lap, and Thawne almost literally hisses evilly, "Merry Christmas, Barry." People, I think we have just seen the beginning of a rather spectacular animosity.
• And perhaps on the same subject: when Caitlin tells him about Ronnie, Wells seems genuinely concerned, swearing that he'll do everything in his power to "bring him home." Does he really care? Is this another part of his plan? Is it total bullshit?
• So my wife is not a nerd, so she has no real knowledge of or interest in The Flash, either as a character or a show, but sometimes she's in the room with me when I'm watching for my recaps. It took her all of two seconds to figure out the Barry-Iris dynamic, which of course Iris has somehow completely missed for years despite the fact he moons over her and looks nauseous every time she mentions Thawne. Her comment: "Why does he like her if she's so dumb?" I had no answer for her.