This was not a good episode of The Flash. In fact, this was an outright bad episode of The Flash, absolutely the creative nadir of the show so far, with a freak of the week so shockingly uncreative even Smallville would take it to task. Here's are the episode's many problems… and its few good points.
The main plot and F.O.T.W. don't deserve an in-depth recap, because this W.'s F. is Girder, who is basically an evil Colossus from X-Men, with the ability to turn his body into steel. But even just calling him Colossus is giving the character too much credit: He bullied little Barry in elementary school, and now that he is an adult, he hasn't changed in the slightest. I mean, not at all. His first use of power is to steal a yellow humvee and go joyriding. When the Flash tries to stop him — shattering his wrist on Girder's metal body — he decides he wants to bully the Flash. Seriously. He kidnaps Iris, because Iris is writing a blog about the Streak, and Girder wants Iris to write a blog post about how he beat up the Flash and made the Flash run away from him. It's pitiful. For god's sake, when Girder kidnaps Iris he takes her to their old elementary school, where he bullied Barry and was wrestling champion because he literally peaked in grade school and literally nothing has happened in his life between then and getting his powers.
It's pathetic, and the show seems to have no idea that it's pathetic– it tries to present Girder as a credible villain just like the others. Cisco and Caitlin fuss about Barry needing to exceed the sound barrier and hitting him with just the right force and at just the right angle or he'll basically die, and that he needs to do a bunch of training, but then Girder kidnaps Iris and the Flash just does it anyways and it works and it's still not impressive because the Flash basically punches Girder's SFX off and it really doesn't look cool at all.
There are two good things about this episode, and it will not shock you to learn that they are Joe West and Harrison Wells. The fact that they spend most of their time onscreen together is what saves this episode. Joe asks Wells help in solving the murder of Barry's mother, since when the Flash saves people and carries them away from danger, Joe figures it looks a lot like what Barry saw that night (minus the figure in yellow, natch). Wells is immediately dismissive, since no particle accelerator or dark matter storm existed back then. Joe stops by again later to share a few theories… and Wells realizes Joe is actually investigating him, because Joe is smart and awesome and a great cop. Wells moved to Central City a month after Barry's mom's murder. An angry Wells tells Joe to look up a woman named Tess Morgan. Joe does look her up, and discovers she was Harrison's wife and lab partner, who died in a car wreck; Wells moved to Central City to start over. Joe apologizes, and all is well.
…until Joe, going over the case notes of the murder at home, suddenly sees a tornado of red and a man in a yellow suit, right in his living room. It's exactly what Barry saw, with one important difference — when it's over, there a picture of Iris pinned to the wall with a knife, and "STOP OR ELSE" is written below it.
So let's discuss. As some of you guys have been theorizing in the comments, this episode really wants us to think Wells is the Reverse-Flash. Additionally, it seems like Barry and Wells are the only two people who know Joe is investigating this case, which makes Wells the prime suspect — but the knife-in-picture seems too dumb for Wells (admittedly, after the Girder fiasco, I'm much less confident about this) and the show seems to be pointing at Wells so hard as the culprit I'm beginning to suspect it's not him. So if nothing else, The Flash has succeeded in keeping us all guessing, including comic fans.
I wanted to end this recap on a positive note, because I am enjoying the show, and I don't really mind these growing pains as the show settles in. But I want to end this recap more by pointing out the dumbest moment in this episode: The moment the Flash is literally defeated by a goddamned shelf.
During a fight, this shelf falls on Barry and Girder somehow thinks this means the Flash is dead. The Flash is somehow unable to avoid it, because he's been wounded, although Barry has literally run miles both when wounded and with his lungs full of poison gas. Furthermore, this happens in Girder's hideout, so rather than doublecheck at his complete and total leisure that the Flash is dead, or to unmask him, or to even decide to remove the supposed corpse from his living area, the bad guy just leaves. This allows Barry's friends to show up and rescue The World's Fastest Man… by moving the shelf he somehow couldn't move himself. It's terrible.
Next week's episode is "Power Outage," in which the FOTW is the electricity villain Blackout, along with Robert Knepper's Clock King, last seen in Arrow. So that's probably going to be better. And after that is the two-part Arrow crossover, and that should probably kick some ass... assuming the Arrow doesn't bring any shelves with him.
• I can't believe I'm writing this, but of the two shows this week, Gotham's portrayal of schoolyard bullies was more nuanced.
• This is the episode where Iris dubs Barry "The Flash," so at least we have that out of the way.
• Also, Iris sees Girder and his powers, so now she's interested in all metahumans. In fact, she's heard reports of a dude on fire…
• I think Caitlin had a good moment when she was reseting Barry's shoulder; I'm not sure I can explain, it just felt like we were seeing her actual personality, or maybe that she was really connecting with Barry as opposed to just trying to be Fauxlicity Smoak. Anyone else agree?
• Also I have to admit I appreciated Caitlin and Cisco's discussion of how many bugs Barry must swallow upon average when he runs. It truly must be a huge, disgusting amount.
• Thawne is weirdly chummy with Barry tonight. Is the show trying to fake us out some more? Or maybe the event that makes him the Reverse-Flash hasn't happened to him yet?
• You know, for a genius, Barry can be terrifyingly dim sometimes. The episode basically ends with the Flash taking off his mask in front of the imprisoned Girder, just so he knows he was taken out by the kid he used to bully. Yeah, revealing your secret identity to your supervillains is no big deal. That's why Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne do it so often.
• And that's not to mention how ridiculous it makes the Iris situation. Okay, Barry will reveal his secret to a supervillain who used to beat him up in elementary school, but he won't tell his best friend even though her father knows and she's already running a blog about him and endangering herself? Ugh.
• No one looks before crossing the street in Central City. No one.