Let me start off with a confession: I adore Kevin Smith. Dogma is one of my favorite movies. He’s from Jersey, just like me. I enjoy his work. When I heard he was directing an episode of The Flash, it made me happy. And I’m glad to say that episode 21 (“The Runaway Dinosaur”) had a lot of heart. It also had a lot of layers. So, let’s dig in.
Barry wakes up in his childhood home and talks to the Speed Force. This could’ve been cheesy or weird but it was well done. It took the form of various people in Barry’s life (felt a little like The Wizard of Oz), and it acted like a mirrorbox, allowing him to see himself. There was real character development and growth here. And yes, he was a little whiny in the beginning (“If I’m the Flash, then why are you doing this to me?”), and sure, it was a little a maddening that the Speed Force was so rigid. If Barry didn’t catch the blur (shoutout to Cat Grant!), he wouldn’t get his powers back.
It did, however, present an interesting contrast. Initially, Barry’s powers were given to him. Now, they have to be earned. And it turns out the heart of the problem is Barry letting his mom die. The Speed Force, in the guise of Harry, says, “Your mother’s death happened to you, Barry. It made you who you are. But have you accepted it, really accepted losing her?” I think this taps into what everyone feels when a parent dies. It’s fundamental. Death happens. It changes you. But there are always doubts, always what-ifs. “If only I’d…” But the Speed Force isn’t letting Barry off the hook: “You really think your mother would’ve wanted you to die for her?” Of all things, it is the voice of wisdom.
The series of interactions are what allows Barry to forgive himself. To fight his way back to who he is, and to finally let go of the guilt he’s been clutching. When the Speed Force finally takes the form of his mother, I’m not going to lie: I cried. It was a hard-hitting scene. Because it was, and was not, Barry’s mother. Anyone who has lost a parent knows that he or she would give anything to hear his/her voice one more time. And while it may not have entirely been his mom, the well-meaning and powerful illusion was enough. It tells Barry, “What you’ve become, it’s wonderful – a miracle, even. But it won’t make things stop happening to you.”
That’s some real talk right there. No matter what, bad things happen in life. You’ve got to keep moving, you’ve got to face yourself. And that’s exactly what Barry does when he finally catches his shadow (symbolism – you can’t outrun yourself, etc.) and comes face to face with himself (literally). And in that moment, he’s whole again, figuratively and literally. The Speed Force/his mother urges, “Run, Barry. Run.” That’s a perfect throwback to the recurring line. And it’s great timing, because Iris and Cisco have come to bring him home, because, as Cisco puts it, “I’m so glad you’re back, because we’re about to die.” (No pressure!)
Because zombies! Okay, zombie, but still. (There’s even an iZombie reference!) After Iris and Cisco discover that Tony has been reanimated (“A zombie? For real?”“It’s The Walking Dead, but without hire brain functions.”), he runs amok in the city, looking for Iris. He’s all fire, bad. Tree, pretty—crossed with HULK SMASH. A clever plan is devised to deactivate him, but plans A through G fail, which leads to everyone being trapped, while Tony pounds on the door, basically grunting Stelllllllllla. (Not really. But he was very Frankenstein’s monster. He even startled at his own reflection. Nicely done.)
By the way, it bears stating that throughout the entire episode Joe is basically the only adult. He reasons with everyone who needs talking down. He has an awkward, but well-meaning conversation with Wally. This is in sharp contrast to Harry, who spends the majority of the episode pissed off that Barry exploded. I mean, I don’t blame him. But when you’re a doctor and someone (Jesse) is in a coma, I’m pretty sure you shove that aside and try and help. Not wait until your guilt-reasoned out of it. But what do I know?
Barry saves the day using Plan H—btw, the comedic timing in this episode was perfect—and all is well. He even manages to wake up Wells’ daughter, Jesse, from her coma. He touched her hand and shocked her, leaving everyone to gape and Cisco to quip, “Are you like magic now?” (I would watch an entire show just of Cisco’s one-liners, y’all.) But it was nice to see Barry knowing exactly what to do, for a change. He didn’t hesitate—he acted. I hope this means we’ll a more confident, assertive Barry from here on out.
Barry’s journey wraps up nicely with a visit to his mother’s grave. He leaves her a book they used to read when he was little (which is where the episode’s title comes from). It was a touching moment, which was driven home by a solid performance from Grant Gustin. And while I do not like Barry and Iris together (because NOPE), I did appreciate the earnest sweetness of his speech to her: “And the sound of your voice will always bring me home.” Yeah, I awww’d. Because it was pretty much perfect, and I’m sucker for love. And shut up.
One last bit of curiosity, though: Zoom. He presents Caitlin with a choice. Leave or stay. If she leaves, he will show her no mercy. But if she stays, he’ll…what? Buy her a pony? He didn’t say. While his plan seems a bit Pinky and the Brain (NARF), hell-bent on taking over the world, I have questions. 1. How does one control a mob of evil meta humans? 2. Did they look like the Titans from Hercules to anyone else? And 3. What happens if (when) Caitlin stays? She hasn’t had a lot of luck reasoning with him, so I’m curious as to what her tactics/weapons/persuasion will be.
All in all, I hope Smith comes back and directs another episode. It made have been my favorite from this season. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go get a burger at Mooby’s.