Instead of embarrassing us all by calling last night's episode "explosive," let's just say The Flash pretty much stays the course in "Plastique." The good stuff is still good, the weak parts are still weak, and the Harrison Wells reveal at the end of the episode is still awesomely mysterious. Nothing wrong with that!
As the title entails, "Plastique" features the DC villainess of the same name as this week's resident freak. However, instead of the terrorist from the comics who can blow up anything she touches, The Flash turns her into an Army sergeant with the same power, which she received during the STAR Labs explosion (she was recovering from an attack in Iraq, and had shrapnel from a bomb still inside her at the time, hence her boom power). The evil general Clancy Brown — and yes, I know he's technically playing minor DC character General Wade Eiling, but come on, he's still totally playing evil Clancy Brown — was having her sliced up to figure out her power for military uses, she ran away, and now she wants revenge. All standard Evil Clancy Brown procedure, really.
Barry and the SuperSTARS are pretty chuffed to find out she's the first metahuman that doesn't want to use her new powers for evil (besides Barry, of course). In fact, she even stops wanting revenge when she thinks the SuperSTARS can help cure her; it's only when they can't that she decides to murder Clancy Brown, and she only decides that after a secret pep-talk from Harrison Wells, in the clearest evidence yet that Wells is outright evil. Plastique pretends to turn herself in, uses her powers to surprise Clancy, but Barry arrives and stops her before she can kill him… which is when Clancy shoots and kills her from behind Barry's back (hey, he's fast, but he doesn't have eyes in the back of his head).
All that's left is for Plastique body to turn into a timebomb, and for the Flash to find out if he can run on water in order to get the body far enough from Central City before it explodes, and then if he can outrun the explosion too. Surprise: he can! The end, more or less. The overarching plot was pretty by the book, but it was solid. Here are a few in-between there were a few developments and special moments worth noting.
1) Barry figured out, what, like three new powers this episode? He can run up buildings, he can run on water, and he vibrate his vocals cords so that he sounds exactly like Barry Allen on bad cellphone reception.
1a) Seriously, it's absurd how undisguised Barry's voice is, and it's ridiculous that Iris can't recognize Barry in costume. However, this is more than made up by Joe/Jesse L. Martin's complete and utter delight when Barry shows him his new voice trick. It's such a weird, unique, genuine-seeming moment that it works and is completely delightful.
2) This may not shock you, but I love Barry's horrified discovery at the bar than he can no longer get drunk. I also love that Cisco and Caitlyn invent a 500 proof shot for their friend (SHUT UP HE CAN RUN UP A BUILDING I CAN TOTALLY ACCEPT ULTRA-BOOZE) and when Barry's super-metabolism processes it in less than a minute, they promise to keep working on it.
2a) Basically I just like that Barry is genuinely sad at the idea of not drinking and his genius friends want to help him.
3) I love that we discover Iris has an actual reason for starting her ridiculous Flash blog, and it's because of Barry. The Flash is the first tangible proof that Barry's version of his mother's murder is true, and since Iris and Barry are best friends, of course she's trying to follow up this amazing lead for him. This not only makes sense, it deepens the Barry-Iris relationship with an actual action as opposed to the show merely telling us "Boy, they sure are great friends!" over and over again.
4) I like that Joe knows — has always known — Barry loves Iris. Because Joe is neither blind nor an idiot.
5) I loved the scene of Barry outrunning the tidal wave causing by Plastique exploding. Seriously, I know this shit is expensive, and the show can only do something like this once per episode. I'm totally fine with this. Watching one scene of the Flash do something so immensely Flash-like is always satisfying.
6) I loved this episode's now-traditional "Mysterious Wells Ending Scene." This time, it shows Wells and General Clancy Brown working together five years ago, or rather dissolving their partnership, because Wells refuses to let someone be experimented on in such an awful way. Pan over to an ape in a cage… an ape named Grodd.
6a) I literally did a fist pump when Grodd appeared on screen because I was so excited, and then I remember the pilot actually featured Grodd's empty cage, so this technically wasn't a surprise at all. And then I realized I didn't care and still thought it was totally awesome.
7) And in the greatest of shocks, I actually enjoyed Cisco for one brief, shining moment. I know, it sounds insane, but bear with me. It was when the Flash returns mostly naked after Plastique touches his suit and he has to ditch it. Cisco is shocked that Barry no longer has the suit, and then he's just mad. Because it was his favorite suit. Of three. Which he doesn't wear. It was just so weird and out of character for Cisco — out of Cisco's terrible, terrible normal character — that I appreciated it immensely.
Then there are the problems, most of which we already know.
1) Caitlin. I don't think its actress Danielle Panabaker's fault, I just think the show has no idea what to do with her other than make her a cheap imitation of Felicity, and it's not working. And for the record, Flash, when Caitlin notices she's having a Felicity moment, it's not cute, it's just a reminder that we're stuck with Felicity Lite.
2) Cisco, any time other than when he's genuinely pissed about Barry losing the suit. Cisco immediately ruins the good will he generated by instantly returning to his dopey, grinning norm when he sees Plastique and begins to fawn over her. Sigh.
3) All of Barry's attempts to get Iris to stop blogging about the Flash as per Joe's orders. Given Barry's previously established interest in the unknown for his entire life, his sudden disinterest makes zero sense, and Iris knows it, and yet Joe and Barry keep trying this one tactic, even after Iris reveals her reason for blogging. It's dumb and nonsensical.
3a) The worst is Barry's weird final talk with Iris, where he tells her to stop the blog, she says no because Barry's being a weirdo, and then Barry more or less tries to break up with her even though they aren't dating.
4) Barry's painfully shallow, on-the-nose ending narration. Hush, child. Just let Harrison Wells be creepy and mysterious, okay?
One more thing re: the Iris problem. I don't know how The Flash achieved this so much faster than Arrow did with Laurel, but it is already ridiculous that Iris doesn't know Barry's secret. Practically every other character on the show knows, and now that Iris is blogging about the "streak" (and using her own name! Gasp!!!) how would she really be in any more danger if she knew the truth? It's completely absurd at this point, and not only is the show having to jump through absurd hoops to keep this shitty status quo, the only thing it's doing with it is forcing dumb, dumb drama between Barry and Iris that could be solved if Barry would just choose to act like a semi-intelligent, somewhat rational person. Sigh.
But other than that, The Flash is running pretty smoothly (sorry). This is only episode five, and I wouldn't expect The Flash to take off the training wheels and ditch the freak o' the week format until the Arrow crossover, and even then it might return to it for a while. But if it follows Arrow's trajectory (sorry again), The Flash should shift gears from good to great sometime before the first season finale (actually I'm not sorry at all. Puns rule).
• When Joe tells Thawne to "let Barry do his stuff" in the file room, did anyone else think Thawne had a strange, almost knowing look on his face? Also, in the pic above, is that not the look of a dude trolling Barry so hard without Barry having the slightest idea?
• Really, Plastique? You didn't notice the giant tracking marble lodged in the giant wound in your arm?
• When Wells tells Plastique she can't be cured, he specifically says "The technology that can cure you hasn't been invented yet." DUDE. YOU ARE SO FROM THE FUTURE. Or visited there. Or something.
• In his private, more evil conversation with Plastique, Wells also tells her he "would do anything to regain what [he'd] lost." We know his legs are fine. Any theories as to what, exactly, Wells is trying to regain? Presumably through Barry in some way?
• Odds that Plastique's body was absolutely fine after the explosion and she came back to life and will appear on future episodes? I say one in three. The nice bit about Flash's villains all being metahumans is that they can die on-screen and most of them can still probably come back for an encore appearance. You know, moreso than Arrow's enemies can come back from an arrow to the heart.
• Don't think I didn't notice the cover of A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran (So Far Away)" there at the end, Flash. HAVE SOME GODDAM DIGNITY.