The Quantum Splicer is a success and Ronnie Raymond is successfully separated from Professor Martin Stein. Unfortunately, General Wade Eiling has learned of The Firestorm Matrix. And he thinks it would be a wonderful addition to his secret project to create metahuman soldiers.
Meanwhile, a colleague begins goading Iris into using her friendships to dig into what's really going on in STAR Labs as Joe tells Barry what he and Cisco discovered about how Barry might someday be able to travel in time.
The Flash: Rebirth by Geoff Johns and the Firestorm comics of Gerry Conway.
Ignoring the problems with a covert military team attacking a crowded coffee shop full of civilians in the middle of an urban area unnoticed, why the heck didn't General Eiling block the roads off?
Victor Garber does a fine job portraying Martin Stein as a socially awkward academic who nevertheless is trying to make the best of a strange situation. The interplay between Garber and Robbie Amell is brilliant, as is the chemistry between Amell and Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow.
Clancy Brown is wonderful as always and it's a shame that the end of the episode suggests this will be the last we see of General Eiling.
The reveal of "the properly merged" Firestorm is quite good, as is the action scene in which Stein and Raymond achieve balance.
Time Travel is a frequent high-end super-power for heroes with super-speed in the DC Universe. In the Silver Age, Barry Allen was only able to time travel through the use of a device called The Cosmic Treadmill. Wally West, the third Flash, was able to time travel without the use of an external device though the did need a focus (the love of his wife, Linda) to act as a beacon so he could return home afterward.
The telepathic bond between Ronnie and Professor Stein is something new added to The Flash TV series. In the comics, Ronnie forced the connection to transform into Firestorm early on, leaving Professor Stein confused as to what was happening while he was blacked out. Ronnie eventually convinced the Professor as to the truth of what was happening. It was then that the two merged into a hive mind with Ronnie controlling the body and the Professor offering advice that was the most familiar incarnation of Firestorm in the comics and cartoons for many years.
Caitlin, Barry and Joe tell Iris that Ronnie is Caitlin's cousin Sam from Coast City. In the comics, Coast City is the home of Hal Jordan a.k.a. Green Lantern and is roughly analogous to San Diego or Los Angeles.
Professor Stein paraphrases Shakespeare's Henry V - "Once more into the breach, dear friend!" - when he and Ronnie merge together willingly. In the original quote, the word "friends" is used.
As in the comics, there is a running gag about Ronnie hating his given first name Ronald and Professor Stein refusing to use the nickname "Ronnie".
Later, Caitlin says that Sam went home to Midway City. In the comics, Midway City is the home of the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkwoman. Depending on the writer, it was roughly analogous to Chicago, Illinois or Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
General Eiling's dialogue at the end suggests that DCTVU version of Grodd only speaks through telepathy. In the comics, Grodd is a powerful telepath but is also capable of human speech.
Barry's suit has a built-in Geiger counter for measuring radiation.
Less than one millirad is normal background radiation.
Post-separation, Dr. Stein and Ronnie run a temperature of 100.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wells says that time travel is possible yet problematic.
The Novikov Principle of Self Consistency states that if you travel back in time to change something, you will become the causal factor of the event you are trying to change.
Another theory is that time is mutable and any changes to the continuum create an alternate timeline.
Stein believes that space-time is a free-flowing highway that intersects the physical world and that humanity lives in the moments between the on and off ramps of the freeway. Theoretically, one would need to find a way onto the highway to travel into the past or future.
Stein theorizes that it would be possible for Barry to time travel if the kinetic energy build up of his speed smashed a hole in the space-time continuum.
General Eiling utilizes a special shrapnel grenade to disable The Flash, which releases micro-fragments attracted to kinetic energy.
All of Ronnie and Prof. Stein's brain waves -Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta - are perfectly in-sync.
Cisco suggests that the Quantum Splicer could be used to keep Ronnie from rebonding with Stein. It does indeed seem to control the fusion process more effectively, with Ronnie now controlling his own body and Stein acting as a second set of eyes who gives Ronnie his knowledge.
Wells notes that The Firestorm Matrix is building towards a proximity reemergence and that the closer Stein and Ronnie get together, the more likely it is they will merge again.
Barry is hit with some kind of weaponized phosphorous - a burning chemical that cannot be extinguished by foam or water. Barry is able to neutralize the chemical by running fast enough in a circle to generate a vacuum around himself.
Eiling makes use of an ion grenade which bombards Firestorm's cellular structure with enough ions to destabilize The Firestorm Matrix.
(As Caitlin and Ronnie are kissing passionately at Ground Zero)
Professor Stein: Uh, pardon me. But obviously I need a change of clothes.
Dr. Wells: Assuming you could create the conditions necessary to take that journey, well that journey would be fraught with potential pitfalls. The Novikov Principle of Self Consistency, for example.
Joe: Wait - the what now?
Barry: If you travel back in time to change something, then you end up being the causal factor of that event.
Cisco: Like Terminator.
Dr. Wells: Or is time plastic? Is it mutable, whereby any changes to the continuum create an alternate timeline?
Cisco: Back To The Future.
Joe: Ah. I saw that one too.
Dr. Wells: (in a Doc Brown voice) Doc Brown! Tremendous picture.
(looking at a digital read out)
Professor Stein: I'm still inside Ronald.
Cisco: There HAS to be a better way to phrase that.
Caitlin: The chances of that happening are next to impossible.
Barry: Impossible's just another Tuesday for us, remember?
Cisco: Yeah, but this is like some Twilight Zone level stuff. And I say that knowing full-well that we have a guy locked up in our basement who can turn himself into poison gas.
Ronnie: Wait, really?!
Cisco: Dude, that was like week three!
General Eiling: I joined the military when I was 20 years old, Professor. My father had me convinced that our greatest threat was the Soviets. Our greatest fear - nuclear war. Then came terrorism. Ebola. And now it's the age of Firestorm. Soldiers enhanced by your project, Professor Soldiers who can generate energy blasts with their bare hands. Soldiers who can fly.
Professor Stein: I would gladly die before I see my life's work perverted in this way.
General Eiling: Good. Because you will die, Professor. How soon I let that happen though is entirely up to you.
Ronnie: Cait, Barry was right. The world's different now. I thought we could get away. Start a new life. A normal life together. But there is no normal life for us. You will always risk your life to try and help people. And I will always be the guy that runs into that pipeline for you.
Caitlin: It's okay. I understand. You have to go.
Ronnie: How did you know?
Caitlin: I'm connected to you too.
Professor Stein: (To Barry) I believe in second chances. You'll get yours. Give it time.
Professor Stein: Ready, Ronald?
Ronnie: Please stop calling me that!
(As The Reverse Flash unmasks himself after dragging General Eiling into a sewer)
General Eiling: Harrison! You're one of them! A metahuman!
Dr. Wells: Yes, I am. And I protect my own.
(growling is heard from behind Eiling)
General Eiling: What was that?
Dr. Wells: Now, THAT... is an old friend of ours.
General Eiling: That voice...It's in my head! Dear God!
Grodd: Not God. Grodd!
Barry is proven to be fast enough to outrun the blast wave of a nuclear explosion... if just barely.
Mason Bridge, the reporter asked to mentor Isis, is seen for the first time since F111.
Dr. Stein also conducted studies into the theory of time travel.
Stein's chosen destination for a time travel trip would be the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, so that he could argue with Nikola Tesla.
Caitlin refers to the events of F108 and Cisco's accident while testing one of Captain Boomerang's weapons.
Ronnie Raymond and Professor Stein share some kind of telepathic/empathic bond that enables Stein to feel it when Ronnie is hit with a sedative dart and his feelings of fear. Likewise, Ronnie is able to feel it when Stein is slipped a drugged drink by Dr. Wells. Their connection is also somewhat physical, with a message that Ronnie carves into his arm appearing on Stein's arm.
Caitlin refers to her meeting with Jason Rusch back in F110 and how The Army took all of Stein's research.
Cisco refers to The Mist, who was indeed fought on "week three" (i.e. F103)
General Eiling knows Barry Allen's secret identity. He was able to get a clear view of Barry's unmasked face back in F105 when Barry removed his mask as Plastique was dying.
Wells sells Stein out to Eiling.
As Eiling shocks Stein with a cattle prod, he notes the last time he did this was to a gorilla, in reference to the flashback scenes from F105.
Professor Stein knows Morse Code.
Stein is being kept at Facility 27 - an officially closed down Army base 300 miles away from Central City.
Stein and Ronnie leave for Pittsburgh at the episode's end, to meet with a colleague of Stein's he thinks may be able to help them learn about their powers.
Iris makes a connection between "The Burning Man" and STAR Labs.
We see Dr. Wells wearing the Reverse Flash costume for the first time.
At the end of the episode, General Eiling is apparently killed by Gorilla Grodd, whom Dr. Wells is working with.
The Fridge Factor
It's somewhat vexing that Iris' whole motivation in investigating the weirdness at STAR Labs is born of a male colleague telling her what to do.
The Bottom Line
A solid episode and a good back-door pilot for a Firestorm series. As usual, the only aspect of the show that really doesn't work involves Iris and her reporting job. It wouldn't be so bad if she were going after STAR Labs of her own volition and not because of the ideas planted by her sleazy co-worker. And Barry is given surprisingly little to do but mope about how it's already predestined for him to fail in saving his mother. Still, the episode works well for the most part. And the cliff-hanger may be the strongest one yet!