It's been six months since the defeat of The Reverse Flash and much has changed in Central City. The Flash now operates openly but he also works alone, determined to keep any other people in Barry Allen's life from dying while working to rebuild the city at night, one broken building at a time. Joe West and Cisco Ramon are hard at work too, developing a special police task force capable of fighting metahuman criminals and the the tools to do the job. They will all find themselves tested shortly, as a new metahuman with murder on his mind seeks out The Flash.
The JSA comics of David Goyer, James Robinson and Geoff Johns (details regarding Atom Smasher) and The Flash comics of Geoff Johns (references to The Flash: Rebirth and the general tone of the writing.)
Al Rothstein was one of the names on Harrison Wells' list of people who died during the particle accelerator explosion in 107, so how can he be turning up dead some 21 months later or have been on his honeymoon in Hawaii at the time of The Particle Accelerator Explosion? (Possibly there is more than one Al Rothstein in Central City?)
How can The Reverse Flash's video confession to Nora Allen's murder still exist when Eobard Thawne never existed?
Henry Allen's leaving Central City - while not a goof - is rather sloppily written. A man has been in jail for the better part of two decades and wants to get out of town so as not to step on the toes of his devoted son? There's a LOT better reasons Henry might want to get out of Central City for a while - see the world and revel in his newfound freedom by traveling? Go to the places he dreamed of seeing while he was in prison? Maybe visit the places he and his wife talked about going but never had the chance?
Candice Patton gets a nice silent moment, as Iris looks at Eddie Thawne's picture on the memorial wall at the police station.
Jesse L. Martin and Carlos Valdes play off of each other beautifully and the partnership between Joe and Cisco leads to some of the funnier moments of the episode. The two actors had an amazing chemistry in their few moments alone last season and its good to see that continuing this year.
Another good dialogue occurs between Grant Gustin and Danielle Panabaker. Barry and Caitlin are the two characters who have lost the most respectively due to Eobard Thawne's schemes, with Caitlin having lost the man she loves twice as well as her job and Barry - at this moment - feeling like he's accomplished nothing with his heroism except getting his friends killed. It's good to see the two of them get to unload on one another and both actors play the moment well.
The set design on The Flash Day ceremony is brilliant.
There's a nice symmetry in the script, with the flashback depicting a depressed Barry some six months after his mother died and Barry's state of mind some six months after Ronnie Raymond died saving him and Joe giving him an inspiring speech each time.
In the comics, Al Rothstein was the name of a metahuman who was primarily known as The Atom Smasher. Originally known as Nuklon, he was one of the founding members of Infinity Inc. - a superhero team made up of the children and heirs apparent of The Justice Society of America. In Al's case, he was the godson and namesake of Al Pratt - the original Atom. Rothstein later joined the JSA under the name Atom Smasher and adopted a costume that utilized the same blue mask as Al Pratt's costume.
Atom Smasher's costume on the show is similar to his costume from the comics, save that the comic version wore a cloth mask rather than the retracting armored helmet we see in this episode.
In the comics, Atom Smasher's powers were a legacy from his grandfather - an atomic scientist turned reluctant supervillain called Cyclotron. Atom Smasher's chief power was the ability to increase his size up to a height of 60 feet. This in turn gave him increased strength and durability, which increased proportionately with his size. At his maximum height, he was capable of hurting Power Girl with a single punch
In the show, Atom Smasher draws upon ambient radiation to fuel his powers. The comics version of Atom Smasher had no need to do this.
Interestingly, this version of Atom Smasher shares his comic book counterpart's tendency for making questionable moral decisions. During his time in The Justice Society, Atom Smasher bent the laws of time to save his mother from dying in a plane crash and left a super-villain for dead at the same point in time. He later killed a brutal dictator to help his friend Black Adam retake his homeland.
Superheroes being awarded the key to their city and having a day devoted to them with a ceremony that is disrupted by a super-villain attack is a long-standing tradition in superhero comics. It seems to happen with particular frequency to The Flash. So much so that one episode of Justice League United - Flash And Substance - was devoted to that exact storyline.
The Flash performing construction as super-speed to help clean up after a disaster is another long-running gag from the classic comics. Superman also does this a fair bit.
In his speech at The Flash Day ceremony, Mayor Bellows says that The Flash restores hope as well as protecting the people of Central City. In the Blackest Night event, Barry Allen was the one person on Earth judged most worthy of temporarily wielding the Power Ring of a Blue Lantern, who draw power from Hope as Green Lanterns draw power from their Will.
Barry carries a handkerchief. This is a nod to the comics where Barry is somewhat old-fashioned, being the sort who still wears bow-ties to formal occasions.
Caitlin's plan to take down Atom Smasher by feeding him more radiation than his powers can cope with is another classic comic-book cliche for dealing with energy-absorbing villains and monsters.
The spotlight with The Flash symbol on it used to lure Atom Smasher out into the open is, of course, a nod to The Bat Signal from the Batman comics, which is used by the Gotham Police Department to summon Batman to Police Headquarters.
Al Rothstein had petechiae on his face and the whites of his eyes and bruising around his neck. This indicated he was strangled to death by someone very strong and very large.
Cisco constructs a device that he dubs The Boot as the CCPD's first special anti-metahuman weapon. In essence, The Boot is a rifle that fires a metal circlet. This circlet attaches itself around the ankle or lower leg of a metahuman and administers a non-lethal but incapacitating electric shock. It fails to work on Atom Smasher, however, due to his high level of invulnerability and his being able to outgrow the circlet.
In the flashback to the day of The Singularity, we see that The Flash was able to contain and stabalize The Singularity by adding to its angular momentum. In order to close it, the inner and outer event horizons had to be merged. To do this, Firestorm had to separate in the eye of The Singularity. Professor Stein theorized that the energy of the fission should do the trick. He was right, but Ronnie Raymond was seemingly lost in the resulting explosion.
Iris discovers that the hospital next to the site of The Flash Day ceremony had all of their X-Ray and CT machines go dead at the same time Atom Smasher grew bigger. Cisco investigates this further, determining the same thing happened at every hospital with a one mile radius. This leads to the conclusion that Atom Smasher absorbs radiation to fuel his powers.
Cisco is impressed that Mercury Labs owns a 6K Proton Splicer.
All humans contain small amounts of radiation due to contact with cel phones, microwaves, and televisions. Human bodies are natural conductors.
(As Ronnie and Caitlin kiss)
Prof. Stein: Thank you for NOT doing that when I was inside you.
Ronnie: That happened one time! Let it go.
Barry: My name is Barry Allen and I'm the fastest man alive. When I was a child I saw my mother killed by something impossible. My father went to prison for her murder. Then an accident made me the impossible. And I became The Flash. I used my powers to find the man responsible for my mother's death. I thought i wound finally get justice for my family. But I failed. It's been six months since The Singularity. I'm on my own now. Decided it's better that way. Keeps the people I care about safe. There's only one thing I can do now. I run.
(Talking about trying to get Barry to attend the Flash Day ceremony)
Iris: Someone should try to get through to him.
Joe: Maybe his best friend?
Cisco: Joe, believe me, I've tried!
Joe: I meant her.
Mayor Bellows: Our wounds run deep and I know many of you are afraid of what threats tomorrow may bring. But The Flash doesn't just protect us - he restores hope where it was lost! That's why I'm honored to present The Key to the man who saved Central City - The Flash!
(Team Flash discover a three-block radioactive dead-zone around a hazardous waste reclamation plant)
Professor Stein: That's where you'll find your atom smasher!
(Iris and Cisco just look at Professor Stein strangely)
Professor Stein: (laughs nervously) Because he absorbs atomic power. And he... well, smashes!
Cisco: Come here.
(Cisco hugs Professor Stein)
Cisco: That's a great name. Welcome to the team.
Professor Stein: Thank you.
"Harrison Wells": Hello Barry. If you're watching this, that means something has gone horribly wrong. I'm dead. And the last 15 years have been for nothing. Bummer. 15 years. You know... when I realize in all those years helping raise you, we were never truly enemies, Barry. I'm not the thing you hate. And so I'm going to give you the thing that you want most. It won't matter.You'll never be truly happy, Barry Allen. Trust me. I know you. Now (clears throat) Erase everything I said up to this point. Give the following message to the police. (pauses) My name is Harrison Wells. Being of sound mind and body, I freely confess to the murder of Nora Allen, in her home, on the night of March 18th, in the year 2000...
Barry makes reference to Gorilla Grodd, last seen in 121. Reference is once again made to Joe West's fear of gorillas.
Jay Garrick is first seen taking a picture of Barry while he's at work, investigating the Rothstein murder.
Captain Singh, last seen in 123, has grown a goatee. He has also granted Joe's request to establish an anti-metahuman task force, with Cisco as his scientific adviser.
As the episode opens, Cisco does not have a police badge. By the episode's end, he does, though it is unclear if he is considered a full police officer or if he serves in a capacity similar to a CSI like Barry.
Caitlin is said to be working at Mercury Labs, which was last mentioned in 118.
Eddie Thawne's picture is seen hanging on a memorial wall at the CCPD police station.
We see the events at the end of 123 through one of Barry's flashbacks. While being able to hold the singularity in check by running around its interior at super-speed, he was not able to reverse it. Firestorm was able to close The Singularity by separating in The Singularity's eye. This resulted in Ronnie Raymond's apparent death.
Mayor Bellows is seen for the first time since 117.
Jay Garrick is also seen in the crowd at the Flash Day ceremony, standing a bit behind Iris.
During the fight with Atom Smasher at The Flash Day ceremony, Cisco has another vision as in 120. He sees Atom Smasher speaking to a figure covered in blue-lightning - presumably Zoom.
Caitlin mentions Dr. Tina McGee, head scientist at Mercury Labs, last seen in 119.
Barry was given STAR Labs as part of Harrison Wells' living trust, but Barry's ownership of the property was contingent upon him watching a video message from Wells on a flash drive given to him by Wells' law firm. He refuses to watch it until Caitlin offers to watch it with him.
For the first time, Professor Stein names a metahuman criminal.
Cisco is now capable enough as a hacker than he can break into security camera feeds.
During their second fight, Atom Smasher says that "he" said Barry was some kind of big hero. The "he" turns out to be Zoom.
Comic books exist in the DCTVU and (unsurprisingly) Cisco is a fan. He credits his idea for The Flash Signal to some comic he read once.
As Barry lures Atom Smasher into their trap, Joe West says "Run, Barry, Run." - the catchphrase of Harrison Wells during Season One.
Before he dies, Atom Smasher tells Barry that he was trying to kill Barry because someone called Zoom promised to take him back to his home if he did so.
Henry Allen is cleared on all charges thanks to Wells' confession. Rather than stay in Central City, however, he elects to travel for a bit, though he promises to be there should Barry ever need him.
At the end of the episode, Cisco alters The Flash costume so that the lighting bolt symbol has a white circle backing it, as they saw on the future newspaper in 120.
Jay Garrick reveals himself to Team Flash, not yet revealing how he got through STAR Labs new and improved security, but saying only that their world is in danger.
The Fridge Factor
Averted in that it is Caitlin who comes up with the plan to stop Atom Smasher by feeding him more radiation than he can absorb.
The Bottom Line
The Flash is back and as good as ever. There are some nagging questions about just how the laws of time work in this universe, given how little things have changed compared to what did and should have changed. Presumably some kind of explanation is coming up and I'd be willing to be part of that explanation comes next week along with an explanation of just who Jay Garrick is.