THE FLASH Review 1.13 “The Nuclear Man”

Firestorm goes nuclear and Barry deals with an unprecedented complication from his powers. 

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"He wants to go home to her."

The Flash never stops moving, does it? "The Nuclear Man" furthers the narrative in so many satisfying ways, exhibiting this show's endless momentum with every new scene. Just about every major plot thread from the beginning of the season takes shape here: Firestorm, Barry's mom's murder and even Barry's unrequited love for Iris are all given compelling developments in an episode that manages to be sweet, funny, heart-wrenching and thrilling at once. 

Firestorm (or F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M.) takes up most of the weight of the episode, with the STAR Labs team staking out Professor Stein's home, certain he'll return to check on his wife, Clarissa. Sure enough, he does, and after a breathless confrontation with Barry, Stein (who is doing most of the driving when it comes to Ronnie's body) is convinced to head to STAR Labs to see if Dr. Wells can't separate the two entities. We're also treated to a few flashbacks to the night that Stein and Ronnie were joined, the night of the particle accelerator explosion, and Victor Garber is doing a killer job as the wise and kindly professor. As a matter of fact, Robbie Amell isn't half bad, either, in the same role. As their temperature rises and Wells deduces that The Burning Man is about to become The Nuclear Man if he can't separate them, it seems that it's going to take more than science to calm this storm. Stein and Ronnie each love a woman, and will each do anything to protect her, to go home to her. The episode ends with a nuclear explosion as Caitlin looks on in horror, moments after Ronnie kissed her goodbye, but I'm not convinced that means that Stein and Ronnie are gone. Either way, Wells' willingness to subvert his mysterious plans and turn the tachyonic device into a quantum splicer in order to prevent the explosion without killing Stein and Ronnie seems to indicate that he's a better man than we're sometimes led to believe.

Also supporting that theory: his blood doesn't match either sample found by Joe and Cisco at the site of Nora Allen's murder. It's great seeing these two work together, as they're two characters who have been kept largely separate until now, and they share a great rapport right away. Cisco's trick with the mirror is delightful - and he certainly seems delighted in himself for conceiving of it - and I could watch these guys play CSI for the rest of the season. But Cisco's glee is tempered when Joe confesses that he suspects Wells of Nora's murder, and he handles the revelation with so much integrity and intelligence: he defends Wells fiercely, but still tests the samples because that's the smart thing to do. Of course neither blood sample matches Wells, but one matches that of an adult Barry, which is pretty much what we've always suspected: the red and yellow streaks consisted of a time-traveling Barry chasing the Reverse-Flash. But if Wells didn't murder Nora, what's he doing with that yellow suit? 

And our C-plot this week is the most entertaining of them all, as Barry deals, for the first time, with the complications that arise when you're a superhero on a date. He and Linda Park have an incredible chemistry, but he keeps blowing it by rushing out on her for Flash business. Plus he's facing some pretty cute challenges in the physical arena, since getting to second base makes him go all blurry and vibrate - not that Linda seems to mind. (The fact that Cisco and Caitlin predicted this is so good; I love it when they apply their scientific acumen to stuff like Barry's alcohol intake and sex life.) But a jealous Iris is the real obstacle, as she hints to Linda that Barry's still hung up on her, leading Barry to eat a ghost pepper to convince Linda that she's his number one gal. I don't entirely blame Iris for making that pretty uncool move - she didn't even seem to realize she was doing it until Barry confronted her, gently but assertively. He's so fair and upfront with Iris, when she tells him that all she's ever wanted is for him to find someone great: "And I did, and then you went out of your way to tell her that I still have feelings for you." And then he tells her that he doesn't have those feelings anymore, a statement that's probably something of a relief to most of the audience, but seems to give Iris pain. The Flash has never dealt with any romantic relationship stuff for Barry beyond his unrequited feelings for Iris, and it's a relief to know that now that the series is exhibiting signs of a love triangle (or pentangle, if you allow Caitlin and Ronnie into the mix, or hexagon if we include Eddie), it's doing so with the same refreshing charm it applies to the rest of the show.

Coolest moments this week:

It was terribly enjoyable watching Sherry hit on Joe. The woman's got good taste! And apparently some killer strawberry daiquiris, if Joe weren't too professional to partake of them. I'm with Cisco: "I will not judge you."

There are so many terrific superhero moments related to Barry's date: his lightning-quick wardrobe montage, the fact that he saved a "little old lady" from burglary while Linda was in the restroom, the hilariously polite (and shirtless) way he abandons Linda for Firestorm. So many superhero shows and films have gone the dating's hard route, but The Flash's sweet humor is especially prime for it.

Barry's confrontation with Firestorm was really thrilling; every time Stein/Ronnie takes for the air in a blaze, it just looks cool as hell. "Well, that was terrifying."

Oh hey, Eiling's back! Nice to see you, Clancy Brown.