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"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."
"Fallout" deals with the, you know, fallout from last week's "The Nuclear Man," making up the second part of a two-part Firestorm plot. This week, we get to see Professor Stein and Ronnie Raymond separated, for the most part, and begin to understand the repercussions of their months-long cohabitation. It's surprisingly light - Stein and Ronnie's reunions with their respective loves are incredibly moving (and Ronnie's reunion with Cisco is equally so), but there's also plenty of humor as the two men bicker like The Odd Couple over being roomies in such close quarters for so long. And of course, they realize that moments of extreme emotional or physical duress (and, one assumes, ecstasy, which could be awkward later) in one man affects the other, or as Stein so concisely frames it, "I'm still in Ronald." ("There has to be a better way to phrase that," says Cisco.)
This bond between the two men comes in awfully handy when Stein's abducted by Clancy Brown's General Eiling, who is eager to use Firestorm's powers for his own dark purposes. (Of course, Stein was abducted via Wells, but our mysterious doctor works hard to get him back with a quickness so I guess no harm, no foul?) Ronnie has a Looper moment as he carves "WHERE" into his arm to ask Stein his whereabouts, and Stein, being a much smarter man, merely taps out his response in Morse code. Ronnie and Barry work together to save Stein, and then Firestorm's two halves join together once again - this time willingly - to go unto the breach. It's cool as can be, especially their fiery exit from the fray, and it turns out that when Ronnie and Stein work together, Firestorm can come and go without any mushroom clouds. The two men realize that staying in Central City brings risk to the people they care about, so they leave for Pittsburgh to learn more about their abilities.
Ronnie's abrupt departure after only a day with Caitlin hurts her less than you might think - after all, as Cisco puts it, these two "are like ten seasons of Ross and Rachel but just, like, smushed into one year." The most interesting part of the Firestorm arc, aside from the killer action and Victor Garber's general wonderfulness, is the revelation that Caitlin reached through it all. When Ronnie wants to run away with her, she bristles immediately. She's no longer just a half of Caitlin and Ronnie; she has a profound purpose in Central City, and some very meaningful friendships. It's a small thing but not a small thing that we see Caitlin and Cisco discussing Ronnie's departure at a bar instead of doing the easy thing and using the STAR Labs set where they'd already filmed for the day. Their friendship feels more real and significant when we see it outside the confines of their work life.
As he helps Stein and Ronnie, Barry's also dealing with his own revelation in the wake of last week's discovery that an adult version of him was at the setting of his mom's murder all those years ago. Everyone seems ready to accept time travel as the explanation pretty willingly, and they're lucky to have Professor Stein there to offer his expertise on the subject, but Barry's reeling at the knowledge that he's already tried to save his mother once, and failed. "It's my destiny to fail," he tells a sympathetic Joe, echoing Reverse-Flash in "The Man in the Yellow Suit." But Barry's boundless optimism doesn't fail him as he realizes that Cisco's mirror trick can give Barry the knowledge he needs to succeed in his next attempt. "Joe, I'm gonna save my mom." Novikov's self-consistency principle aside, this seems like a pretty hefty load to put on the space-time continuum and expect everything to turn out dandy, but Wells' has been messing with it for so long, Barry might as well cause his own waves.
And finally, Iris is given a real storyline (of course, it's handed to her by another man, her persnickety partner Mason Bridge) in that she finally suspects the STAR Lab team of nefarious, or at least secretive, doings. She's on to them, and while it's a relief to see Iris act like a real investigative reporter, putting her at odds with Barry, Joe and the gang isn't going to do much for her likability factor. But if making her something of an antagonist, in the Freddie Lounds mold if not the Hannibal mold, is the writers' intent, that could certainly be interesting.
Coolest moments this week:
Cisco and Joe are my new favorite team-up. Cisco simplifying complex time travel concepts using Terminator and Back to the Future for a baffled Joe was a highlight of the ep.
Joe continues to be the very coolest person on this show, mildly offering a beer to the man he thought, only moments ago, was dead.
Barry's whoosh to secure pizza for Stein was neat, but also sort of needlessly risky in front of Clarissa. He's just showing off his powers, and his identity, to everyone these days, isn't he?
When Barry fails to rescue Ronnie, I love that Caitlin saves them both.
OKAY, let's talk about that last scene. Wells sacrifices Eiling - to protect Firestorm, but presumably to also cover his own secrets - to their old gorilla pal. Eiling mutters in fear, "Dear god," and from the shadowy depths we hear a growl and finally see the thing in action. "Not God. GRODD!"