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"Everything that's happened to us, good and bad, it made us who we are. And I don't think that I would change it even if I could."
"Run, Barry. Run."
Who could have seen this coming? Who could have guessed that the most emotionally powerful episode of The Flash would be directed by Kevin "snootchie bootchies" Smith? Okay, so we did get one abrupt and unnecessary Jason Mewes cameo, but otherwise "The Runaway Dinosaur" is the best that The Flash has to offer: funny, poignant, action-packed, and as thematically satisfying as the series has ever been.
Much of that is due to a strong, stirring script by X-Men: First Class and Fringe writer Zack Stentz (and elements of both seem to have influenced this episode), but Smith delivered an undeniably effective directorial effort. The action is thrilling and gorgeous, the jokes (a higher ratio than usual, surprising in such an emotional episode) land beautifully and Smith guided some of the strongest performances of the season.
Grant Gustin, in particular, has never been better. I've rarely been one to advocate for awards, but Gustin should be considered for an Emmy for his work on The Flash, and particularly in "The Runaway Dinosaur." He spends the majority of the episode in a metaphysical reality existing within the Speed Force, a dreamy neighborhood made up of memories meant to heal what has long been broken within Barry, not only this season but since the day his mother died. Each of the Speed Force avatars - Jesse L. Martin as Not-Joe, Candice Patton as Not-Iris, John Wesley Shipp as Not-Henry - radiate wisdom and benevolence, and Barry learns a little something from every one of them. He rejected his gift, he has carried the burden of grief too long, he has never forgiven himself for not saving his mother.
But it's his scene with Michelle Harrison as Not-Nora that carries the most weight. What a powerful, moving tribute to the love between parent and child. "The Runaway Dinosaur," a fictional children's book within the episode, stands as a lovely encapsulation of Barry's relationship with his mother, the love that they shared that has too long been eclipsed by his grief and anger at her murder. It's this realization - he has been blessed as many times as he has been hurt, and both the tragedy and triumph of his life are what make him The Flash - that regifts him his speed, what he once had and more besides.
And yet The Flash does not rely on the easiness of a mother's tribute, two days after Mother's Day. When Barry finally visits his mother's grave with Iris, she tells him she always hated "The Runaway Dinosaur." "Because it was about a mother who was always there for her child, no matter what, and that wasn't my mom... or yours." Though Iris and Barry always had Joe (and what a gift), they also always had each other. A romance between Barry and Iris has long felt forced, but it doesn't anymore. Whatever else they are to each other, they are there for each other, incontrovertibly, and the sound of her voice will always bring him home.
It helps that "The Runaway Dinosaur" is Candice Patton's best episode yet, as well as Gustin's. It's easy to accept a potential romance between her and Barry when we see her making jokes and kicking ass much like The Flash in his absence. With everything else happening in this episode, Zombie Girder could have felt like overcrowding, but he created such a great opportunity for us to see Iris at her best: self-sacrificing, quick-thinking, trading hilarious beats with Cisco ("Get behind me!" "You get behind ME!"). She did all of this and then brought Barry home, when maybe no one else could have. (Well, let's be honest. Joe could have.)
And now that Barry has returned, he is faster and stronger and wiser than he's ever been before. He's shed the darkness that was hindering him, and because of that, he's no longer attached to the Speed Force through external compulsions: lightning strikes, particle accelerator explosions, speed formulas and injections. Barry is the Speed Force. He is finally, truly and completely, The Flash.
Even more plot was stuffed into this episode - Jesse's coma and surprising awakening by Barry's touch, Wally's seeming unsusceptibility to the Speed Force, the fact that Henry is finally useful and sticking around and will therefore probably die or be revealed to be an evil Earth-2 doppelganger soon - but in the face of Barry's revelation, it's all secondary. No more pussyfooting around: it's time to see this Flash fight Zoom. (In two weeks, when we finally reach the season finale.)
Coolest moments this week:
As much as I miss Caitlin, Cisco and Iris made a terrific duo this week. It's fitting that they held hands and joined powers - his meta, hers from the heart - to bring Barry home.
It was mightily inspiring to see Barry catch his shadow and become The Flash again, fresh suit and all.
And though Zoom felt like an afterthought in the final moments of the episode, his metahuman army was fairly terrifying to behold. I'd be scared for Barry if he hadn't become so awesomely unstoppable this week.