This post contains spoilers for The Flash.
Check out our previous review here.
Sometimes superhero shows give you actioned packed adventures brimming with commentary on the world around us. Other times they present filler episodes to ensure a run quota. And, occasionally, they give you something that just so happens to be both. “Run, Iris, Run” isn’t heavy on plot progression, but it’s got enough character moments and message to get itself by with its light sprinkling of story relevance.
Ralph is back to being a whiny little worm, and he manages to bring Iris down while he’s skulking around Star Labs. Our delicate little flower is scared that he’s going to be next on DeVoe’s list, so he’s lashing out at everyone around him and has returned to his deeply selfish roots. The rest of the metas can be Thinker food for all he cares, so long as his neck remains safe. Because introspection isn’t his strong suit, Ralph has the nerve to call out Iris for never putting her life on the line.
Despite The Flash’s historic issues with the portrayal of its female characters, they always managed to illustrate Iris’ bravery in the rare moments she was given something to do. She’s never stood down from anyone, human or meta, so she shouldn’t have to prove anything to anyone. There’s just one issue: on some small level, she believes Ralph is right. She used to be a reporter extraordinaire with gumption in spades, but now she spends all of her time in the basement of Star Labs while the rest of her team puts their necks on the line.
Matthew, the most recently discovered bus meta, gives her a chance to change all that.
When Matthew touches a meta, he removes their powers. Unbeknownst to him, he also passes those powers on to the next human he touches. A passing brush of his hand manages to turn Team Flash’s world upside down, leaving Barry powerless and Iris as the new Flash. “Run, Iris, Run” has some unavoidable wheel spinning when it touches on her going through the motions of learning how to use her powers, but thankfully it’s pretty short lived.
While Iris and Barry are learning their new respective roles, Harry and Cisco are trying to find a way to get on The Thinker’s level. Harry’s brilliant plan is to zap his brain with dark matter the same way DeVoe did, despite the fact that that’s exactly what’s currently killing their nemesis. Cisco initially will have no part of it, but comes around once the team finds themselves backed into a corner when it comes to a solution. Cisco has two conditions: no dark matter, and if Harry goes all Borg-style, Cisco gets to vibe him back to Earth 2 where they’ll never have to deal with him again. This little side bit serves as the main story progression for the episode, but is done so in Harry and Cisco’s typically hilarious way. Cisco Ramone and Harrison Wells remain the two greatest gives that The Flash has ever been given. Except for Captain Cold.
Cisco and Harry are quickly given the opportunity to test the intelligence booster (it’s a thinking cap) when Iris finds herself facing the new fire meta created at the beginning of the episode. It works, it doesn’t catch on fire, Iris stops the bad guy, and Barry didn’t get anyone killed while calling the shots behind the desk. The team even manages to capture Matthew to get this pesky power swap situation remedied.
The episode's commentary fittingly revolves around Iris West Allen. She isn’t going out as The Flash to prove herself to the team, she’s doing it for herself. In the process of this, the episode goes out of its way to illustrate the support of the entire team, but no one’s in her corner faster than Caitlin. The Flash rarely focuses on their relationship, but the little tidbits are always great. Unfortunately, the most important message of the episode doesn’t come until the last five minutes.
The decision to relinquish the powers is left entirely up to Iris. She gives the powers back to her husband willingly, and the two return home after making sure that Ralph’s done being a little shit, and Matthew’s gotten the tour after agreeing to become a member of the team. Barry understandably has questions about Iris’ willingness to give up the powers so easily, but she answers as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world.
Every person on this Earth (and any other) has the capacity to be a hero, and heroism comes in countless forms. Being a hero has nothing to do with the uniform someone wears, or the powers they wield. As Iris so eloquently put it: being a hero is “being the light that everyone needs when the world goes dark.” Barry Allen does it by physically saving people. Iris West Allen does it by telling the world his story, and the stories of their team.
When things go sideways, it’s the easiest thing in the world to forget that words matter. Stories matter, journalism matters, art matters, and the people who act as the support systems to those in need matter. It was cool to see Iris as The Flash for an episode, and people of color are still sorely underrepresented in the traditional hero medium, but I’m glad The Flash took time to nod at the fact that superheroes aren’t the only ones who save lives.
If you had thoughts on this week’s episode, you know what to do!