Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find my all of my reviews of The Flash here.
That one-word statement is usually a joke, but in “The Runaway Dinosaur”, it was the actual answer to the most important questions. Where did Barry go? The Speed Force! Whom is Barry talking to? The Speed Force! How did Barry revive Jesse? To quote Wells word for word, “It’s the Speed Force!”
Yes, “The Runaway Dinosaur” was an episode in which Barry had a conversation with the embodiment of a metaphysical plot device, a conversation said plot device used in order to deliver exposition. And yet, not only did it work, it resulted in one of The Flash‘s strongest episodes.
Barry’s journey inside the Speed Force was another example of The Flash adapting some of the comics’ more “out there” elements and making them work by keeping them grounded in the very real emotion generated by its superb cast of characters. In “The Runaway Dinosaur”, rescuing Barry from being trapped inside an intangible extra-dimensional energy was secondary to Barry’s emotional journey. In other words, Barry regained his powers not through technobabble and science fiction, but simply by finding closure and accepting his mother’s death once and for all.
Any episode involving Barry’s mom is bound to elicit some tears, and “The Runaway Dinosaur” was no exception. Speed Force or not, Barry reciting the titular children’s book that his mother used to read him was an incredibly touching moment. Leading up to that were several scenes in which the Speed Force took on the appearance of Barry’s loved ones, gradually guiding him to accepting the loss of his mom and the many losses that come with being the Flash. And I loved that the many incarnations of the Speed Force kept saying “Sit, Barry, sit” throughout the episode—culminating in his mother saying the now-famous line, “Run, Barry, run.” It was all so well done.
After Barry made his peace with all that was haunting him, he emerged from the Speed Force a better hero. It was visible in his confident actions, his dialogue, and even in Grant Gustin’s more mature performance. The man who initially looked too young for the part suddenly appeared older than his years. I can’t wait to see the kind of hero he is now.
I’m also glad that Barry found closure with his mother’s death, because as great a source of emotion as Nora Allen is, there’s always a risk of diminishing her effectiveness if she’s used too frequently. The conclusion to “The Runaway Dinosaur” preempts that, and keeps the few times she’s been utilized special.
A whole episode spent in a metaphysical realm contemplating life, death, and acceptance would have been too much to handle on its own. It’s good, then, that “The Runaway Dinosaur” split its focus and devoted half the episode to the characters back on Earth as they dealt with a resurrected Girder. On paper, it was just a filler subplot to keep the action going, but it actually worked really well for a number of reasons.
The primary reason is the all-star writer and director combo of Zack Stentz (Thor, X-Men: First Class) and Kevin Smith. Smith did not deviate from the show’s usual look, which is good as he’s not really a visual director. His skill lies more in comedy and dialogue, and that definitely showed this week.
There was no single character interaction in “The Runaway Dinosaur” that wasn’t fantastic. Cisco and Wells talking over each other, bumbling as they tried to catch Barry up on what had happened in his absence. Joe making a fool of himself trying to see if Wally had developed powers. Iris and Cisco’s chemistry, a comedic pairing I did not even know I wanted, but now can’t get enough of. Iris in particular was fantastic this week, even on her own, which is not usually the case. She was funny, confident, even fearless, and Candice Patton seemed more at ease than she’d ever been, as though the script and the directing were playing directly to her strengths. More of this Iris, please!
The subplot with Girder was straightforward metahuman fare, made memorable thanks to the aforementioned snappy script and excellent comedic acting. There was a nice meta wink of having the same actor who played a zombie on iZombie play another zombie on The Flash, especially as they’re both on the same network. And what Kevin Smith directing gig is complete without a cameo by Jason Mewes?
As for Wally and Jesse, “The Runaway Dinosaur” did not take the expected route and reveal that they gained powers. Instead, it outright denied that Wally did, cleverly subverting our comics-fueled expectations, and kept Jesse a mystery for now. My earlier concern that this might not be the right time to introduce two new speedsters seems to be shared by the writers. My best guess? Jesse develops powers before the season ends and returns to Earth-2 to be that Earth’s Flash, and Wally’s powers emerge sometime next season. But as with all things, time will tell.
Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)
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