The Flash has been below par the last two weeks because it has fallen into a habit of stuffing every plot point imaginable into one episode — the pace may have felt like a movie version of an LSD trip, but it was unsatisfying. So, it is ironic that an episode titled ‘Fast Lane’ delivered a subdued hour that focused on the show’s best theme: family. By slowing down and focusing in on the father-son dynamics in the Harry-Barry relationship and the West nearest-and-dearest drama, the show put its two best actors — Tom Cavanagh (Harry) and Jesse L. Martin (Joe) — at the forefront.
The obligatory recap showed how the Earth-Two Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) had made a Faustian pact with Zoom to save his daughter. The deal was simple, Barry’s (Grant Gustin) speed for his daughter’s life. This episode focused on how Harry was tormented by his mischievous machinations as his relationship with Barry bloomed. Over the last 40-odd episodes, Cavanagh has delivered snarky putdowns with aplomb and has used some charismatic arrogance to get the audience on his side. Both Harry and Wells share basic characteristics, but Harry has a heart. He is in pain over his betrayal and this time the snark is not because he’s a bad guy, but because he is defending himself.
On paper, Martin’s job of delivering cheesy, on-the-nose monologues about family appears to be easier than playing time-traveling, dimension-hopping doppelgängers, but the script’s dialogue remained cliché and cold. Seemingly, all the effort was placed into plotting the episode and not what the characters were saying. Even with this dialogue, Martin is still a first-stringer and he will get those tear ducts going, however he, surprisingly, isn’t the best of Wests this week because Candice Patton brings it.Once Iris discovered Barry was the Flash, the show didn’t seem to know what to do with her. It’s a good thing Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) is here for her to save. Iris may not get to save the day that much and her recklessness puts her into some dangerous situations that a smart character like her has no place in being in. Patton milks these moments for all their worth and the writers do a good job reminding the characters and the audience that the Flash may not be able to save everyone. The future Flash (or Kid Flash depending on where the show goes), Wally West, gets some not so subtle foreshadowing but Patton and Martin are acting Lonsdale off the screen. It might just be because he is finding his feet, but Wally needs to be developed.
Beyond servicing the West storyline, the villain-of-the-week, Tar Pit, was dull and the writers would have deserved credit for not using his powers in an obvious way if they had him do more than stand still and occasionally melt. He was as effective as the Tar Monster from Scooby-Doo and his shallow motive would have made him an easy foil for Mystery Inc.
At the end of the flawed but good episode the message is clear. Family isn’t just defined by blood, it means that nobody gets left behind. The show doesn’t want the audience to be stranded and ‘Fast Lane’ makes viewing next week’s episode a must.