‘The Flash’ Season 1 Recap, Episode 5: ‘Plastique’
Welcome back to Up To Speed, home of the the Flashest Recaps Alive. Here we’ll recap the episodes, dispense some Flash Facts and talk about what works, what doesn’t and where the series might be headed, as we try and keep up with the adventures of Central City’s finest hero, Barry Allen: aka the Red Blur, aka The Funky Flashman, aka The Flash.
We had a skip week! I missed you so much! You look great! Did you do something new with your hair? Well, it is working, let me tell you. This week, we’re looking at the fifth episode episode of the first season of The Flash, featuring a woman who is literally the bomb, more than two disastrous heart-to-heart chats, and the wonder that is Clancy Brown. So let’s light the fuse on this week’s episode, “Plastique.”
FLASHBACK: What Happened This Week
We start off with Barry fifth-wheel-ing it up with Cisco, Caitlin, Iris and Eddie at a bar, playing darts. The intro voiceover talks about friends and how in good times and bad times they'll be by your side forever more, but also includes Barry talking/whining about how much he wants Iris to be more than a friend/sister but that darn Eddie Thawne is in the way.
Which leads to Barry letting Cisco and Caitlin in on his big problem: he physically can’t get drunk due to his accelerated metabolism. Which I guess is a problem? (This is when you figure out that I am an old boring person and not the average twentysomething viewer of television programs on the CW.)
Luckily, across town there’s an actual, legitimate problem. At some office building, somebody’s broken into a file room by blowing the lock off the door. The security guard, who is bad at his job, approaches in such a way that he gets a face full of kicked-out door when he goes to investigate. The perpetrator of the break-in is a fiery (get it?) redhead who tosses a purple glowy backpack at the dude and then runs off before it can blow up, taking an entire side of the building with it and knocking the vindow viper they set up in the establishing shot from his little platform thingy. He’s just dangling there; poor dude.
Back at the bar, Eddie gets the call that there’s been a big explosion and then every other person hilariously makes up an excuse to get out of there. Cisco, Caitlin and Barry are off to do Flash stuff and Iris is headed out to get a scoop for her Streak blog. Barry’s like zip-da-dip-dip and he’s at the building, watching the window washer hang there. He calls Cisco and Caitlin and they’re brainstorming how to get this guy down from there, cuz Barry doesn’t have super-strength and can’t fly.
After Caitlin shoots down his (frankly brilliant) mattress plan, Barry asks the Science Twins to do some math to help him figure out if he can RUN UP THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING, which he does, which is pretty neat. I love Cisco and Caitlin, because they’re like the worst science parents. “Oh, you want to run up the side of the building? Okay, well, go like, really fast, but be careful when you run down or you’ll hit the ground and get turned to mush, I guess? Good luck!”
Iris shows up and Barry can’t help but flirt with her, though he does manage to blur his Flashface at least.
The next morning, Joe and Barry are working the crime scene and Barry’s a little befuddled as to how the bomb ended up going off, since there’s no oxidizing agent, which I’m just gonna take at face value as being a bomb thing and not something you put in your laundry to get your undershirts brighter. (RIP Yelly Oxy Clean Guy With The Unnaturally Dark Beard and Hair. Everybody misses you.)
Eddie shows up and takes them into the huge file room, saying that the perp was seen coming out of there. Joe asks if there’s any idea what is missing and Eddie, who is either being supremely sarcastic or amazingly dense, says, “My guess would be one of these files.” Geez, no wonder Joe West gets called in on every case if this is the caliber of detectives Central City employs. Joe makes up an excuse for Barry to Flash his way through the files with a speed that would make John Cusack’s character in Being John Malkovich seethe with envy, and, within seconds, he manages to find the file that the intruder was after.
Back at the police station, there’s army guys all over the place. Captain Singh’s been in his office with a General Wade Eiling, portrayed here by the indomitable Clancy Brown. Turns out the Army is taking over the investigation and, after some Alpha Male-ing, Eiling demands West hand over all of his info and notes on the case. West relents, but also hints to Barry that he should super-speed-steal the file they found at the crime scene and share it with the S.T.Abbers.
At the West homestead, Joe confronts Iris about her newfound interest in the dangerous and vile world of blogging. Joe thinks she was at the crime scene to check up on Eddie, but she tells him she was there to see The Streak, and boy am I tired of this “The Streak,” business. Please just call him The Flash and get it over with. Joe is all, “There’s no Streak,” but Iris is like, “Nope. I saw him,” and Joe is like, “Dammit, Barry.” Then Iris says she’s off to work because blogging doesn’t pay the bills and I started sobbing. I know that feel, Iris.
At S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry shares the file, telling them that some general took the case over and Wells rolls in like, “Oh, did somebody say General Eiling? I know him. We were gonna make super-brain soldiers, but I, a verified creep, didn’t like him so I quit.” Cisco hacks the planet and gets back the name Bette Sans Souci, a former bomb specialist from Army. They get her emergency contact and Barry Flashes over there to confront her.
It doesn’t go as planned, because while Barry does manage to find Sans Souci, she also manages to accidentally touch his suit, which leaves some purple residue on it and prompts her to warn Barry that he needs to take his suit off before it explodes. He does, which means he literally has to streak back to S.T.A.R. Labs and break the news to Cisco that he got his suit blown up by a lady with bomb-touch powers.
Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Cisco does not take the news about one of his babies getting blown up by a metahuman who is basically what would happen if Rogue and Gambit had baby – only without what I‘m sure would be the worst speech pattern ever – but then he sees Sans Souci’s pic and is like, “Nah, this girl is hell of fine. Nevermind.”
Joe shows up and is like, “Oh cool. A literal walking time bomb is roaming the city. This town is awesome.” They put two and two together and figure out that Eiling is after Sans Souci because of her abilities, but first Joe takes Barry aside and gives him a stern talking to re. him letting Iris see him and also that she is *blech* blogging now.
Barry’s like, “I’ll go talk to her,” and he heads over to C+C Coffee Factory and gives the least effective advice ever, telling her that she can’t be all that serious about this Streak guy if she’s not signing her name to her posts and wow, Barry is bad at talking to Iris.
After their disastrous talk, Barry gets a call from Cisco, who alerts him to the fact that Sans Souci was most likely looking for the doctor who did tests on her and that Eiling is sending troops over to snatch her once she goes after the doctor, Harold Hadley (a deep cut character who has appeared in exactly six DC comics), at the awkwardly-named Center for Inflicted Wounds.
Plastique confronts the Doctor, who’s like, “Listen, sorry I cut you open, okay?” But Plastique ain’t havin’ it. Outside, Army dudes pull up, Clancy Brown tells them, “Get me my asset,” in the most Clancy Brown-ish voice you can imagine, and they start shooting into the building. One bullet clips Plastique, but Barry Flashes in and gets her out of there.
Barry brings Plastique back to S.T.A.R. Labs and Wells gives her the spiel about how he blew up the city and caused a bunch of people to get superpowers and OOPS, SOWWY. Sans Souci puts on some gloves while gives her backstory. Turns out she's an Afghanistan veteran who took shrapnel from an IED and woke up with bomb-powers. “I used to defuse bombs and now I am a bomb. A little too ironic, and yeah, I really do think. It’s like raaaaaaaiiiiiin on your wedding day.” She thought that Eiling gave her the bomb powers, but Wells sets her straight.
Cisco tries to throw woo at Sans Souci and it is the saddest thing ever. They bring her into the testing area but then they’re like, “Well, we can’t have her blow stuff up in here because we’re in an abandoned reactor and also we’re sitting on top of a super-illegal prison for evil metahumans.” Caitlin is looking over Plastique’s vitals and notices she got shot and OOPS! Her wound has a tracking device in it and DOUBLE OOPS Eiling is totally already here looking for her.
Barry Flashes her out of there, but EIling is in the building. Him and Wells have a genital-measuring contest and I realized how much of Tom Cavanaugh’s acting in this show is him moving his motorized wheelchair menacingly. Anyway, Eiling’s being a dick, talking about “precious palaces crumbling,” to Wells, and Wells is like barely resisting the urge to go all stabby.
Barry, Caitlin and Cisco have taken Plastique … somewhere? to test out her powers by charging Frisbees and blowing them up in the air. Barry and Plastique have a heart-to-heart about them being able to “cure” her metahuman-ness, and yeah, this actress is not very good. Sorry, Kelly Frye.
Joe interrupts their conversation with a phone call to congratulate Barry for not solving the Iris situation like at all. In fact, Joe informs him, she is now signing her names to her posts. Which is… well, kind of exactly what Barry told her to do, so I’m not sure why Barry’s so upset. Cisco points out that this is very bad since now bad guys will track her down to get to “The Streak,” so Barry decides that talking to Iris, this time as The Flash, is definitely the way to go and totally not a terrible idea.
It is a terrible idea.
He meets her on the coffee shop rooftop, giving us a beautiful view of downtown
Vancouver Central City and its abundance of handy back-lighting for when you have to try and talk your sister out of blogging about your superhero activities. Barry at least manages to autotune his voice so she doesn’t recognize it, but yeah, it’s a bad chat. Iris is all, “I’m only doing this so my brother won’t give up his crusade to find his mother’s killer.” And Barry just keeps running around and saying, "Please stop blogging."
At S.T.A.R. Labs, Wells and Caitlin are telling Plastique that she’s gonna be a permanent metahuman and she doesn’t take the news well. Barry’s like, “Being a metahuman is great, though!” And Caitlin is like, “Check your privilege, Speedy. Not everybody has cool powers.” And Barry is like, "Oh yeah. Bummer."
Barry heads back to his lab and finds Joe there, going over the evidence from Barry’s mom’s murder. Barry is like, “Welp, I know why Iris is blogging… it’s my fault. “ Joe asks him how he knows that and Barry's all, “She told me when I talked to her as the Flash,” and Joe is like “SMDH are you serious.” Barry’s all, “No, it’s fine! I autotuned my voice,” and Joe gets the biggest kick out of it. It’s the best. I don’t want to steal facesofjoewest’s thunder, but I mean, look at his face:
Barry says they should just tell her, that he tells Iris everything, but Joe calls B.S. and is all, “Umactually no because you haven’t told her you love her and I know it. Everybody knows it. Dogs know it.” Seriously Joe West is such a national treasure that I half-expect Nicolas Cage to try and steal him halfway through an episode.
At S.T.A.R. Labs, Wells gives Plastique a creeptastic supervillain pep talk, trying to get her to take Eiling out. In the morning, the team is trying to figure out where Plastique went and Wells plays coy, clutching his pearls and going, “Oh, wherever could she be?!”
Can it, Professor Ed, you know dang well where she is, you rotten crum-bum. She’s at the waterfront, getting ready to blow Eiling up. Barry Flashes over there, tries to talk her out of blowing Eiling up, but Eiling shoots her in the chest. Barry’s gonna try to save her, but too late, she’s dying, bro. With her dying breath, Plastique tries to warn Barry about Wells, but NOPE, she’s dead and OOPS she’s going to blow up.
Barry tries to figure out how to use his mattress idea here, but instead decides to, you know, run on the water, asking the Science Twins if that’s possible. They run the numbers and are like, “Sure, I guess? Whatever. Try it.”
So he does, and it’s like that scene in The Dark Knight Rises, only somehow creepier because instead of trying to get rid of a bomb, he’s trying to get rid of a woman’s body, but let’s not stare at this too hard or the whole thing will fall apart. The bottom line is that it’s a perfectly goofy solution to a classic superhero dilemma, with Barry running fast enough and far enough across the water to avoid Central City getting catastrophically blown up … again.
Back at the Labs, Eiling is on the TV, still alive, spinning the story as a planned explosion test, and Barry’s upset that they can’t stop him. Wells waggles his eyebrows and says that “powerful men have ways of avoiding consequences,” and winks at the audience like a vaudeville villain. Caitlin points out that Barry being able to walk on water puts him in pretty “interesting company,” and I half-wondered if she was gonna “witness” to him right then and there.
Barry decides that the third time is a charm for talking to Iris and heads to the West home to somehow make their situation even worse. Rather than saying, “I get it, but I’m not giving up on my mom and I still believe and stuff so please stop blogging,” he just says, “stop blogging,” and then is like, “Let’s not see each each other for a while, okay?” Which is maybe the smartest thing he’s said to her all episode.
At the bar, a weird cover of Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran” is playing and Caitlin and Cisco show up with super-booze, which gets Barry buzzed for like 2.5 seconds.
We get the requisite Harrison Wells epilogue, this time to five years ago, with Wells telling Eiling that they’re done working together, that he won’t allow Eiling to torture an unseen subject any further. Eiling leaves and Wells goes to the cage to comfort the aforementioned subject, who is none other than Grodd, which means the little fanservice-y Easter egg in the pilot wasn’t just an Easter egg; it means that this show is apparently really gonna go for it in the evil psychic gorilla department and welp, I guess all of my dreams are coming true.
FLASH FACTS: Random Observations
- First up, in my last recap, I made a joke about Geoff Johns writing a comic where Wendy and Marvin got attacked by Wonder Dog. Apparently, this actually occurred in an issue of Teen Titans written by Sean McKeever. I apologize for the mishap. Please print out the following joke and paste it over the aforementioned joke in your printouts of the episode four recap:
"Felicity then does some meta-nerd-bashing, declaring that the Internet is full of weirdos and “nerdrage,” and I’m sorry we didn’t all love Batman: Earth One, okay, Mr. Johns?”
- I really loved the use of powers in this episode, with the running up the building and the running across the water. Like I said, it’s the exact amount of goofy and cool, and I welcome more of this sort of stuff.
- When the army dudes show up at the Center for Ouchy Boo-Boos or whatever, they have green laser sights on their guns, and is this a new thing? I always thought they were red in TV shows and stuff but maybe I am behind the times with this whole laser sights on guns thing.
- First off, how great is Clancy Brown? I’ve loved him since the early 90s primetime sci-fi show, Earth 2, but the dude is such an imposing figure. The character he’s playing, General Wade Eiling, was created by Cary Bates and Pat Broderick, first appearing in Captain Atom #1. He’s the general behind the tests that resulted in the creation of Captain Atom, as well as the supervillain Major Force. During Grant Morrison’s JLA run, he implanted his brain into the Shaggy Man’s body, and eventually joined the Suicide Squad. It looks like he’s being set up as a recurring foil for Wells to play against here, and I’m pretty down with that.
- Did anybody else think it was weird of the CW to air an episode that is pretty not-flattering toward the Army on Veterans Day or am I overthinking this?
- Plastique was created by Gerry Conway and Pat Broderick. The comic book version of Plastique is a Canadian freedom fighter who wants Quebec to secede from Canada. She originally appeared as a Firestorm villain before moving over to join Captain Atom’s rogues gallery. This actually led to a short-term marriage to the Captain (she had reformed sort of) before they split up. She kicked around with a bunch of supervillain teams, most recently showing up in the Forever Evil event as a member of the Crime Syndicate. This is the part where I’d moan a little about them killing off another villain the same week they were introduced, but as the actress was not very good at all, I’m just gonna shut up and hope they can grow the supporting cast and villains roster sometime soon, because this Freak of the Week thing is gonna start to wear thin before too long.
FLASH-FORWARD: Future Happenings
Next week, it looks like The Flash is going to face off against Dirtbag Colossus, so tune in for that. Same Flash-time, same Flash-channel!