Hormones are raging in Central City this week, and so are the flames. After flirting for weeks, The Flash finally faced its Firestorm storyline head on, explaining once and for all just what exactly is going on with Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein. With last week’s subpar episode, the show desperately needed a juicy main plot to dig into, and the writers needed to look no further than “The Nuclear Man.”
I expressed discontent earlier this season when Caitlin’s discovery that Ronnie wasn’t exactly dead was shoehorned into the fall finale, feeling that such a pivotal moment deserved more than to be relegated to subplot status. While they put off the resolution for too long in my eyes, the show and its writers redeemed itself in episode 13, finally giving Firestorm the screen time he deserved. Overall, the hour was fast-paced and entertaining, pushing numerous storylines forward, while also supplying some genuine excitement.
The crux, of course, was Team Flash dealing with Firestorm, and learning just what exactly happened to their friend the night the particle accelerator exploded. After he severely injures a scientist, The Nuclear Man is convinced by the S.T.A.R. labs crew to come in for testing. There, Harrison Wells and co. discover that Ronnie and Stein have fused together, with Stein’s brain controlling Ronnie’s body. This is pretty much par the course, as I mentioned last week, when it comes to Firestorm canon, though just exactly how the two were fused together has yet to be answered. Most, including Wells, assumed that it occurred during the particle accelerator explosion, which caused so many others in Central City to gain superhuman abilities, but we know that Stein’s experiments with the F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. program go back further than that. We were also made privy to Stein’s whereabouts the night of the explosion in a series of flashbacks, including one that featured a rather menacing-looking orange orb that Stein had concealed in a briefcase. At this point, you can put together an educated guess that Harrison Wells wasn’t the only person who had a hand in fusing Ronnie and Stein together, but those issues were put on the backburner once the team learned that Firestorm was unstable—essentially a living breathing nuclear bomb (hence “Nuclear Man”) set to detonate in mere hours. In order to save both the scientist and Ronnie, Wells modified his tachyonic prototype to work as an atomic splicer, thought we aren’t certain if it worked (spoiler alert: it probably did) as the show ended with a mushroom cloud of a cliffhanger.
The other huge development to come forward in “The Nuclear Man” had to do with the death of Barry’s mother. Joe has been quietly working on Nora Allen’s murder case for weeks now, with his sights set on Harrison as the culprit. This week, he enlisted Cisco and together the two visited Barry’s childhood home to look for any possible clues. Thanks to some seriously futuristic tech, the two were able to recreate images from the night Nora was murdered. Those images led to Joe and Cisco discovering old blood spatters left on the wall from the fateful night. The expectation was that the blood would belong to Wells, but instead it belongs to an adult Barry, proving that the Scarlet Speedster was present the night his mother was murdered. Though not a huge shock, the definitive proof of time travel here is notable, and it does raise numerous questions, as well as possible theories, as to what the writers have planned. The Flash and Reverse-Flash have a long and varied history, some of which involves time travel and other instances that don’t, all of which can get a little confusing. So far, the writers have done a superb job of delineating complex comic book ideas in a consumable manor. They’ve done it well with Firestorm, and continue to do so with the Reverse-Flash storyline.
In the less important category this week, we have the burgeoning relationship between Barry and Central City Picture News sportswriter Linda Park. Barry has been slowly learning the complications that come with being a superhero, particularly when romance is involved. It is especially hard when one of your best friends has a fiancé that is fused to an older scientist, and together the two are lighting up the city. Barry did his best to be in multiple places at once, but eventually it all fell through. It didn’t help that Iris accidentally made Linda aware of Barry’s feelings for her (Iris), though in the end Barry was able to convince the young sportswriter that he didn’t in fact have said feelings for his longtime friend (he’s a liar) and the two reconciled. But who cares? A man, who is actually two men atomically bonded, exploded in a nuclear blast and that’s all the really matters.
?As impressive as The Flash’s consistency has been throughout this freshman season, even more impressive has been its ability to deliver in the biggest moments. We knew for weeks that the Firestorm storyline was going to come to a head at some point, just not when or how. It finally did so with an entertaining hour that ranks among this show’s best that, not only, explained the Firestorm situation, but even managed to seamlessly weave in important information involving the ongoing saga of Nora Allen. The Flash has made it a habit to move its stories along briskly, if only it could make the days between episodes do the same.
Eric Walters is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. For more of his TV musings, follow him on Twitter.