The Flash S02E04 “Fury Of The Firestorm” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: Sky 1, Tuesdays, 8pm
Writers: Kai Yu Wu, Joe Peracchio
Director: Stefan Pleszczynski
Essential Plot Points:
- Professor Stein needs to merge with another suitable Firestorm candidate otherwise he’ll die from technobabble… or something.
- There are only two suitable candidates: a high-flying scientist – Henry Hewitt – and a former potential pro-footballer whose career was ruined by the STAR Labs super-blast – Jefferson “Jax” Jackson. He’s now a car mechanic with a dodgy knee and a sulky expression.
- Hewitt is up for the role, Jax isn’t. Unfortunately Hewitt isn’t as compatible as they thought and the merging appears to fail. He stomps off in high dudgeon, and it turns out he has police record of violence.
- It also turns out that the merging attempt has activated his latent power to be an extreme asshole with energy bolts.
- Jax has second thoughts, decides he’s a team player and merges with Stein. Together, as Firestorm, they help Barry defeat Hewitt, aka, Tokamak, aka, Google it.
- Stein and Jax fly off to Pittsburgh to
appear in the spin-off… do some research.
- Barry is attacked by King Shark, but saved by… Harrison Wells, using some gizmo he’s nicked from Mercury Labs.
- Barry and Patty flirt, with Joe fanning the flames of romance.
- Iris’s mum is dying, but any sympathy that may have evinced evaporates when Iris discovers that her mum has been keeping a secret – she has a son whom Joe knows nothing about.
To be honest, if it weren’t for the appearance of King Shark at the end of the episode this is probably only a three or three-and-a-half star episode: solid but nothing exceptional. The Flash by the numbers. But King Shark, although he’s on screen for less than a minute, is the undoubted highlight. By a long way.
Not just because he looks brilliant, though he undoubtedly does: this is a near-movie-quality CG monster, pulling off a potentially cheesy, silly-looking character with an impressive design and exquisite animation. This whole B-plot is a witty work of genius throughout the episode, from Barry and Patty’s smirking disbelief about the whole “land shark” idea to the marvellous shot of King Shark’s massive hand looming behind Barry as (in voiceover) he’s wibbling on about “grabbing” chances while you can. Even Barry’s startled look when he does get grabbed is a peach.
The writers are obviously aware of the clichés they’re creating as well. A couple of weeks back we pointed out how season two had already fallen into a “Zoom hires rubbish assassin of the week” formula. Well, here we have it again but with a massively fun twist. Also, the King Shark plot neatly ties in with the “is Harrison Wells evil this year?” plot. Presumably not, judging by that ending, but let’s wait and see how things pan out, yeah?
As for the main plot? S’okay. It’s obvious where it’s going from the moment, in the teaser, when Jax says to a footballing mate, “We won us the game.” He’s a team player, y’see. Perfect material for sharing a body, unlike some stuck-up scientist who just wants his own personal glory. So there aren’t a lot of surprises in the Hewitt vs Jackson for the Firestorm Cup storyline.
But Franz Drameh makes a charismatic addition to the cast… although he’ll primarily be part of Legends Of Tomorrow’s cast, to be fair. His more streetwise, blue-collar Firestorm makes a pleasant change from all the technobabble-spouting scientists who normally inhabit the show. And Demore Barnes as Hewitt is afforded slightly more of a backstory than many of the show’s villains of the week; he actually makes a far better psycho than he does a chirpy, big-headed scientist. We’re thinking he’ll be back for a rematch at some point.
The West’s storyline is progressing at a not-annoying but not-particularly engaging way. Candice Patton and Vanessa Williams are turning in some great acting, but so far all the revelations have been standard soap material. Nothing wrong with a little soap, but it’s difficult – so far – to see what all this has to do with the bigger picture. Of course, it will have (see the Random section below) but for the moment it all feels a little like a time-to-put-the-kettle-on distraction.
But for King Shark… we’ll forgive this episode almost anything.
- KING SHARK! Best cameo ever. He looked amazing and was amusingly inserted into the plot, too. (But where are they going to find a cell at STAR Labs big enough to hold him?)
- Franz Drameh immediately impresses as Jax/Jackson/50% of Firestorm. He has infinitely more personality than Ronnie Raymond ever did and pairing up the stuffy Professor with the streetwise mechanic should prove a more interesting dynamic.
- You have to love the new hard-nosed Iris. She’d be a nightmare to know in real life – a trip to see a film would probably involve her investigating the cinema’s safety record – but after all the lies she had to live with in season one, it’s actually a natural step for her to check up on everything she’s told.
- Barry and Patty make an almost too perfect couple, but there’s no denying their flirty banter is delightfully cute: “A land shark!” “A land shark? Sounds like a bad sci-fi movie.” “Or an awesome sci-fi movie.” “Totally.”
- “Put your fins in the air!” The show has had some ropy humour in the past but this is a new low.
- Caitlin is especially annoying in this episode. Is the fact that she suddenly fancies any guy who wanders into STAR Labs with an IQ larger than the dollars she spends per day on hair products supposed to be a running gag? It just makes her look dim. Plus Danielle Panabaker seems to have even more trouble than usual convincing anyone that she understands a word of the technobabble she has to spout.
- The Firestorm special effects often don’t look as impressive as they did in season one (though they did look great in this one shot).
- Joe does a hilariously over-the-top gasp when Dr McGee says she’s seen Harrison Wells. We half-expected him to follow it up with a, “Zoinks!”
- There’s an awful lot of technobabble.
And The Random:
- Jax: “What kind of treadmill is that?” Cisco: “Cosmic.” We believe this is the first time the treadmill has been explicitly referred to as “cosmic” in the show – a reference to the cosmic treadmill introduced in the comics in The Flash #125 (1961) which Barry uses to travel through time.
- The episode title is the same as the name of Firestorm’s second regular comic book series – The Fury Of Firestorm (though it drops the subheading The Nuclear Man, sadly). That’s a nice touch, except the episode should really have been called “The Fury Of The Rejected Firestorm”.
- • Jefferson Jackson was a minor character in the DC comics universe, introduced in The Fury Of Firestorm #1 (1982). Created by Gerry Conway and Pat Broderick, he was a close friend of Ronnie Raymond and often became involved in his mate’s adventures but he never became Firestorm himself. He was never seen again after The Fury Of Firestorm #35 (1985). Interestingly, his full name was never given but he was referred to as both Jackson and Jefferson.
- • King Shark was created by Karl Kesel, and first appeared in Superboy Volume 4 #0 (1994). His father is Chondrakha the God of all Sharks, and his mother is a human. He had a successful career as a serial killer in Hawaii for years before Superboy discovered his existence. Although primarily a supervillain he was Aquaman’s sidekick for a while. He’s been a member of the Secret Six, the Secret Society of Super-Villains and the Suicide Squad (he almost made the cut for next year’s film).
- • It’s not entirely obvious unless you know the character from the comics, but Henry Hewitt is the supervillain Tokamak. Cisco does “name” him but almost by accident when Caitlin flusters, “It’s like one of those controlled fusion devices. Um…?” and Cisco offers, “Tokamak?” Cisco later uses the name again in a line that’s easy to miss. Anyway, In the comics, Hewitt was introduced in The Fury Of Firestorm #15 in 1983 as the head of a corrupt energy conglomerate who tried to play hardball with Congress to manipulate markets on his behalf. He kidnapped a senator’s daughter and experimented on her with a process similar to that which created Firestorm and created the superhero Firehawk in the process. Then he tried the process on himself to become Tokamak.
- Henry Hewitt works for Eikmeier Industries, which is presumably named after The Flash scriptwriter Brooke Eikmeier.
- Who wants to place a bet that Iris’s brother is going to turn out to be Wally West… Kid Flash and the third The Flash in the comics?
- “Would you prefer Celine Dion? I got the Titanic soundtrack in the back there,” says Jax when Professor Stein moans about his taste in music. It’s surely no coincidence that Victor Garber – who plays Stein – appeared in Titanic (1997).
Review by Dave Golder