During my first couple of years at college, my roommate and I would reward ourselves for getting homework done with occasional episodes of the Flash.
Season 1 was a strong start, Season 2 was simultaneously repetitive and bizarre, and we never made it further than a couple of episodes into Season 3.
Anyway, somehow my roommate and I decided we would be more motivated if for every 20 minutes of homework, we could watch 5 minutes of a show.
Yeah, that was a terrible idea. We would pause the show in the middle of fight sequences, sad scenes, and at all the wrong times. Despite that, the habit stuck for awhile.
It made the worst episode of The Flash I have ever watched take FOREVER.
So, what was the worst episode? The one that had us looking forward more to the 20 minutes of homework than the 5 minute break?
It’s called “The Runaway Dinosaur.”
What’s funny is this same episode that my roommate and I hated is celebrated on several sites as one of the best episodes of the season. I honestly cannot understand why.
I mean, it was bad enough that I even remembered the name of the episode for more than a year. I never remember the names of episodes.
(One more warning: spoilers ahead!)
Here’s some context for the episode: When Zoom threatens Wally, Barry Allen (The Flash) gives up his powers to save him. Later, Dr. Wells sets off a particle accelerator to try to bring back Barry Allen’s powers.
Does Barry get his powers back? Nope. He essentially explodes out of existence. Oops!
The Actual Episode:
The episode starts out with them all in shock, because Barry was supposed to be all speedy again, and instead they think they killed him.
Then they all find out that Jesse and Wally were knocked out. To make matters worse, Jesse’s heart has stopped beating.
Wally is woken up almost immediately by Iris and Joe, who are relieved and act as if nothing at all is wrong with Jesse. Dr. Wells is distraught and pretty much freaking out. Joe and Iris offer no assistance to Wells, and when Jesse starts breathing again, they do not show any sign of caring.
When they get back into the room where Barry poofed out of existence, Joe asks Barry’s father to go take care of Jesse. With no sign of haste on either of their parts, Jesse eventually gets help. (About time!)
Then Cisco uses his Vibe powers when touching the suit to locate Barry, who is apparently in a vortex of zappy energy.
Barry wakes up in his bed in his childhood home. He catches a glimpse of the book the episode is named for – The Runaway Dinosaur.
He goes downstairs and sees Joe. Except – here’s the catch – it’s not Joe. It’s the speed force in human form. Why? Well, because…
We thought you would be more comfortable talking to someone who looked familiar in a place you knew.”From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”
Yeah, because that would make anyone comfortable. Having the literal force of speed manifest in the body of a loved one. That’s not creepy at all…
To further explain, Mr. Speed Force Joe says that “we” (the speed force) have been around since the beginning and will be around until the heat death of the universe.
Barry says, “That’s trippy.”
And Mr. Speed Force Joe says what no one would ever think the force of speed would say if it could talk.
We pretty much invented trippy here.”From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”
Where even is here? Why did using a particle accelerator on Barry trap him in the force of speed? Why is speed itself a pluralistic being?
To make it even better, he can’t go home until he catches this quickly moving silhouette that zips around. So poor Barry chases it around for awhile. This seems like the speed force’s way of torturing Barry.
Meanwhile, back at STAR labs, Cisco and Iris go to the building’s morgue, where they are apparently still keeping all the bodies of dead meta-humans. They are looking for records that might help Jesse. They also find zombie-Tony, who was apparently woken up by the particle accelerator.
Instead of acting scared like any normal person, Cisco sounds more annoyed.
A zombie? For real?”From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”
Then, it’s back to Barry. He asks the speed force why he was given his powers.
Because you’re the Flash, Barry.”From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”
Now, that just seems like circular reasoning. Why was he made the Flash? Well, because he is the Flash. See how that really isn’t an answer?
I don’t know why I expected the physical manifestation of speed to be more logical, but I did.
Then back to Cisco and Dr. Wells, who have figured out how to reach Barry through a “simple feedback loop.” Wells explains matter-of-factly that this means he will need to zap Cisco while he is vibing, and then they can separate Barry from speed itself.
Did that explanation make your head hurt? Well, apparently none of us are as smart as Dr. Wells, because it makes perfect sense in his mind.
At the same time, Iris and Joe find out the zombie-Tony has a major crush on Iris that even death hasn’t stifled. So, of course they decide to use Iris as bait. True, she’s all for it, but it’s still disturbing.
After the speed force takes Barry to his mother’s grave, and he runs off, he finds himself back home. There, he is confronted by the speed force again, in the shape of his mother.
Then it gets weirder. Speed Force Mom kisses him on the forehead and reads him a children’s book that his actual mother, Nora Allen, used to read him when he was younger.
It’s called The Runaway Dinosaur. The dinosaur in it feels like there is nothing special about being a Maiasaur and wants to be a different kind of dinosaur. The book boasts cutesy lines such as this:
But if you were a T-Rex,” said his mother, “how would you hug me with your tiny little arms?”From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”
That’s cute and all, but the book has nothing to do with running away. Why is it even called The Runaway Dinosaur? Is it supposed to be figurative? Like, he’s “running” away from his identity? Well, okay, but this is a board book, which means it’s mostly for kiddos 3 years and younger. How are they supposed to pick up on that?
Then he catches the silhouette, which happens to be himself, and gets his powers back. Cisco and Iris try to reach him again, because zombie-Tony is literally trying to break down the door to get Iris and they need Barry to save them.
Iris calls Barry home and Barry deals with zombie-Tony by running in circles around him. Dr. Wells slaps a sci-fi explanation on that and voila! Zombie-Tony goes back to sleep.
The Flash is then able to revive Jesse because of the speed force, which apparently also can do miracle healings.
The episode ends with the Flash making all sorts of new revelations about fate and his relationship with Iris.
So, what happened here?
My guess is they wanted Barry to go through something as powerful as a religious experience, but with secular vibes. So they had the speed force play God and attach meaning to everything. Because this pseudo-religious experience was just an assortment of false experiences with his fake loved-ones, it came across as empty and absurd.
Also, it was a way for Barry to face his emotions and the loss of his mother. I just don’t think getting a bedtime story from Speed Force Mom was the right way to heal that trauma.
Did you watch this episode? Do you feel like it was terrible, great, or just alright? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.