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The Flash Recap: Untouchable
By Chancellor Agard for ew.com
The Flash‘s hot streak continues in tonight’s episode, “Untouchable,” which finds Team Flash racing against the clock to save Iris from dying via a metahuman’s deadly touch. Although said meta’s overall motivation for evil was rather lame (revenge is very boring), that didn’t cause too much harm to the episode, which was firing on almost all cylinders on the character front. Without giving in to the show’s recent Sturm und Drang tendencies, “Untouchable” brings several of this season’s plots to a head in a way that’s very satisfying and leaves me excited to see what comes next.
So, let’s just jump into the episode!
Tonight’s episode opens with The Flash and Kid Flash’s latest training session, which takes the form of a race. While the two speedsters race around the city, H.R., Cisco, Caitlin, and Iris are back at S.T.A.R. Labs watching the contest and taking bets. Iris and Caitlin put money down on Barry, but H.R. goes all in on Wally. Although Wally is almost as fast as Barry, he doesn’t have all of his skills, so Barry ends up winning by phasing. It’s a fun and energetic opening scene that gets the episode off on the right foot.
In “Untouchable,” we find Barry essentially becoming the Harrison Wells to Wally’s Kid Flash, since he’s trying his hardest to get Wally ready for his eventual confrontation with Savitar. And the show even swerves into the Harrison Wells comparisons during a later training session, which finds Wally struggling to master the art of phasing. Barry wonders how Wells managed to teach him how to do it, and Cisco points out that Wells had 15 years to prepare.
A couple of murders around Central City call Barry away from his training sessions with Wally. In each instance, the victim died because their bodies started decomposing at alarmingly accelerated rate, which doesn’t sound like a fun way to go. The first victim, a chef, sets off alarms because the chef’s death means the restaurant will close, which is one of the news items Barry and Cisco saw in the future. Iris confronts Barry about this since it’s clear that the future still isn’t changing, but Barry says she shouldn’t be worried. “I’m scared, Barry,” says Iris through tears, revealing that everything is not all right. Yeah, sure she’s driven to pursue dangerous assignments at work, but that doesn’t mean she’s not still freaking about the future. Revealing a new side to Iris in this manner adds some much needed shading to the character.
While the first murder was worrisome because of what it meant for the future, the second one is more terrifying because of its implications on the present. After examining the second victim, Barry realizes there’s a connection between the victims: They were both cops in the Flashpoint timeline. Julian runs tests one of the bodies and realizes that he created the murderer — Clive Yorkin, whose touch causes anyone and anything to rapidly desiccate and disintegrate — when he was Doctor Alchemy. This epiphany sends Julian into a mini guilt spiral that cause him to say some insensitive things to Caitlin, who is only trying to help him get through it.
Barry suggests Joe keep a low profile since Clive is targeting CCPD officers who arrested him in the Flashpoint timeline, but Joe throws caution to the wind because Cecile’s daughter is in town, and he really wants his family and her family to share coffee together. It’s very sweet seeing Joe in love and thinking about long term plans with his new girlfriend. They all meet at Jitters, and Cecile’s daughter doesn’t waste any time revealing that she’s a big Kid Flash fan, sparking a little hint of jealousy in Barry. Unfortunately, Clive shows up at Jitters looking for Joe and ruins the family fun time. Wally wades into battle to fight him but quickly realizes he can’t touch Clive without turning into a corpse. From the sidelines, Barry tells him to use his tornado arms, which works.
For some reason, this latest brush with Clive and his death touch hasn’t scared Joe, who refuses to hide out at S.T.A.R. Labs because he wants to check on Cecile. Seeing no other option, Iris decides to come clean about her death in the future to convince him to actually give a damn about his life — and ugh, this entire scene is devastating because of Jesse L. Martin’s incredibly moving performance. His eyes fill with tears as he processes the bombshell Iris just dropped on him and realizes that they’ve all been keeping this a secret. Joe feels especially betrayed by Barry since Barry knows just how much Iris means to him. Honestly, I just wanted to jump through the screen and give Joe a hug.
Obviously, the situation only continues to escalate from here. After failing to kill Joe, Clive sets his sights on Iris and attacks her. Unfortunately, Wally isn’t fast enough to stop him from touching her. Once he gets Iris back to S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry lashes out at Wally for not calling him to save Iris, and the rest of the team realizes that the only way to slow the necrosis is to freeze Iris’ arm. Although she’s scare she’ll lose control, Caitlin agrees to user her powers to keep Iris’ arm frozen.
Realizing he was in the wrong, Barry goes to find Wally and apologizes for lashing out at him. Furthermore, Barry apologizes for being a bad teacher: He’s been relying way too much on Wally’s raw talent and hasn’t put enough effort in inspiring Wally to be the best he can be. It’s a pretty mature moment for Barry, who, if we’re being honest, hasn’t been the easiest guy to root for this season. Cisco and H.R. interrupt this cute teacher-student moment with an idea on how to catch Clive: Cisco needs to vibe to an alternate universe where Flashpoint is still a thing and figure out who Clive plans on targeting next. The plan works. Laura Stone, who is a private investigator in this universe, is the next victim.
Meanwhile, Julian — whose guilt over giving Clive his powers as Doctor Alchemy caused him to lash out at Caitlin — is hard at work on finding a way to stop Clive. Barry and Julian put their heads together and figure out Barry’s blood, because of its reconstructive properties, will counteract Clive’s blood. At that moment, an alarm goes off. The decay has started spreading up Iris’ arm and Caitlin is starting to lose control and turn into Killer Frost. Julian is able to talk Caitlin down by apologizing for the nasty things he said earlier and telling her she’s the strongest person he knows, and it works. (Enjoying this scene meant ignoring the fact that I still don’t quite understand how Caitlin’s powers turn her evil.)
Now, Barry and Wally have to turn their attention back to Clive, because he’s decided to make his move against the Flashpoint cop, who just so happens to be on a train with Joe at the moment. Clive uses his powers to destroy a structure of some sort that causes debris to fall on the tracks. Unfortunately, the train is moving too quickly to stop, and the only solution Barry can come up with is to vibrate the train quickly enough to phase through the debris. Obviously it works, because science! (“Holy Kardashian!” says H.R., watching it happen back in the lab. “Holy Kardashian” is my new “Sweet Christmas.” Sorry, Luke Cage.) However, the save leaves Barry pretty weak, which means Wally will have to phase Clive on his own. Barry tells him he needs to inject Clive with his blood to by phasing through him. Inspired by Barry’s recent first, Wally succeeds and neutralizes Clive.
With the day, and Iris’ life, saved, it’s time for wrap-up: Joe makes everyone promise complete honesty going forward, because they all need to be on the same page if they’re going to have any hope of defeating Savitar. Caitlin thanks Julian, who is now determined to find the last husk metahuman he created, for talking her off the ledge earlier and asks him out for a drink. (How foolish is it for us to be optimistic that Caitlin’s latest romantic endeavor won’t result in tragedy?) Finally, Iris opens up to Barry about the fact that, until now, knowing he’s the Flash hasn’t be as comforting as you’d expect, because she hadn’t gotten a chance to see his heroic side. But their recent brush with death rid her of those worries.
They may have defeated Clive, but Team Flash has a far bigger challenge ahead — literally. A frantic Jessie Quick runs over to our Earth to inform Wally that Grodd has kidnapped her father. Gorilla City, here we come!
Overall, I thought this was particularly strong episode. It found a way to bring to seamlessly bring several of this season’s ongoing stories to a head: Joe finding out about Iris dying in the future; Barry and Wally’s mentor-mentee relationship; and Julian and Caitlin’s budding connection and the guilt they each feel for their past actions. The episode didn’t crumble from juggling all of these storylines because they were all held together naturally, and without too much fuss, by the case of the week. I’m starting to look forward to the rest of the season.
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