When Barry watched his father get carted off to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, it forever changed him, sending him toward being a Crime Scene Investigator so that he could learn how to prove his father–and other people falsely accused–innocent. This week, Barry gets back to basics. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 8, Episode 8, “The Fire Next Time.”
“The Fire Next Time”
Barry (Grant Gustin) trusts his instincts during a murder investigation, believing the suspect, despite the overwhelming evidence against him, meanwhile Iris (Candice Patton) gives Allegra (Kayla Compton) an opportunity to be a mentor.
The writers of The Flash are on a hot streak right now, pun definitely intended. While the show has leaned so much on time travel drama in recent seasons, this week and last week’s episodes have gotten back to basics, putting the focus on who Barry is and how he thinks.
This episode starts out by reminding us that Iris is sick with some sort of temporal illness with an awkward scene between Barry and Iris that leaves me concerned about what will happen later this season. After that, though, what we get is a fun and simple episode that harkens back to the version of The Flash that we fell in love with in Season 1.
He’s definitely guilty
At a bar late one night, a bartender is attacked, and found charred the next morning, with no burns around him. All signs seem to point to a fire-using metahuman known as Jaco Birch. When we meet Jaco, though, he’s trying hard to impress his son with stories of being a security guy for various rock bands. The police show up to arrest Jaco, and as he’s put into the police cruiser, he begs for someone to believe that he didn’t commit the crime–reminding Barry of the way his dad begged so many years ago.
The story is pretty straightforward. The team doesn’t believe Barry, and Barry has to work overtime to prove this known criminal’s innocence. It does two things really right, though. One is that it calls into question whether or not the guy is innocent. He seems like it, but we get just enough information to wonder if that’s the case and if maybe Barry is letting his own history get to him.
Or is he?
But it also dives deep into how Barry’s history informs the work he does. This episode is driven in large part by Grant Gustin summoning all the emotions that would come with this kind of trauma and making them believable. The same, really, goes for Max Adler, who plays Birch. He does a great job of bringing the fear of a father about to lose his son again to the surface, and it makes it easy to get on his side and be frustrated alongside him.
There’s this bit in one of the Justice League animated shows where the Flash spots the Trickster in a bar and stops to talk to him, asking him why he’s wearing the costume again, if he’s off his meds–the whole scene shows how The Flash isn’t just here to defeat his enemies but to try to find the good in them. This episode feeds into that idea, and it’s the kind of thing I’d love to see more of.
On the reporters’ side of the story, there’s a storyline where Allegra is supposed to help her subordinate develop a story and instead goes off on her own to do a different story. This part of the episode isn’t nearly as enjoyable. Enough so that I almost forgot it even happened until I was scrubbing through the episode to write this review. It ultimately doesn’t take away from the episode, but we could’ve also skipped it completely.
Combine all of this with some enjoyable Flash action, and you have a solid, workmanlike episode of The Flash. This episode was easy and enjoyable to watch because, like last week, it got back to basics.