We’re not getting any younger–that applies to all of us. Barry Allen, meanwhile, has stayed the same age for almost a decade thanks to the protection of the Speed Force. That changes, at least for a little bit, this week. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 8, Episode 16, “The Curious Case of Bartholomew Allen.”
“The Curious Case of Bartholomew Allen”
The Flash (Grant Gustin) gets blasted with a shockwave forcing his body to age prematurely.
At this point in the lifecycle of The Flash, it’s hard to miss the parallels between it and Arrow, which ended after eight seasons. Right down to both shows having a storyline involving the protagonist’s daughter arriving from the future, these shows have tons in common. Another element is that, at this point, many of the former regulars are either gone or leaving, or are being downplayed through writing, while the show’s main character interacts more and more with the newer, younger cast members.
Barry runs afoul of a scientist who has built a device that can accelerate or reverse aging, with plans to grant himself immortality by stealing the life force of, well, all of Central City. Iris is still missing while Joe is struggling to adapt to frightening new technology: a Roomba. Police Chief Singh is back in town to visit Joe.
Both of these storylines are about aging. Mirroring two storylines like this can be a great way to influence both. On the one hand you have Joe West, who is retired and struggling to adapt to his new lifestyle. On the other you have Barry, aging dangerously fast because of some science fiction gibberish. One is coping with the mental and emotional effects of aging, while the other is working on the very sudden and intense physical aspects that most of us only begin to experience over time. Both, however, are handling it poorly.
Joe is working through some things
While Barry’s part of the storyline is pretty silly, Joe’s is handled pretty well, with Singh pointing out that Joe has never been a person who embraces technology openly–to the point where it even affected cases while they were working together. Barry is more or less his usual self, insisting that he keep running even as each step endangers his life. I feel like more could’ve been done with this part of the show. Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp) could’ve shown up to provide some wisdom from an aging speedster, or they could’ve done more with Barry mentally rather than having him just forget things.
Overall though, this smart parallel storytelling makes for an above-average Flash episode, even seasons 4 and 6 worked especially hard to pull that average down. Legends of Tomorrow‘s Caity Lotz directed the episode, padding out her resume further from her time doing the same on that show. The Arrowverse seems to be a sort of training ground for actors interested in being on both sides of the camera, with members of nearly every Arrowverse show having directed episodes of their own shows, or guest directing on others.
Caitlin Snow’s story advances a bit, too. Barry goes to check on her and finds her overhauled condo, spotting immediately what she’s doing. Instead of talking to her about it, he charges up and blasts the whole place with lightning and just leaves. This move felt weird and out of character for the show, and it’s going to take some serious work to make it land next episode.