It’s Iris’ turn to run.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
One of the more annoying qualities of the Arrowverse is the insistence on transforming supporting characters into metahumans. Oliver Queen has never met a friend he wouldn’t happily shove a bow at. James Olsen went through that abysmal Guardian phase in Supergirl: Season 2. And at this point, the only members of Team Flash that haven’t gained metahuman powers are Joe and iris. Well, thanks to this week’s episode, now Joe is a member in a club of one.
On paper, Iris becoming a speedster sounds like a recipe for disaster. It could easily serve as the definitive “jump the shark” moment for The Flash, assuming you’re not of the opinion that the series has already done that (I’m trying to stay optimistic still). The saving grace with “Run, Iris, Run” is that the writers didn’t attempt to treat this new development as some big, status quo-altering shift. We don’t need Iris as a permanent addition to the speedster family. But as a done-in-one adventure that allowed Iris and Barry to do a little role reversal, this premise worked well enough.
The worst that can be said for “Run, Iris, Run” is that it’s a very predictable installment of the series. You could see all the major beats coming a mile away. Iris accidentally absorbs Barry’s speed. She’s psyched, he’s not. She enjoys testing her speed until an on-the-job accident reminds her being a superhero isn’t all fun and games. She powers through her fears and defeats the bad guy. Granted, I’m not sure what you can really do to subvert that formula within the confines of one hour-long episode, but it would have been nice to be surprised once or twice.
Still, it was enough simply to see Iris put in the spotlight for a change. She’s one of several characters who’s been in search of purpose this season. Like with Wally, it really hasn’t helped that the Season 3 finale set her on one course and then the Season 4 premiere effectively undid everything. Her brief tenure as a speedster allowed Iris to branch out and prove to herself that she’s as brave and committed as Barry himself. The fact that this episode ended with Iris getting back in touch with her journalist side didn’t hurt, either.
Another plus is that this episode had so many visually memorable moments. Iris’ purple and white color scheme worked very well, in addition to being what I’m guessing is a very purposeful nod to the Tornado Twins. After Ralph’s Elongated Man costume turned out to be such a dud, it’s nice to see the show bounce back with a more eye-catching costume design. The sheer sense of scale to the final showdown also impressed. I appreciated how Iris’ efforts to quench a fire tornado more or less mirrored Barry’s battle with Weather Wizard way back in the pilot episode.
“Run, Iris, Run” does feel like one of those episode where the two parallel storylines were at odds with one another. The emphasis on Harry’s quest to build his own thinking cap took up a lot of valuable screen time that could have been devoted to Iris’ speed antics or exploring Barry’s struggles readjusting to life as a normal human. There was definitely some missed potential with the latter.
That’s not to say the Harry subplot was bad on its own merits, just that it didn’t mesh particularly well with Iris’ story until the very end. In general. Harry’s arc these last couple months has been an compelling one, albeit sorely underdeveloped. Here you have one of the brightest minds of Earth-2 butting up against a superior intelligence and floundering. This subplot gave us more of that delightful Harry/Cisco banter, but it also called into question just how far Harry is willing to go to beat DeVoe and how much of himself he might lose in the process. It may not even take the intervention of a 25th Century speedster to turn this Harrison Wells evil.
The other benefit here is that Wells’ thinking cap storyline ensured that there will be some lasting fallout from this episode. The same goes for the introduction of the power-siphoning Matthew Kim (Westworld’s Leonardo Nam). I’ll be interested to see how he impacts the DeVoe conflict going forward, even as I’m wary at the prospect of the already bloated Team Flash roster growing by another member.