The staff writers of the CW’s The Flash must have held a Fast & Furious marathon at the office recently, because Team Flash operated a lot like Dominic Toretto’s tight-knit crew this week. Family was the dominant theme of the episode “Fast Lane,” complete with a street racing sequence courtesy of Wally West. The only things missing were montages of gyrating butts and Vin Diesel in a muscle shirt.
That is not to say that the episode was short on emotional beats or character growth. Wally accepted the family he never knew he had while Harrison Wells welcomed help from family he didn’t want. Both men learned that family means unconditional acceptance — even in the face of impossible personal risk. The Flash’s ability to deliver such earnest emotionality without feeling trite or sacrificing action again proves why it deserves recognition as one of the best shows on television right now, period.
Like Barry, Wally is destined to become another Flash. You don’t need comic book knowledge to see this coming. Wally’s need for speed colors every aspect of his psyche causing other, slower people to simply pass him by. With his mother gone, Wally continues illegal racing with the sole purpose of fulfilling an empty void. The thing he is clearly missing — family — is right in front of him, but Wally is going too fast to recognize Joe and Iris’ open arms. Iris coming into harm’s way is the only thing powerful enough to stop him in his tracks.
Meanwhile, with his daughter imprisoned by Zoom, Earth-Two Harrison Wells’ judgment remains completely clouded. He pushes Barry away, weighed down by the guilt of draining Barry’s Speed Force for Zoom, which he agreed to do in the midseason cliffhanger. Unlike Wally, Wells does see S.T.A.R. Labs as a surrogate family of sorts, but this label does not supersede his need to rescue his actual daughter. He is like a farm boy having mistakingly befriended a chicken, and he knows there will be tears and heartbreak when dinner is served.
Harrison and Wally represent The Flash at its finest. Though superheroes are often loners by nature, their struggles would be unfulfilling and boring if not for the people around them — superpowered or not. They do not have to stand unified like Avengers or X-Men, but they must also endure in order to remind our heroes of what they’re fighting for. The “makeshift family” is a tried and tested narrative convention that can be found in all sorts of stories and extends well beyond the superhero genre.
True to its namesake, The Flash speeds past Wally to the next exciting plot point within the scope of the same episode. Once Harrison reveals that he is the one draining Barry’s speed, Team Flash realizes — with Barry as the voice of reason — that Harrison was doing it for his daughter, for his family. Instead of punishing Wells, they accept him and take the next logical stop in their journey: Earth-Two.
With an evil Caitlin Snow waiting on the other side of Earth-Two, Team Flash will have to stick together if they’re going to survive next week.