By MIna Haq
“The Flash” is back after a long midseason break, and Barry has some difficult choices to make. In the first episode of the New Year, Barry deals with old foe Leonard Snart (aka Captain Cold) as well as the decision to focus on enhancing his abilities versus trying to save everyone all the time. Meanwhile, Caitlin looks into Firestorm and Iris moves in with Eddie despite knowing that Barry’s in love with her.
Barry is training intensely with S.T.A.R. Labs in preparation for his next encounter with the Reverse Flash, who Wells believes is his biggest priority. There’s no explanation on the fact that Wells is the Reverse Flash, but I guess that’ll come in time. Meanwhile, Captain Cold and his fiery accomplice Mick Rory (who Cisco desperately wants to call Heat Wave) are doing everything in their power to capture The Flash for good.
However, Wells advises Barry to focus his strength on becoming faster so that he’s prepared to deal with the Reverse Flash whenever he decides to strike again. Joe realizes immediately that it’s not like Barry to prioritize anything over the safety of the people, and calls out Wells on influencing Barry’s decision not to pursue Snart.
There’s a decent amount of tension between Barry and Iris now that she knows how he feels, and he can’t help but look like a kicked puppy every time she’s around. They’re “pretending it never happened” but in a super passive aggressive way that’s hopefully not going to drag on for too long, as it’ll get old really quickly.
Caitlin tells Barry that whatever comes next for him will be better, and in exchange he helps her figure out that Firestorm is actually F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M., an acronym for a research project focused on transmutation, or the ability to alter matter on a molecular level. Caitlin tracks down the undergraduate student, Dr. Jason Rush, who conducted the research in hopes of learning more about what happened to Ronnie. He tells her that the research he and Professor Martin Stein conducted was confiscated by the army shortly after Professor Stein ran away.
Even though Barry isn’t focusing his attention on fighting Captain Cold, Cisco and Wells agree to help the police fight his cold gun with heat shields that Cisco designed. The police don’t fully trust S.T.A.R. Labs, but are willing to try anything to fight Snart and Rory. When Snart and Rory try to steal a very expensive painting and the police show up, Rory’s heat gun puts several cops in the burn unit and when Barry sees the damage they did he realizes he can’t ignore Snart.
To get to Barry even more, Snart and Rory capture Caitlin and hold her hostage in their abandoned warehouse (very original hostage-holding location). When Barry figures out Snart and Rory have Caitlin, he and the team focus all of their energy into capturing them. They figure out that their respective temperature-based weapons (they sound a lot less threatening than they actually are) can cancel each other out, and all Barry has to do is get Snart and Rory to point their guns at each other. Unfortunately, Snart broadcasts on live TV that their showdown is happening, meaning if Barry shows up everyone will know that The Flash exists.
It’s a risk he’s willing to take, and he confronts Snart and Rory while Cisco and Joe track down Caitlin and rescue her. It turns out that speed isn’t the answer this time, and Barry gets them to cross streams by going slower and initially taking on the brunt of both their weapons before speeding away. Everyone knows The Flash exists now, but most people think he’s a hero and the police finally get to put away Snart and Rory. Even S.T.A.R. Labs sort of redeems their reputation thanks to the heat shields.
In the end, Iris moves out of the West house and in with Eddie. However, Joe isn’t going to be all by himself because Barry decides it’ll be easier for everyone if he moves back in with him.
Unfortunately, nothing ever works out completely right and Snart and Rory are broken free of the Iron Heights van on their way to prison by Snart’s mysterious sister whose face we never actually get to see. I guess Snart’s going to be a bigger enemy than anyone initially imagined, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of him in the second half of the season.