Okay, no questions about it anymore – we’re officially back in full swing from the mid-season break.
Taking several of the elements from solid previous episodes, The Nuclear Man pays off what had been built up in spades, landing as probably one of the best of the series so far.
While the title definitely confirms the presence of Ronnie Raymond, it bears clarifying – this is following up on a lot of the strands from the last two episodes. So Barry and Linda’s newfound relationship, Cisco’s conflicted loyalties towards Wells, and Joe’s investigation all make some strides forward out of this.
As the main storyline, the Ronnie plot is finally paying off for a lot of teasing build-up and hints to this point. With the unstable Ronnie/Stein fusion accidentally harming people, the two are now officially considered a meta-human and thus under STAR Labs jurisdiction.
After another solid action sequence – of which the show has improved a LOT – the bulk of the episode is devoted to trying to figure out if the two can be separated from one another again.
I do have to give some extra points to Robbie Amell for his performance this week. While we’ve seen previous appearances of him as Ronnie in flashbacks, this week he’s juggling it with the Stein persona (played in flashbacks by Victor Garber). He does well with matching some of Garber’s behavior in these scenes, acting more reserved than what we had previously seen of his other role. It’s not something the show draws a lot of attention to, but it’s pointed out enough that they did well with it.
Alongside Amell, Danielle Panabaker gets some good material this week. After last week’s bid to try and finally move on from Ronnie, regardless of whether that succeeded or not, she’s still not in a hurry to let him die. Caitlin Snow has been something of a conscience figure in STAR Labs before this point, but if there was ever another episode where that was needed, this was it.Meanwhile, Cisco’s own storyline is taking an interesting turn. Between his talks with Hartley previously and his assisting Joe on the murder investigation, he’s been feeling a serious conflict of loyalties towards Wells when faced with the possibility that he could have murdered Barry’s mother.
Fortunately, Joe does manage to keep him attached to the investigation. While his faith in Wells remains firm, his findings make for one Hell of a reveal about the fateful night when Barry lost his mother. Tied in with all the other clues of what’s to come so far, this is going to make for one Hell of a payoff when the time comes.
In the meantime, Barry has his hands full (in a smaller way) with his new relationship. I’ll give credit where its due, for as cliched as the Barry-Iris material in the first half of the season could get, this has made up for it. We still get some of that lingering drama (to their credit, it’s executed fairly well, though it is a little bit of a ‘What the Hell?’ on Iris’s part), but it’s also mixed with the fact that, for a new add-on, Barry’s showing good chemistry with Linda.
Naturally, there’s the inevitable superhero hurdle this brings of testing duty and personal life, and I do wonder how far the show intends to stretch that. In the meantime, however, it’s an entertaining aside that gives the show a chance to take a bit of a breather from the main story and also let Barry be Barry for a bit.
That said, the main story needs those breathers for another reason. This is probably one of the heavier finales the show has done so far. It’s safe to say we haven’t seen the last of Ronnie/Stein/FIRESTORM at this point, but between where this episode leaves them and the return of Clancy Brown as General Eiling next time, things are about to get a whole lot more complicated at STAR Labs from here on out.
But, that’s a discussion for next week’s episode, appropriately titled Fallout.
Will be back then to see where this goes.
-Some great new developments regarding both FIRESTORM and Barry’s mother
-Cisco and Caitlin both getting some interesting developments this week
-While I can see the logic behind Iris’s actions from a writing perspective, this could backfire with audiences turning against her