'The Flash': The Turtle Speeds Up The Show's Emotional Impact

·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment

The mid-season return episode of The Flash, titled “Potential Energy,” is a good example of the way the series has made its audience as invested in its characters’ emotional lives as it is in the show’s super-heroics.

To be sure, the super-stuff is very clever. In the episode, the show brings into its TV mythology an exceedingly minor DC Comics villain, The Turtle. Or rather, brings him to life on-screen, since the Turtle has been mentioned on the show before, as a recurring obsession of Cisco’s that until now was played for laughs.

This Turtle is embodied by Aaron Douglas, better known as Battlestar Galactica’s Galen Tyrol, aka, The Chief. As the Turtle, he has the opposite power of the Flash — the ability to slow things down. (His line tonight, “I’m slow, but I’m not stupid,” could stand as the Turtle’s motto.) To go into this further would spoil the surprises of the amount of mischief the Turtle can do, mischief that deepens into something more evil as the hour proceeds.

The private-life stuff I referred to at the start occurs in a couple of areas this week. Barry Allen comes closer than ever to telling Patty that he’s the Flash, with an unexpected result that — what is the phrase? — changes everything. And Joe West’s slowly-developing relationship with his only-recently discovered son, Wally West, gets a fully satisfying subplot. We know from the comics that Wally is one manifestation of the Flash, but that’s not what’s in this episode at all. Instead, this is about Wally’s feelings of lonely isolation and resentment, having grown up without a father—a father he now refers to bitterly as “the great detective who never knew he had a son.”

It’s material like this, which lays fertile groundwork for whatever the Wally West character will become — along with fine acting by Keiynan Lonsdale as Wally and Jesse L. Martin as Joe — that makes The Flash a continuing pleasure.

The Flash airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. on The CW.