Depending on who you ask and when, tonight's episode of The Flash was called either "City of Heroes" or just "Pilot." The latter seems to have won out over the former, which was actually the Season Two premiere title for Arrow, The Flash's sister series.
In any event, the episode opens on a monologue. as The Flash darts through the city streets, Barry Allen explains the basics to the audience: He's the fastest man alive.
That wasn't always the case, though, and he flashes back to being bullied as a child, sometimes being able to evade the attackers and sometimes not. he recalls that his mother and father used to support him when he was bullied until one night, when a bizarre lightning storm hit inside his home, killing his mother and shunting young Barry dozens of blocks away. By the time he came back, police were already there and his father was put away for the crime.
Flash forward to the present day; Barry is late arriving at a crime scene as the CSI. Captain Singh is upset and Detective West covers for him. Barry wins them back over with some sweet super-CSI skills...but even that can't make good with the cop whose prized gold-plated pen he borrowed to scoop up animal poop out of a tire tread.
Back at the lab, Iris arrives to take him to the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator opening, but at first he's not sure he can go because he's working on the evidence for Detective West. The computer finishes processing the excrement, though, and they head off to excitedly see the major scientific advance.
After some quasi-romantic banter, the pair see Harrison Wells introduce the particle accelerator, then flip the switch around the same time someone steals Iris's laptop and Barry chases him down. He manages to catch up with the thief, but it's Eddie Thawne, a hotshot young cop, who bumps into them outside and saves Barry from an ambush, stopping the thief.
Back at the police station, Thawne preens and boasts about the arrest while Iris tends to Barry's wounds. Her father and his partner head out to investigate the lead Barry gave them about the tire tread, hoping to find the Mardon Brothers, known bankrobbers who just recently got out of prison and are the lead suspects in the robbery/homicide from earlier.
They luck out and find the car, but the brothers shoot West's partner and get away in a small prop plane, flying out into a lightning storm and ultimately being enveloped by...
...The particle accelerator explosion, which happens more or less as we saw it last season on Arrow, with lightning striking Barry after he's watched the news report about it and seen the city go dark.
He's rushed to the hospital, goes into a coma and wakes up nine months later, surrounded by S.T.A.R. Labs gear, Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow. They explain what happened to him, and he's shocked to see that the experience has made him more muscular; he's regenerating rapidly all the time.
Dr. Wells joins the group, telling him they have a lot to discuss. Barry and Wells head off to talk, with Wells explaining that S.T.A.R. was shut down by FEMA after the attacks. During his monologue, we see a destroyed cage marked "Grodd." Wells talks to Barry, saying that he monitored Barry's recovery. Barry's heart activity was messing with the hospital's electricity, and so they took him to S.T.A.R. to study and stabilize him.
Barry runs off to see Iris, over everyone's objections.
At Jitters, the coffee shop where she works, she's thrilled and shocked to see him, telling him that he kept dying. Another waitress drops a tray and everything happens around them in super slow motion.
Elsewhere, one of the Mardon Brothers is still alive. He robs a bank using apparent weather-controlling powers.
Back at the police department, Thawne is now West's partner -- they're all very glad to see Barry. Iris tells Barry about the plane crash and the partner's death.
Barry sees a suspect about to steal a cop's gun and runs at super-speed, disarming the perp, then gets back before anyone can notice. He excuses himself to figure out what's going on.
Outside, his hand is vibrating uncontrollably and Barry keeps getting hit with bursts of super speed. He eventually runs into a laundry truck, which is a sufficient obstacle to help him get control back...but not before getting excited by his powers and going on a brief super-sprint.
At a Ferris Air runway, Barry is outfitted in a spandex suit and special equipment to read his vitals; they set him up to take a test run, which he does -- blowing away the tools but breaking his arm on a bad turn brought on by a sudden flashback to his mother's murder. Along the way, we find out that Cisco is an enthusiastic tech specialist, while Caitlin is a biologist who lost her fiance in the explosion at the particle accelerator.
At the Gold City Bank, the police don't believe the witness stories about the indoor storm. They can't get security footage because it was shorted out, but Joe West sees on a witness's cell phone video that it appears to be Mardon -- and the getaway car's license number confirms as much.
Back at S.T.A.R., they tell Barry that his break had healed already. He tells Wells the story of his mother's murder and how he lost focus during the run.
Back at the police station, Barry sees Iris kissing Eddie -- and is very upset by it. While they argue, though, he sees police chasing a car that turns out to be Mardon's. He knocks Iris over trying to get her out of the way of the danger, and while she's recovering, he darts after -- and into -- the car and then jerks the wheel, flipping it over, when Mardon tries to pull a gun on him.
Outside, Mardon starts using his powers to create a blanket of fog, which covers his escape and creates a pile-up of cars.
Later, Joe and Iris both arrive; Joe is upset that Barry let Iris near an accident scene. He almost gets into an argument with Iris, but Barry interrupts and takes Joe's ire by suggesting that Mardon was not only alive, but that he can controlt he weather. The two get into an argument about how Joe never believed Barry's extranormal theories when it came to his mother's murder. Joe snaps at him, asking him to see reality, but Barry just leaves.
As soon as he does, Thawne comes over with a police sketch based on witness accounts that basically clinches it was Mardon who robbed the bank.
At S.T.A.R., Barry makes the scientists admit that it wasn't just him who was affected by the blast; they explain to him that there are probably other metahumans -- lots of them -- out there. Barry tells them that he needs their help to stop potentially dangerous metahumans, but Harrison objects, saying that Barry's body holds the key to scientific achievements they can only dream of, and they can't risk that for him to play hero. Again, Barry leaves, dejected.
He flashes back to his dad's arrest, followed by discovering his mom's body along with the police. Detective West was there.
As he does so, he runs -- all the way to Starling City, where he has been telling this story to Oliver Queen all along. Oliver tells him to be an inspiration to his city, that he can make a difference with his powers, saving people in a flash -- and to wear a mask. He tells him that he doesn't think the lightning struck him, but chose him.
Each of them admires the other's abilities as Barry runs off.
Back at S.T.A.R., Barry has a plan of attack to help catch rogue metahumans. They agree, and Cisco provides Barry with a costume he's been playing with. Caitlin had used a satellite to track a meteorological abnormality to the farm where the Mardons had been hiding out before their "deaths." Joe and Eddie are already there looking for the bad guys.
They find him quickly, but he monologues about his powers and how he's God, then starts turning his powers on the cops before they can cuff him. When Joe confronts him -- "Why the hell would God need to rob banks?" Mardon agrees, saying he'd been thinking too small, and creates a funnel cloud, destroying the barn and starting to tear up real estate. Just before a huge piece of building can crush West, Barry (as the Flash) shows up, catching it in midair and redirecting it.
Over his earpiece, Cisco warns that the tornado is getting stronger and heading for the city. Barry offers to dispel it by running inside of it in the opposite direction and "cutting out its legs." Caitlin objects, but Barry says he has to try. Cisco has faith in Barry even while Caitlin worries. At first he falters and stumbles, but he goes back in a second time and, with Wells's support over the radio -- "Run, Barry, run," the same thing his dad said to him when his mom was being killed -- he gets into the tornado, runs it out, and knocks Mardon down; his mask comes off, and while he's about to be shot by Mardon, West shoots Mardon.
He's shocked to see what his adoptive son can do; the next morning, the two talk about it, and about the fact that now he sees the world a different way. Now, he believes that Barry's dad is innocent. He doesn't want Iris to know about any of this, because he wants her safe and out of it. Barry agrees.
Later, Barry visits Henry in prison. The two talk briefly, with Barry offering hope that he has ideas to help get Henry out. Henry wants him to stop worrying about him and live his life. Barry says that he feels like he finally can.
Back at S.T.A.R. after everyone else has left, Wells rides his wheelchair into a secret back room; he opens it, stands up, takes off his glasses, walks to a machine and turns it on -- and a newspaper from ten years in the future pops up predicting the death of The Flash in a "Crisis."