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I'll try to ask the question as general as possible and I will give some spoilers with specific examples below. I've only watched the TV series of the Flash, but I will happily accept answers from the comics.

So the question in general: Is there any story reason why the Flash suddenly is so slow in key moments of the episodes? The non-canon answer is pretty easy: Because it would be boring, but maybe there is some kind of story-answer, too!?

Examples:

S01E15:

Barry and Joe are driving in the car as Mark strikes the car with lightning. Barry is fast enough to see the lightning move down and is able to get them out of the car. But he couldn't get up and just knock Mark down.

S01E10:

This is the second episode with the "Captain Cold" who fires the cold gun at Barry while "Heat Wave" fires the heat gun at him. Instead of just taking the guns he lets both of them fire at him so the guns would disable each other. He already undressed a robber and put a policeman beside him, but he can't just simply take the gun?

Thanks for your time.

  • Similar to this, I found myself wondering why he didn't attack Mardon and stopping the tsunami at the source instead of trying to stopping the tsunami itself. – phantom42 Mar 19 '15 at 12:56
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    I don't think this is really a dupe. The other question asks why the Flash isn't unstoppable when he's using his powers to the fullest; this one is asking why The Flash doesn't always use his powers to the fullest. Those are going to have different answers... – KutuluMike Aug 4 '15 at 12:55
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Barry tends to act very impulsively, without taking the time to plan his moves. This is something Oliver Queen berates him for in "Flash vs. Arrow":

Oliver: There's a difference, Barry, between having powers and having precision.

Barry: When I came here thinking about going out helping people, you said I could be an inspiration.

Oliver: Living this life... well, it takes more than a mask. It takes discipline. And since you are probably as stubborn as I am... [pulls out his bow]

Barry: What is that for?

Oliver: You're going to run over there, you're gonna come back at me, and you're going to get hit with an arrow.

Barry: No, I'm not.

Oliver: Yes, you are.

Barry: Okay, fine. I will humour you. [He runs to the other end of the field] Ready?

Oliver: Ready.

[Oliver fires an arrow at Barry. Barry, running, catches it and stops in front of Oliver]

Barry: Nice try.

[Hidden crossbows behind Barry go off, hitting him in the back]

So I'm going to say that Barry isn't always the most effective crimefighter because of his lack of tactical experience. There are usually easier ways for him to solve his problems, but he tends to go with the one he thinks of first. When Barry has more time to think, he tends to use his powers more creatively/effectively, as with the mugger mentioned in the question.

  • I don't understand the Barry vs Oliver part, what's going on with this scene? – Huangism Mar 19 '15 at 13:18
  • @Huangism I'll expand the quote, but basically what happens is that Barry attacks Oliver head-on, and catches the arrow Oliver shoots at him. But Oliver has hidden two automated crossbows behind where Barry would be standing, and they go off and catch him in the back. Oliver wins because Barry did the obvious thing – Jason Baker Mar 19 '15 at 13:20
  • But it's not like there is a lot of tactical finesse needed, especially in the second example it's not like he would need a big and complicated plan. – Feroc Mar 19 '15 at 13:34
  • @Feroc Granted, but it's a solution that's less obvious than confronting the problem head-on. It may not be a complicated plan, but it's the second one that occurs to him – Jason Baker Mar 19 '15 at 13:42
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    It's less about a big and complicated plan, and more about reflexively acting on the wrong impulses. – phantom42 Mar 19 '15 at 13:43
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Out-of-universe, the obvious answer is dramatic effect. In-universe, however, it comes down to a simple fact: Barry is still new at this.

In addition to being impulsive (as mentioned in Jason's answer), Barry doesn't yet THINK like a speedster. He uses his speed, but only to speed up actions that he would perform anyway without the powers. So far, he typically only uses his powers to any great affect when being advised to do so by the STAR Labs team. Otherwise, he's just doing the same thing he would have done normally, albeit sped up to a great degree.

As he gets more experience with his abilities and becomes more familiar with the Speed Force and how it enhances him as a person, he should begin to assess situations from a different perspective, seeing the situation not as a normal person would... but as The Flash would.

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