Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of “The Flash.” To catch up on previous coverage, click here.
When we last left our heroes of Central City, the situation was a dire one. A black hole had been opened, Eddie had shot himself to stop the Reverse Flash from ever being born and for the first time, it seemed like the Flash may not be able to save the day. Of course, as is with the case of television series such as this, we knew that the only possibility was that the characters managed to figure out a solution. What we’re now waiting for is to see the bruises the ordeal has left in it’s wake. Meeting back with our characters after a time jump, we’re seeing characters that have grown. Barry has had to watch his mother die, Iris said goodbye to Eddie in his last valiant and heroic feat of selflessness, and Cisco has had his world turned upside down by the news that he too may have been affected by the particle accelerator explosion.
The Flash had one of the strongest premiere seasons in recent history, exuding an enormous amount of confidence in it’s tone and delivery. It nailed how a show about Barry Allen should be played-light on it’s feet without forgoing the pathos that comes along with his written backstory. This is a character who is open with his emotions and loves being a superhero. He embraces his powers and ability to save others, a wonderful thing to see when every other superhero series or film is driving home just how serious being a superhero is. The Flash get’s that it can be fun too.
The concern with the confidence is how on earth does season two keep up that kind of momentum? The show promised multiple universes, a Hawkgirl cameo, a Jay Garrick appearance and more in the last minutes of the season one finale.
“The Man Who Saved Central City” is an excellent reintroduction to the series. As I mentioned, we knew that the wormhole wasn’t going to take over the city, and to make the narrative interesting, it breaks up the current day with the day the wormhole opened. To get it out of the way, when the wormhole opened, Barry did his best to bridge it but needed help from Firestorm. Firestorm arrives and helps save the day and Barry, but Ronnie is lost in the incident. Do I believe this is the end of Ronnie? No, but it’s decent emotional heft for the moment with both Caitlin and Professor Stein reacting to the sudden loss.
In present day, Barry has decided to lone wolf it, believing that his friends will continue to die if they help him face off against the meta humans. Caitlin has gone to work at Mercury labs in his wake and Cisco works with Joe at the police department in a meta human task force, building machinery to help bring them down. It’s a smart use of a pairing that had worked so well in season one and Joe’s continued amusement at just about everything Cisco does is one of the best parts of the admittedly strong premier.
I was less than engaged with the idea of Barry wanting to work on his own as it’s a character beat I’ve seen in just about every other superhero character arc, most specifically Oliver on Arrow and it’s an arc that never get’s as much emotional mileage as the writers believe it will. Barry works because he loves working with his friends and because the Star Labs team dynamic is so charming. Luckily, the show doesn’t waste much time in reestablishing this team as Barry is faced against a seemingly impossible Atom Smasher played by Adam Copeland (WWE’s Edge). With the ability to absorb energy around him, he manages to best Barry and the task force at the Flash Day being held-a scene that is so derivative of it’s comic origin that I thought for a moment I’d seen a similar scene in the cartoon Justice League. Iris is the one to realize that they can’t continue to let Barry push everyone away and to ignore his protests. It works in narrowing down where the Atom Smasher is, but Barry still foolishly runs off and is given a harsh reminder of what happens when he doesn’t rely on his support team to save the day. He’s beaten, emotionally and psychically, and awakens to Joe at his bedside, ready to dismiss any concerns of Barry’s, even the ones that matter. Barry is still carrying the weight of the guilt of Eddy and Ronnie’s death, believing himself undeserving of his current hero status amongst the Central City community. Joe tells him that he’s right, that it was partly his fault that Eddie died, but he wasn’t the only one making decisions that day and that they all had a part in it so to stop taking all of the blame himself. It’s a speech that refuses to sugarcoat the consequences of what happened six months ago while also being comforting. It moves Barry from his place of isolation into a group setting once again.
To further improve the divide he’s caused, he brings Caitlin back into the fold who also feels the weight of Ronnie’s death, believing that if she had left months earlier as he’d wished that he’d still be with them. Maybe he would. As Joe said, they all played a part and now all they can do is move forward.
This includes beating Atom Smasher once and for all by containing him in an enclosed space and flooding it with radiation. In his last moments, Barry asks him why he tried to kill him and he’s told that it was because someone named Zoom promised him a way home. Zoom is a big comic book villain and like with the promise of the Reverse Flash in the first episode of season one, the looming presence of Zoom will carry an ominous weight throughout the remainder of the season.
However, the biggest turn of events happens when Barry and Caitlin watch Harrison Wells’s will, where he admits to the murder of Nora Allen, allowing for Henry Allen to walk free. After the build up we’ve witnessed and how long we’ve watched Barry struggle with the idea that he couldn’t save his father from being behind bars this is a chill inducing moment, as is the moments of celebration that follow. Barry’s elation at having his father home after so long is tangible, and the characters deserve something to celebrate even if we know it won’t be long lasting. I spent the moments of the party scene wondering when on earth something was going to go wrong and I’m glad that when it did, it wasn’t as drastic as I’d envisioned. Henry believes that for Barry to reach his full capability, he can’t be around and wants to leave Central City for a while. It’s very rushed, and I’d always believed that if he was released the show wouldn’t know what to do with him what with Joe and Wells being surrogate father figures, but you’d think they would have milked the emotional payoff of having him around for longer than a five minute scene.
And then, in the closing moments Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears) appears as the original Flash of Earth 2 and everything is turned on its edge. The Flash has clearly held tight to its daring edge and Jay is only the topping of an episode that had already proved this. The episode was shot with a cinematic lens, vibrant but shadowy. The citizens of Central City knowing that meta humans exist also opens up new and exciting storytelling options for the show.
Back with reinvigorated style and a cast that only continues to grow, The Flash is off to a strong and suitable start for the series.
Who’s ready for Zoom?