Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of The Flash. To catch up on previous coverage, click here.
I feel that I’ve been dancing around this thought for the past couple weeks or so, not really wanting to admit it as a steadfast fan, but The Flash has hit a bit of a rough patch. Despite great individual moments and character building, the storylines themselves and the villains especially have faltered. At first I believed that by dropping the Legends of Tomorrow set up that the show would be able to right itself on it’s regular course and then hoped that Patty’s departure would mean other characters (Iris) would be brought back into the main fold.
The show is halfway there and is floundering in what they want the narrative to be until they’re able to depict the next showdown between Flash and Zoom.
With this week’s episode (and even better-first half of a two parter) the show had a real chance of brushing the dust off themselves and re-grounding the series. It’s a spectacularly fun premise on paper, particularly the trip of characters who get to make the leap to Earth-2 and it offers up the highest stakes the show has produced since Zoom broke Barry physically and emotionally for all of Central City to see.
Which begs the question, did it succeed in it’s execution.
Yes. Oh my god, yes.
Firstly let’s address what I’m not as excited about which is everything Earth One. The remaining team members must deal with a meta-human, Jay almost get’s his speed back with Caitlin’s help and gives me second hand embarrassment when he fails and they have 24 hours to fix the breach.
Okay cool. Now for fun.
Let’s get the really fun little things out of the way first. Seeing characters such as Deadshot appear in Earth 2 was a treat, as was the mention of Mayor Snart which certainly got a chuckle out of me. Supergirl made a timely appearance in the speed force as Cisco, Barry and Wells traveled to Earth 2, the mention of vacationing at Atlantis and the names Dianna, Hal and Bruce were all on the WestAllen speed dial at their home.
The Easter Eggs were out of control but done in ways that never seemed to be overtly fan-baity. They nodded to the larger universe that they’re unable to fully tap into.
It was an excellent and thrilling episode of television and one of the very best to date, utilizing it’s sprawling cast to the best of their abilities, even if some of them fell shorter of the mark than others.
Given 48 hours to rescue Wells’s daughter and then come back, there’s stress immediately on the characters to outmatch not only Zoom but any other meta-human and/or baddie that’s thrown their way, along with distractions of the world itself that Barry and Cisco are so quickly pulled into. Their fun is short lived however when Killer Frost and Death Storm are introduced, spotting the faces of their friends Caitlin and the late Ronnie.
Killer Frost is a character I’ve been excited to see for a while now ever since realizing Caitlin Snow’s alter ego but I was a tad dubious in the lead up for two reasons.
- Danielle Panabaker. While not a bad actress, Panabaker hasn’t quite left her mark as Caitlin in the ways other supporting players on the show have with their characters and has almost seemed to be disappearing amongst all the bigger and brighter characters on the roster so I wasn’t quite sure she’d be able to play Killer Frost’s more playfully sinister.
- The costume was just uninspiring. Chalk it up to budgetary restraints maybe, but boy does it seem like a waste of what could have easily been a fun design idea.
It all ended up working better than I would have assumed and Panabaker for the most part sold Frost’s willful destruction, even if she wasn’t the best doppelganger out of an episode full of them.
Candice Patton got a version of Iris to truly sink her teeth into as in this world she became a cop, despite her father’s wishes and is a damn good one. She’s powerful, confident and has our Barry wrapped around her finger the moment he lays eyes on her. Delivering every line with gusto and sharing a palpable chemistry with Grant Gustin, I hope that the screenwriters took notes because this is the version of Iris West I’ve been wanting to see this entire time. Earth 2 Barry for his part doesn’t get much to do and from what we get to see of him comes across as little more than a nerdier version ours. We learn much more through his character than by him, such as that he and Joe (Joseph) of this world hate each other, as we learn this just in time for Joesph to die by Killer Frost’s hand.
We also learn that he’s a singer, but that seems like a shameless excuse to get Jesse L. Martin to sing.
And really, who wouldn’t want that?
Barry, as to be expected from the character and despite knowing that they aren’t his real family, can’t help but immediately want to help and his bemusement at everything in this world is fun to watch play out but no moment lands harder or stronger than when he and Iris return home and she casually remarks “your mom called.”
That’s a sucker punch of emotion in three little words.
Considering how much the loss of Barry’s mom dictated his motivation in all of season one, this was a big moment for him, a “what if” fantasy where he get’s to hear his mom alive, healthy and happy, with not a care in the world. His emotional response is understandably overwhelming and in an episode full of big, bombastic moments, this little detour sticks out as a highlight. Gustin is terrific as Barry silently weeps while listening to his mom, getting one last chance to tell her he loves her.
The other biggest surprise of the hour comes when Cisco, Deadshot and Iris go to take down Killer Frost and Deathstorm and find more than they bargained for in the form of Reverb, aka, Cisco’s doppelganger.
Kudos to Carlos Valdes who once again proves to be a secret weapon on the show. From week to week he’s a joy to watch but he shines when Cisco is given something more to do that be the quippy commentator (and I love that version of the character). Here, despite possessing some of Cisco’s trademarks, he’s completely different. Cool and collected and so in control of his powers that he believes he could overthrow Zoom as the major power in the city, he offers Cisco the chance to home his powers with his help. This, more than anything, is the beginning to what is hopefully an exciting new storyline for Cisco if he’s given the chance to develop skills that go beyond what’s been able to do thus far.
Everything goes to hell rather quickly with Deathstorm and Reverb attacking Barry before Zoom shows up and kills the two for disobeying him before whisking Barry away to his lair. When Barry awakes he’s met with a sobering image as he see’s Jessie locked away and finds himself in a similar situation. Zoom appears, a mirroring image of the Flash, and tells him that this is the last place he’s ever going to see. Zoom is still a commanding and imposing figure and despite the title of the show and common sense it’s difficult not to worry a little bit about the Flash’s livelihood.
Directed by Millicent Shelton the episode is given a tone of urgency throughout as the group are thrown one hurdle after the other and dodging the threats increasingly narrowly. The scene at the end between Barry and Zoom is particularly stylish to watch as we see our hero caged and on his own, his teammates at a current standstill at what to do, with his current nemesis only a pane of impenetrable glass away from him.
Everything is on the line now, and while I was hoping for a reveal of who Zoom was (I still vote Earth 2 Henry Allen!), the scene set off enough sparks of anticipation on its own.
With part two next week we can only hope for as much excitement as this week’s episode provided as the show-runners for the first time in a while demonstrated the ambition and confidence they have in their series and heroes.
I can’t wait until next Tuesday.