While the first couple seasons of the CW's Arrow proved that a comic book television show could be viable, it wasn't until The Flash came along that I realized how far along we really were. Almost immediately, The Flash went "full comic book," bringing in characters like Captain Cold and the Reverse Flash and putting great actors in their shoes. By the end of the first season, time travel and interdimensional travel were both a canonical part of the show. These were things I never thought I'd see.
The show hooked me from day one and had me drooling for the second season. It reignited a dormant love for the Flash that I'd had since I was a little kid, and I felt like a kid again watching Barry Allen's new adventures. As the second season began, I was excited to see where the team behind the show would take it.
With the entire season behind us, it's time for a look back at what worked and what didn't.
Going "Full Comic Book"
The season started strong, reintroducing us to the Flash and reminding us of the literal hole the first season's finale had ripped in space.
At the beginning of the season, we couldn't have imagined how crazy things would get. The show ended up introducing some seriously complex and out-there concepts that usually get discarded and relegated to the pages of comics when they're judged as too messy for casual viewers.
The entire season was built around the idea of the multi-verse, a series of similar but different universes that all occupy the same space. The show also delved into something touched on in the first season, the Speed Force, an elemental force that powers speedsters like The Flash himself. None of this is simple to explain, and some of it is straight-up goofy.
Those two ideas led to the very best moments of the season.
The two-episode venture into Earth-2 introduced us to a whole slew of doppelgangers and some super cool future-history tech. It gave star Grant Gustin a chance to flex his acting muscles and play a very different Barry Allen, and let the effects team and set builders an opportunity to work on some very cool designs. It also gave the writers a way to bring back Harrison Wells, played by Tom Cavanaugh, who has consistently been one of the show's bright spots since the very first episode.
The deep-dive into the Speed Force in one late-season episode should've been a mess, but with director Kevin Smith at the helm – yes, that Kevin Smith – and writer Zack Stentz, who wrote X-Men: First Class, Thor, and a personal favorite, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, in charge of the script, what we got instead was a tight episode that tied together many of the hanging threads from the middle of the season.
It also gave just about everyone from Cisco and Wells to Iris and Harry something to do. Cisco had an inordinate number of great lines. Carlos Valdes and Tom Cavanaugh could carry the show by themselves for quite a while before it became a problem.
Some of the monster-of-the-week stuff was excellent, too. The effects team building the visuals for all these CW shows is getting very good, and this was shown off especially well by episodes surrounding Grodd, the psychic gorilla Flash tangled with last season, but King Shark as well. King Shark is one of the most unabashedly silly characters in DC, and he ended up at the center one of the season's better episodes. Both looked great and showed off the effects team's work very well.
Then there was the return of Jesse James, the Trickster, portrayed by Mark Hamill one last time before the Star Wars hype train went full steam, and the re-appearance of the Reverse Flash as portrayed by Matt Letscher instead of Tom Cavanaugh. While we'd seen him last season, his appearance this season helped cement him as the new-original Reverse Flash (time travel is complicated, you guys).
Then there's the complicated tale of Zoom and Jay Garrick. To someone not paying attention, Flash must be very confusing. There was a guy named Harrison Wells, then he was Eobard Thawne, now he's Harry Wells, and there's a different guy named Eobard Thawne. Then there's Jay Garrick, who is actually Hunter Zolomon, who is Zoom. And there's Henry Allen… we'll get to that.
Zoom started a high point for the season, but ended up, ironically, slowing and dragging things down.
Teddy Sears was pretty believable as Jay Garrick, a Flash for another time. He almost pulled off that helmet, too. The slow reveal that that had all been a lie, too, was well timed and paced. Sears played the good guy well, and there were never any scenes of him rubbing his palms together and cackling. Instead, bits of evidence here and there were revealed so that we could question our trust of him and feel betrayed once his identity as Zoom/Hunter Zolomon was reavealed.
As Zoom, his first few appearances were genuinely terrifying. Zoom's presence itself was scary enough, and his initial encounters with Flash were so utterly dominating that it presented a truly huge obstacle for Flash to overcome.
The trouble came when the two merged.
The Speedster Slows Down
As a cornbread good guy, Sears was, as I said, pretty believable. As a psychotic murder accidentally imbued with superpowers, though, Sears fell a bit flat. Especially once he started interacting with Caitlin Snow, he started to seem less like a villain and more like the most dangerous stalker in the history of the multi-verse.
Which brings us to Caitlin Snow and Killer Frost. In the first season, actress Danielle Panabaker did a fine job as a supporting character, but this season, due at least in part to writing, she was the weakest link. As Snow, she was often relegated to waiting fearfully for something to happen to her, which is just about the most boring thing a writer can give an actor to do.
As her Earth-2 doppelganger and comic book counterpart Killer Frost, I'd hoped she'd be more interesting. While Panabaker was clearly having fun playing an evil character, her performance was more on par with the other doppelganger villains – even in a comic book show, it felt cartoonishly out-of-place. It's something I was willing to excuse for the random one-shot characters that popped up through the season, but Killer Frost had too much screen time to be as one-dimensional as she was.
While I ended up liking Wally West, the storyline surrounding his introduction, as well has his first few appearances, were all huge drags on an otherwise fun show. Getting the audience to care, first, about Iris's suddenly resurfaced mother, then a brother she didn't know about, took more time than the show had. Everything about it felt like it was from another show on another network – in a totally different genre.
I ended the season with mixed feelings. A strong start led into a downward swing that lasted a bit too long before the show finally recovered for the last few episodes. Television shows are so stuck on filling a certain number of episodes that it sometimes seems like they don't know what to do with the time and end up wasting it or getting distracted, and that's just what happened here.
Despite all that, The Flash left off in a good place. This is where the real spoilers are, so if you haven't finished the season, you may want to stop reading.
I was frustrated when Zoom took Flash's powers away, but making Flash go without the powers for a couple episodes was the right decision. Stentz and Smith powered the speedster back up in a believable way that expanded the universe. Cisco vibing off the armor leftover when Flash disintegrated into the Speed Force made sense and used bits and pieces from the season to reach a logical next step that moved the story forward. It felt like the writers were thinking hard about not just the characters but the little details.
These last few episodes, the finale especially, set up all kinds of dominos that we could potentially knock down next season and the season after.
Barry's shift into the Speed Force knocked out both Wally and Jesse, Wells' daughter. In the comic, Wally and Jesse are both speedsters, with Wally taking over the mantle of The Flash and Jesse becoming Jesse Quick. The two now presumably have a connection to the Speed Force, especially with Barry pulling Jesse out of her coma with a single touch, framing him almost like a religious figure.
Setting these two up to join the Flash family but not giving them powers right away seems like a good idea.
The reveal of the man in the iron mask, held prisoner by Zoom for much of the season, as being the real Jay Garrick, was well-executed, too. Actor John Wesley Shipp's appearance on The Flash has always been somewhat of an Easter egg. He was the original incarnation of the speedster in the 1990s Flash television show. Scientist Christina McGee, played by Amanda Pays, was his own STAR Labs back then. Having the two characters meet was a great treat for us old kids. His presence on the series has always been a warm one as Barry's father, Henry.
While Barry was without his powers, Henry said something about Garrick being his mom's maiden name, so when they took the mask off, Shipp's face was less of a surprise than a confirmation. Seeing him step into the shoes of Jay Garrick, the very first Flash, was easily one of my favorite parts of the episode. It opens up a door for Shipp's Garrick to act as a mentor to Barry Allen that doesn't turn end up betraying him 5 or 10 episodes later.
But that wasn't all.
When Flash defeated Zoom, the black-clad villain was taken away by Time Wraiths, Dementor-like creatures that try to police speedster time manipulation, he began to transform, with streaks of red twisting him into a zombified creature still clad in his black costume. We'll likely see him return, though not portrayed by Teddy Sears, as Black Flash, a sort of Grim Reaper-like being that speedsters see when they die.
And then finally, there's the decision Barry made in the show's final moments – going back in time to save his mom. I'm a little worried, but I'm excited, too, as this looks to kick off the Flashpoint Paradox storyline from the comic books, which showed Barry landing in an an alternate timeline where he'd never been a speedster. The change rippled out, affecting heroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman in interesting ways.
While we can't see those characters, The CW has built up a stable of DC characters to work with, and we could see alternate timeline versions of Arrow, Atom, and, now that she's joined the CW, Supergirl as well. This arc is what will likely integrate her show, migrated from CBS and a different in-show universe, into the main universe of Flash, Arrow, and their friends.
In other words, we've got a full plate of food just waiting for the chefs to cook it up.
The Flash season 2, despite some flaws, was worth the time I spent with it, and it has me looking forward to the next season.
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