The Flash begins Season Two with a bang
The Flash is a CW television series built around its namesake DC superhero character. Season One, which ended early this year, was a well written, briskly paced, lighthearted look at one of DC’s most entertaining characters. Unlike most superhero productions today, whether TV or film, one of the ways The Flash excelled is that it was deeply personal — there were very few over-the-top “end of the world” cliffhangers. The show was more about Barry Allen learning to be the Flash as he dealt with his own personal demons.
Season Two premiered a couple of days ago, and it seems to have an unmistakably different tone than the first. Personally, I can’t quite decide if whether or not I like it, but it definitely has my attention. Episode 1, “The Man Who Saved Central City,” deals with some of the end-of-season cliffhangers from the first season. Six months have passed since the cataclysmic conclusion of the last season, and Barry Allen has isolated himself from his friends and family. He works alone, struggling with guilt over his inability to save everyone, and is afraid that those he loves will be hurt if he lets them get too close. In most situations, this kind of moping would seem coy and cloying, but Grant Gustin’s charming and lighthearted portrayal of Barry Allen seems to pull it off. Cisco Ramone, the designated comic-relief/whiz kid, has joined the police’s anti-metahuman task force. Dorky and daft as ever, he brings the laughs in an otherwise heavy episode (by this series’s standards). Caitlin, the only character even more shattered than Barry after last season’s conclusion, has left the old team behind and taken a job at Mercury labs.
As such, the first episode has plenty on its plate to deal with in terms of just winding up loose ends. The way a season one Flash episode would have done this would have been by starting to make progress on cleaning up last season’s mess, while trotting out the weekly villain and maybe, just maybe, introducing a new story thread or two to build on in the next episode. “The Man Who Saved Central City,” on the other hand, pretty much reveals all its cards within the first twenty minutes and goes for broke story-wise in the next twenty. While it is admirable how much the status quo seems to change within one episode, I can’t help but feel like no one plot thread was really done justice.
The entire team reunites just a little too easily, for example. Caitlin, having lost the love of her life, has been running away from everyone for an entire six months. When she comes back, no real explanation is given, other than that curiosity gets the better of her when Cisco shows her a drained radiation tag from this week’s baddie, Atom Smasher. Barry resists a bit more, but even he comes around quickly enough when he has some trouble defeating Atom Smasher. Strangest of all, however, is Iris West — the girl Barry is crazy about, who was engaged to be married to Eddie Thawne last season. She saw Eddie put a gun to his own heart and shoot last season, and she seems to have recovered from that experience just a little too quickly. If anything, she’s the pillar of strength that brings everyone back together.
Another seemingly unnecessary thread concerns how Henry Allen, Barry’s father, is dealt with in this episode. It turns out that Harrison Wells, last season’s main villain, left a living will that confesses to the murder of Nora Allen, thereby exonerating Henry. In one fell swoop, last season’s principal dramatic arc is dealt with in five minutes. But what comes next is even stranger: Henry, a free man after nearly twenty years, decides he’d rather not be a “weight on Barry” and decides to leave town within a day of getting out. In the middle of all this, the episode also manages to introduce Jay Garrick, a speedster from another universe, and Zoom, who will presumably become this season’s big baddie.
The Flash is one of those rare superhero productions that wholeheartedly embraces its comic book origins, for better or worse. This week’s episode fell somewhere in the middle, with both the strengths and flaws of the format in full focus. Pulling off a series premiere like this is a very ambitious gamble, and the writers and cast would’ve pulled it off if not for some minor missteps. However, as a viewer, all I ended up noticing was that this week The Flash went a little too fast.