This week is a historic one for Flash fans. We’re getting something we’ve never gotten before: a second season of television devoted to the adventures of the Scarlet Speedster! Yes, it’s easy to forget that back in 1990 the first live-action Flash show aired for but a single season, starring the man who now plays Barry Allen’s father, John Wesley Shipp. So whatever one thinks of “The Man Who Saved Central City” let’s raise a glass to the cast and crew of the CW hit as it enters its sophomore year.
Fortunately, the season 2 opener proves to be mostly satisfying on its own terms, laying the foundation for a few new storylines that should see us through at least the first half of this year… It’s been six months since Barry and his friends stopped the singularity that threatened Central City in the show’s season 1 finale. We soon learn, however, that they paid a high price for their victory. In addition to Eddie, the black hole that opened up took the life of another member of Team Flash, Ronnie Raymond, who closed the fissure alongside his counterpart Professor Stein. While the city celebrates the Flash’s accomplishment with Flash Day, giving the superhero the key to the city in a ceremony officiated by the mayor, Barry is torn apart by guilt, believing he’s responsible for Ronnie and Eddie’s deaths. He’s spent the last six months operating alone, with the team dissolved, lest someone else close to him be killed. Cisco is assisting Joe at the police department, Caitlin has taken a job at Mercury Labs since she can no longer bear to work at STAR with Ronnie gone, and Iris… Well, Iris is still not given as much to do as the show’s team of scientists, but we see further evidence here, building on her pep talk to Barry in the season 1 finale, that The Flash‘s writers are determined to make her a more valuable member of the cast. There’s none of the self-pitying or victimized character we saw in much of season 1, and more of the best friend and astute counselor she became in “Fast Enough”. With Joe’s help, she persuades Barry to stop blaming himself for the team’s losses, in time for him to tackle the first villain of this second season, the Atom Smasher.
Named, to Cisco’s delight, by Professor Stein, the Atom Smasher was created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Jerry Ordway for September 1983’s All-Star Squadron #25 (operating as “Nuklon” until he earned his current nom del plume in August 1999’s JSA Secret Files and Origins #1). With the power to grow in strength and size by imbibing radiation, Atom Smasher gives the show’s special effects team a chance to try something different. The resulting CG animation isn’t always convincing — The Flash is, after all, still a CW show, and thus subject to the network’s budget limitations — and the suspension of disbelief is strained by a couple of shots in which the villain picks up the Flash. But I prefer seeing such limits on screen rather than staid visuals. At least they let me know someone is trying.
In the end, we learn that Atom Smasher was employed by “Zoom,” who recruited him to kill Barry. It’s the first mention of the Reverse-Flash’s other alias, which comic fans have known since the character was introduced in Flash #139 back in September 1963. Barry, for the time being, is puzzled by what the word could mean; and I’m hoping it doesn’t take him long to figure it out. After keeping him in the dark as to Harrison Wells’ true identity for most of last season, the show isn’t doing Barry any favors by again feeding us an abundance of info it denies its protagonist. And there’s also enough of Barry’s butt being saved by Cisco and Caitlin (who comes up with the solution here to overdose the Atom Smasher with radiation). But such is the price we pay for television drama in 2015, where the ensemble is everything. What The Flash‘s producers can dial down is Barry’s waterworks. I counted no fewer than three scenes in which the young man wept. Yes, I understand that Grant Gustin is a talented actor, gifted with the ability to cry on cue. But fewer outbursts won’t make us think less less of him.
At least we’re to be spared any more father-son prison visits, since Henry Allen is now a free man, thanks to Wells’ parting gift to Barry, in which he confesses to the murder of Nora Allen. Yet the script doesn’t offer much in the way of explaining why Henry immediately decides to leave Central City upon his release. It’s true that Barry already has a family with Joe and Iris, and one with the STAR Labs team. But his father’s announcement is something of a weird slap in the face, considering Barry never once stopped trying to prove his innocence the entire time he was in jail. “Can you become all you’re becoming with me here?” asks Henry. Er, well, yes. Why not?
In any case, as Stein recommends, the show is moving “Forward,” introducing in the episode’s final moments one of DC’s longest-running (sorry) heroes, as one of Barry’s greatest allies, the original Flash, Jay Garrick, about whom we’ll learn more next week.
- I suspected the opening scene was a dream sequence when Captain Cold mentioned his desire to kill the Flash. Snart lives to thwart the speedster, and he’d sooner die himself than see his fun come to an end.
- “Technically, as members of Team Flash, we should all be getting keys.”
- I desperately want Cisco’s Flash Hawaiian shirt.
- “That light was perfect bait. What made you think of it?” “I don’t know. I think I saw it in a comic book somewhere.”
- Stein is right — the lightning on the Flash’s chest really does pop more against a white background. Always has, always will.
Next Week: Barry Allen and Jay Garrick face the Sand Demon in “The Flash of Two Worlds”.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).
IMAGES: The CW