[Warning: Contains Spoilers]
Last time we saw The Flash, he was racing into the singularity to save Central City. Although the cliffhanger was enough to bring fans back for a second outing with Team Flash, the entire first season was outstanding. It stayed faithful to the source material, successfully brought a rouges gallery to the small screen that, if handled poorly, could have been a disaster, and introduced the idea of the multiverse. The Arrow spin-off quickly built up a lot of momentum, which raises the question, can the second season continue at that speed, or will it fall flat on its face?
Unfortunately, the first episode of the sophomore season “The Man Who Saved Central City,” gets things off to a fairly weak start. It has a strong story at its core, but falters in rearranging and reassembling Team Flash and rushes past several meaningful moments.
The story picks up six months after the black hole incident. Although Central City is in the midst of rebuilding, the citizens are ready to celebrate their red clad hero. Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) knows the finer points of the events that transpired, which came at a price, and realizes he isn’t the hero the people think he is. In order to protect those close to him, he has decided to fight crime solo. Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) is off working for the competition at Mercury Labs, while Cicso (Carlos Valdes) is busy building toys for the Central City Police Department as part of the anti-metahuman task force with Joe West (Jesse L. Martin). But when the metahuman Atom Smasher – played by ex-WWE star Adam “Edge” Copeland – shows up on the scene and threatens to destroy the Scarlett Speedster. The team will need to pull together if they want to save Barry from the giant hands of this new enemy… assuming Barry will even let them help.
So let’s break it down.
First things first. This isn’t the only time The CW chose to skip right to the aftermath. The first season of Arrow ended with the city being torn apart by Malcom Merlyn’s (John Barrowman) earthquake machine than the second season started with Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) running through the jungles of Lian Yu. The problem isn’t that The Flash copied the same idea, but it’s troubling to think that the singularity will become the show’s Lian Yu, meaning more flashbacks instead of forward momentum. The promotional material suggests Zoom was in the black hole and used it to come to this earth, and then there’s Legends of Tomorrow. The season finale gave audiences a glimpse of Ciara Renee who plays Kendra Saunders/Hawkgirl. Obviously her experience could be explored in an upcoming story in Legends, but it makes more sense to present it in The Flash as a way to introduce her to the likes of Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Martin Stein (Victor Garber). Both The Flash and Arrow have their work cut out for them; they have to juggle doing setup for the latest DC spin-off while continuing to tell stories in their respective shows.
Speaking of Martin, we finally know why Jay Jackson (Franz Drameh) will be filling in for Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell). In order to close the black hole, Ronnie and Martin would have to separate as Firestorm in the eye. Although Martin escaped, Ronnie’s fate has yet to be determined. He could either be dead or trapped. This wouldn’t be the first time a CW character is thought to be dead, only to return from the dead, just to die again (read: Sara Lance). It’s a touching moment and meaningful one but it’s sidelined until Barry and Caitlin have an emotional conversation about it. The problem is the emphasis. There’s more time spent talking about than showing it to the viewer fortunately both actors have the ability to carry that emotional weight via exposition. I guess we can move on…
Cisco’s witty banter is always a welcome addition to the show’s already fun and whimsical tone, but Garber’s over the top delivery of quips is a strange departure from the dry witted portrayal of Martin Stein found in season one. I don’t know if they’re going for a Tony Stark and Bruce Banner kind of vibe, but it’s hard to imagine Martin switching back and forth between being solemn and silly – one of my biggest fears for the Arrow becoming the Green Arrow – but I digress. Tom Cavanagh’s Dr. Harrison Wells worked well because of his comedic timing and ability to play the straight man in these sort of situations. The thought of losing both Cavanaugh and John Wesley Shipp is devastating since they brought gravitas to pretty much every scene they were in. Hopefully they’ll find a better balance of humor and heart for Martin as the season continues.
It’s not all bad, though. As mentioned before, the story’s great. The city is ready to thank The Flash, but Barry knows both Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) and Ronnie are the real heroes. They each sacrificed themselves in order to stop Eobard and the black hole. It’s a fascinating concept to explore in a superhero show. What happens when your “hero” isn’t actually the hero? This could have been a fun idea to play around with as an overarching theme instead of tying it up in a nice bow at the end of the episode.
Overall, the first episode isn’t great, but it’s fine. The worst part was the Atom Smasher’s CGI. It was a long way from Gorilla Grodd, but proved characters like Elongated Man could be a possibility (assuming he’s not dead in this alternate reality), and that they could just as easily bring in Plastic Man. Either way, it was fun to see the cast and crew celebrating The Flash in this episode like the fans of the show. I’d like to believe this is just a break before diving headlong into a solid second season instead of a worrying sign of things to come.
Episode two is titled “Flash of Two Worlds” and is set to air on The CW, Oct. 13 at 7 pm.