THE FLASH: “The Man Who Saved Central City”

Season 2 is here!

After last season’s wonderful cliffhanger, we jump into things in medias res, with the Scarlet Speedster battling the Rogues. With some help from Firestorm, he takes out Captain Cold and Heat Wave easily and makes it home to the congratulations of Team Flash. As Dr. Wells tells him that he has nothing left to learn before getting out of his chair, we realize that Barry is imagining this. His perfect family unit, all together and happy. As the scene flashes back to Barry alone in an empty STAR Labs and the season’s new voiceover begins, we begin to ask the pertinent question: what exactly happened when the wormhole appeared over Central City?

We get our answer soon enough, in a visually arresting sequence where, after Barry successfully stabilizes the wormhole, Ronnie and Dr. Stein decide to use Firestorm’s energy to close it. They do so, and Barry races down the side of the building and catches Dr. Stein, but Ronnie is nowhere to be found. Firestorm leapt into action one last time, and Firestorm didn’t come back. Barry blames himself, understandably, and has apparently spent the last six months on his own, unwilling to let the rest of Team Flash die in his war. It’s fairly rote hero stuff, but Grant Gustin sells it pretty well, and in typical Flash fashion, this storyline moves much faster than you’d assume given other superhero shows that shall remain nameless. A nice, Flash-y touch is how Barry’s been spending his nights, using his super speed to re-build areas of the city destroyed by the singularity (including Iris’s old coffee shop).

In a sense, this emptiness serves the Flash amazingly well, given three major characters are now dead. Tom Cavanagh is still a series regular in a form we’ve yet to see, but for all intents and purposes Harrison Wells is dead and gone, and his presence, more than Eddie or Ronnie’s (seriously, remember Eddie? The show barely does) hangs over the episode. Also, given that Ronnie disappeared inside of a wormhole, I’m pretty sure he’s not dead.

As far as the actual plot of the episode goes, things are pretty rote, for good reason. The police department finds a corpse they identify as an Al Rothstein, Cisco develops a piece of tech called “the boot” that can capture metahumans, a mysterious man spies on Barry, and a meta capable of growing double in size attacks the “Flash Day,” celebration, defeating both the man of the hour himself and Cisco’s new tech. Barry and Joe work together to use one of film’s oldest, most incorrect tropes by shooting barrels of propane, temporarily wounding the meta, who is revealed to be Joe’s corpse, Al Rothstein. Rothstein, better known as the Atom Smasher, is a classic DC hero and Justice Society member. He’s played by WWE Hall of Famer Adam “Edge” Copeland, who I always thought could make a decent actor. It’s good to see him keeping busy, but the role he gets tonight is both simple and thankless. He exists as a purely physical threat, while Barry’s self-doubt and the specter of Eobard Thawne are the true villains.

Two interesting things happen on the periphery here. Cisco and Joe see Caitlin, who apparently moved on to competitor Mercury Labs, and Cisco has a brief…flash of sorts, where his consciousness is transported into the past or future or alternate universe, where he sees Atom Smasher imprisoned behind some sort of force field. I imagine this will be picked later in the season, but Cisco’s ability to pick up on some dope vibes was the best thing about the character in the back end of the first season.

After Cisco and Joe recruit Caitlin and Dr. Stein and Barry receives a mysterious…flash drive from Wells’s lawyer, the new Team Flash gathers, much to Barry’s consternation. Iris brushes off Barry’s concerns by saying that his problems shouldn’t deprive Central City of its hero in time of need, continuing her own minor rehabilitation. They pinpoint Atom Smasher’s location, and Barry leaves on his own to fight him, predictably ending with Flash barely escaping with his life.

When Barry wakes up, Joe is there to dispense paternal wisdom. “You want me to tell you it wasn’t your fault? I can’t. It was,” he says in his trademark bluntless, while also reminding his adopted son that it’s Eddie and Ronnie’s fault, too. They were people who made choices, not sidekicks and pawns. Funny how Arrow couldn’t make this point with an entire season’s worth of glowering but Jesse L. Martin does it with a single scene. His presence on this show cannot be understated. Barry makes amends with Caitlin, who blames herself more than she does him, because of course she does. They decide to watch the will Wells left for Barry, which turns out to be a taped confession of the murder of Nora Allen, which Wells says won’t bring Barry the happiness he wants. Still, it’s a nice sentiment. “We aren’t enemies,” Wells says on the tape, and he’s right. I really need Tom Cavanagh back on this show.

With Henry soon to be released, Barry has his mojo back, and Team Flash quickly comes up with a plan to stop Atom Smasher. They use a giant Flash signal (Cisco says he saw it in a comic book somewhere, which elicited a legit groan from me) to lure Atom Smasher into a chase that culminates into an active reactor, which Cisco seals behind Barry. According to Dr. Stein, the amounts of radiation they flood the chamber with is too much for our villain, and afterwards, Barry apologizes for essentially murdering him (this show very deftly skirts around some very questionable subject matter sometimes). Flash asks Atom Smasher why he was targeted, to which Smasher responds that someone named Zoom promised to “take him home” if Flash was killed. I’m assuming this home is the same place Cisco saw him, just as I’m assuming Zoom is going to be amazing on this show. Just amazing.

Anyways, after the last break, Henry is released, and Barry’s perfect family unit is whole again. Until it isn’t. At Henry’s welcome back party, he tells his son that he’s leaving, because Central City needs the Flash more than Barry Allen needs his father. It’s sad, but sort of inevitable stuff. There isn’t really a place for John Wesley Shipp in this ensemble on a week to week basis. Barry already has a father.

Before this, Dr. Stein gives a speech about moving forward, and after Henry leaves, Team Flash officially reunites, Barry officially accepts the key to the Central City, and Barry’s new suit, the one from “the future newspaper” with the white circle on the chest, is revealed. It’s the classic Flash suit, and it’s gorgeous. After Iris and Caitlin hype up the new security system, someone else breaks through and steps forward: a man named Jay Garrick, who says that “your” world is in danger.

Two yellow speedsters. Two Flashes. This show is always moving. Always forward.

Run, Barry. Run.

Episode Grade: B+

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