Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Flash Season 2, Episode 1: The Man Who Saved Central City

The Flash is back! 

I was really looking forward to the return of the show, but now that it's here I'm not quite sure what to make of this episode. I was all set for a thrilling conclusion to last season's cliffhanger, but instead we pick up six months after the singularity incident and see that Barry apparently saved the day. Huh? What kind of way is that to resolve a major plot point?

In a similar vein, the death of a major character gets little or no attention and a huge change for another is disposed of as quickly and clumsily as possible, all to free up air time so Barry can mope and blame himself some more.

So what happened? Is there a new writing team who didn't like the cliffhanger, so they swept the resolution under the rug? Did the writers forget what they wrote last spring? Whatever the reason, it was an underwhelming way to start a season.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
For some reason we pick up six months after the season finale and the singularity that was threatening Central City. We find out that Ronnie Raymond apparently died closing up the singularity, and Barry blames himself. He's now working on his own to avoid hurting anyone else. He spends his days working as a CSI again, and his nights rebuilding Central City at super speed. Barry examines a crime scene and identifies a dead man as Al Rothstein.

Meanwhile, Cisco is working with Joe in a new metahuman task force at the Central City Police Force. Caitlin is now working at Mercury Labs with Dr. McGee. Dr. Stein, who's apparently no longer able to transform into Firestorm, hangs around spouting pithy one liners.

A few days later, Central City celebrates the first annual Flash Day, to honor the superhero who saved the town. Barry is reluctant to attend, as he no longer believes he's a hero. He eventually decides to show up. Naturally, just as the Mayor is about to present him with a key to the city, a new metahuman called Atom Smasher attacks and tries to kill the Flash. Atom Smasher is revealed to be Al Rothstein, the man Barry found dead at a crime scene. Atom Smasher grows to twice his height and nearly kills Barry before being driven off.

Barry receives a visit from Dr. Wells' attorney, who gives him a flash drive to watch. The drive contains a video of Wells (aka Eobard Thawne) congratulating Barry for killing him, and confessing to the murder of his mother. Barry uses this confession to free his father from prison at long last.

The STAR Labs gang gets back together and determines that Atom Smasher is feeding on radiation. Dr. Stein uses comic book science to reason that if they feed Smasher too much radiation, it'll overwhelm and defeat him. And that's just what they do. They lure Smasher into a radiation chamber and fry him. Before he dies though, he tells Barry that "Zoom" promised to send him home if he killed him. 

Henry Allen is released from prison after fifteen years, and Barry throws him a welcome home party. Before it's even over, Henry inexplicably says he can't stay and is moving on, leaving Barry— as well as the audience— gasping in disbelief. At STAR Labs, a mysterious man shows up. He says his name is Jay Garrick, and the world is in danger.

Thoughts:
• This was a very oddly structured episode. Instead of an rousing and epic ending to the singularity cliffhanger, it was quickly resolved in under a minute. And in a flashback yet!

If I had to guess, I'd say this was due to the show's budget. A black hole hovering above the city and sucking up cars is something you'd see in The Avengers, not on a weekly CW series. I'm betting they couldn't afford twenty minutes of the Flash vs. the Singularity and had to trim those scenes to the bone, leaving just enough for a brief flashback.

• This episode also kills off Ronnie Raymond a second time, in the most off-handed way possible. He didn't even get a proper sendoff, as instead we see him sacrifice himself in the aforementioned flashback. We're obviously supposed to shocked and saddened by his death, but it's hard to feel anything one way or the other when the incident is given so little importance.

• During the flashback we see Barry running around the singularity at super speed, hundreds of feet in the air. How exactly is he doing that? Apparently we're to believe he's running across various pieces of debris flying around in midair. Who's he think he is, Legolas?

• In last season's finale, Barry spent the majority of the episode wringing his hands, worrying that he'd alter time if he killed Eobard Thawne. This was a huge deal, as Barry asked each and every cast member what they thought he should do as he fretted about it. 

Eddie Thawne saved Barry the trouble when he shot and killed himself, which prevented his distant descendant Eobard Thawne from ever being born. If Eobard never existed, then he couldn't have killed Dr. Wells or Barry's mom, Henry Allen would never have gone to prison, the Flash would never have been created, and on and on. Instead, absolutely none ot that happened. Barry's timeline is exactly like it was before Eddie's death.

The possibility that Barry Apparently the writers chose to deal with this paradox by ignoring it completely. I suppose we could say that Firestorm sacrificing himself somehow preserved the original timeline, but... that's a pretty limp explanation.

• According to Barry's mail, his full name is Bartholomew Henry Allen.

• Barry was actually doing his CSI job in this episode. It's been a long time since we've seen him do any real police work.

• Atom Smasher's real name is Al Rothstein. In the comics, Rothstein was actually a superhero, and was part Infinity Inc., a team that lived and operated on Earth 2.

• At the Flash Day celebration, Cisco was wearing a shirt with a lightning bolt pattern.

Mayor Bellows returns in this episode, handing out the key to the city to the Flash. Bellows was last seen in the Season One episode Tricksters.

Bellows is played by Vito D'Ambrosio, who played Officer Tony Bellows on the 1990s Flash TV series.

• Cisco has another of his alternate timeline flashes in this episode. Dr. Wells said this would happen to him last season, in Fast Enough. There he told Cisco, "You'll be able to see through vibrations in the universe. A great and honorable destiny awaits you now." Looks like he was right!

• Cisco referenced the fact that last season ANYONE could apparently just sashay into the STAR Labs Core unchallenged (he must have read by blog!). He says he's taken care of that this season, and has installed some hi-tech automated security. Yeah, we'll see. I have a feeling it's not going to keep anyone out if they have something to say that's relevant to the plot.

• According to Barry, STAR Labs has been shut down and vacant for the past six months. If that's so, what happened to all the metahuman prisoners in Dr. Well's Secret Super Jail?

And if Dr. Wells somehow left STAR Labs to Barry, how's he paying for it? I'd think the property tax alone on such a building would be astronomical. Not to mention the utilities. I know, I know, it's a comic book world.

• Barry's visited by an attorney who works for the firm of Weatherby & Stone. That's a reference to the 2008 TV series Eli Stone, about a lawyer who begins having hallucinations, which he interprets as divine signs.

Eli Stone was created by Greg Berlanti and Mark Guggenheim, the creators of The Flash. The series also starred Victor Garber, who plays Dr. Stein.

• Now that he's been separated from Firestorm, poor Dr. Stein didn't have much to do in this episode except stand around. Expect him to hook up with a new Firestorm partner before the season's over.

Stein did get to name Atom Smasher in this episode, so I guess that's something.

• So the Flash now has a "Flash Signal" he can shine into the sky. Oy. Apparently Cisco invented it, and when Caitlin asks hime where he got the idea, he says, "I don't know. I think I saw it in a comic book." Wa-waaaaaah. 

Looks like this is concrete proof that there's no Batman in The CW-verse.

• When Barry & Co. are trying to stop Atom Smasher, Dr. Stein says to crank up the radiation level all the way. He says Atom Smasher won't be able to absorb it all.

How could he possibly know that? People who absorb radiation and grow to twice their size seems like brand new territory to me.

• As Atom Smasher lay dying, he mentions "Zoom." As fans of the comic already know, that would be Professor Zoom. He has a long and convoluted history in the comics, which I won't even attempt to go into here.

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Zoom will somehow turn out to be Eddie Thawne. Remember, last season after Eddie shot himself, his lifeless body was sucked up into the singularity. Who knows what happened to it after that. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that he was somehow resurrected, gained super powers and now holds a grudge against Barry.

• Barry gets a new outfit at the end of the episode. Everyone makes a big deal over it, but it looks a lot like the old one, except it's got a white circle on the chest instead of a red one. 

Last season Barry saw a future version of himself wear this costume, so by making it, Cisco just proved there's no such thing as free will, as he was destined to create it.

• Henry Allen's homecoming should have been the highlight of the episode, if not the series. After all, Barry's devoted fifteen years of his life to proving his dad's innocence, and it's the reason Barry became a CSI.

Instead it was a horribly handled low point. Not one hour after being released from prison, Henry tells Barry he can't stay and has to leave. Are you freakin' kidding me? Whatever bizarre motivation he has for leaving Central City, are you telling me he couldn't even spend a week at home with his son? Jesus Christ, writers. Even the actors looked embarrassed and uncomfortable during this ridiculous scene.

It's like the writers suddenly can't stand the Henry Allen character and want him off the show as fast as humanly possible. Eh, it's just the emotional heart and core of your entire series, guys. No need to give it the proper gravity and attention it deserves.

Did actor John Wesley Shipp piss them off or something? The show's already pretty crowded— witness this episode, with a ton of people standing around the STAR Labs set like they're in a play— so maybe they didn't want Henry rattling around in the background with nothing to do. Or maybe they've got big plans for him, and he'll return during Sweeps Week. Whatever the reason, his exit was horribly and awkwardly handled.

• At the end of the episode, Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth 2, appears. Note that he's not wearing his signature winged helmet, which somehow flew through the wormhole in last season's finale. I'm guessing Cisco probably kept it and will hand it over to him.

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