TV Review: THE FLASH (Season 2) – Breaking The Formulaic Barrier
One of three superhero shows on The CW network has wrapped its sophomore Season, and it may have repercussions for its others shows set in the same universe. The CW’s ‘The Flash’ is the second DC Comics adaptation on the network, spun-off from the first series, ‘Arrow‘. Since then, there has been a third, followed by a fourth which will premiere next season. ‘The Flash‘ however, remains the series that features the most emotional depth, optimism and a slow drip form of storytelling, while still going all in with its stakes.
With Season 2 coming to an end, I will try to take a look into what makes this show great, as well as addressing some of the criticisms the show faced during this season. *Spoilers for Season 1 and 2 will follow. You’ve been warned!*
Read on for my Season 2 Review of ‘The Flash’.
After the defeat of the villainous Eobard Thawne (Tom Cavanagh) posing as Harrison Wells (also Tom Cavanagh), a singularity threatens to destroy the universe until Flash himself puts an end to it, but at the expense of one-half of Firestorm, played by Robbie Amell. The Season begins by showing us how the crisis was averted, through flashback, and how it affected Barry and the team. Which was, to be completely honest, a little anti climactic; that we had to wait months to find out that the cliffhanger ending was taken care of prior to the season premiere.
Moving on… The singlularity however, had the unintended result of creating rifts in space-time, connecting this Earth to others. This is where the infamous Multiverse concept from the DC Comics is finally introduced to the TV Universe.
The Multiverse is concept used in the comics, where there are multiple Earths and realities where things can be drastically different from the universe we know, or be eerily similar, populated by doubles or doppelgängers of characters old and new. Using the Multiverse as a plot device in the Season 2 allowed the writers to bring in the craziest comic book characters from a different Earth, (known as ‘Earth-2’) without really having to give any origin stories of how they developed their powers. Like they did in Season 1.
The threat of this Season deals with another speedster named Zoom, who has enslaved Earth-2, causing the Harrison Wells of that Earth to flee to the one we know, Earth-1, collaborating with the team to try to stop Zoom. And this happens while the others come to terms with the doppelgänger of their former enemy, now turned ally.
There are a lot of elements at work this Season, like Cisco (Carlos Valdes) developing his own powers, after the revelation of him being a meta-human last season. There are more elements from the comics being introduced onto the show as well, like the characters of Jay Garrick and Wally West, both characters that take up the mantle of The Flash at one time or another.
The Season 2 big bad provides more of a physical threat for Barry Allen (Gustin Grant), whereas Reverse-Flash from Season 1 was more of an emotional threat. Zoom wants to steal Flash’s speed and will go to any lengths to get it. The Season featured multiple twists and turns, with trips to Earth 2, crazy villains of the week like King Shark, and the shocking revelations at the Season finale. And it was glorious.
Why It Was Good
Season 2 brought the comic book world a lot closer to TV. Multiverse. Doppelgängers. And all without the expense of what makes the show great. For a CW show to not be centered around a romance story, or even have it be one of the prevailing story arcs of the season, is almost unimaginable! In a show that is so light hearted, and at its core about relationships, the central potential romance between the male and female lead, is paused for the entire season, only to surface in one or two scenes in the last two episodes of the Season.
This is from the same network (albeit it a different version of it) who dragged out the Lana-Clark relationship for multiple seasons on ‘Smallville’ years earlier. Many still hold the romance and relationship story arc in another CW show, ‘Arrow’, to have been that show’s downfall in quality for the last 2 seasons.
‘The Flash’ also introduced many comic book heroes this Season, but have shown restraint enough to not have everyone don a costume or become heroes right away. Everyone rolled their eyes when it was reported that Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) and Jesse Wells, (Violett Beane) a.k.a. Jesse Quick from the comics, were cast in Season 2. Given their origins of becoming speedsters themselves, most audiences thought that this was a foregone conclusion, and that we would get a show crammed with superheroes for the sake of seeing superheroes on screen.
However, the show has held back enough, to let these characters create identities of their own within the framework of the story being told; build relationships and show their significance without being given powers or ham-fisted into a superhero suit. While still sowing the seeds for those very storylines to occur in the future, on their own terms, and not merely for shock or nostalgic value.
Another hero introduced at the end of Season 1, was our very own Cisco, having been revealed as the comic book character Vibe. But again, the writers hold back and utilize his powers in a very minimalistic way, which is still crucial to the story at hand during the season. It’s not until the penultimate episode that he even gets to use his powers for physical self defence against a super villain.
This restraint, developing supporting characters into the narrative of the series, before their characters intersect with the plot in a significant way, is wholly impressive.
Especially when in contrast (again) to ‘Arrow’ where all of a sudden Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) just showed up one day in a red leather suit and was being called Arsenal. Then, the abrupt superhero introduction happened again, when his suit passed onto to Thea Queen (Willa Holland) as she joins the crime fighting team, with nary a development of her motivations for doing so.
‘The Flash‘ isn’t the most perfect show out there. It’s a show that, at face value, features bright costumes, massive CGI effects and convoluted pseudo-science and convenient resolutions to technical plot points. But the heart of the show is the characters and their journey through these outrageously comic book elements.
And this is where the ending of Season 2 makes sense. It could be said that Barry made peace with his mom’s death, never acting on her rescue in the finale of Season 1. But at second glance, it makes sense that all the trauma he’s suffered all of Season 2– being emotionally and physically broken, having to trusting an enemy again, only to be betrayed again by someone else, losing his powers, being disintegrated, his spiritual experience inside the Speed Force, and finally losing his own father– would make him rethink that decision he made in the Season 1 finale.
Barry chose not to undo the current timeline in Season 1 because everything and everyone he cared for was here, and he didn’t want to change that. After his father’s loss, he may have just decided that there is nothing to hold onto in this version of the world. So he completely uproots it, by going back in time to save his mother’s life, changing his life from that moment onwards, and that of everyone else; thereby effectively resetting the timeline of the world that we’ve seen play out in the last 2 Seasons.
The ‘Flashpoint Paradox’
Season 3 of ‘The Flash‘ promises more shake ups and upsets to the status quo that we know. Returning characters and possibly new ones, indicate a lot of changes. With the resetting of the timeline, it’s assumed that the show will do a TV, CW version of the comics storyline ‘Flashpoint Paradox’.
This is a storyline, similar to the Season 2 Finale, where Barry travels back in time to save his mother’s life. When he returns to the present, his mother is alive, but he is no longer The Flash, and the world is a worse off place for it. Other heroes are not who they are supposed to be. Events didn’t play out how Barry knows them to have, and everything is worse off. So it’s being assumed that Season 3 of ‘The Flash‘ will follow a similar storyline, with characters from the CW-verse being dramatically altered beyond recognition.
How that affects the other CW shows still remains to be seen. But I am definitely still in for Season 3 of ‘The Flash‘, as it continues to be one of the better superhero TV series in production.