Four Color Television - The Flash Season 2 Recap
When we last saw Barry Allen he was running up a building to leap into a dangerous singularity poised to swallow Central City. Season One’s shocking cliffhanger left us with so many questions: 1. Does Barry save the day? 2. What does he do next? 3. With the death of the Reverse Flash is Barry finally “The Fastest Man Alive?” 4. What was up with that metal helmet that fell out of the Speed Force? The answer to those burning questions are as follows: 1. Of course he saves the day, but it happens off screen and we don’t see much of it. 2. He saves the day and then he broods, alone, for an entire summer. 3. Of course he isn’t the fastest man alive, he’s never going to be the fastest man alive. 4. That helmet is a little piece of awesome that comic fans know as the costume of The Original Flash. With those questions asked and answered, it’s time to get your best lightning bolt logos on and show up in downtown Central City for Flash Day, because it’s time for Season Two.
Team Flash is Flashless as we come into the new season, as a result of the needless Barry brooding. At a celebration honoring The Flash for saving Central City, the team gets blindsided by a metahuman who can absorb energy and radiation – so the gang gets into gear to solve the case. There’s only one problem: the man they suspect of being the villain was nowhere near Central City the night of the Particle Accelerator explosion that created the metahumans, and he’s dead. Team Flash manages to stop the seemingly dead but very much alive meta, who claims he was sent by a villain named Zoom to kill the Flash. In a unique twist: just prior to his death Eobard Thawne confessed to the murder of Nora Allen and provided details about the crime that would after all these years exonerate Barry’s father and allow him to go free*. Henry gets out of jail and a mysterious stranger shows up in S.T.A.R. Labs to explain what happened with the dead but not metahuman.
Sometimes a TV show has a premise that asks its audience to accept a concept that is a little out there, and the ask in Season Two of The Flash is pretty big, because the entirety of Season Two is based on the concept of the DC Multiverse which is made up of an infinite number of parallel Earths. Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow take place on Earth One; Supergirl takes place on Earth 38; and The Flash of Earth Two is a man named Jay Garrick who was fighting a Speedster villain named Zoom when a hole ripped open in the Speed Force and his cool winged helmet was sucked inside. Jay got pulled into the Speed Force and found himself on Earth One, without his powers; but something far worse happened that day: Zoom saw Barry Allen through the Speed Force and decided he had to steal Barry’s speed and become The Fastest Man Alive. Jay reveals himself in S.T.A.R. Labs and explains that the villain who attacked the Flash Day celebration was the first metahuman from Earth Two that Zoom sent to Earth One to attack Barry, and he certainly wouldn’t be the last. The powerless Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears) agrees to help Barry get faster so that he can take on Zoom (voiced amazingly by Tony Todd) and Team Flash puts itself back to work trying to stop Zoom. Now officially a member of Team Flash, Iris is fully aware of the secret and is more than willing to get in the trenches with Joe, Cisco, Caitlin and Jay – but Jay isn’t the only one who hopped over from Earth Two to try to stop Zoom. The Harrison Wells of Earth Two was never killed and replaced by Eobard Thawne, and his particle accelerator also exploded in a metahuman creating nimbus. Going by Harry, this Wells blames himself for creating Zoom and has come to kill him. Barry understandably has some trouble reconciling the idea of trusting a man who looks exactly like the man who murdered his mother and manipulated him for years, but eventually Harry earns the trust of Team Flash.
Also earning a little trust is a beat cop named Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten) who gets herself named to Detective West’s Metahuman Task Force and also melts the cold brooding heart of Barry Allen. One of these new trusted teammates isn’t entirely deserving of that trust though, one of them is an agent of Zoom tasked with undermining The Flash. Zoom finally makes his big reveal by zooming over from Earth Two and promptly beating the ever-living crap out of Barry*. Barry is beaten and bested and broken by Zoom – his body paraded around Central City like the cracked hull of a conquered warship. Barry will heal the damage, but the cost will be his relationship with Patty who he keeps at arm’s length to protect from Zoom – ultimately, she leaves town to pursue a career in forensic science.
Relationship drama is the name of the game for Season Two as it turns out that Joe West’s ex wife isn’t exactly as dead as he has always claimed. It turns out that when his insane drug addict wife abandoned him and Iris, Joe decided to say that she was dead rather than allow Iris to grow up knowing her mother was a horrible person. The former Mrs. West shows up in town in the late stages of a terminal illness to get to know her daughter – but also to reveal on her deathbed that Joe has a son he never knew about: a young man named Wally West (Kieynan Lonsdale*)
Back to the new Team Flash where one of our team mates is a traitor who will betray Barry we have some fascinating candidates. Is it Cisco who now has superpowers that he is keeping secret? Is it the alternate Dr. Wells? We soon learn that Harry Wells’ daughter Jesse, whom he calls Jesse Quick (Violett Beane,) has been kidnapped and is being held by Zoom in a prison on Earth Two. If he wishes to see his daughter again Harry will have to implant a device on Barry’s Flash costume that will steal Barry’s Speed Force energy. Harry complies and distances himself from Barry who decides to seek help in solving the speed equation by going back in time to Season One and consulting The Reverse Flash version of Wells. Thawne/Wells complies and gives Barry a dire warning about messing with time travel, the more a speedster does it the more likely they are to be attacked by the Time Wraiths of the Speed Force.
Barry returns to the present and finds himself getting slower, guilt ridden over what he has done: Harry confesses and Barry agrees to go to Earth Two to rescue the young Jesse Wells. Cisco, Barry and Harry travel to Earth Two and Barry has a vision of the multiverse (specifically clips from Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and the 1991 Flash) Wacky fish out of water hijinks ensue, but Barry and team are able to rescue Jesse – but on the way discover that in Zoom’s prison is a man in an iron mask who is using Morse code repeatedly to tap out the name: Jay Garrick. Team Flash opens a rift between Earths One and Two for Barry and company to return to Earth One, but when they do Zoom is hot on their heels and manages to kill Jay before they can close the breach*. Barry vows to defeat Zoom, avenge Jay’s death and return to Earth Two to free the man in the mask.
Harry never followed through on betraying Team Flash, but someone did. The man who arrived and called himself Jay Garrick was lying from the start. The entire time he was posing as The Flash of Earth Two, Jay was really a man named Hunter Zoloman who was to be executed by electric chair the night of the Particle Accelerator explosion on Earth Two. The lightning and dark matter mixed to create the twisted and evil Zoom. The obvious question is then, how was Zoom able to be in two places at the same time to be both Zoom and Jay? Zoom would travel back in time and create a speed force duplicate of himself known as a time remnant and that other version would pose as Zoom while the original was on Earth One as Jay. The ruse, all of it was an attempt to get close to Barry so that he could steal Barry’s speed and run fast enough to open up breaches to every Earth in the multiverse and conquer them. Without Harry to secret away Barry’s speed – Zoom tried another approach: kidnap Wally and demand that Barry willingly give up his speed in exchange for Wally’s life. Despite being urged not to, Barry acquiesced and freely gave his speed to Zoom – who promptly opened a breach to Earth Two and brought every metahuman villain he could find to help him conquer Earth One. Powerless to stop him, Barry attempted to recreate the Particle Accelerator explosion that made him The Flash – disastrously it left only the charred remains of Barry’s costume and allowed Barry to cross into the afterlife of the Speed Force*.
The Speed Force played therapist for Barry, trying to get him to move on from his mother’s death before giving him back his speed and returning him to Earth One to stop Zoom, and it seemed like it would work. Barry attempted to let go of all of his pain over his mother’s death and returned to S.T.A.R. Labs, but as soon as Zoom found out Barry had his powers back – he punished Barry by murdering his father Henry. Angry and emotionally broken, Barry agreed to race Zoom – an event which would open a breach in the multiverse and allow Zoom to conquer another world an another if he won the race. Deciding to use Zoom’s tactics against him, Barry created his own time remnant; one who would willingly sacrifice himself to destroy the device Zoom was attempting to use to destroy the multiverse while the real Barry fought him. Not expecting this, Zoom was caught off guard and Barry lured him to a pair of time wraiths that captured him and pulled him into the Speed Force. Having defeated Zoom, Team Flash tried to celebrate – but there was so much loss. Barry raced to Earth Two to release the man in the mask only to discover it was a man who looked just like his own father but called himself Jay Garrick. Jay Garrick (also John Wesley Shipp) is the Earth Three doppleganger of Henry Allen, and was the first speedster who Zoom stole speed from in his attempt to conquer the multiverse.
Now hurting even more after the death of his father, Barry couldn’t no longer deal with the pain of loss. He ran, and ran, and ran until he ran back in time to the night of his mother’s murder and did what he couldn’t do a year earlier: he stopped Eobard Thawne from murdering his mother. And as he looked to the door he knew he had been hiding behind a year earlier when he had run back to this exact moment, he watched his younger self vanish as The Flash was erased from the timeline.
What works about Season Two? Grant Gustin is still quite amazing as Barry, Teddy Sears was so incredible as Jay Garrick that it was almost painful when it was revealed he had been Zoom all along. The subsequent shifting of gears to play Hunter Zoloman was also a masterstroke, and Sears was able to make his maskless portrayal of Zoom almost as chilling as the version voiced by Horror icon Tony Todd. I would like to point out here during Season Two commentary that before we entered into Season Three all live action versions of the Flash were played by Virginians, both Gustin and Shipp (both of whom played Barry Allen) hailing from Norfolk and Sears hailing from Northern Virginia. Interesting? Maybe not, but a source of pride for this Norfolk boy. Tom Cavanaugh’s third iteration of Harrison Wells is so vastly different from the other two, and we aren’t done with the multiverse of Wells’s yet. The arrival of Wally West is a great twist and a welcome nod to die hard Flash fans, as are Jesse Quick and The Speed Formula. Wrapping up the season by establishing that the original TV Flash John Wesley Shipp is in fact the original Flash Jay Garrick was a masterstroke that made this old school Flash fan very happy. Nothing though, and I mean nothing in Season Two was as fun as the appearances of King Shark*. The two part jaunt over to Earth Two was a series highlight, and had a cute easter egg with Earth 2 Barry’s home phone speed dial listing “Hal” “Bruce” and “Diana.” When The Flash leans on the emotional impact of its stories, it can be quite powerful. For example the Kevin Smith directed episode “The Runaway Dinosaur” that sees Barry trapped in the Speed Force with an avatar in the form of his dead mother is a tear jerker of an episode. When it comes to emotion though, nothing compares to the sheer sadness on Barry’s face as he runs back to try to get back both his parents, and the realization on his face that he has erased his entire timeline to save them. As the last shot fades to black, you’re left wondering whether Barry even cares that he has irrevocably altered his own life.
What doesn’t work about Season Two? The Zoom mystery tries really hard to be as impenetrable as The Man in the Yellow Suit mystery, and the season suffers a little because of that. Once he’s unleashed to be Hunter Zoloman Teddy Sears brings a menace to his character that makes Zoom truly frightening, had he been able to do this earlier the season would have been stronger for it I feel. The strength of the Eobard Thawne arc was that it took the time to get us really invested in Professor Wells and his mentorship of Barry, but the strength of the Zoloman/Zoom arc was in showing just how different Zoom is from Barry – framing the one to be too much like the other in some ways cheapens both. The show picks up a little justified criticism in that the arc of Season Two is very similar to the arc of Season One, it was a great formula and worthy of following again – just maybe not as closely. The back half of the season’s attempts to keep The Flash secret from Wally were a little tiresome, particularly on seeing how valuable Wally became to the team after finally being let in on the secret.
Next Week – The Maid of Might meets The Man of Steel. Supergirl Season 2
In Two Weeks – Will Barry Allen ever get to be The Fastest Man Alive? Flash Season 3
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