The Flash – Season 6 Episode 2
“A Flash of the Lightning”
The Flash continues to build towards the upcoming Crisis crossover as Killer Frost tries to get a life and Cecile finds a new focus for her skills.
“Crisis On Infinite Earths” is something this show has been teasing since the very first episode and it is now at the point where it is looming over all of the currently running Arrowverse shows -except Batwoman– which suggests that it’s much more than any ordinary crossover. Knowing what I do about the comics it stands to reason that the production team would have to be treated as a massive event like nothing any of these shows have produced before. So far the scale of the crossover has been teased nicely with a great deal of mystery surrounding the details.
A big challenge when teasing something of that magnitude is how to keep the build-up personal to the characters involved. Arrow did a great job with this in the first episode of the new season and The Flash is taking a slightly different approach. The episode opens following the appearance of The Monitor in the previous episode with Barry and Iris digesting what they have just learned. Up until this point Barry had assumed that he disappeared during those events and would someday be able to return but the situation is far more dire than that as he is told the only way he can save those he care about is to make the ultimate sacrifice and die.
This is definitely a lot to take in but it isn’t the first time Team Flash have been faced with the certain death of one of their own and Iris wants to ensure Barry is aware of that. She should know considering her certain death was prevented not so long ago. Eventually she manages to get Barry out of his funk and he decides that he needs a second opinion which prompts him to run to the day after he disappeared only to be stopped by an anti-matter barrier that prevents him from proceeding and nearly kills him for his trouble.
His next step is a trip to Earth-3 to ask anti-matter expert Jay Garrick for help. All this may sound very plot heavy but it’s actually heavily skewed towards the emotional impact all of this has. Barry and Iris talk mostly about loss, acceptance and hope where Barry tries to get his head around the potential inevitability of his fate. Their conversation also covers the confusion that would naturally come with news of this magnitude especially when they were fairly secure in their knowledge of the outcome up until now. Barry’s analogy about a terminal illness is pretty much spot on as that is essentially what they are contending with as a married couple. Once again it’s cosmic stakes reduced to a very relatable emotional issue that makes it more relevant.
Jay helps Barry see into the possible futures ahead of him and he comes to the inescapable conclusion that the only way to prevent the death of billions of people including those he cares about is to sacrifice himself. His death means that the universe gets to live. The procedure Jay uses on him takes a physical toll which represents Barry having to let that sink in. Tying his physical and emotional pain together gives the situation weight and Grant Gustin does an excellent job conveying how this affects him. His conversation with Joe about facing inevitable death and how to act in that moment is really powerful thanks to Joe’s particular brand of pep talks. He talks about a time early in his career where he was in a dangerous situation and thought he was going to die. It compares to Barry’s situation because for him it was about facing that possibility and finding the strength to get back to work. He uses the example of his police badge and how that represents the responsibility he has to keep going because it’s a symbol that means something to a lot of people. This also applies to the symbol that Barry wears on his chest that also represents the strength and resilience to make sacrifices. Joe’s advice proves meaningful later in the episode when Barry remembers those words and uses them as inspiration to continue his fight against the villain. The stakes of the situation don’t quite match the weight of the words but it’s a good moment nonetheless.
Barry has other things to deal with when Jay introduces his new wife Joan Williams (Michelle Harrison). Unsurprisingly she looks exactly like Barry’s mother, Nora just as Jay looks exactly like his father. Even though he knows that she’s not his mother it’s still difficult for him to see someone who looks and sounds exactly like her. I suspect introducing Joan is a gentle reminder that familiar faces can show up as different characters where the Multiverse is concerned. This will be important during “Crisis on Infinite Earths” so it’s a good idea to make sure audiences are reminded of this fact as we build to it. Joan is a strong presence in this episode offering maternal comfort to Barry when he’s injured by the procedure. She reads him poetry which is reminiscent of Barry’s memory of Nora during the events of “The Runaway Dinosaur“.
The thread of Killer Frost wanting her own life independent of Caitlin is picked up with her first attempt to find herself. Cisco and Ralph take her to an art exhibition where some of Kamilla’s photographs are on display. Frost shows contempt for everything she sees including Kamilla’s work which makes people feel uneasy around her due to her bluntness and lack of consideration for the feelings of others. It’s to be expected since she is unaccustomed to social situations so basic etiquette will elude her. She attempts to draw as a way of expressing herself even though she outwardly says that it’s for losers but it’s only to mask her own frustration at her inability to be creative in the way she wants to be. Cisco points out that she should pursue expressing herself in whatever way she wants but also to be aware that there are others trying to do the same thing and her highly critical nature is discouraging. She begins to understand how she makes people feel through being so tactless and learns something about the nuance of feeling.
So far I find this interesting as it’s a character learning about Humanity basically from scratch so if done right there should be a real opportunity for unique observations sort of like Spock or Data in Star Trek though it’s equally possible that it will turn out to be a massive waste of time and frustrating to watch; such is The Flash. Danielle Panabaker’s performance as Killer Frost is excellent and very distinct from Caitlin. It’s good to see her stretching the character in ways she hasn’t had the opportunity to do before. That in itself must be good for her as an actor.
The villain plot is where this episode feels at its most unfocused as it’s hard to tell which ongoing thread is to be most prominent. Ramsey Rosso makes a reappearance where he supposedly kills a weapons merchant before finding out that he wasn’t killed after all. It’s such a brief appearance and it does little to inspire interest because there’s still a vague sense of who Ramsey is as a character. His actions in this episode are just busy work that don’t lead to anything interesting so ending the episode on the reveal that the weapons merchant isn’t actually dead utterly fails as a cliffhanger.
There is another villain plot that takes more prominence. Allegra Garcia (Kayla Compton) is a troubled teen accused of crimes she happened to be near but didn’t actually commit and becomes something of a project for Cecile who puts her reputation on the line in order to help her. Evidence starts to mount supporting Allegra’s guilt despite her insistence that she’s innocent until it becomes apparent that her cousin Esperanza (Alexa Barajas) was affected by the Particle Accelerator explosion and granted the same powers. Esperanza is more of a plot device than a character as the answer to a mystery that comes too late in the episode for there to be any resonance to it. It is all about Allegra and how she has been written off by so many because of her past misdeeds but even that doesn’t receive enough time to really become something. Granted we will see more of her now that she’s working with Iris and Kamilla but not enough was done to make me want to see more of her. Kayla Compton does well with the limited material she has in creating a sympathetic character so there is a lot of potential here. The mention of an organisation exploiting Metahumans for some nefarious purpose isn’t really anything at this point as it depends where the show plans to go with it. For now it’s simply a thing that exists and another item on the list of Arrowverse secret organisations.
Cecile’s realisation that she should move into a field where she can specifically help Metahumans is a good move for the character and offers her a position in a show that can be uniquely hers without having to tag along with others whether it makes sense for her to do so or not. Metahumans are now part of the DNA of Central City so giving them the proper representation in the legal arena is the next logical step. This episode certainly proves that Cecile is passionate about helping those that the justice system isn’t equipped to deal with and I’m interested to see how this develops a character that has been left stagnating due to a lack of defined purpose.
A strong episode that teases the upcoming crossover in an emotionally relevant way and starts to position various characters in roles that suit them. The “Crisis on Infinite Earths” tease works really well because it’s framed as if Barry and Iris have just been informed that Barry has a terminal illness. Science fiction trappings are thrown in such as changing the future and how it has been proven that it can be changed but the basic situation is that Barry’s death can’t be avoided and they have to come to terms with it. Barry’s visit to Jay only confirms this as he learns that in order to make sure that the universe survives he will have to make the ultimate sacrifice. This procedure affects him physically and mentally to the point that he needs a Joe pep talk to get back on his feet. It’s a fine example of such a pep talk and he takes the words to heart in a way that allows him to move forward. Barry being faced with a woman who looks exactly like his mother is another thing he has to deal with and possibly serves as a reintroduction to the concept of familiar faces showing up as different people where the Multiverse is concerned. Killer Frost’s attempt to find her own life gets off to a rocky start when she manages to offend a room full of artists with her blunt comments before being told by Cisco that she has to be sensitive to others looking to express themselves. It’s a good plot so far as it’s the story of someone learning about Humanity from scratch which should leave plenty of room for unique observations if done correctly. Danielle Panabaker does a great job playing a different side to Killer Frost as well.
The episode falters when it comes to the villain stories. Ramsey Rosso makes two brief appearances that don’t further his arc or develop his character in any meaningful way meaning that the cliffhanger ending completely fails. Allegra Garcia makes for an interesting enough character albeit with not enough time to be developed in the way she needed to be. More will definitely be seen of her but the episode did little to make me want to see her again. The reveal that it was actually her cousin guilty of the crimes comes too late to have any real meaning attached to it. Cecile changing career direction to offering legal aid for Metahumans makes sense for her character and the world the show inhabits. It should offer Cecile a defined purpose beyond tagging along with other characters whether she belongs in that plot or not and there’s a lot of potential for this to develop a character that has been stagnating for a while now.
- grounding the massive stakes in the characters in really relatable ways
- strong Barry/Iris moments
- Joe’s speech helping Barry come to terms with what he has learned
- lots of potential in the Killer Frost plot
- Danielle Panabaker’s excellent performance
- a strong sense of purpose for Cecile
- Ramsey Rosso failing to generate any interest
- Allegra Garcia not having enough time to be as developed as she needs to be
- the solution to the mystery coming too late in the episode to be meaningful
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