The Flash – Season 2 Episode 20
Barry takes advice from all of his father figures as The Flash deals with the problem of Barry’s lost speed when Zoom begins a campaign to bring Earth-1 to its knees.
Having a superhero TV series where the main character loses his abilities for two whole episodes is a really bold decision and risks completely derailing the momentum of the season, especially when this comes so late.
The purpose of the last episode was to reinforce the fact that Barry is a hero without his powers and this episode is focused on him seeing the consequences of the decisions he has made. It’s an interesting –if expected- arc to put a depowered superhero through and it plays out to the natural conclusion of Barry deciding to attempt something really dangerous to get his powers back.
Barry’s current situation can be directly attributed to the bad decision he made when deciding to surrender his speed to Zoom in order to save Wally’s life. As I said at the time the situation had room for Team Flash to do some kind of double cross but even if it didn’t then it’s still something that demanded further discussion. Wally’s life is important and Barry can’t go knowingly sacrificing people just so he can keep his powers so the decision makes sense from the point of view of his character as well as the need to keep Barry as a heroic figure.
The major issue I have with the fallout of this decision is that Barry once again falls back into “idiot mode” and continues to make really bad decisions that make the situation so much worse. His attitude in this episode is to wait and see what happens which results in Zoom murdering some CCPD officers in cold blood on live television. What did Barry think was going to happen? He gave an enemy that was already pretty much unstoppable more power and left himself unable to challenge him so the logical outcome of that is that so many more people die. Zoom has no obstacles at this point and it is entirely Barry’s fault. As far as I’m concerned every death caused by Zoom following the decision to give up his powers is on him; so much for maintaining Barry’s heroic status.
Structurally this episode reminded me of the season 1 finale “Fast Enough” in that Barry has a decision to make and people offer him advice that helps him make it. This episode also has the presence of his three father figures; Joe, Harry and Henry. Harry isn’t quite a father figure in the same way that Thawne was last season but he does qualify under a certain definition. Joe and Henry are definitely Barry’s two main father figures and their stance on the decision is pretty much the same as it was back in “Fast Enough”. Henry thinks he should leave well enough alone as his powers don’t define him and Joe will support whatever decision Barry makes because he trusts his judgement.
Harry’s main focus is convincing Barry to go through with it because another Speedster will be needed to stop Zoom. This is also similar to “Fast Enough” where Thawne’s objective was to convince Barry to travel back in time to save his mother. It’s interesting that both versions of Wells have similar agendas when it comes to Barry making a choice.
Having Henry back in the mix is always welcome but it does serve as a reminder of how mishandled the character has been since his release from prison. His reasons for leaving have yet to be explained in a way that is satisfying and there are points in the season that his advice might have helped Barry in really meaningful ways. I keep thinking there must be some hidden reason for his leaving that we and Barry aren’t currently clued up on.
The value of his input is demonstrated in a really simple way in this episode. He recognises the name Garrick because it’s his mother’s maiden name which is something that Barry really should have known I would think. This feels like a late addition to set up some future revelation regarding Hunter Zolomon and the real Jay Garrick. What that revelation will be I’m not quite sure but I’m positive this seemingly throwaway realisation will be significant soon.
Henry’s perspective on Barry’s power loss is a really interesting one. He recognises that Barry ties his self-worth to being the Flash and that is something that really concerns him. He sees the man his son is as being so much more than what he can do as the Flash and the fact that Barry only sees himself as worthwhile when he has powers isn’t healthy as far as he’s concerned.
As I said, Joe offers support to Barry with whatever he decides but he also has a vested interest in the procedure not resulting in more dangerous metahumans being created as there are already more than enough of those causing trouble for everyone. Essentially he’s concerned that stopping Zoom might result in risking the lives of other innocent people in the future.
Barry is surprisingly smart about the whole thing and doesn’t want to go through with the procedure to recreate the accident that gave him his powers unless there’s a guarantee that no innocent people will be harmed as a result. He is conscious of the fact that the explosion couldn’t be contained on either Earth so doubts that it’s possible now. Harry is positive that he can localise the incident so that it only hits Barry but it really seems like a long shot so Barry wants to wait.
The problem is just as I said above; Zoom won’t wait and makes his plan to conquer Earth-1 in the same way he conquered Earth-2 abundantly clear. He makes a show of force against the CCPD to prove how unstoppable he is to normal people and leaves them with no option but to surrender.
Ultimately Barry sees what damage Zoom is causing and decides to take the risk because he realises that Zoom is far too dangerous to remain unchallenged. In order to present a challenge he needs his speed which means that he agrees to Harry’s plan so that he can be of some use.
This results in a really shocking cliffhanger where Barry disintegrates right in front of everyone with the assumption that he has been killed with only his tattered costume left behind. Obviously I don’t believe that he is dead since he’s the lead in this show and has been seen over on Arrow in a scene that is presumably set after these events but the fact that the characters believe that he’s dead creates the desired effect. The shock and grief on the faces of the cast is really believable with particular attention given to Jesse L. Martin who conveys so much with only his facial expressions. My guess is that Barry has been absorbed into the Speed Force and will have to get out somehow as we will probably see next week.
Cisco also jumps on the family reunion bandwagon started by Barry and Henry. He has a random vision of his brother Dante and arranges to meet him to make sure that he’s safe. It turns out that the vision was related to Dante’s Earth-2 counterpart, a metahuman villain named Rupture.
Other than him looking like Cisco’s brother there is nothing to distinguish this villain at all other than some visually impressive sequences. He does look really good and presents a solid enough challenge with the Flash being around but the attempt to add further depth to the character by having him look like someone the audience sort of knows really doesn’t work. I think he would have been as effective as another anonymous minion of Zoom.
Cisco’s relationship with his brother is handled well but it feels somewhat random this late in the season. There has been little mention of it since they were captured back in “Rogue Time” so the reconciliation feels somewhat unearned. Also, Dante is still fairly unlikeable and him suddenly getting along with Cisco while realising the important work he does protecting people and learning that he is a metahuman. It works because of the performances of the actors but feels out of place somehow.
As always Cisco was on top form. The performance from Carlos Valdes was as engaging as always and I like to see him given more weighty material than the comic relief stuff he normally gets. It’s never bad but variety is nice especially when Valdes is more than capable of it. The comedy was still there with his multiple pop culture references to Fringe, The Princess Bride, World of Warcraft, Harry Potter and Back to the Future. It’s a lot of reference ground to cover in a single episode that’s for sure but it works because it comes from Cisco. Also, the device to help restore Barry’s powers definitely did look like “The Vaccuum” from Fringe which is a nice touch since that show also dealt with alternate realities.
The use of Rupture goes back to Zoom’s methods earlier in the season when he used metahumans to do his dirty work in some way. Rupture isn’t all that effective in the end as he is easily brought down which causes Zoom to get angry and kill him for failing to measure up. Zoom being a merciless villain is very consistent and it’s good to see that the reveal of his identity hasn’t softened him in that respect.
Zoom’s complicated relationship with Caitlin continues to be really interesting and I still maintain that she reminds him of his mother as the flashbacks to the night his mother was killed appear frequently in their scenes together. It’s obvious that Zoom is a very damaged individual but the reveal of his identity has started to dig into what makes him so damaged. The word “monster” really sticks with him in a way that he really can’t shake. Hearing Caitlin say it has clearly affected him and made him more unhinged than he already was. It does seem as if Zoom doesn’t like being the way he is but has a lack of control over his own mind in some way. We also learn that he is tired of being alone and wants Caitlin to fill that void but he really needs her to be willing to be with him rather than living as another prisoner. Acceptance is something he lacks and something he craves but how that will play out is unclear. I assume that Caitlin will play a big part in his inevitable downfall.
He also seems convinced that Caitlin has the potential to embrace her dark side in the same way Killer Frost did. Reference is made to him wanting her to do that which makes me wonder why he held Killer Frost prisoner if that is what he wants from Caitlin. Zoom is a really complex character when you really look at it but I’m not sure there’s enough time left in the season to work through his potential.
The use of the Flash hologram to convince common criminals that Barry is still out there dispensing justice is a really clever idea. There are clear limitations to it and that is definitely the point but it shows how recognisable the Flash is in Central City at this point. For now the suggestion of him being after someone is enough to scare them into stopping their crime. It won’t work forever but for standard robberies it seems to be enough for now. It also allowed Barry’s speed to factor into action sequences without him having it which gave a break from Barry agonising over his decision.
Iris seems a little more useful than usual this week but that might have something to do with her being involved in more scenes rather than her actually do anything. At one point she was simply relaying what Barry wanted to Cisco which reminds me of the joke in Galaxy Quest where the only job of one of the characters was repeating the computer.
Having her declare her feelings for Barry at this point feels like a little much considering everything else he has to consider. I can accept that she wanted to make it clear that she cares about Barry whether he is the Flash or not but the timing couldn’t really be any worse. I feel as if she was only doing that to confirm to herself that she felt this way rather than for Barry’s benefit but I concede that I might be assuming that she’s selfish that way since she has been portrayed as such in the past. Whatever the reasons for her declaration it does give Barry more to think about and I like that he doesn’t answer right away. I’m not sure the time is right for a relationship between them but it is definitely on the table. Candice Patton did give a really good performance and Grant Gustin played the conflict as well as the confusion wonderfully. Every now and then these two actors have a great scene together and this just reminds me that there should be more of them.
Wally and Jesse gain some unexpected development when Joe locks them in the Time Vault to keep them safe from Zoom. Putting the two characters destined to become Speedsters in a location adjacent to a procedure designed to restore the powers of a Speedster gives a really large clue as to how that’s going to turn out. Beyond that there’s the really obvious foreshadowing in Wally’s discussion with Joe about finding a way to mix his desire to help and love of speed. Similarly there was another mention of Jesse being “quick”. It all pays off when they are struck by the energy that appears when Barry disintegrates. I wonder if they will find themselves in a coma until sometime next season like Barry did or if they will get their speed right away. The writers better watch out for having too many Speedsters around.
An engaging yet flawed episode with an excellent cliffhanger setting up the rest of the season nicely. There is some really good material as Barry wrestles with his difficult decision and using the 3 father figures to complicate the thought process was a nice nod to the first season finale. Cisco’s reconciliation with his brother felt like a random addition and it failed to give the villain any depth as was clearly the intention. Some excellent performances elevate this episode and the implications are perhaps a little more interesting than the content but I still enjoyed much of it
- strong performances from the cast
- the exploration of Zoom as a character
- an excellent cliffhanger
- an unearned resolution for Cisco’s barely featured relationship with his brother
- clumsy foreshadowing