I didn’t realize how much I’d missed The Flash until seeing it again last night. It’s the first superhero show that I’ve been strongly attached to, and it’s with good reason. DC Comics have been killing the TV game for years, and this show’s the culmination of all of their and The CW’s practice.
The first season of the show was pretty strong all around. Balancing good character work with interesting drama while managing to introduce all sorts of wacky elements like super powered humans, telepathic gorillas, and even time travel without completely falling apart. Which makes the second season premiere all the more troubling. Somehow everything and nothing happens. It’s so much more by the numbers than you’d expect from a show where a speedster fights a giant radioactive man.
Six months after a black hole (dubbed “The Singularity”) opened over Central City in last season’s finale, Barry’s (Grant Gustin) going through the typical superhero angst. He blames himself for the whole debacle (and Eddie’s death) and can’t stop insisting that he “didn’t save anyone.” Regardless, Central City is honoring their hero with “Flash Day” (which sounds like an awful day out of context), and it’s a pretty sensible way to integrate more of the comics’ lore with the series. Anyhoo, the rest of the episode is dedicated to setting up and demolishing a new status quo. That’s what I mean about everything and nothing. So much happens in this episode, but it’s all brushed to the side so quickly that it all feels inconsequential. Through poorly implemented dream and flashback sequences we learn a few things: Ronnie has died again as he seemingly disappeared into the singularity when he and Dr. Stein Firestorm’d it, Cisco is working closer with the police’s new meta-human task force, and the Star Labs crew split up (but are back together by the end of the episode).
During all of this a new monster of the week is introduced with Atom Smasher, a guy who looks like someone killed at the beginning of the episode and absorbs radiation in order to become big and strong. Like most of the show’s villain of the week episodes, he neither gets a lot of development nor is he beaten in an interesting way. But the one interesting nugget is that he’s being manipulated by some other villain named “Zoom,” who wants to kill Flash for some reason (though folks familiar with the comics will probably be super confused by this new info). Oh and by the way, Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne left a video confessing to Barry’s mom’s murder and setting his dad free. Then his dad, for some inane reason, decided to skip town to keep from distracting Barry or something? It’s asinine, and it’s the kind of writing the show’s manged to avoid to this point. I want to believe there’s a better reason for this, and the showrunner has a big picture idea for Barry’s dad but this seems like they no longer had a reason to keep Shipp in the show. Then, Barry lets him leave off screen and we’ll supposedly never hear from him again. Seriously. Despite all the time the episode devoted to Barry’s angst, you’d figured a huge development like this would get more than five minutes of screen time.
Because so much of this premiere is dedicated to setting up the rest of the season, it forgets to become an entertaining episode itself. We’re given no time to linger or develop on the finale’s fallout, and we’re expected to quickly move forward. I mean, we couldn’t even end the episode without a tease of what’s to come with the new character, Jay Garrick introducing himself at the end. I’ll give the writers the benefit of the doubt here and assume they’ve got a plan to make all of this make sense retroactively. I’m sure they’re holding off on all of the wacky stuff they have planned in order to ease new viewers into the show without overwhelming them with these high concept (for a superhero show, anyway) ideas. But nothing in the premiere is going to draw new viewers in, It’s relying too much on the good will it’s built with the first season and hopes that its quirks will keep people long enough to show off what it wants to do. I guess we’ll find out for sure next week.
- Cisco provides so much of the episode’s better moments. The Flash signal he found in a comic book, hugging Dr. Stein after Stein nicknamed the new villain, and his “For real?” after Garrick breaks into Star Labs’ fancy new security system.
- Maybe Ronnie did actually die since he’s not included in CW’s Legends of Tomorrow line up, but Dr. Stein is. Robbie Amell can’t catch a break, can he? Dying all over the place.
- Flash’s new suit includes the white around his lightning bolt like his future self. Looks much better, but after the build up to the suit reveal, I was hoping for a bigger overhaul.
- I won’t be covering CW’s other superhero show, but I hope you’ll stick with me through this!