Thursday, 15 October 2015

Review - 'The Flash', S02E02 - 'Flash of Two Worlds'

Picking up right where the previous episode left off, with the surprise (at least for anyone who hasn't been paying attention to the publicity for this season) reveal of Jay Garrick who, it turns out, has dire warnings for Barry Allen. The singularity opened at the end of the previous season was responsible for opening tears between this world and an alternate reality. And now, for reasons that aren't entirely clear, Barry Allen has found himself targeted by a figure known only as 'Zoom', who intends to drag villainous figures over from this alternate Earth in order to send them after the Flash - the first of which, of course, being Atom Smasher in the previous episode.

In the comics, of course, Jay Garrick has a history even longer than Barry Allen's - he is, after all, the first Flash, who first appeared way back in 1940. Of course, one of the great things about The Flash is that, while it fully embraces its comic-book roots, it isn't actually necessary to be familiar with any of that to be able to enjoy the show's own unique take. So, while Jay Garrick may have a long history in comics, all we really need to know, here, is that he comes from a parallel Earth where he, rather than Barry Allen, gained 'super-speed' abilities and became known as 'the Flash'.

Barry is suspicious of Jay's motives, though - so, rather than heeding his warnings and accepting his help, Barry insists on holding Jay in the 'Pipeline' while his claims are tested. While some degree of suspicion is probably warranted, given the circumstances, I do have to admit that Barry's instantly antagonist attitude toward Jay might come across as a bit much. I mean, is everyone who tries to help Barry going to have to prove that they're not secretly a super villain, now? I really hope not - since, that would get old, fast.

It's clearly a deliberate character arc they decided to go with, though. So, while Barry's behaviour early in the episode might have come across as unnecessarily aggressive, it was still justified, in a sense. Barry clearly has some lingering trust issues that he needs to work through - and, it's much better that the show acknowledges that, rather than brushing it aside. Besides, Jay probably could have chosen a much better way of making contact - he really didn't do himself any favours by mysteriously turning up at Star Labs in the way that he did.

Despite Barry's initial mistrust of Jay, though, it obviously isn't going to be long until Jay's warnings are proven right, and the two heroes are required to join forces. Another villain from Jay's world (helpfully labelled as Earth-2 by Dr. Stein), one known as the Sand Demon, has been brought over and sent after the Flash. And, much like with Atom Smasher, his unique abilities prove to be more than Barry Allen can handle without help.

Meanwhile, another new addition to the cast, a young police officer named Patty Spivot, is desperate to join Joe's 'anti-Meta-Human' task-force - despite the fact that the task-force currently consists solely of Joe, himself. And, also, Cisco's strange abilities seem to be rapidly growing stronger - abilities which he seems determined to keep hidden for the time being.

So far, it is already starting to feel like this season of The Flash might be running into some of the same problems that the first experienced - at least, where its use of villains is concerned. Much like some of the villains who appeared last season, and also Atom Smasher in the previous episode, Sand Demon was barely given enough focus to be anything more than a fairly generic, if super-powered, thug. Sure, not every villain needs an elaborate back-story - but, with Sand Demon being just the latest in a long line of villains (on both The Flash and Arrow) who were treated as, essentially, disposable 'villain of the week' characters, it does get a little worrying.

At the same time, while the basic set-up of having Zoom bring villains over from Earth-2 to send them after the Flash might work fine, for now, it is also too easy to imagine it becoming a crutch for the writers going forward. There is an entire seasons worth of episodes to fill, after all.

Along with Sand Demons, we also get our first look at Zoom who, it seems, will be the primary villain for much of this season - both in a brief flash-back to a confrontation with Jay Garrick, and in the present where he drags the Sand Demon through from Earth-2. While he is certainly an imposing figure I do have to admit that, so far, he might look a bit too much like the Reserve-Flash - just dressed in black, this time. But, it's only the second episode. There's still plenty of time to establish Zoom as a new, and unique, villain.

I do have to admit, though, that I'm a bit concerned about the Flash's new-found willingness to simply kill the villains that come after him - especially when considering how much emphasis was placed on capturing, and containing, them in the first season. With Atom Smasher, at the end of the previous episode, I wasn't entirely certain whether what I was watching was intended as a 'death scene' for the character, or whether he was simply incapacitated. It seemed ambiguous enough, to me, that it could have gone either way. This time, though, Barry and Jay almost immediately launch into a plan to deal with the Sand Demon that is clearly intended to kill him, rather than capture him. It honestly felt like trying to capture him wasn't even an option that they considered - and, the casual indifference leads me to believe that I was wrong about Atom Smasher, and that that actually was Barry and his team leading him into a trap that they all knew would kill him.

I think that what really bothers me about this development, though, is the fact that it hasn't been addressed in any way, yet. The first season made a big deal about setting Barry Allen up as a very different sort of hero to Oliver Queen - one who hadn't ever killed before, and who wasn't planning on starting now that he had super-powers. I mean, I had issues with Barry's secret, and highly illegal, prison, sure - but, at least it seemed like he was trying. If there's an explanation of any sort coming up for any of this, then I hope they get to it sooner rather than later.

Despite my concerns, Flash of Two Worlds was still a great episode. The Sand Demon may not have received a great deal of focus, but his sand-based abilities still made for some impressive visuals. Also, as new additions to the cast, Jay Garrick and Patty Spivot (Teddy Sears and Shantel VanSanten) are each able to establish themselves easily - each portrayed in a way that fits well with the overall lighter, and more humorous, tone of The Flash.

The true highlight of the episode comes at the very end, though, when we get our first proper look at Earth-2 - a fantastically retro '1950s science fiction' world where Jay Garrick's Flash, and his potentially goofy helmet, feel right at home. It seems likely that we are going to see quite a bit more of Earth-2 throughout the season, and I'm definitely looking forward to it.

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