Thursday, 18 February 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S02E14 - 'Escape From Earth-2'

The previous episode of The Flash ended things on a pretty great cliff-hanger. After doing a great job of introducing the audience to Earth-2, the episode's final moments shows us Barry as a prisoner of Zoom - finally able to track down Wells's daughter, Jesse, but entirely powerless to save either her, or himself. It also gave us a new mystery, in the form of third prisoner - a man wearing an iron mask.

Now, with Barry held prisoner by Zoom, Cisco and Harrison are forced to come up with a new plan - but, of course, they immediately encounter new difficulties of their own. With Zoom learning that Harrison Wells has betrayed him, and that he has returned to Earth-2, Zoom wastes no time in launching a city-wide campaign to hunt them down. He was even willing to go as far as trying to intimidate the citizens of Earth-2's Central City into helping him - in a manner which was, admittedly, a little goofy. But, despite the fact that Zoom's methods seemed to boil down to handing out flyers demanding that Wells be turned over, the thought that the people of the city might be so scared of Zoom that they would willingly turn on Cisco and Wells had some definite dramatic potential.

In the end, though, this dramatic potential was, largely, wasted. As tense and as exciting as it would have been, and as much as the episode's opening moments seemed to be pointing things in that direction, there weren't any scenes of Cisco and Harrison Wells being hunted by desperate citizens - or, any sort of moral dilemma, for the Earth-2 characters, as they wrestled with whether it would be for the best to hand Wells over to Zoom. It was, I have to admit, a little disappointing.

Instead, Cisco and Wells are able to make a quick escape and, teaming up with Iris and Earth-2's even nerdier version of Barry Allen, head off to find the one person who might be willing and able to help them find Zoom's lair - Killer Frost.

Meanwhile, back on Earth-1, Geomancer (Adam Stafford) continues in his efforts to draw out the Flash - extending a plot-line which, much like the previous episode, sadly felt like an unnecessary distraction.

Geomancer is a character who just feels a bit underwhelming, in general - that was true last week, and nothing has really changed for him, here. After two episode's, he still hasn't been given any sort of background, beyond the fact that Jay has had previous encounters with his Earth-2 double. He also hasn't been given any sort of motivation, beyond the fact that he really wants to fight the Flash (which, I suppose, could have been enough if the character had been more interesting). Worst of all, Adam Stafford plays the character in a way that seems over-the-top, even for a series as outlandish as this one often is. There were even moments, in this episode, were it seemed as though Stafford was deliberately trying to model his performance after the affected manner in which Wentworth Miller has always played Captain Cold - with his delivery of some lines bordering on an attempted impersonation. But, Stafford simply doesn't seem to have the same ability that Wentworth Miller does to sell such a performance to the audience. It's strange to have to come to this conclusion - but, giving Geomancer more screen-time in this episode might have been a mistake.

It wasn't all bad, though. Geomancer, himself, might have been a bit of a let-down - but, much like with the previous episode, his presence still provided Jay Garrick with the perfect opportunity to, finally, play the hero. With Caitlin's efforts to perfect her own versions of Wells's speed enhancing serum finding success in the form of Velocity-9, Jay was finally in a position to become the Flash once more - even if it was only temporary. Admittedly, the fact that there was no actual direct confrontation between Jay and Geomancer was another minor disappointment for me - but, still, Jay did get a fairly great 'hero moment' when he was required to pull innocent bystanders out of a collapsing building.

Back on Earth-2, Killer Frost is, initially, very reluctant to even consider helping find Zoom - though, she does seem to come around when she is captured and offered a deal. While it still seems like a bit of a shame that Deathstorm would have been killed off so abruptly in the previous episode, and that Robbie Amell would have only been brought back for a single episode, his death did provide the catalyst for some great moments for Killer Frost, here. Finding herself caught between her fear of Zoom, and her desire for revenge on the one who killed the man she loved, Killer Frost's arc, here, allowed her to become a much more interesting character than the straight-forward villain that she was last episode. Similarly, Cisco (who was clearly still getting over the shock of meeting his own villainous double, only to see him killed by Zoom) also has some great moments as the only one willing, and possibly able, to convince Killer Frost to help them.

There were some stand-out moments for other members of the cast, too. Grant Gustin and Candace Patton had some great moments, both together and separately, as the Earth-2 versions of Barry and Iris - though, in Iris's case, it did have the unfortunate side-effect of revealing how much more interesting this new version of the character to the Earth-1 original (the fact that Earth-1 Iris's only contribution to the episode was a tedious side-plot involving a conflict with her new editor over a story she wanted to publish didn't really help, either). Also, while we still don't know anymore about Zoom's ultimate plan than we did before this trip to Earth-2, this episode did manage to bring him back into the spot-light in a way that he hasn't been since the mid-season finale. After being allowed to fade into the background, recently, it was great to have this reminder that Zoom actually is a genuinely intimidating villain

While this episode's Earth-2 plot-line may not have been quite as exciting, or as much fun, as the previous episode, it still feels like a worthy conclusion to the story. Also, while the Earth-1 plot-line was still a weaker element, the two halves were able to come together in a suitably tense climax toward the end. Then, there are the intriguing mysteries that are still left to be solved. What is Zoom's ultimate plan? Well, we still have no idea - but, thanks to the these two episodes, it's gone back to being something I am genuinely interested in. Then, there's the identity of Zoom's third prisoner - a mysterious figure forced to wear a mask that prevents him from speaking. Obviously, this new figure is going to have a bigger part to play in the future, and I'm very interested in finding out what that is.

Overall, this was just a great episode that did a great job of bringing the season's primary plot-line back into focus - I'm almost disappointed that it looks like we're going to be having another 'stand-alone' episode next week.

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