The Flash did not waste time beating its best effort of the season. Continuing its strong improvement week over week, the sophomore superhero drama raced past its previous benchmark in “The Fury of Firestorm” with a stellar outing in week five. “The Darkness and the Light” is The Flash at the peak of its powers, delivering an episode that moved with purpose, has an interesting villain and contained healthy doses of both drama and comedy.
Unlike Gotham, whose writing I lamented yesterday, The Flash had one of its finest efforts in terms of composition. The first 20 minutes crackled, the dialogue flying quick and effortless. It was also the most humorous episode of the season, both in terms of slick quips and set pieces, highlighted by Barry and Patty’s sublime first date. “The Darkness and the Light” was the closest Season Two has come to being without flaw. It’s a blueprint episode for how The Flash should operate, an episode you’d hand a non-viewer in the attempt to make them a weekly watcher. As with any episode of television, barring the upper echelon of prestige programs, the hour was not perfect. There were several occasions that snapped me out of my mesmerized state (most notably Caitlin’s horrific reaction shots during Harrison and Jay’s quick tussle) but those can be allowed to slide when everything else is so good. And it was so good.
“The Darkness and the Light” kicked off where last week left us, with the reintroduction of Harrison Wells. This is a far different version than the Eobard Thawne body snatched iteration we had last year, and Earth 2 Harrison was quick to remind us. He is not the Harrison that killed Barry’s mother, cost Eddie and Ronnie their lives and tore a hole above Central City. He is, however, as Cisco succinctly put it, a dick. Tom Cavanagh must be the happiest man in Vancouver, given the numerous faces he’s donned with the single character since the show’s inception last fall. Harrison 2 (or is it 3, on account of the body snatching?) is sharp, aggressive and on a mission. He has no time for tomfoolery, or Jay Garrick. In the flashback that opens the episode, we learned that Jay and Harrison have a tenuous history, and even a trip through dimensions can’t heal wounds. The two were at each other’s throats most of the episode, giving Team Flash a dynamic it has not seen before. We don’t know Harrison’s true reasoning for helping Barry (though we were given some insight in the episode’s tag), but everyone is playing their cards close to the chest around him. He’ll have to earn the team’s trust, and fight Jay for it. While Jay served as a mentor of sorts early in the season, Harrison knocked him down a peg here, noting that Barry is the superior speedster and the one that should be doling out lessons. Harrison’s constant mention of Jay’s inability to stop Zoom began the process of building Jay into a tragic hero. It’s plausible the end of the season will bring one final showdown between our Earth 2 ally and Zoom, with Jay losing his life in order to stop his nemesis from destroying one, or both, worlds and his new love with them.
This week’s villain comes to us the same way the other metas have this season, guided through a portal by Zoom. Though the scenario is stale at this point, the episode did a nice job mixing things up with the inclusion of Harrison and some surprises regarding Dr. Light. As an antagonist, Dr. Light, who can absorb all forms of illumination as energy and then weaponize it, was one of the season’s strongest. Her powers are visually impressive and she acts with more agency than most of Zoom’s hired goons. Not a killer by trade, Dr. Light was less manic assassin than troubled meta, forced into an even more troubling situation. It’s a refreshing take on the season’s villain formula, but I can’t imagine even the creative writers at The Flash can reinvent the wheel enough times to make it roll smoother. Eventually, they will need to find something different with Zoom’s metas, but for now it’s working. It helps when the payoff is strong, and the final fight between our hero and Dr. Light was the season’s best. Still not “Flash vs. Arrow” quality, but more substantial and entertaining than recent efforts.
I can say so many wonderful things about The Flash. How its writing out-hustles nearly every show in its genre, how the performances aren’t a flaw but an attraction, how it keeps raising the level of insanity to new heights and somehow continues to make it work but, more than anything, what I love about The Flash is how it makes me feel. I have more fun watching this show than anything on TV, bar none. It’s my favorite comic book show and, if I didn’t consume television like a rabid raccoon, you can believe it would be my favorite show, period. Watching Barry, Cisco, Caitlin et. al tear through Central City, leaving a wake of vanquished metahumans in their path reverts me to the kid I used to be, and often wish I could return to. When Tuesday evening rolls around, I become that boy sitting in his living room, hopped up on Halloween candy, still wearing his costume because the feeling of being a superhero for just a night hasn’t worn off, and he never wants it to. I care deeply about the characters, the story, the entirety of the show, which began its run just over a year ago. It’s a feat that is beyond impressive, it’s heroic.
Lightning quick thoughts:
Having Tom Cavanagh back is wonderful, and he has brought a renewed energy with him. When Harrison 2 referred to Cisco as “Crisco,” I knew this episode was going to be hot fire.
I already mentioned Barry and Patty’s first date, but it was perfect enough to deserve double praise. Grant Gustin and Shantel VanSanten are wonderful together and the scene was one of the best executed in the series’ entire run. I was ready for Patty to steal Barry’s heart the minute she came on screen, and now am even more so. If anything gets in the way of these two, I may have to stop watching.
But I won’t!
Cisco also got in on the love game, though I can’t imagine it’s going to end well, given that she’s not your average barista.
A little surprised they moved the Jay/Caitlin love story forward so quickly, but girl deserves a win, so we cool.
Given that Jay Garrick is originally the ‘40s-era Flash, the choice to give Earth 2 a vintage sheen is a clever one. A nice homage to the character’s beginnings.
Eric Walters is the Assistant Tech Editor for Paste and a regular contributor to the TV section. For more of his thoughts on comic book television, listen to his podcast.