In its stellar first season, The Flash cast aside nearly every trepidation a viewer may have had going into the pilot episode. Among them was the belief that the show’s network would somehow affect its storytelling. While it’s not off base to label many CW shows as, essentially, teenage soap operas, it is not universal. Though its sister show, Arrow, can often slip into bouts of severe melodrama, The Flash successfully combatted the inclination with an upbeat tone and unabashed celebration of all things comic book. This led to a season that was, in large part, a load of fun, while retaining the ability to be dramatic when necessary. As the season came to a close, and the Reverse-Flash storyline concluded, the show became understandably more serious, culminating with an enormous singularity hanging above Central City. With so much turmoil having happened upon Team Flash, the question became, what would the tone of Season Two be?
“The Man Who Saved Central City,” The Flash’s Season Two premiere, is hopefully an anomaly. It makes absolute sense for Barry et al. to not exactly be high on life following the events of last season, but the hour felt overly dour. The season premiere picked up six months after the singularity with Team Flash fractured. Barry is crime fighting on his own, while Cisco has joined the CCPD as a consultant and Caitlin is working for Mercury Labs. Harrison Wells, if you remember, has been erased from the timeline all together. To kick off the sadness, we learn early in the episode, through a flashback sequence, that Eddie wasn’t the only casualty in the battle against the Reverse-Flash last spring. To eliminate the black hole, Ronnie and Dr. Stein (who fuse together to create the superhero Firestorm) flew into the belly of the singularity and separated, the fission reaction being the catalyst needed to stabilize the crack in time. While Stein was able to escape as the blackhole shut, Ronnie was not. Though Central City continues to exist in large part thanks to the heroics of The Flash, Barry can’t help but blame himself for the death of his comrades. The rest of the city, however, much to the chagrin of the Scarlet Speedster, wants to praise their hero for all that he has done, in the fashion of a rally (“Flash Day”). It’s this spectacle that thrusts us into the week’s main story and its metahuman, Atom Smasher.
As a villain-of-the-week, Atom Smasher was mostly a dud. It wasn’t the fault of the character, whose ability to absorb nuclear energy to power himself was supremely cool, but primarily that the story did not care about him at all. The only reason this episode even had a central villain was to bring Team Flash back together, and to ensure the hour wasn’t entirely filled with Barry making sad faces. The most troubling aspect was how cheap the CGI looked for Atom Smasher. Despite a relatively small budget, much of the effects work on The Flash has been solid, but the suspension of disbelief in this case was too large to overcome. Luckily, around the 45 minute mark, Barry gathered the courage to watch a video will Harrison left him. On the flash drive was an admission to the murder of Nora Allen, just the sort of evidence Barry needed to free his father. This perked up the entire atmosphere of the episode, and with Barry no longer being weighed down by life, the new Team Flash (now expanded to include Stein and Iris) got to work on defeating Atom Smasher, and got the show back to a state of normality.
The aforementioned CGI work on Atom Smasher left little room in the budget for a satisfying fight scene, and thus the showdown came and went with little more than a whisper. The conclusion did bring about one revelation, though. If you’ve kept up with the news during the offseason, you know what’s coming. At the end of the episode, the team is paid a visit by Jay Garrick. Who is Jay Garrick? He’s the original 1940’s Flash, created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert. In this case, though, he is The Flash from Earth-2, an alternate universe within the DC multiverse. Garrick has come to Central City to alert the team that the singularity opened up a portal allowing Atom Smasher, and likely more villains, to pass through. Once again, the show is displaying little fear in tackling some of DC’s more elaborate ideas. The inclusion of multiverse is exciting, creating space for numerous possibilities (including the chance for Tom Cavanagh to reprise his role as an alternate version of Harrison Wells, though that possibility remains to be seen), and should bring a bevy of fun moments to the season. Atom Smasher also gave us the first inkling as to this season’s big bad. With his final breath, the Smasher told Barry he wanted to kill The Flash because, if he did, Zoom would help him find his way home. Zoom, created in 2001 by Geoff Johns, is a speedster like The Flash, but in a slightly different way. He is a former CCPD officer who, through an event much like Barry’s, gains the ability of superhuman speed, though he is able to move quickly by manipulating time. While Barry, to put it very simply, runs really fast, Zoom alters the speed at which he moves through time, making it appear as though he is moving with incredible speed.
?I can’t wait for the show the dive headfirst into the multiverse scenario and the larger Zoom storyline. The show went incredibly dark for the season opener, which could have worked, but it felt like an energy suck for The Flash to begin its sophomore effort (following one of the most fun first seasons in recent memory) with such a morose hour. There were certainly nice moments, particularly the welcome home party for Henry, but overall the episode slid too far into melodrama territory to work. With the team back together, and new villains to face, let’s hope The Flash can quickly right its ship, and start having fun again.
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.