"The Flash" is back, and it's just as heartwarming as ever! A lot of sentiment-tinged information is thrown at us in this season 2 premiere, which picks up six months following the singularity that nearly destroyed Central City and, you know, the entire Earth. #SmallStakes
Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) spent the hiatus caught in the all-familiar I Can Do This Alone Trap that so many TV superheroes fall into. (Yep, Oliver Queen, I'm looking at you...) Luckily, Team Flash suffers through Barry's "Lone Wolf McQuade" behavior during the hiatus so we don't have to. Then, they spend the season premiere dragging him out of his shame spiral with only a minimal amount of kicking and screaming. Because Team Flash is THE BEST.
Here are the main developments from "The Man Who Saved Central City" we need to discuss...
So long and thanks for all the flames.
Bad news bears, guys. We're going to need to add one very handsome tally to our Hunks Lost To The Singularity Count. Like Eddie, Ronnie died saving Central City from the devastating effects of Dr. Wells' (Tom Cavanagh) time traveling scheme. (Although something tells me that, with all of these alternate worlds and spin-offs floating around, we might see Ronald again...)
Could this be the beginnings of the turn to Killer Frost villainy for Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker)? Probably not, but I have to admit I wouldn't hate it. Though I ship #Snowbarry (and #WestAllen — don't make me choose!), I also ship Caitlin/better storylines. (Let's call it #Caitline.)
Last season, Caitlin didn't get so much to do. (Nope, I'm still not over the part in the season 1 finale when Super-Scientist Caitlin was given the line: "What's a singularity?" You're on notice, show.)
Either way, the tragedy of losing both Ronnie and Eddie seems poised to serve as motivation for Barry and the people around him to keep on fighting. And they are going to do it together. But, first, a bunch of people are going to blame themselves...
Barry refuses to take credit for saving Central City.
Geez, what's a loved-one-of-Barry got to do around here to get The Flash to accept the key to the city? The answer: A LOT. Six months may have passed since the singularity, but Barry is still very much living in the shadow of it. “I’m just trying to put it all back exactly as it was before…” a childlike, quietly desperate Barry tells Iris (Candice Patton). #WestAllen
Barry has shut his friends and family out of helping with Flash business. He spends his evenings rebuilding the businesses of Central City damaged in the singularity. (Where have the citizens of Central City been getting their coffee if Jitters is closed?!) And he tells anyone who will listen (and who knows his secret identity) that he is not a hero.
But we, and the members of Team Flash, know better. After Barry almost dies trying to take on the Atom Smasher (Adam "Edge" Copeland) by himself, Joe (Jesse L. Martin) lays it out for Barry: “You weren’t the only person making decisions that day … It’s on all of us, Barry. So stop with this hogging all the blame and regret. We gotta live with it. Move on.”
And, because Barry is an insightful guy who values the opinions of his loved ones, he acquiesces. The way "The Flash" actively subverts the alpha male superhero trope is one of the (many) reasons why this show is so darn good. These characters and this show refuse to let Barry wallow in his guilt and self-loathing. They refuse to let him be the dude who takes on all of the glory and shame himself. It's more complicated than that. Family and heroism always are.
Barry and Caitlin work through their guilt together.
Barry isn't the only one who has a case of The Guilts. Caitlin's guilt over Ronnie's death manifests in her taking a job at Mercury Labs and avoiding everyone that reminds her of Ronnie. She blames herself for not leaving Central City with Ronnie while she had the chance: "I couldn’t leave S.T.A.R. Labs, Dr. Wells, you," she tells Barry when he comes to apologize. #Snowbarry
Though I could have done without more of the self-blame theme, I liked that Caitlin's assertion of how committed she is to the mission was part of a recurring pattern for the "supporting" members of Team Flash. This isn't just about Barry Allen. They are all here to save this city.
Cisco and Joe: best friends forever.
These two were adorable in the season premiere. As the "science advisor" to Joe's Meta Task Force, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) spent a lot of time hanging with his friend-tor. Here is an actual conversation between the two while they hang out at Flash Day together: “You expecting trouble?” “Cops always expect trouble. This city, I expect super evil flying monsters.” “That’s a solid expectation.”
Then Joe laughs. And let me tell you something about Joe's laugh: When Joe laughs, fairies are born. A little bit more light is let into the world. Paper cuts around the world are miraculously healed and everyone everywhere feels a warm, comforting breeze brush over them.
This works out well because Cisco is the Felicity Smoak of this show, which is a fancy way of saying: the absolute funniest part. This is why we're here for this best friendship. For the laughs. And for the ways in which these two are steadfast, loyal creatures who will do anything to save their friends and protect the city — even if they don't have superpowers... yet. (Because Cisco is totally starting to VIBE.)
Barry's dad gets out of jail, promptly leaves Central City.
In a totally surprising move, Dr. Wells leaves Barry "the only thing he's ever wanted": a confession to the death of Barry's mother, which allows Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) to be released from jail. Why did Wells do this? Don't know. Why did Henry skip town before the decorations from his Welcome, Home! party had been taken down? Also don't know. But I don't like...
I'm trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here, Henry, but it's really hard when Barry is looking like a lost little boy who just wants his dad to stick around. And low blow, BTW, to play on Barry's compulsion to please the people in his life. Henry asks Barry to "tell him that it's OK" for him to leave. Barry can't even say it; all he can do is nod. But we can say: it is not OK, Henry. It's not OK at all. (There has to be something else at play here, right?)
Jay Garrick is here to warn Team Flash of impending Zoom.
Atom Smasher, the metahuman-of-the-week in "The Flash" season 2 premiere, may have been vanquished, but he was a harbinger of things to come. As he dies, he tells Barry that he tried to kill him because Zoom promised to send him home. "Home" here, most likely meaning an alternate universe, given that the Rothstein of this universe was murdered before Atom Smasher started ruining perfectly lovely city-wide events.
If that wasn't enough intrigue for you, Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears) — an alternate version of The Flash — shows up at S.T.A.R. Labs in the final moments of the episode to warn Team Flash: "You don’t know me, but I know you, Barry Allen. My name is Jay Garrick, and your world is in danger.” Ruh roh.
It's OK, though, because Flash=Family.
The most important thing "The Flash" did in its season 2 premiere? Reaffirm itself as a character-driven show filled with likable characters who love and support one another no matter what. "Central City believes in The Flash. So do I," Iris tells her best friend, helping to snap him out of his funk. Barry has so many people who believe in him and, rather than wallowing in the continued absence of his father, he focuses on that. (And I focus on the novelty that is an optimistic superhero.)
The comic book action and intrigue of "The Flash" only works because it is grounded by some of the best character work on television. The party scene in tonight's episode served as a reminder that, to varying degrees, I know how ALL of these characters feel about one another, and that's pretty cool.
Henry was right about one thing: Barry does have a family — one that survives through intention, rather than habit. Both within the world of this show and the scope of superhero narrative, that is what makes Team Flash so special.