This The Flash review contains spoilers. For a spoiler free review, click here.
The Flash Season 2 Episode 1
There’s absolutely no way that The Flash season 2 premiere could match the emotional highs of The Flash season 1 finale. That doesn’t mean they didn’t try, though.
“The Man Who Saved Central City” isn’t the best episode of The Flash. Hell, it probably won’t even turn out to be the best episode of The Flash season 2. But it’s an ambitious offering that does its best to balance a villain of the week (former wrestler Adam “Edge” Copeland as Atom Smasher) whose origin has season long implications and the clean up (sometimes literally) from the end of the first season all while allowing the entire cast to do what they do best.
Things are a little unsettled early on, and it feels like a few of the resolutions and reveals in this episode might have been better served spaced out over several episodes. But the pieces need to be put back in place, and “The Man Who Saved Central City” gets that done admirably, working between the kind of introspective moments that only a cast as talented as this one could pull off on a superhero show with some of the best special effects you’re likely to see on a network show this year.
Copeland’s Atom Smasher is the benficiary of those special effects, and while relatively low key, he’s probably the most visually impressive villain the show has delivered so far. An on camera size change isn’t easy to pull off, and it gets done well here. The problem is that as an actor, Copeland makes an excellent WWE Hall of Famer. Then again, he isn’t given much to do except look intimidating, and aside from his final explanation, there just isn’t much to set him apart from “villain of the week” status, even though he deserves a bit better (see Flash Facts down below for more).
What’s really unsettling for me is the method used to stop him. Did Team Flash really deliver a lethal dose of radiation to this guy? It’s never made quite clear, and I really don’t like the implications of this. I’m thrilled that we’re rid of the sci-fi Guantanamo Bay that was the STAR Labs basement jail, but they’re gonna have to find a better way to neutralize threats going forward.
All in all, this is a solid episode, and the seams only really show when the episode tries to do too much, something that The Flash (both the show and the character) is often guilty of. Just like the first episode of season one had its hands full getting a complete origin story out of the way, “The Man Who Saved Central City” seems so focused on getting this season off to a (sorry) running start that it forgets how heavily invested the audience already is in these characters, and doesn’t give events time to breathe. For one thing, why free Henry Allen from prison if you’re just going to more or less write him off the show again within five minutes? Henry’s logic is sound, and as usual John Wesley Shipp and Grant Gustin have a wonderful rapport on screen, but this whole thing felt rushed.
The loss of Ronnie Raymond can’t really have come as much of a surprise to anyone, but I’m surprised it was dealt with quite the way it was here. I suppose Caitlin had so much time to get used to Ronnie being dead the first time around that she was relatively prepared for it this time. On the other hand, Iris seems a little too okay with Eddie being gone, even six months later. I half expected the “Man Who Saved Central City” title to refer to Eddie and not Ronnie, but here we are.
As for that other major revelation, well…
Who the Hell is Harrison Wells?
I had to revive this little section from last year’s midseason reviews because, well…for real. What’s going on with this?
Harrison Wells’ “living will” is quite a surprise. Despite its preamble, it makes me wonder just how much of that was Eobard Thawne and how much might just be the “real” Harrison Wells coming through. The showrunners have made it clear that Tom Cavanagh is set to be a series regular again for season two, and there are any number of ways that can play out. Maybe we’ll get the Earth 2 Harrison Wells, or maybe his soul was still alive and suffering through Eobard’s misdeeds.
– There was an Al Rothstein mentioned in passing in an episode of season one, as someone who disappeared after the particle accelerator exploded. Ummm…whoops! That’s not the real Flash Fact here, though…
Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher was a member of DC Comics’ Earth 2 superteam Infinity Inc. (back when he had the unfortunate name of Nuklon and an even more unfortunate mohawk) before eventually becoming a full fledged member of the JSA in the early 21st century. He was also the nephew of Al Pratt, the original (non-shrinking) Atom, and the grandson of supervillain Cyclotron.
He was traditionally played as much younger than the Adam Copeland version we get here, but that actually works in the show’s favor. The implication here is that the heroes (and villains) of Earth 2 have been operating for much longer than the ones we know on CW TV Earth 1, so that’s kinda cool.
His turn to somewhat reluctant villainy here also has some comic book precedent. Al often struggled with anger issues and his own perception of justice, and even went to work for Black Adam for awhile. He was never an out and out villain, but he definitely made some questionable choices in his career. The questionable choices he makes in this episode, then, are perfectly in keeping with what we know about him. I just wish it had been explored/explained over the course of more than one episode in order to give things some more weight.
– Is this the first time we’ve seen that there’s a Queen Street in Central City? I guess the Queen family’s money and influence is far reaching. Alright, maybe it’s just a coincidence.
– Flash Day is the first sign of the special relationship that Flash has with the citizens of Central City (as opposed to, say, Batman). It’s also a major step towards the opening of a Flash Museum, something that we saw teased in the season one finale.
– This episode marks the return of Vito D’Ambrosio as Mayor Anthony Bellows. D’Ambrosio was a regular as Officer Tony Bellows on the original Flash TV series that starred John Wesley Shipp.
– The color scheme of Ms. Snow’s Mercury Labs workspace not only hints at her villainous future as Killer Frost, but recalls that of the relatively obscure DC speedster Max Mercury!
– Jay Garrick, as has been beaten to death in virtually everything I’ve written about this show since day one, is the original Flash. He first appeared in Flash Comics #1 in 1939 (cover dated 1940), and it was his Mercury lookin’ winged helmet that flew out of the wormhole in the season one finale. Yes, I have lots more to say about Mr. Garrick, and you can click here for some more!