This review contains spoilers.
2.13 Welcome To Earth-2
If we’re judging The Flash by the standards of other television shows, which is honestly a foolish thing to do, the relatively swift introduction of the multiverse appeared at first to be a convenient cover for a lot of the time-travel shenanigans it was attempting to pull off.
Was it just a way for the show to have its cake and eat it – as with the death of Harrison Wells not actually leading to the absence of Harrison Wells – or a legitimate tactic to open up more storytelling opportunities?
Welcome to Earth-2 is where that question is answered, at least in terms of the current season. The Flash has always put fun and entertainment pretty far up its list of priorities and, in addition to allowing the writers to welcome back characters they’d previously killed off, the notion of parallel earths gives them freedom to offer their actors different things to play with from time to time. That’s always a hoot for the viewer, and a lot of the joy of the episode lies in just seeing Grant Gustin and Danielle Panabaker play with their characters.
That means the actual mission that leads Barry, Cisco and Wells to Earth Two is left alone right until the very end, with much of the hour dedicated to figuring out just what’s going on and who is who. Barry quickly decides to impersonate his alternate self – apparently a slightly nerdier, bow-tie-wearing forensic scientist than Earth One Barry – while we discover that Caitlin, Cisco and Ronnie are all meta human villains working for Zoom.
Iris, meanwhile, is this world’s Detective West as well as Barry’s wife, and Joe is a grumpy singer who apparently hates his son-in-law for forcing Iris to quit her job at the newspaper. As she points out, of course, her job at the newspaper is ridiculous – something we’ve all known for some time.
The biggest emotional consequence the episode pulls from this set-up, as usual, is an interaction between Barry and his mother. She’s not dead on this Earth and, after learning of this fact, he has a very casual phone conversation with her. It’s casual for her, I should say, but for him it’s a heartbreaking reminder of her absence.
Some of this is great, including the reveal of Cisco as a smooth, dangerous big bad (before he’s wastefully killed off) but other stuff, including the let-down of Killer Frost, feels a bit undercooked. I wasn’t in love with Panabaker’s portrayal of Caitlin as a villain, and I’m frankly a little bored of watching her cry over Ronnie’s dead body. That guy just exists to get killed, with no compelling characteristics to make us miss him.
My favourite part of the episode was honestly just watching Barry and Cisco arrive on Earth Two and immediately dissolve into giggling and taking selfies. It’s the kind of humour you always want TV characters to exhibit when going on awesome adventures. Then there were the easter eggs – Mayor Snart, Deadshot, Supergirl popping up as one of many alternate Earths, and countless others I probably didn’t know to look for.
You can never complain too much about an episode of The Flash that remembers and utilises how much fun the audience are likely to have with its premise. It’s easy to get sucked into the same giddiness that Cisco and Barry fall into early on, ignoring the actual plot, but there also need to be some stakes thrown in there.
Barry more or less ignoring his mission right up until he’s captured by Zoom and quite literally stood in front of Jessie kind of annoyed me, but then as a by-product we got to see his reactions to an Iris who loves him and a Joe who doesn’t. That’s both a treat for the shippers and some good character exploration for everyone else, even if I’m now just looking forward to seeing the resolution next week.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Fast Lane, here.