This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 3 Episode 2
OK, so…I know we’re only two episodes in, so it’s a little early to make sweeping pronouncements, but it sure feels like The Flash is back, doesn’t it? Maybe you weren’t as dissatisfied with season two as I was, and that’s cool, I totally get that. But it felt like the show lost its soul a little in the latter half of its second season, and all signs (so far) point to season three being back on point.
In other words, “Paradox” was really good and I have a good feeling about things right now.
See, so much of the Earth-2 stuff last year just felt gimmicky. A regular commentor here described it as letting the cast “play dress up” if I remember correctly, which I think is a fair criticism. But “Paradox” was yet another reminder of how, when things are going right, The Flash is a perfect blend of great TV sci-fi and some of the most proper superheroics you’re likely to see (well, unless you’re watching Supergirl season 2, because holy moley that premiere episode with Superman’s introduction was wonderful!).
On the superhero end of things, “Paradox” continued the “Flashpoint” tradition of some really adventurous work with the super speed fights. I really enjoyed watching Barry and Rival duke it out, and the “supervillain team-up” element (not a pun!) of it was a blast, too. It’s a nice touch that Barry is still a lousy fighter, but he got by with a little help from his friends, in this case, an almost fully outfitted Vibe. I’m ready for this to be a regular thing, even if Cisco isn’t.
And there are few things more immediately heroic to me than an appearance by John Wesley Shipp as Jay Garrick. We’re two-for-two with JWS appearances this season, and I’d like to see this show go the distance. But for real, this is the Jay Garrick we’ve been waiting to see. His lecture to Barry was exactly the kind of superhero mentor angle that the character became known for after his reintroduction, and I think we could do with a lot more of this going forward. “We’re not gods, we’re men,” is something that even the usually humble Barry needs to hear, since he does have a tendency to get overconfident every now and then. (More on some fun stuff from the Jay scenes down in Flash Facts)
On the sci-fi end of things, the usual time travel headaches apply, and I’ve long promised in discussions about this show and Legends of Tomorrow not to get too caught up in them. I mean, after all, the episode is called “Paradox.” But the one that bugs me just a little bit is Barry’s surprise at the new things in this timeline. I had to figure a certain amount of “new” memories were “downloaded” into his brain immediately in the “Flashpoint” timeline, otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to function at all, right? I know that new memories started to replace old ones in that case, so maybe that just hadn’t had time to happen here yet? I don’t know, it was a little unclear. Not a big deal, though!
To give you an idea of how on board I was with this episode, I would have been fine if the entire format involved Barry explaining things to Felicity. I thought that was really clever, and it’s something we haven’t seen the show do before. Letting Felicity, who is pretty much the smartest person in any room you put her in on any of these shows, act as our POV character while Barry comes to terms with screwing up yet another timeline was a nice touch. And her “Oh my god, it really can affect us,” was a wondeful little meta piece of dialogue.
Tom Felton (who needs no introduction) certainly classed things up with his cranky intro as the mysterious Julian Albert. It’s easy to throw suspicion on him as a potential villain, but remember Eddie Thawne? C’mon, we all tortured ourselves over his imaginary villainous arc, and it never happened. Is Julian here to act as a similar red herring this year?
I guess things were a little too explainy at times, but that’s sci-fi (and often this show) for you, and yes, things did seem like they wrapped up a little too neatly. Who else expected that Barry/Iris kiss to end with something terrible happening? But even with all that, it still doesn’t feel like a reset button has been hit on the consequences of “Flashpoint” and it will be interesting to see what else is discovered as the CW superhero seasons go on.
– Remember The Rival from last week? Remember the fact that I wrote an entire article just about him? Here it is for you, just in case.
– So, here’s the thing about Doctor Alchemy. I’m not sure how much I should really get into in this installment for a couple of reasons.
1) I’m not sure which version of the character we’re actually dealing with here, and…
b) I don’t want to spoil things too quickly. I’ll say this much, though…
The initial version of the character has been around almost as long as Flash himself, first taking Barry on in Showcase #13 (when he was called Mr. Element) in 1958. He was back the next month as Dr. Alchemy, though. A key part of the original Doctor Alchemy’s deal was a split personality, which means he could be anyone, whether it’s Julian Albert or Edward Clariss (I know, I know) or Cisco Ramon, or whatever. We’ll see how this plays out. There were two other folks who used that Philosopher’s Stone, but I don’t think we need to get into them yet. I’m banking on the original. For now.
Also, it hasn’t been lost on me that the very episode that introduces a Harry Potter actor features a villain who wields a Philosopher’s Stone as a weapon. But again, remember what I said above about red herrings?
– Taking apart the motorcycle is such a classic Flash move, and it’s easily one of Grant Gustin’s best moments as Flash ever, which is saying something. It’s more than just the fact that it’s a perfect Flash maneuver, he also just nailed the body language and everything else. It’s a really fun moment.
– Speaking of classic Flash, I’d like to touch on a couple of things about Jay’s appearance in this episode. Did you note Dawson’s Creek on the TV? Nice touch. Also, that Soul Asylum song? Not a nice touch. I had enough of that in the ’90s. ANYWAY…
Jay’s forceful “we’re not gods, we’re men” line seems so very in keeping with the more working class nature of how Golden Age superheroes were conceived. These were guys with strong moral codes who existed in fairly black and white times. It’s also something a hero who might have 25 years of experience under his belt would absolutely know.
ALSO…is the implication here that Jay’s world is still in 1998, or did he just yank Barry out of the timestream at a particular moment and this is where they ended up? Because if the former is the case, that’s a neat nod to how the comic book version of Earth-2 (not to be confused with the TV version) was where the “World War II era” superheroes lived when their new versions started appearing in the ’50s. As a result, they were always charmingly out of step, 15-20 years behind the times, even though they were older/wiser than their counterparts.
– Cisco’s joke about the “mirror universe” is a fun Star Trek joke, but is more appropriate to the eeeeevil Earth-2 stuff from last season.
Mike Cecchini is still waiting for the accidental lightning strike/chemical combination that will grant him powers. Follow him on Twitter.