One of last season’s pleasant surprises, ‘The Flash’ may not have been a perfect show, but it was generally far more entertaining than expected. Now that the series is back for a second season, can it grow and move forward, or will it get stuck running in circles?
The first season ended on a cliffhanger as a black hole singularity was about to swallow up Central City (and the whole Earth after that), and Barry leapt right into it to stop it by zooming really fast in the opposite rotation. No, none of this made a whit of scientific or even just basic logical sense, but that’s classic comic book “science” for you. Either you go with it or you don’t.
Did Barry stop the black hole? Apparently. He must have, because the season premiere picks up six months later and doesn’t bother to explain what happened until a flashback halfway through the episode. In the meantime, we get a lot of Barry moping. He’s depressed and has driven away all his friends, insisting that he must work alone to keep them safe. When the mayor holds a “Flash Day” celebration to honor the hero who saved the city, Barry doesn’t even want to go. Why’s he so mopey? We’ll come back to that.
First, there’s a new meta-human to deal with – a big brute who wears a metal helmet and has super-strength. His name is Al Rothstein (Adam “Edge” Copeland from ‘Haven’), and the last Barry saw him he was a dead body at a nuclear power plant. Somehow he’s back. Worse, when Barry tries to fight him, he super-sizes to twice his original mass and kicks Barry’s butt. Barry and Joe have to work together to fend him off, but he’ll of course be back.
In flashback, we finally find out what happened six months earlier. As Barry ran circles around the singularity, he was only able to temporarily stabilize it. His friends Ronnie (Robbie Amell) and Dr. Stein (Victor Garber) had to merge into Firestorm and fly up into the mouth of it, then separate right there, which would cause an energy surge that would destroy the singularity. (My head is spinning trying to make any sense of this flagrant nonsense.) Anyway, that works but Barry is only able to save Dr. Stein on the way down. Ronnie disappeared and is presumed dead. That happens to him a lot. I’m sure we’ll see him again at some point.
The point being, Barry blames himself for Ronnie’s death and believes that he can’t protect his friends. That’s why he keeps trying to push them away, for their own safety.
After his failure to stop the new meta-human, his friends decide to get the old team back together anyway. Whether Barry likes it or not, he needs them. Cisco and Dr. Stein determine that Rothstein gets his power by absorbing radiation. Dr. Stein steals Cisco’s thunder by doling out a nickname: “Atom Smasher.” Because he’s radioactive and smashes stuff, get it?
In between adventures, Barry receives a visit from an attorney handling Harrison Wells’ estate. Wells left the S.T.A.R. Labs property to Barry with one condition: He must watch a video message that Wells left for him. Barry doesn’t want to do that.
Once they locate Atom Smasher, Barry runs off to fight him again, and leaves his comms behind. Nobody can contact him to help. He still wants to deal with things alone. Unfortunately, he takes another beating and runs back to the lab.
While he’s recovering, Caitlin convinces Barry that they need to watch the video. Barry grudgingly agrees. Of course, it’s an ‘If you’re watching this, I must be dead’ message. Dr. Wells says that he and Barry were more than just enemies. As such, he does a noble thing and confesses on video to murdering Barry’s mother. This means that Barry can finally get his father out of prison.
Cisco and Dr. Stein have a new plan. If Atom Smasher absorbs radiation, they’ll need to make him overdose on the stuff. Barry lays a trap and lures the villain back to the nuclear power plant, where Barry traps him in the reactor and floods it with radiation. Sure enough, Rothstein takes too much and collapses. Before he dies, Barry asks why he had a personal vendetta against him. Rothstein says that he was working for someone else who promised to take him home (whatever that means). Who? “Zoom.”
But wait, wasn’t Dr. Wells also known as Professor Zoom? So confusing.
With that matter cleaned up, Barry’s dad (John Wesley Shipp) gets released from prison. Joe and the gang throw him a welcome home party which the episode montages to that annoying “Renegades” song by X Ambassadors. Barry tries to make some plans to help his dad get back on his feet, but his dad already wants to skip town. He says it’s for Barry’s good, because he’ll just hold him back. Seems like a flimsy excuse to me.
In a wrap-up scene, Cisco unveils a Flash suit with a new logo. He also promises that the lab’s security has been beefed up so that they won’t have any more problems with random people getting in. No sooner does he say this, of course, than a stranger walks right in. He announces himself as Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears from ‘Masters of Sex’) and warns that, “Your world is in danger.”
Comic fans obviously know Jay Garrick as a previous identity for The Flash. My assumption here is that he’s arrived from an alternate timeline or alternate dimension that was opened up by the singularity. That’s where the new Zoom must come from as well.
I’ll be honest, the premiere episode is kind of disappointing. It’s not outright bad or anything, but it’s not terribly exciting and I’m not a fan of mopey Barry. What set this show apart from most other superhero stories in its first season was its sense of sheer exuberant fun. I hope that comes back soon.