This week, ‘The Flash’ goes full-on ‘Fringe’ as our heroes take a trip to the parallel universe of Earth-2. Why is it that parallel universes in comics and sci-fi are so obsessed with monorails and the Art Deco 1930s anyway?
The episode opens with Barry racing around Central City to close all the dimensional breaches with Cisco’s breach implosion reactor doodad. The only breach he leaves open is the one in S.T.A.R. Labs. He, Cisco and Dr. Wells say their goodbyes as Caitlin, Joe and Jay Garrick stay behind in our world. (Why Jay doesn’t go home with them is not explained. I guess he wants to stay with Caitlin.) Cisco leaves a note for Caitlin to give to his family in case he doesn’t make it back.
As they enter the Speed Cannon to cross universes, Dr. Wells tells Barry and Cisco not to get distracted by anything they might see. A bunch of images flash before them, which include Gorilla Grodd, a former ‘Arrow’ villain named Deadshot, Supergirl (!), and Barry’s dad Henry Allen wearing the costume from the 1990s ‘Flash’ TV show (!!!). Multi-verses are fun.
After they leave Earth-1, the Speed Cannon experiences a power surge and a piece of it breaks off. Jay worries that if he can’t get it fixed, the others may get trapped in Earth-2 forever.
Arriving in the Earth-2 version of S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry and Cisco spend most of the episode goggling in awe like yokel tourists at all the differences between this world and ours. They’re immediately freaked out by Dr. Wells’ assistant, Henry Hewitt (Demore Barnes), whom they know as a meta-human villain from earlier this season. Apparently, this version is perfectly nice. Even more disturbing, Leonard Snart (referenced on a newscast but never seen) is mayor of Central City. He has recently issued a curfew due to increased terror attacks by Zoom.
Cisco tries to use his vibe powers to locate Zoom, but the fancy glasses that control his visions don’t work in this universe. Upon discovering that the Earth-2 version of himself is just a nerdy CSI tech with no super powers, Barry gets an idea. He snatches Barry-2 up and brings him back to S.T.A.R. Labs, where Dr. Wells drugs him unconscious. Barry will go undercover as himself and use police resources to find Zoom. He thinks this will be easy. Perhaps it might, if only Barry would stop behaving like a jaw-agape moron anytime he sees something in Earth-2 that’s different than Earth-1. For example, he just about passes out when he discovers that not only is Iris a cop on this Earth, but the two of them are married.
As if that’s not kooky enough, the Earth-2 versions of Caitlin and her (not dead) boyfriend Ronnie are wicked evil here. Meta-humans with respective cold and heat powers, they go by the names Killer Frost and Deathstorm. They work for Zoom, and upon receiving notification that someone has come through the dimensional portal, head out looking for this “breacher.”
Iris takes Barry out for a date night of dancing at the club Jitterbugs (the coffee shop Jitters back home), where Iris’ dad Joe performs as a crooner. Barry is totally agog at watching him sing. From Joe’s reaction to him, he and “Bartholomew” (i.e. Barry-2) apparently can’t stand each other. Oh, these wacky alternate universes… Can nothing be the same between worlds?
Evil Caitlin and Evil Ronnie barge into the club searching for their breacher. Tough-as-nails Iris tries to arrest them, which leads to much tossing of icicles and fireballs. Joe gets hit. While Iris is distracted with her dad, Barry lures Caitlin and Ronnie outside and fights them off.
When Dr. Wells hears about this later, he’s annoyed with Barry for wasting time with Iris-2 and Joe-2. He wants him to stay on-mission and focus on Zoom, but Barry can’t let go. He heads to the hospital just in time to see Joe-2 give a heartfelt goodbye speech to his daughter and promptly croak.
Barry brings Cisco to the police station to meet Iris-2. Cisco has developed a gizmo that will neutralize Killer Frost’s power. She brings him along as she hunts for the metas. Also on the case is Iris’ partner, the Earth-2 version of Deadshot, here a bumbling rookie cop who can’t hit a target to save his life.
Iris finds Killer Frost and Deathstorm in a warehouse… because of course that’s where they’d be. What could be worse than an Evil Caitlin and an Evil Ronnie? How about an Evil Cisco? That’s right, Cisco’s doppelganger is even more dickish than those two. He goes by the name Reverb, and has developed powers that Cisco doesn’t even know he has, such as hurling sound waves to hurt people. He uses this power to kill Deadshot. Reverb considers himself a total badass and has plans to betray Zoom and rule the city. He tries to lure Cisco to join him on the Dark Side, but Cisco resists.
Cisco hits Caitlin with the weapon that saps her power. Barry arrives to fight Ronnie, but Ronnie and Reverb gang up and pummel him with fireballs and sound wave blasts. Caitlin warns them that Zoom wants the Speedster left alive, but they won’t listen. Suddenly, Zoom shows up and kills both Ronnie and Reverb for disobeying him. He lets Caitlin live, then grabs the weakened Barry and runs off.
Barry wakes up later trapped in a cell across from Wells’ daughter, Jesse. He promises that he’ll find a way to get her out, but Zoom pooh-poohs that idea and taunts him that, “This is the last place you’ll ever see.”
Back Home on Earth-1
While Barry and Cisco are away, a new meta-human calling himself Geomancer presents himself in Earth-1 Central City. A cocky prick with the power to create earthquakes, he wants to fight The Flash. When his repeated attempts to call Flash out don’t result in anything, he figures that there’s no one to stop him.
Caitlin begs Jay to take some more of the Velocity-6 drug to temporarily get his speed back so that he can save the city from this new threat. Jay resists. He admits that he used to be a Velocity-6 doper back on Earth-2. That’s the real reason he’s lost his speed, and side effects of the drug are the cause of his mysterious illness. Now that she knows what’s really wrong with him, Caitlin gets to work solving the problem.
The next time Geomancer makes a nuisance of himself, Jay speeds up to fight him in his old Flash uniform. Now powered by the side-effect-free Velocity-7, he even whips out a trick that Barry doesn’t know about – bouncing vibrations off his metal helmet to hit the baddie. Sadly, the Velocity-7 wears off before their fight is over. Fortunately, Joe shows up and scares off the villain with a regular ol’ gun. Caitlin considers this a lesson learned and gets to work on a longer-lasting Velocity-8.
The episode ends back at S.T.A.R. Labs, where Jay determines that he has 24 hours to fix the Speed Cannon or their friends will never come back.
This episode has a lot of neat ideas, but it’s hampered by some really frustrating, dumb plotting that overly focuses on Barry behaving like a boob on Earth-2 and making a lot of bad decisions. It’s Barry’s own fault for putting Iris-2 and Joe-2 into harm’s way, which means that he’s directly responsible for Joe-2’s death – not to mention Deadshot, Ronnie-2 and Cisco-2. He also reveals his existence to his own doppelganger for no reason whatsoever. If he’d done as Wells asked and stayed focused on his mission, he would have caused a lot less disruption to this universe.
If played correctly, however, even that might have made for an important superhero lesson for Barry to learn. Instead, we mostly get a lot of dopey comic relief of Barry bumbling through a world that’s almost just like his own, except for all those crazy little differences that he just can’t wrap his brain around.
I hope that next week’s conclusion to this two-parter ends stronger than the first half.