If I had to describe the first episode of The Flash’s second season in a single word, it would be this: “Slow.”
Yes, the Fastest Man Alive did seem to inexplicably take two giant steps back in his first episode back, or stumbled out of the gate, or whatever moving/running/racing metaphor you want to use. “The Man Who Saved Central City” doesn’t really set up anything new, it barely closes out the cliffhanger of the first season. Actually, it spends most of its time slowly reassembling the team, as if the show was worried its audience needed reminding why the SuperSTARS worked so well together.
In fact, there are only three noteworthy events/revelations in the premiere, and they all get very little screentime. There’s the reveal that Ronnie Raymond also sacrificed himself to destroy the singularity (Barry could stabilize it by running in it, but Firestorm had to separate in it to close the thing, and for some reason only Dr. Stein managed to fall out of the sky). There’s when we learn the new mysterious person who wants Barry dead this season is named Zoom. Oh, and by the way, Barry also discovers Harrison Wells left a video confession that he killed Barry’s mom, allowing his father Henry to go free after being wrongfully imprisoned for 14 years.
This is not a moment in the show that I should be able to talk about with an “Oh, by the way.” Barry’s dad’s wrongful imprisonment is the problem that forms the basis of Barry’s existence, and one of his major motivations for becoming a superhero. It informs the entirety of season one. And somehow, for some reason, it is resolved and completely excised in about two minutes of screen-time. There’s no emotional impact to what should be one of the most important moments of the series.
This is compounded by the fact that immediately after being freed from prison, Henry abandons his son to hit the road under the pretense that he’d somehow hinder Barry and his job as the Flash. What the hell?! It’s a decision no reasonable human being—even in a universe where people can absorb radiation, gets bigger and stronger in a very Bane-like fashion—would ever make, that his son would allow him to make. It’s as if the show is not only trying to do away with this major plotline as quickly as possible, but as if it’s embarrassed of it—as if getting John Wesley Shipp off the series had to be done as quickly and quietly as possible. This is The Flash’s premiere’s most baffling decision, and not only is it bad it’s unbelievable.
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Which is why, I suppose, that I can’t quite bring myself to believe it. I had a lot of problems with the show’s writing last season—especially in Barry’s perfunctory “emotional growth” in which he had some kind of strange, nonsensical hissyfit, all so he could overcome it by the end of the episode. Of course, this Henry thing is far, far beyond that, and I just can’t see the same writers of season one somehow making this immensely more egregious mistake. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I find it more likely that this is a misdirect on The Flash’s part, and the Henry storyline isn’t at all resolved. There’s more to Wells’ video, and more to Henry, and what we’ve seen is absolutely not all we’re getting.
I could be wrong, of course, but the other reason I have hope is because I do think The Flash writers knew what they were doing when they wrote “The Man Who Saved Central City” to be so… well… boring. They wanted it simple. They wanted to re-establish the basic building block of the show, as a benchmark for the later episode to be compared to. If you’ve followed the news of the upcoming second season—hell, if you just watched the first season, and watched the show slowly introduce ever crazier aspects like time travel, alternate realities, and giant evil talking telepathic gorillas—you know that The Flash is spectacularly good at getting absolutely crazy. And from everything we know about season 2, it’s going to get much, much crazier.
So in that regard, it makes perfect sense for the episode to have two, deceptively simple mysteries: How is there an evil metahuman running around who’s an exact replica of a dead person the police just found? What did the Atom-Smasher mean when he told Barry with his dying words, “He promised he’s send me home”? Who is Zoom, and why does he want Barry dead? And who is Jay Garrick, the man who mysteriously arrives inside STAR Labs in the episode’s final seconds?
Obviously, Flash fans probably have their suspicions (or knowledge), but for The Flash’s larger audience—for whom all this stuff is going to be pretty new—it’s a necessary, stabilizing introduction to what will be an absolutely bonkers season of superhero television. I believe The Flash season 2 is building a framework to keep from completely baffling its viewers later; they’ve started by re-establishing the foundation, the very basics of the show. It might not be the flashiest season premiere (tee hee!), but after season one, I trust this show to know what it’s doing and where it’s going.
The Flash can move forward from here. There’s still plenty of time for The Flash to win this race. I expect he’ll be gaining speed over the course of the season. Running metaphors!
• The goofy, silly dream that faded into Barry alone in the empty STAR Labs was jarring, but not in a good way.
• So I suppose this is why Ronnie isn’t part of Legends of Tomorrow, but Dr. Stein is? Hmm.
• Barry uses a Flash-signal to lure the Arom-Smasher into their final fight. It was Cisco’s idea, who of course saw it in a comic book. I believe Cisco Ramon is the only superhero TV show character who could say this line and get away with it.
• Cisco makes a new suit for the Flash, which includes the lightning bolt emblem on white! I gotta admit, I was hoping for something a bit more grandiose.
• Flash Day had a lot of shirts and foam lightning bolts on sale for a celebration where they weren’t even sure the guest of honor was going to attend.
• Also, who’s getting the profits from all that Flash merch? I hope Cisco started a Flash Cafepress store or something.
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