At the end of the first season of THE FLASH, many of Barry Allen’s (Grant Gustin) core friends and enemies had been introduced, with the series hitting the ground running (pun very much intended) and establishing that it was going to have a much lighter, comic book tone than its forerunner, Arrow. Despite key villains Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) off exploring time and space in Legends of Tomorrow, the show wastes no time in exploring concepts and characters from the original comics in across the 23 episodes, introducing a classic villain and teasing more to come in the future.
Following the cliffhanger ending of Season 1, the show actually starts without an immediate resolution to how Barry closes the the singularity that opened over Central City. It’s six months later, and The Flash is seen as the city’s hero, although he feels guilt over the death of Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett). However, he soon discovers that the singularity has actually punch a series of holes in the fabric of space, allowing other parallel Earths to bleed into theirs. Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears), the Flash from the parallel Earth-2, appears and warns Barry and the gang of the threat that Zoom (voiced by Tony Todd initially) is threatening to steal the speed of all the speedsters connected to the Speed Force in the Multiverse. They must all try and figure out a way to stop him while Iris (Candice Patton) and Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) have their lives changed with the appearance of a hitherto unknown family member Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale)
All of the cast from the first series returned in some form, including a surprising (and very welcome) recurring role for Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), playing his own Earth 2 doppelgänger. THE FLASH wastes very little time in introducing viewers to the Multiverse, with Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears) introduced in the first episode. The second episode of the season is “Flash of Two Worlds,” one that mic drops the notion of parallels worlds into the Berlanti Arrowverse (so named for the TV worlds that spun-off from Arrow). From here Barry/The Flash spends much of this series battling various villains from Earth-2, or introducing doppelgänger plotlines that never seem to get old, and failing to find a way to beat Zoom. The two-part “Welcome to Earth-2″/”Escape from Earth-2,” Barry and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) actually travel to the mirror Earth, where actress Danielle Panabaker gets to cut loose on a flipped version of her conservative Caitlin with the wicked Killer Frost.
THE FLASH is strongest when it explores concepts from the comics, with many of the storylines mirroring the larger arcs that have been occurring in the New 52 version of the comics since 2011. Zoom is by no means a new character, but the basic idea of an evil speedster stealing the powers of other runners certainly has a recency in the printed version. The introduction of Patty Spivot, who has been around in the comics since the 1970s, is definitely based on her post-2011 appearances as an on-again off-again love interest for Barry. If we’re talking about nods to geekery, then one of the highlights of the second part of the season was undoubtedly Kevin Smith’s directorial debut on the series in “The Runaway Dinosaur”. Apart from the renewed attention Smith’s fan-base brought to the series, the Zack Stentz script goes deep into the comic book lore of the character. It explores the relationship that Barry has with the Speed Force by literally placing him inside it, something that become important in the finale and drops a key part of what modern Flash is all about. (It’s wonderful to hear that Stentz will be the consulting producer on Season 3). This is what THE FLASH is best at: translating complex comic book concepts to mainstream audiences without dumbing them down one iota.
The back half of THE FLASH – SEASON 2 puts a lot of importance on the identity of a mysterious man in mask being held captive by Zoom, and because the answer may be obvious to those paying close attention to all the clues, some of the stories feel elongated to fill the necessary 23 yearly slots. Similarly, the mid-season crossover with Arrow (“Legends of Today”) serves merely to set up spin-off series Legends of Tomorrow. However, THE FLASH is nowhere near as guilty of this as Arrow‘s equivalent season, but it just goes to show that the series is at its strongest when stands by the totems of its own world-building. This is as season, after all, where producers were confident enough to lay out time travel, parallel worlds, Gorilla Grodd and King Shark all in the one year. In the end, the pay-off to the mysterious man’s identity is wholly in keeping with this ethos, and all the more satisfying for it.
The season finale, “The Race of His Life,” satisfactorily brings many of these threads together, wrapping up enough of the Earth-2 storyline to allow for a totally different direction in Season 3. The cliffhanger is every bit as exciting as the first season, especially for those of us who suspect we know what the consequences of Barry’s final actions are. What we are left with is the knowledge that THE FLASH is still one of the boldest comic book adaptations on television, never afraid to scale up as far as it can within its modest budget and go “pure geek” for the sake of it. For now, THE FLASH is pointed in the right direction.
2015-16 | US | Executive Producers: David Nutter, Gabrielle Stanton, Sarah Schechter, Aaron Helbing, Todd Helbing, Andrew Kreisberg, Greg Berlanti | Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Teddy Sears, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, Keiynan Lonsdale, Shantel VanSanten, Violett Beane | Distributor: FOX8 (Australia) | Episodes: 23 | Rating:★★★★¼ (8.5/10)