Episode 201 “The Man Who Saved Central City”
[photos: Cate Cameron/The CW]
Six months have passed since the defeat of the Reverse Flash and black hole opened in the skies above the city. Barry (Grant Gustin) stands alone in the control room of the S.T.A.R. Labs particle collider, genesis point of his now miraculous life and dreams of a future full of possibility and triumph. The reality is much more bleak, as we will soon find out.
Scarred by the events of last year Barry has distanced himself from the rest of Team Flash, preferring for their safety, to work alone. Processing the scene of a murder at a power plant, he keeps to small talk with Detective Joe West (Jesse Martin) and quickly rushes off to process the evidence before the conversation can deepen.
As the city plans a celebration in honor of the Flash to honor him for his heroic actions Joe, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Iris (Candice Patton) try to figure out how to convince Barry to attend as his alter ego to accept the key to the city. Cisco is now working more closely with Joe and is developing an anti-metahuman restraint called the Boot. Joe urges Iris to try and reach out to him. Later that night Iris finds Barry using his speed to rebuild Jitters, a coffee house damaged by the black hole. She tries to convince him to attend the rally and let the citizens support their hero. Barry refuses, rejecting the notion that he saved the city.
We finally get details about the cliffhanger as Barry remembers the events of that tragic day. With the black hole threatening to tear apart the city and eventually the world, the Flash races to certain death straight into the vortex. Miraculously, his super speed slows the singularity’s expansion, giving Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber) a chance to hatch a plan to seal the vortex. Stein and Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell), the two halves of Firestorm, must separate inside the black hole using the massive energy release to collapse the vortex. Without much debate they launch into action. Their plan works, but after their separation Stein is the only survivor.
As Flash Day commences, Joe and Cisco watch and wait, hoping Barry will have a change of heart. One of the errant members of Team Flash, Catlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), makes an appearance, but keeps her distance. Surprisingly, the Flash shows up and receives thunderous applause and cheers. This marks the first time most have seen the speedster standing still. As he accepts the key to the city, a new attack reminds everyone that Central City is no longer a normal city. Whisking the mayor out of harm’s way, the Flash confronts the latest metahuman – Atom Smasher.
WWE’s Adam “Edge” Copeland portrays the villain and bats the Flash around like a ragdoll. Cisco’s high tech restraint is not effective against the size and density-changing villain. As revealed in season one, Cisco is a metahuman as well, with the ability to see alternate dimensions. His powers kick in during the fight and we see Atom Smasher talking to this season’s big bad – Zoom. Quick thinking by Flash and Joe drive off Atom Smasher before he can cause any real damage. In the process his identity is revealed. Shockingly, he looks like the murder victim from the power plant.
Cisco pays a visit to Mercury Labs, where Catlin now works, and convinces her to help him further identify Atom Smasher. Iris and Joe decide that Barry has had enough time to process the events of six months ago and start work to reassemble Team Flash. Barry contemplates his recent encounter and is visited by a lawyer representing Harrison Wells (the Reverse Flash). He is given an option: watch a final message from Wells, or let S.T.A.R. Labs get auctioned off.
Back at the collider control room Barry encounters the reassembled Team Flash. Reluctant to allow them to get involved, Barry quickly realizes that they will not budge. Rhythms of the old team emerge and they track the new threat to a nuclear waste facility. Barry’s second encounter is almost disastrous; with Prof. Stein’s help they distract the Atom Smasher long enough for Barry to escape.
After his recovery and some sage advice from Joe, Barry visits Catlin at Mercury Labs. Barry is remorseful, still carrying the burden of Ronnie’s death. Catlin convinces him it was not his fault and supports him as he views the message from Wells. Amazingly, Wells has drafted a message confessing to the murder of Barry’s mother. Rushing the information to the Joe, Barry waits for hopeful news from the DA. The confession is enough, and to exonerate his father and secure his release from prison.
In the mean time Team Flash regroups to put a stop to Atom Smasher’s activities once and for all. Together they gain insight into his powers and plan to lure him to a power plant where they will overload his energy absorbing powers. The Flash lures him into a fight with a comical Easter egg related to another well know DC hero. The plan is a success and Atom Smasher is defeated. Overloaded with radiation and dying, he reveals that Zoom promised to take him home (Earth 2?) if he killed the Flash.
As the episode closes a 14-year nightmare ends for Barry and his father is acquitted for the murder of his mother and released from prison. Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) joins the team at Joe’s house to celebrate his release. The party is full of happy reunions and memories, but not for long. In the season opener’s most confusing development, Henry Allen decides, for unclear reasons, to leave Central City. Barry takes it surprisingly well, but is understandably confused.
For me the first episode of The Flash’s sophomore season fell a bit flat. We received some answers to questions from last season, most notably the fate of the city. Unfortunately the Atom Smasher was under utilized as a villain and defeated with absurd simplicity. He could have easily been a multi-episode threat. Consider the amount of time and effort that went into the VFX to realize his powers and it’s clearly a shame.
Then the writers take the season long driving force of Barry Allen, his father’s wrongful imprisonment, and resolve it in less than 10 minutes. Worse, they ship his father off to distant cameo land moments after his release. Complex and emotional characters were the hallmark of last season. Grant and John’s scenes together where some of the most emotional of the show, and to marginalize his release and continued involvement in the show is disappointing.
Still, I look forward to the development and reveal of this season’s villain – Zoom.