‘The Flash’ Review: ‘The Man Who Saved Central City’ Strikes Season Premiere Gold
Recap and review of The Flash – Season 2 Premiere – The Man Who Saved Central City:
The Flash is back for Season 2! Of course, that means tying up some loose ends, while opening up a completely separate host of issues for our heroes to contend with in the season to come. In short, the story has somehow taken an even more complicated turn than the one we left it on in Season 1. And yet, “The Man Who Saved Central City” strikes season premiere gold by being as emotionally resonant as it is thrilling.
What I found myself liking about this episode, to my surprise, was how dark it ended up being. In Season 1, one of the things I loved most about The Flash was its recognition of the kind of series it wanted to be. It was an adventurous, fun show with strongly-written characters, and a governing sense of morality at its center, much like your traditional comic book. It didn’t try to be gritty for grittiness’ sake, nor did it try to be about something bigger than its trappings. The Flash was simply a superhero show, embodying the spirit of heroism and adventure that constitutes the best of comic book storytelling. But here, the series reveals the price of heroism, as we flash forward six months after the events of the season finale to find that Barry (Grant Gustin) has become a loner. As it turns out, Ronnie (Robbie Amell) sacrificed himself to help Barry stop the singularity from destroying Central City. That death, along with the deaths of Eddie and Wells, ultimately split Team Flash. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) has become the science advisor to the CCPD anti-metahuman task force, now run by Joe (Jesse L. Martin), while Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) has moved on to Mercury Labs. All this, while Barry sulks in STAR Labs, and fights criminals on his own, including a dangerous new foe named The Atom-Smasher.
It’s not exactly a new story for a superhero drama: someone dies, the hero blames himself, and pushes away the people who care about him. But this is a bit different, in the sense that while Barry is beating himself up for his perceived failure, the city he’s bleeding to protect is celebrating him like never before. In theory, Barry should feel vindicated that he’s viewed as a hero rather than a vague menace. Yet, the victory feels hollow because of what was lost in the bargain. Grant Gustin does a great job communicating the weight of guilt and responsibility Barry has hoisted onto his own shoulders. This isn’t a man martyring himself for its own sake, it’s a hero wondering if he can still call himself a hero when he can’t save the people he cares about. Ultimately, it’s up to Joe and Iris (Candice Patton) to start the process of reuniting Team Flash, particularly now with the Atom-Smasher out there wreaking havoc. It’s a classic “Getting the band back together!” story, prefaced with the shock of learning exactly what happened to cause the breakup in the first place. And yet, it wouldn’t have been as emotionally resonant without the team proving why they work better together, setting a trap for the Atom-Smasher that allows Barry to finally succeed where he’d failed against the villain before.
And yet, what put this premiere over the top wasn’t this Rocky-type tale of heroic actualization, it was the pair of twists that promised major changes to Barry and his team. In the first, it’s revealed that Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) left a video will bequeathing STAR Labs to Barry. And that’s not all, Wells actually confesses to having killed Barry’s mom, a gift that allows Henry (John Wesley Shipp) to go free! Yes, Barry’s dad is finally set free, making this premiere perhaps the biggest tearjerker of the series’ run so far. Sure, it’s a positively ludicrous that the first thing Henry decides to do after finally being released from prison is leave Central City forever, but he makes a salient point when he remarks that the city needs Barry to be the hero this city needs, which he can’t be with Henry around. The implication that Barry will always prioritize his relationship with his father makes sense, to me, and while I wish the show had lingered a bit more on Barry and Henry’s emotional reunion, I get why they didn’t. The show doesn’t really need Henry anymore, and it’s arguable whether Barry does anymore either. For one, Barry can simply visit his father in the blink of an eye, no matter where he goes. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Barry has achieved justice for Henry. That act alone lifts the burden of exonerating his father off of his shoulders, allowing him to be a more complete hero. Would it be nice for Henry to stick around for his son? Of course. But as long as Henry is in Central City, he’s just one more person a villain could potentially use against Henry. In short, I get why this decision was made, and I’m interested in its implications for Barry. Will this make him more focused or will he potentially be more distracted? Basically, was this the right move for Henry to have made? Or is he creating a new angst within Barry? I can’t wait to see how Barry develops over this season. As for now, however, he’s already got a new overarching case to tackle this season…
The other major twist that put this episode over-the-top was the arrival of the man who, in the comic books, also went by the moniker The Flash, Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears). At the end of the episode, just as everything appears to have returned to a sense of normalcy, Garrick materializes out of nowhere and announces that Barry’s world is in danger. It’s a hell of a cliffhanger, and I wish we’d gotten a bit more out of his arrival, although I get why we didn’t. Still, it’s an exciting prospect, since the existence of multiple universes indicates the possibility of multiple versions of The Flash and his team, as well as The Flash’s villains — namely, Dr. Wells/Eobard Thawne. With Tom Cavanagh still listed as a series regular for Season 2, the implication seems to be that Wells will be back in some form. But what if we meet a parallel version of Wells who’s actually every bit as noble as Dr. Wells appeared to be in the first half of last season? It could be intriguing to see The Flash interacting with a version of his worst enemy, only to learn that this version of the many is actually every bit the hero Barry is, even if he does wear a villain’s face. Of course, there’s the inverse as well, if it turns out that the parallel Wells is actually worse. Adding to this sinister possibility is what we learn after Barry defeats The Atom-Smasher: it turns out the metahuman is merely an agent of Zoom, a revelation that seems to imply there are other henchmen that will precede his arrival. Basically, this is all super-exciting. Hell, I found the advent of these mysteries to be the most exciting part of the episode, and that’s even with the awesome sequences of Barry saving Central City in the flashback, and Barry vs. The Atom-Smasher in the climax. I’m on-board for this season of The Flash, as “The Man Who Saved Central City” was everything I hoped it’d be.
But what did you think of The Flash season two premiere, “The Man Who Saved Central City”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Flash, watch the preview video for next week’s episode!