‘The Flash’ Review: Themes of Duality Anchor Terrific ‘The Darkness and the Light’
Recap and review of The Flash – Season 2 Episode 5 – The Darkness and the Light:
The Flash is a show that often explores what it means to be a superhero. But what the show is doing this season is far more interesting, as the presence of Earth Two means there’s a certain measure of duality to each of these stories. These themes of duality anchor “The Darkness and the Light” and make for a terrific hour of TV.
A new metahuman has come over from Earth Two, and her name is Dr. Light. She was a low-level street thug until the Wells of Earth Two caused the explosion that created all the metahumans, thereby giving her the ability to draw energy from starlight. The presence of Earth Two Wells (Tom Cavanagh) makes this complicated enough, since Barry (Grant Gustin) is still struggling to come to grips with once again working alongside the man who’s the spitting image of his mother’s killer. But things get a whole lot more complicated once Barry discovers that Dr. Light is Earth Two’s version of Linda Park (Malese Jow). And, as it turns out, all she wants to do is be free from having to work for Zoom. So there’s a certain amount of desperation to this Linda: on the one hand, she’s a criminal who knocks over banks in her free time (at least when she’s not using bank robberies to draw out The Flash); on the other hand, a small-time crook is really all she wants to be. She has no real desire to be a killer, but the only alternative is to face a grisly death at the hands of Zoom, so she feels she doesn’t have much of a choice. In one of the more tense sequences in the episode, Dr. Light learns that there’s an Earth One Linda due to a slip-up by Barry, and so she tracks Linda to the newspaper and nearly kills her until her editor intervene. By instinct, Dr. Light fires a bolt of light from her hands and murders the poor man. She’s horrified when she realizes what she’s done, and although she’s ostensibly a villain, her anguish is understandable. Murdering Earth One’s Linda and taking her place was her only way out, other than killing Barry, which she doesn’t seem capable of doing. And so her plight inspires a certain amount of empathy, even if she’s still a crook prone to terrible mistakes.
By the same token, it’s easy to identify with this new Wells. In the opening, we learn that this Wells as a teen daughter, but he has no desire to take personal responsibility for creating metahumans like Zoom, even going face-to-face with Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears) and denying any role in spawning the bad guys that have been plaguing Central City Earth Two. With this back story set up, it isn’t exactly a mystery why he’s so intent on bringing down Zoom, and why he’s changed his opinion on his own culpability in the creation of the Earth Two metahumans. Sure, the show doesn’t tell us until the end of the episode, but it’s clear that either Zoom has killed Wells’s daughter, or Zoom has Wells’s daughter. The stinger at the end of the episode seems to indicate that the latter is true, as Wells’s daughter insists that her father will come save her. We still aren’t given any indication who Zoom is, exactly, but given the themes of duality running throughout the episode, it wouldn’t surprise me if it were the Earth Two version of somebody Barry loves, whether it’s his father, or Joe, or even Barry himself. Then again, it’d be just as menacing for Zoom to be a complete mystery person whom we’ve never met before, since it implies this is a much larger multi-verse than we realize.
Either way, Wells is here, and he’s trying to make amends for his failures, which adds a redemptive element to his story. Sure, this Wells is abrasive and condescending, but he’s also a pragmatist who is dead set on helping Barry reach his full potential in order to combat Zoom. It results in an intriguing ideological divide, since Jay is actually against Barry fighting Zoom right now. He fears that Barry will fail in the same way he did himself, losing his speed powers and potentially losing his life as well. But Wells reads this as cowardice, and Jay struggles against the accusation, even going as far as to note that, yes, he didn’t always fight Zoom when he should have. In some ways, Jay shares Wells’s culpability for Zoom’s continued existence. It’s what makes their shared support of Barry so poignant. These are just two men looking to set things right. And that’s a story that’s easy to get behind, far more so than some of the other subplots this week, like the interrupted almost-kiss between Jay and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker), or Cisco (Carlos Valdes) asking out Central City newcomer Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renee). Of course, not all the romance subplots are a distraction, since I actually loved the “blind” date between Barry and Patty (Shantel VanSanten) and thought their first kiss was among the sweetest bits in the series (and Cisco providing support to the blinded Barry through a camera in his sunglasses was also pretty hilarious, to boot). However, these subplots were largely all window-dressing to the larger issue of which people can be trusted. Dr. Light is not the Linda Park we know, any more than this new Dr. Wells is like the old one. In both instances, Barry has to let go of what he knows about the person in order to fight them. Dr. Light gets the drop on Barry because he’s stunned to discover Linda under the mask, failing to recognize it’s not his Linda. Only once he’s able to separate the two in his mind is he able to defeat Dr. Light. By the same token, he needs to let go of his inherent mistrust of this new Dr. Wells in order to actually hear his advice and allow himself to trust in what this man is saying. It’s compelling stuff, and I’m hoping we get further explorations into the duality of it all next week.
I thought “The Darkness and the Light” was an important episode for The Flash, because it helped establish more of the differences between our world and Earth Two. And, as an added bonus, we get more development on our heroes at home, as Wells reveals that Cisco has metahuman powers, resulting in him earning the metahuman name “Vibe”. Cisco has long been the show’s comic relief and trusty sidekick character, so it should be interesting to see how his characterization changes once he finds himself on the frontlines (assuming that’s where this is all headed. After all, the dude has crazy martial arts skills). All in all, I thought “The Darkness and the Light” represented some of the more compelling elements of The Flash, namely its character-driven storytelling wrapped within a larger, plot-driven context. It’s a format that has served the story well, and should continue to do so as the season rolls on.
But what did you think of The Flash, “The Darkness and the Light”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Flash, relive last week’s thrilling episode with our review of the excellent “The Fury of Firestorm”!