The Flash Season 2 Review

the flash season 2 review grant gustin barry allen zoom greg berlanti hd review image

So, I have some thoughts, and I want to work through them here. You can find my reviews of the first 9 episodes of the season here; I never managed to review the subsequent episodes, sadly. Hopefully, I’ll get around to that at some point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was quite a while away.

Last year, the first season of The Flash was my favourite television show that was on at the time. It was genuinely fantastic – possibly one of the best superhero programmes on television, a wonderful blend of exciting action and moving emotional arcs, which all came together to create something truly compelling. The season finale, Fast Enough, is one of the best hours of television I’ve ever seen.

I don’t feel like Season 2 managed to hit the same highs.

That’s understandable, of course; it was a very high standard to meet, and a high bar to cross. Certainly, the series started well, and there were lots of fantastic elements throughout. To be entirely honest, my issues with the show were entirely idiosyncratic; I know for a lot of people, it still worked really well. But we’ll get to that in a minute, because first I do want to highlight the parts I enjoyed and think worked really well.

A few months before the season began, I wrote an article about the five things I’d like to see in the coming year. One of the most important, for me, was further development of Iris’ character; I’d always liked her across the first season, but I felt that she was a bit under utilised at times. Thankfully, this was remedied this year; I think Iris was quite well served as a character across this season. She’s really grown and developed, and I appreciate that a lot – it’s great to see Iris in STAR Labs, fitting in and helping out. Part of what I enjoyed, actually, was the fact that she gives a different perspective to the other characters; dramatically speaking, I think this works really well with the dynamic of the show. So, that was great.

And, you know, that’s generally true of all the characters, not just Iris. Something I mentioned in one of my earlier reviews (I think it was Enter Zoom, perhaps) was how much I loved the fact that The Flash still made the effort to include emotional scenes, and to develop their characters each week. It would have been very easy for them to drop the ball on that, and just focus on the action, but they never did; The Flash was always a program that was really grounded in making sure the characters would progress and move forward and change across the season.

Initially, I’d been quite sceptical of Zoom, because I wasn’t sure that featuring a speedster villain as the Big Bad again was the right idea. It felt a little too much like they’d be boxing themselves in, and setting a precedent that would only limit and constrain them in the future. It felt, to me, quite important that we had a villain who wasn’t a speedster as the Big Bad, not just to stop it from being repetitive, but also to demonstrate that there were still a variety of different tricks that the program could deploy.

But – at the start of the season, at least – Zoom worked really well! His first proper episode, Enter Zoom, set him up as a really powerful antagonist; it made great use of a narrative collapse to demonstrate quite how heavyweight a threat he was, and how significant he was as an individual. I was really impressed at quite how imposing they’d made him, and I had high hopes for the rest of the season.

the flash series 2 enter zoom hunter zolomon jay garrick teddy sears eddie thawne fight hd image

However.

Zoom, as an antagonist, ceased to work the moment they revealed him to be Jay Garrick, or Hunter Zolomon, or whoever. Immediately, there’s the fact that this twist was needlessly over complicated to the point that it was evident it was only for shock value, and the fact they could surprise us with “Jay Garrick is evil”. The explanation involving time remnants never quite worked, and the fact that Harry never recognised Jay as the extremely famous serial killer Hunter Zolomon despite his not wearing a mask is certainly something that stretches belief. Worse, this reveal also makes Zoom even more derivative of last year’s villain – not only was he a speedster, he was also Barry’s trusted mentor. It worked the first time; with Zoom, they hit a point of diminishing returns.

Further, though, it became readily apparent that he was just an extremely weak villain. A psychopath who’s obsessed with being the fastest is a starting point, yes, but it’s far from a particularly nuanced one. The writers tried to bring in that “we’re not so different, you and I” aspect to develop him somewhat, but does anyone really buy that anymore? The villain trying to convince the hero that they’re the same is not only a cliché, it’s also evidently untrue of Barry. What’s the point? Little was achieved with that.

(I am quite firmly of the mind that Zoom should, in fact, have been revealed to be Eddie Thawne. In fact, I’d begun typing up something of an explanation for that in this post, before realising that it would start to get a little too long winded. So, look forward to a separate post about that soon.)

Similarly, I was unimpressed at the relationship between Hunter and Caitlin – even when we all thought he was just Jay included. It was a little disappointing to me that the only character arc the writers seemed able to conceive of for Caitlin was to put her into a relationship again, and then to repeat the same grief plot once more. That was a shame, really, and the fact that Caitlin was sidelined generally didn’t help either. I know that in part this was because of Danielle Panabaker’s injury disrupting shooting schedules, but even in the latter half of the season, it felt like her involvement was being minimised. So, yeah, that wasn’t so great.

Towards the end of the season, it did start to become abundantly clear that they were lacking plot, and having to stretch it out to fit the full 23 episode order. It became evident as each story was increasingly dependent on the characters making bad choices for no apparent reason. That’s not mistakes, of course; I’ve no problem with something like that. But it was almost an example of the “idiot ball” trope – the characters ended up beginning to make choices that were completely ignorant of information already established in the program. (Why are you trying to send Zoom back to Earth 2, when you know he can open breaches of his own? Why are you giving up your speed to save Wally, if you’re already far faster than Zoom and can just grab Wally there and then?) There’s not even really the excuse that the characters weren’t aware, because of course they were the ones who had given us that exposition in the first place. Certainly, that was lacking in oversight, and needed a rewrite or to.

As for next year? I am tentatively worried. Flashpoint, to me, seems like a mistake. Primarily, there’s the fact that The Flash has been mining the Flashpoint story for a lot of imagery for a long time, taking different aspects and using them in the way that best suited the show at the time; Barry bringing Iris a video of Eddie, for example, or being electrocuted to regain his speed. That means that if they do try and use any of the more well known aspects of the Flashpoint story, then it’s going to come across as quite repetitive. (Then again, given how much of this series was just season one repackaged and repolished slightly, it’s possible that being repetitive isn’t a huge concern.)

More importantly, though, I feel like it’s moving backwards. Earlier, I mentioned how much I appreciated that The Flash was dedicated to developing each of the characters; one of the best episodes this year, The Runaway Dinosaur, was all about Barry getting past the death of his mother. It was a really poignant episode, and I think can be included as one of the best of the entire show, up there with the season one finale.

But then they threw that away just a few episodes later.

I have no doubt that next year will be an entertaining season of The Flash. And I really want to stress the fact that this was still a good season – “not as good as last year” is still pretty damn good, considering how fantastic The Flash was in its first season. Inarguably, it was better than Arrow in every conceivable way. There were lots of fantastic episodes and new concepts introduced; going to Earth-2 was giddyingly fun, seeing Tom Cavanagh create a new spin on Wells was compulsively watchable, and I really liked our new characters of Jessie and Wally this year. So, certainly, it was still really good television. That’s part of why I’m still hoping to get to do my individual episode reviews, just to provide a degree more nuance in my approach and make it clear how much I really did enjoy this season.

However, almost because of that, there’s something a little more disappointing about the areas in which this season fell down. The issues (or, issues as I saw them, from my own very idiosyncratic and personal perspective) were all ones that could have been very easily remedied. Fairly simple fixes applied throughout would have helped this year to be just as good, if not better, as last year.

Onto next season, then. I’m sure it’ll be here in a flash.

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TV Review: The Flash – Flash of Two Worlds (2×02)

The Flash Logo review analysis retrospective barry allen grant gustin greg berlanti andrew kreisberg cw

You defeated him because you trusted in people, because you believed in them.

Once again, we return to The Flash. It’s nice to be getting back into the swing of things again; having this show as a weekly occurrence, something to look forward to, feels very good.

We picked up from the end of the last episode, opening with Jay Garrick – the Flash of the other world – explaining his origin to the team, and introducing what’s going to be the overarching story for this season; the Multiverse. Teddy Sears has joined a fairly long (and growing!) list of excellent casting choices from the CW, bringing Jay Garrick to life with an impressive performance. I was similarly impressed by Shantel VanSanten as Patty Spivot, actually – she had a great rapport with Grant Gustin, and I’m actually quite interested to see where their relationship goes.

‘Twas also another great week for the cast we’ve come to know and love, of course. It seems worth singling out Iris in particular; whilst I never really held the same level of animosity towards Iris last year as other fans did, I think it’s fair to say she was at times under utilised, and poorly treated by the narrative. (Indeed, more scenes and deeper characterisation for Iris were amongst the things I called for prior to the beginning of the series.) It’s great to see the character being given more to do now, though, and living up to her potential; not just the love interest kept in the dark, but Barry’s closest friend, helping him when he needs it. It’s a much more effective use of the character, and I’m glad to see this change.

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Wasn’t this such a fantastic shot, by the way? I really appreciated that. That sort of thing is the kind of reference I appreciate; I’d never advocate sticking slavishly to the comics, because that’s limiting, but it is always nice to see little things like this.

The visuals were fairly impressive throughout, I’d say; I liked the flashback (haha) sequences to Earth-2, which had a nice, distinct looking visual design – I hope that’s explored further when we inevitably return there. Similarly, I quite liked the design of Sand Demon, which I thought was rather effective.

But that does bring me onto one of my two main concerns with regards to this episode – the fact that, for the second week running, the villain was killed at the end. And, actually, in a fairly brutal fashion too – this week, Sand Demon was turned to glass and smashed into tiny pieces, and last week, they irradiated Atom Smasher until his body was riddled with cancers.

It was more than a little uncomfortable, to be honest. I hope this is picked up on at some point, within the narrative, because to leave it unaddressed would be a failing on the part of the show. The Flash has always aimed to portray more traditional heroics, with an eye towards a certain level of moral integrity; it’s concerned with questions of Doing Good and Being Good, rather than anti heroism and morally grey areas. Frankly, even Arrow, as early as it’s first season, never quite let killing the bad guys go unexamined. I’d expect The Flash to do the same.

the flash review flash of two worlds jay garrick teddy sears caitlin snow danielle panabaker
Basically about as much subtlety as a glow in the dark rhinestone studded hammer. That plays electronic dance music. Loudly.

The only other thing that bothered me, really, was the way that the relationship between Jay and Caitlin was handled. Now, it seems to me to be fairly obvious that they’re trying to set up a romance there, but it felt quite poorly handled; they seemed to sacrifice any semblance of subtlety or characterisation for a few cheap jokes about how well built Teddy Sears is. (And, frankly, the best of those jokes came from Cisco anyway!) I realise it’s a bit of a difficult situation that the show is in – obviously, they don’t want to retread the “Ronnie is gone” plot arc from last year, for fear of feeling repetitive, but it does seem like a bit of glaring omission if they do leave it out. I’m not entirely convinced there’s any need to start a relationship between Jay and Caitlin anyway, mind. Likely there are other, more interesting routes to go down.

So, in essence: Another fun episode, replete with plenty of entertaining moments, but on the whole, not quite as strong as the debut episode. Nonetheless, I’m still looking forward to the next episode (why wouldn’t I be?), and I’m particularly interested in the subplot with Iris’ mother.

7/10

Related:

The Flash reviews

Supergirl reviews

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