The Flash’s second season hasn’t really started yet. We’ll finally get to that next week. Instead, “The Man Who Saved Central City,” like so many other season premieres following cliffhangers, was all about concluding the story it had started last year and gently segueing into the themes and storylines of the new season. This is a seemingly inevitable result for shows which end their seasons with questions left to be answered. It’s simply good housekeeping to address those questions, and then re-set the deck for the new stories you want to tell. Plus, there are practical considerations for any show starting a new season, such as the need write around any actor whose contract status changed in-between seasons.
Maybe all of that is why I held parts of “The Man Who Saved Central City” at arms-length. I had to re-read my review of the season 1 finale to brush back up on not just what went down but how I felt about it. Oh, yeah, I went completely Niagara Falls when Barry went back in time and said hello/goodbye to his mother, and I was remarkably keen to see how the show would handle the ramifications of Eobard Thawne having been erased from history.
It turns out, though, that back in May after the finale aired I completely overthought all of that. Time travel logic suggests every part of The Flash should be different now. If Thawne never existed he couldn’t have killed Barry’s mother and thus never sent his father to jail and thus never sent him to live with Joe and Iris. He never would have taken over Harrison Wells’ identity, and turned on the particle accelerator for the primary purpose of giving Barry his powers.
I was still stuck on all of that in the opening scenes of “The Man Who Saved Central City,” thinking Barry’s super happy vision of using teamwork to take down Captain Cold and Heatwave was him fantasizing about a reality which had been erased. Even when it cut to him at a crime scene with Joe I thought the show really had followed through on it and created an alternate history in which Joe never raised Barry. Then Joe knowingly referenced Gorilla Grodd and Barry’s powers, and I realized nothing had changed. At least for now, the temporal ramifications of Thawne’s non-existance are either being completely ignored or kicked down the road for later. It seems like a gaping plot hole, but so did Cisco’s ability to retain memories from erased timelines last season until that was later explained as a side-effect of his still developing super powers. So who knows what The Flash will do with this.
The good thing is that I honestly didn’t really care, though. It simply felt good to see these characters again, catching up with them through a 6 month time jump between seasons.
Clearly taking his cues from Oliver Queen, Barry spent the episode attempting to take his vigilante mission solo until his crime-fighting family put a forceful stop to that noise. The neat storytelling trick, though, was that we were led to believe Barry’s hesitance to work with the team again was due to his guilt over Eddie’s death when in fact it turns out Eddie wasn’t the only one to die that day the worm hole opened up over Central City…
-Caitlin & Ronnie
Robbie Amell is crazy good in The DUFF, arguably more charismatic and charming than he ever was in The Tomorrow People or last season on The Flash. It’s not surprising then to see that his IMDB page indicates he will be in every episode of the new X-Files, and he’s currently filming a Barry Sonnenfield comedy alongside Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner and Christopher Walken. Even with his rising star and the recent Legends of Tomorrow spoilers indicating Ronnie Raymond was not following Professor Stein to the spin-off, it’s still mildly surprising to see Ronnie killed off so quickly in the premiere. Greg Berlanti instantly pointed out that given the superhero universe we’re looking at here Ronnie (or some version of him) will probably be back, based upon Amell’s availability of course.
We’re supposed to assume Caitlin blames Barry for everything when in fact she blames herself for not leaving Central City when Ronnie wanted to. Grant Gustin and Danielle Panabaker acted their asses off during that particular revelation, but the problem is that since Amell was so busy last year he wasn’t really in the first season that much, not enough to make his death devastating. The way this all played out in “The Man Who Saved Central City” was more clever than anything else. Like the Ronnie/Caitlin quickie wedding in the finale, it felt oddly rushed.
-Cisco & His New BFF
I love the idea of Cisco working as a science advisor for the cops now mostly because it promises more scenes between Cisco and Joe as well as awkward exchanges between Cisco and cops at the precinct. Note: Not a good idea to reach up and grab the Police Captain’s new beard, Cisco. However, the true delight was Cisco’s budding comedy duo with Professor Stein:
Plus, as the producers had teased we saw signs that Cisco is experiencing growing pains with his powers, such as being unexpectedly, but briefly thrown into an alternate timeline during the Flash Day rally. Of course, he’s not telling anyone about it.
His Flash signal, though, was maybe a bit much, especially the on-the-nose explanation that he got the idea from some comic book:
-Joe & Iris
As long as this show keeps delivering Barry’s father-son scenes with Joe and Henry and lightening the mood with Cisco’s one-liners, I’ll be happy. And I like that Iris took the initiative and got the band back together instead of continuing to enable Barry’s isolation.
When I talk about “The Man Who Saved Central City” feeling more like the end to last season than the beginning of the new one I am thinking heavily of the way the episode handled Henry. Getting him out of jail was one of the big season 1 arcs, and they quickly wrapped that up here only to write him out through a somewhat strained “If I stay around you won’t be able to do what you do.” The episode was all about Barry’s extended family coming back together, but it ended with his only surviving family member pushing him away, although Henry has always seemed especially concerned about Barry’s safety as The Flash. You can contort yourself to justify all of this from a character motivation point of view, but in reality this is another area where the show simply wanted to re-set things, clear out the season 1 strands and transition to something different this year. Henry will be back. His status as a part-time character hasn’t changed. The show just doesn’t want his freedom to be the goal Barry is working toward anymore.
-The Villain of the Week
This is my first introduction to Atom Smasher, and I was more intrigued since he was being played by Adam “Edge” Copeland. In a former life, I was a hardcore WWF fan. I remember Edge’s legendary tag-team matches, and I’ve enjoyed his post-wrestling career as an actor on Sci-Fi’s Haven. Sadly, Flash mostly used him the way many shows uses ex/current wrestlers: as a glorified stuntman with a big body. Plus, that costume looked a tad silly to me, and the special effects for his morphing sequences weren’t so special:
The way they ultimately killed him off could have also been better:
Adam Copeland’s only chance to prove that he can actually act was in his character’s final moments when he clearly didn’t want to die, and told Barry that all he wanted to do was get home. It’s the seasons’ big bad, Professor Zoom, who put him up to everything. I did at least feel kind of sad to see Atom Smasher die like that, though since I have no connection to the character in the comics I was not one of those who were outraged to see a prominent character killed off so quickly.
Adam Copeland thanked everyone for his time on the show:
THE BOTTOM LINE
Season 2 is going to get sci-fi weird, potentially like the later alternate-universe heavy seasons of Fringe. Time travel was the show’s biggest challenge last season, and this season it’s going to be the multiverse. “The Man Who Saved Central City” sought to ease us into that, wrapping up the story from the season finale and giving Barry a villain to fight who we know is actually from an alternate universe. Next week, that band-aid will get ripped off with everything involving Jay Garrick, and it’s going to be another “How far are you going to follow this show into Silver Age era comic book craziness?” moment. But The Flash is secretly a family drama at heart, and lackluster villains and slightly rushed explanations go down easier when they come wrapped around flashbacks in which Joe tells a young Barry that “the tougher thing is to feel.”
- Loved Cisco’s meta jokes about the crappy security at STAR Labs.
- I like that they clearly assumed the Flash would show up at The Flash day rally.
- The TV anchorwoman early in the episode announced The Flash day rally with a bit of exposition about the worm hole in the finale, and I liked that she nonchalantly observed how weird the whole thing was, kind of like, “We still don’t completely understand what the heck is happening in this city these days, but thank God The Flash is around.”
- Nice try, Jesse Martin, but no one says, “Run Barry, Run!” quite like Tom Cavanagh.
- Barry’s been rebuilding all of the places destroyed by the worm hole disaster? That’s adorable!