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I never expected to be so frustrated with The Flash. Since the beginning of the season, I have written about the same issues week after week, and week after week I write about the little bit of hope I have for the next episode. There’s always something that makes it look like the series is just about to get better, and to stop feeling like I’m being negative about the show for the sake of it, I go, “Maybe that’ll do the trick. Maybe that’ll turn it all around.” In the case of “Welcome to Earth-2,” I thought Team Flash taking the fight to another world would be it. But while the change in scenery did make for some fun moments, their insistence on mischaracterizing Barry to create conflict and emotional resonance completely ruined the episode.
Heads shaking, let’s go deeper.
The whole, “becoming emotionally attached to people in another world,” thing was just stupid. I understand why they wanted to show Barry hesitating before engaging Earth-2’s Caitlin Snow (Killer Frost), but making him appeal to her, outing himself in the process, was absurd. He knows they’re looking for a breacher. He should know they’re working for Zoom. How could he possibly think that that was a good idea? Again, I understand why they would want there to be some internal conflict here, but inflating Barry’s “heart over head” mentality to drive the episode (instead of being relegated to a character beat) was yet another instance of The Flash making Barry Allen seem incredibly dumb. And that wasn’t even the worst part. When Harry says that Killer Frost and Deathstorm knowing Barry’s on Earth-2 means it’s “not long before Zoom does to, and then [his] daughter’s dead,” Barry says, “Jesse still has time, okay?” I’m sorry, what? The entire point of them all going there was to save Jesse. Didn’t you say something like, “I can’t just give up on [Jesse],” at the end of last week’s episode? This show is so stupid.
I lied about that being the worst part, though. The real worst part of this whole arc is Barry’s reason for not going after Jesse: Joseph (Earth-2 Joe West) dying. “She is Iris, okay? She is to me. No matter what universe I’m in, they are my family. I would think by now you would get how important family is,” he says. First of all, they’re not your family, and the episode doesn’t do enough to explain why he would think this despite the differences. Second, it’s your fault Joseph got injured! For nothing! Not only are you going to stand on a soapbox for a family that isn’t yours (Earth-2 Barry was probably still in the room, unconscious), but you’re going to take Joseph’s last words away from him and comfort his grieving wife? As Jean Henegan said about Arrow (with a more positive twist), this show “drives me absolutely nuts,” and that’s putting it lightly.
Continuing down the rabbit hole, everyone has been misused as an odd source of conflict or humor this season, but as the origin of most of the show’s comedy Cisco has suffered particular abuse. In “Welcome to Earth-2,” he is afforded some genuinely funny moments and given a potential new storyline that centers on his powers, but he also gets preoccupied with looking for his doppelganger while someone else’s life is at stake. His neglect made me feel the same frustration that I almost perpetually do because of Barry this season, and this was made worse when they had Cisco try to appeal to Ronnie like they did with Barry and Killer Frost (probably to make that response seem more realistic and interesting).
A big part of the fun for an alternate universe story like “Welcome to Earth-2” lies in the differences and similarities between the worlds and how the characters react to them. To the show’s credit, the changes never felt too excessive (even though some were just like, “okay?”), and I actually enjoyed how Barry and Cisco reacted to Henry Hewitt’s more pleasant personality.
However, some of the changes weren’t bold enough. The villains of this episode were many, but none of them were very substantial. Killer Frost was kind of fun, seeing Cisco as the fully-fledged metahuman, Reverb, was interesting, and I enjoyed Zoom taking out both him and Deathstorm, but there was a sameness to the personalities of the Earth-2 villains compared to their Earth-1 counterparts that made the trip to Earth-2 seem less significant. I’m not saying Tom Cavanagh does a perfect job, but I enjoy the way he changes it up so that Harry can be seen as different from Harrison Wells, and not just Tom Cavanagh playing him as slightly more abrasive.
To talk about the true menace of Earth-2, Zoom, I thought it was kind of weak that he employed lackeys and was terrorizing the city. An obsession with speed is one thing, but being the head honcho of a cute supervillain gang seems sort of…beneath him? Right now I’m wondering about his endgame, and if there isn’t one, I want that to be more of the point.
Geomancer, meanwhile, seemed kind of unnecessary. Adam Stafford played the role a little too hammy for my tastes, and the way his character bailed after being shot at so that he could return in the next episode was weak. I really like that Jay is becoming more proactive in the series after being a benchwarmer for so long (especially with pretty hilarious lines like “My pride and my body [are hurt]. Pride and my body”), but I think I would have preferred if more time had been spent on developing Earth-2.
Talking about Jay a little more, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen in this series – and not in the good way. Previously I mentioned there wasn’t a need for Zoom to have Harry if he was able to take Jay’s speed, but at the time I thought it was just another of the The Flash‘s inconsistencies. However, it was revealed that Jay had actually lost his speed by taking previous iterations of the Velocity-6 formula we last saw in “Legends of Today.” This was characterization Jay desperately needed, and an answer that was long past due. It was funny for Caitlin saying “looks like the Velocity-7 is working” to be so closely followed by Jay wiping out, but they’re no doubt saving him successfully regaining his speed for the next episode.
Unfortunately, the best part of the episode was probably Barry, Harry, and Cisco’s departure from Earth-1. Hearing Barry say, “I know what I have here. I love my life. I love my job, being the Flash. I love you and Joe,” was like a love letter to fans who appreciated the show’s more light-hearted and fun take on the superhero genre. I was obviously proven wrong later, but at the time I thought it might be a sign of the series getting back on track. Everyone saying their goodbyes made me feel similarly, as the team was allowed to be just that – a team. Joe told Harry that he hoped he got his daughter back, and Harry replied, “I’ll make sure you get your son back.” For someone who has been consistently annoyed by Joe’s overreactions to Harry’s very existence, this felt like a nice little mea culpa.
The Flash continues to perplex me. The inbuilt joys of journeying to a new world and discovering the differences led to a pretty enjoyable first half, but then the episode found a way to undercut all the good it had done by sabotaging Barry’s character. I don’t like to get down a series so much, especially when I remember embracing it for all its flaws in the first season, but it’s getting to the point where I would much rather keep the TV off on Tuesday nights. Luckily, though, Better Call Saul is just around the corner.
Your attention is better deserved there.