Now THAT’S what we’re talking about! After last week’s somewhat limp season opener, we were afraid the fun might be gone or that the show might suffer a sophomore slump. But the people behind The Flash have apparently figured out something we never would have considered: that the best way to tell a superhero story in a television format is to essentially embrace virtually all classic comic book genres at the same time: adventure, sci-fi, romance and mystery. The only thing that’s missing is something having to do with westerns and considering how effortlessly the show has managed to introduce time travel and alternate realities to its mythology, we wouldn’t rule out seeing Barry in a white cowboy hat at some point. Our point is this: “Flash of Two Worlds” had pretty much everything you could ever ask for from a show like this, from high adventure to mystery to romance and even a little bit of comedy, it was pretty much a perfect episode of The Flash, which means it’ll probably be the most entertaining thing we see all week.
As an aside, it should be noted that when we say “the people behind The Flash,” we’re really talking about showrunner extraordinaire Greg Berlanti, who also helms Arrow, as well as the upcoming Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow shows and is the epitome of the Hot Gay Nerd. The man definitely seems to know exactly what he’s doing when it comes to putting superheroes on television. And as a further aside, he’s really stretching his showrunner muscles and turning at least three of these superhero shows into as cohesive a shared universe as anything Marvel’s done on the big screen. Not only are we seeing casual references to whatever’s going on in the latest episode of Arrow (which also had a brief Barry cameo in last week’s episode), but with Professor Stein’s collapse, we’re pretty sure the groundwork is being laid for the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow. Some viewers and critics have been pushing for Supergirl to be folded into this shared universe, but we’re not among them. One of the pleasures of The Flash and Arrow is that these stories have been allowed to unfold in a world that’s not dominated by characters like Superman and Batman.
As a further aside, we are astonished at how many classic DC comics references are being worked into this show – and quite effectively. We still get a tingle of nerdy excitement watching Barry do classic Flash tricks like running up the side of a building or putting out a fire by making arm tornadoes (or whatever you call them), but we’re shocked that they could just drop everything from parallel earths, to Cisco getting a “vibe,” to the introduction of Patty Spivot into one episode – to say nothing of Jay putting on his classic costume – and have it all come off so smooth and seamless. But nothing could beat the brief reference to the classic Flash #123 issue cover, from the story that inspired both the title of this episode and the entire concept of parallel earths in DC comics. Tom made a surprised “Oh!” at the shot, which prompted a quizzical look from Lorenzo to which he responded “Nothing. It’s just that they got really nerdy there for a second.”
But obviously The Flash is a success because of way more than its nerdy bona fides. If that’s all it had it’d be a cult show at best instead of the hit that it is. Its real power as a show comes from the way it takes all of these old school nerdy elements, dusts them off, and presents them to the public with so little fanfare or need for reassurance that they just become easy to accept. We kept thinking of Quantico last night, because we can’t buy one thing that happens or one character motivation anywhere in that show, even though it’s ostensibly set in the “real world,” but give us a lightning-clad twink fighting telepathic gorillas or guys who can turn into sand and as long as you keep the motivations understandable, the characters rootable, and the adventures fun, we have absolutely no problem buying into any of it. In other words, believability comes naturally to a story when it’s well told.
Okay, let’s get down to specifics. We kinda loved the new, moody and untrustworthy take on Barry. It makes clear and perfect sense in light of Harrison’s betrayal and even though it wasn’t said or implied, we took some of his crankiness to be stemming from his father’s exit. In addition, we don’t think we ever liked Iris more than when she literally cleared the room and told Barry to get the hell over himself. The massive turnaround they’ve done on this character after spending most of last season having everyone treat her like a prize or an idiot is such a welcome thing to see that we don’t even mind the introduction of a competing love interest. In fact, let the likable Patty Spivot have Barry, we say. Iris is far more interesting as the best friend/sister figure who can bring him back down to earth a bit. Joe could’ve been that character but they’ve made him too much of a weepy hugger when it comes to Barry.
The parallel earth storyline that appears to be the dominant one for the season is shaping up nicely, with the particulars being laid out both to the cast and the audience in ways that made it seem simple and easy to grasp. In fact, we kinda thought Joe’s “I have no idea what you’re talking about” riff came off a little clumsy. Given the world these characters live in and the fact that time travel has already been established, his feigned ignorance just came off as an awkward way to distinguish him from a cast that’s probably a bit too heavy with brainy types. We like the idea of Patty as his new partner, though. We’re not sure how much we’re interested in Zoom as a character, since he doesn’t appear to be all that distinguishable from the Reverse Flash, but we’re willing to wait for more information on him. The reveal of the Earth-2 Harrison looks to be a fairly clear red herring to make us think he’s got something to do with Zoom. Incidentally, nice tip of the hat by the production design team to the original DC comics concept of Earth-2, which had its main superheroes at their most active in the 1940s. That retro “World of Tomorrow” aesthetic not only made a nice shoutout, it also did a perfect job of visually rendering how different Jay’s world is while simultaneously explaining the curious design of his costume.
In other news, we thought it was a little odd that Caitlyn would be so attracted to Jay so quickly after Ronnie’s death, but we can’t say we blame her. As long as we get at least five minutes per episode of Teddy Sears without his shirt on, Jay can stay on this earth for as long as he likes.
Photo credit: The CW
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