The Flash: The Man Who Saved Central City

Posted on October 07, 2015

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Grant Gustin in The CW’s “The Flash.”

 

Barry Allen and the gang are back! All is right with the world! Let’s go have some fun!

That was our reaction in the first 30 seconds of this episode. Unfortunately, our enthusiasm waned fairly quickly. The energy and sense of fun that defined the show in its first season was there, the chemistry among the entire cast is there, the goofy villains we’ve come to expect were there ….. but this was a somewhat disappointing season opener. Not awful, just not particularly fun either.

Part housekeeping and part place-setting, this episode was stuck in a halfway point between letting go of season one and looking forward to season two. In other words, they tried to do wrap-up ad set-up in the same hour and such episodes rarely ever wind up on any fan’s list of favorites. These kinds of episodes are for the most part necessary in this television age of serialized narratives, but it struck us as a strange way to start a new season. Either wrap up the old one or set up the new one, but don’t try and do both in your season-opener. There were too many dizzying tonal shifts or rapid narrative shifts. We went from Barry feeling depressed and guilty after the betrayal of Eobard Thawne and the apparent deaths of two of his friends, Eddie and Ronnie, both of which he feels somewhat responsible for, to Barry joyously releasing his father from jail, to sadly watching him go – all while keeping his friends at arms length and trying to capture a tremendously silly-looking supervillain whose motives and origin were deliberately left vague. The whole thing was kind of unsatisfying by the time it ended.

As the show goes on, we appear to be the cheese who stands more and more alone on this one, but the constant man-hugging and speeches about the awesome wonder that is Barry Allen are our least favorite parts of the show. We’re all for building up your main hero and showing camaraderie and friendship among the cast, but it’s all gotten way too  soft-focus and Hallmark Channel-y. Granted, we don’t want to see the sometimes forced conflicts of a show like Arrow (which has its lead stomping off angrily from his team every 3 episodes or so) work its way into the cast, but when all your characters think all the other characters in the show are just ever so peachy and can’t stop saying so, it does tend to get a bit boring and repetitive. Wouldn’t it be at least a little interesting to have the three brilliant scientists in the cast engage in a little more sniping and jealousy? Wouldn’t a little healthy competition be more interesting than the three of them constantly telling each other how brilliant they are?

We’re also very confused about the timeline here, which should have shown some significant changes in the wake of last season’s finale. Eddie’s sacrifice ensured that Eobard Thawne would never exist, so first: how does everyone remember him as a villain, and second: why does there still exist a video of him confessing to his crimes? And if Eobard Thawne never existed then shouldn’t Harrison Welles – the real one; the one that Thawne killed – still be alive somewhere? And if he’s not, does this mean that everyone including Barry is A-okay with the death of Nora Allen being attributed to an innocent man? After all, that’s not a video showing Eobard Thawne confessing to the crime; it’s a video showing Harrison Welles doing it. So either Harrison Welles is alive and about to be arrested or Harrison Welles is dead and saddled with the guilt of a crime that had nothing to do with him. Shouldn’t at least some of these questions been asked at some point during the hour? Maybe between all the hugging?

And speaking of hugging, congratulations on your release from jail after 2 decades, Henry Allen. Too bad the show apparently doesn’t know what to do with you now. Sorry, but his speech to Barry about leaving was so vague and unsupported with any reason that it felt really lazy. If you don’t want him in the cast as a regular – and we probably would agree that you shouldn’t because Joe does a better job serving as a surrogate father character – there’s got to be a better way to write him off than this. It really didn’t make much emotional sense at all. And even as they were hugging and saying goodbye, we couldn’t really work up any feeling for it because no matter where Henry goes in the world – even if it’s on the opposite side of it – he’ll always be mere minutes away from Barry. Super-speed tends to rob emotional goodbyes of all their weight.

We sound grumpier than we intend to – which is almost always the case with us. We have no doubt that another fun season of The Flash is headed our way. Certainly, there was nothing in this episode to indicate a troublesome change of direction or problematic status quo. It’s just that, as a season opener, this one came off pretty weak to us.

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