[Review] The Flash (2014) – 2×01: “The Man Who Saved Central City”

Kevin and Bethany return to Central City with the start of Season Two. Start up the band and prepare a ticker-tape parade, because it’s time to take a look at CW’s The Flash.


KEVIN

Welcome back, friends! Hope you enjoyed your holidays. I know I did – I have the first collected volume of Mark Waid’s Flash comics and I’m eagerly awaiting Volume Two to be released. Until then, we’ve got the next season of The Flash to get through, and gosh, is it a doozy.

Where did we leave off, again? Ah, yes. Black hole, Jay Garrick’s helmet, sacrifice, cliffhanger.

Let’s get started.

Though this episode is old, spoiler warnings are in full effect under the cut.

If there’s anything we’ve learned about Barry Allen from Season One, it’s that he takes responsibility for everything, especially the bad. Nobody blames Barry worse than Barry blames Barry (although Season Three is really starting to challenge that assertion, but more on that in…twenty-four weeks, give or take).

As we begin the season, we have Barry pushing everyone away, both because he feels like he doesn’t deserve their love and support, and his reasoning that everyone close to him gets hurt.

The Flash #1

He really, really doesn’t want to be alone, though, as much as he suffers through his manpain – the opening sequence proves that. He daydreams that everyone is still a part of Team Flash – Ronnie, Dr. Stein, the Science Siblings, Iris and Joe…it’s proven to be false when Eddie joins in the celebration, and Harrison Wells wheels in to congratulate Barry on another job well done.

Yes, Barry is conflicted. He wants to work with everyone, and that’s proven at the Flash Day Celebration when he slides right back to working in tandem with Joe and Cisco to try to take down Atom Smasher.

Meanwhile, everyone is working around him to try to restore some semblance of normalcy. Caitlin is working for Dr. McGee at Mercury Labs, Cisco is the scientific liaison with Central City Police, Iris jumps in with intel gained from Central City Picture News, and even Dr. Stein – who has no other stake in the matter now that Ronnie is dead – comes along to fulfill the older scientific mentor role that Harribard left in the team.

The most important part of this episode, I feel, is that despite how conflicted Barry feels about putting his loved ones in danger, they override his manpain to tell him that no, they signed up for this of their own free will, and he can’t get rid of them that easily.

Barry is conflicted about his friends working with the Flash, but they show up in S.T.A.R. Labs anyway to tell him “Screw you, you’re not the only one who wants to help the city.”

Barry is conflicted about Harribard’s will, but Caitlin offers to watch it with him so he has someone to feel things with.

Barry is conflicted about his dad leaving, because what the hell Henry, Barry spent the last ten years trying to get you back and the most you can do is some bullshit line about what’s best for Barry, instead of just admitting that you can’t be around people right now, because Barry Allen is a goddamned adult and would understand that just fine.

Um. I’m okay. I’m perfectly normal.

(Henry Allen your son faced down a time-travelling serial killer just to get you back what is your damage)

Anyway. Some other stuff happens, too. Like, I don’t know, the fucking Multiverse.

Scattered thoughts, and then we’ll throw it to Bethany.

  • The city wants to honor the Flash publicly. This may be commonplace in DC, I wouldn’t know, but I tell you what – it’s a first for me. Most heroes I’m familiar with get vilified by the police, or the press, or both. But not the Flash.
    • I’m told that it goes so far that it doubles back around for Mark Waid’s Wally West, who is apparently so familiar to his city that everyone knows who he is and just doesn’t give a fuck.
    • I’m really looking forward to reading this book I got for the holidays.
  • Atom Smasher killed his double before doing anything else. This is important.
  • Alternate realities are the name of the game this season.
  • Watching this season for the second time means there are little bits I pick up that I missed the first time around. Such as the man shadowing Barry around pretty much the entire episode before he walks into the Cortex and introduces himself as Jay Garrick.
  • CISCO WORKS FOR THE POLICE. Which basically means he works for Joe.
  • Barry is rebuilding the city by himself at night. When does he sleep?
  • Flashback (har) to the resolution of the cliffhanger. Barry is able to rescue Stein from falling but Ronnie is gone.
    • There’s no body. It’s assumed he’s dead but come on, there’s no body. Everyone knows how that works in comic book science.
  • Caitlin wore Flash Red to the rally, and I can’t get a good look at her necklace but is that a golden Flash logo?
  • Cisco, on the other hand, wears a red shirt with yellow lightning bolts all over it. I bet he’s had that for months and just wanted an excuse to wear it.
  • Where did they get all that Flash merchandise? Is S.T.A.R. Labs producing it?
  • Barry shows up to the rally for the people, not for him. That’s my Barry Allen.
  • Cisco sees Atom Smasher talking to someone in black, surrounded by blue lightning.
  • Iris meshes in really well with Team Flash. I can practically hear Bethany’s justified indignation from all the way over here.
  • Martin names Atom Smasher. I love when he gets adorably nerdy.
  • I love that it’s Joe who talks sense into Barry. Best dad.
  • Anyone else bothered that Barry just flat-out murders a dude? I mean, metas have died in the past but never from Barry’s intentional, calculated decisions and actions.

BETHANY

Iris meshes in really well with Team Flash. I can practically hear Bethany’s justified indignation from all the way over here.

Aaaaaand this is why Kevin and I are friends, y’all.

One of the things Barry is struggling with this whole episode (and if memory serves, it is a theme of this season, or part of it) is that Barry didn’t save the day. Eddie defeated Eobard Thawne by a simple and effective, if incredibly heartbreaking, sacrifice on his own part. On top of that, Firestorm is who really deserves the kudos for saving the city. (Not that Barry wasn’t heroic in his own right, he certainly contributed, but the final blows were not thrown by him, as it were.)

This is what contributes to Barry’s grim mood and his urges towards isolation. His self-blame isn’t really a pity-party act; I think he truly feels 100% responsible. If he’d been able to stop the Man In Yellow earlier, Eddie wouldn’t have had to sacrifice himself. If he’d been able to stop the Man in Yellow earlier, Ronnie wouldn’t have gone missing-presumed-dead.

One of Barry’s tendencies is to be a little self-centered in the idea that, because he’s the Flash, he’s the one who has to stop the bad guys. He still has trouble grasping that he’s part of a team, with a network of incredibly smart, dedicated, talented people that extends beyond Central City, and that the actions that those people take to stop evil are not his responsibility. He has an excellent team behind him, and this episode makes it very clear that he suffers without them.

He also cannot keep them out. Not just because the security at S.T.A.R. Labs is a fucking joke, but because his team is also dedicated, in their own right, to stopping the bad guys. That they have their own dedication to this cause, and their own motivation. They are not helping just as, like, some favor to Barry, but because they will do nothing less.

No scene makes this more clear than when Barry shows up at S.T.A.R. Labs (because lol security breach) to discover Iris, Joe, Stein, and Cisco all there, discussing the Villain Of the Week.

The heart of this episode is that Barry is not honoring the choice made by the other heroes who were there that day. The sacrifices made were not ones that deserve blame, but do deserve to be respected. Mourning is earned, but guilty self-recrimination is not what is needed.

Barry, by isolating himself, is not only hurting himself, but also his friends and loved ones. It nearly gets him killed, too.

In the end, Barry caves to what was inevitable – he asks for help from his friends and colleagues, people he has pushed away and pushed away, who immediately rise to the occasion.

The thing where the team kills a dude without any real hesitation should be examined more closely (as my esteemed colleague pointed out), but so should that whole “pipeline as a prison” thing, and it was sort of glanced at and then they moved on. For a hero who, from what I understand, is known in other media for being incredibly compassionate towards his rogues gallery, it’s a little jarring to see how little that comes into play in the show. I’m afraid this is simply the norm for this particular part of the DC universe, which is kinda sad. Barry’s genuine regret at having killed Atom Smasher, at the end, was a good moment of acting. But that it came to this without even a quibble is a little alarming.

Things to note before we end this recap.

  • Cisco says “Come on, feel the noise” when he’s about to sound an alarm and I started singing Quiet Riot out loud, to the horror of my sister’s cat.
  • (He does not like when I sing, and makes faces at me. My dog happens to enjoy it, and particularly likes music I’m inclined to sing along with. I left my dog with a friend once and he was apparently inconsolable until she played Phantom Of the Opera for him.)
  • (My dog, he’s a weird little dude.)
  • “Fear the beard!”
  • I like the Captain’s beard, too, Cisco.
  • Cisco looks so young. I don’t know why that struck me, particularly, this episode, but it really stood out to me this time around.
  • Barry is low-key repairing the businesses that got damaged during the near-apocalypse last season. I just think that’s really cute? It’s a very Barry thing to do. It’s a quiet way to be a hero, but it’s saving a lot of local businesses a lot of money, in lost time and income if nothing else. There can’t be enough construction dudes to go around, given how widespread the nastiness was.
  • There’s more than one way to help the people in the city you love.
  • Stein once again casually dropping reference to being Jewish. I do appreciate that this show takes time remind us that there are characters who are Jewish and it is important to them and informs them as a character.
  • It’s rare enough to see, though it shouldn’t be.
  • “People won’t be able to just walk in here anymore!”
  • *Jay Garrick just walks into S.T.A.R. Labs*

Kevin O’Shea is a writer and owner of zero keys to any cities whatsoever. You can find him on Twitter (@osheamobile), Tumblr (osheamobile), or finding tasteful Flash jewelry online.

Bethany the Martian is an abuser of parentheses and works in the Pizza Mines. She can be found on Twitter (@martianbethany) and on Tumblr (bethanythemartian).

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