This week’s episode has us seeing double. Get ready for a big shock, because it’s time to take a look at CW’s The Flash.
Parallel worlds are just…really cool. I’ve always found the idea of a multiverse (not just in fiction, but for real) fascinating. And obviously, this idea has captivated comic writers. It’s hard to find a comic character who doesn’t have some parallel version in an alternate universe. It’s actually something of a common idea these days, though it was fairly new to pop culture when I first heard of it. (Back in the day, before cell phones and the internet, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth…)
For example: the Berenstain Bears.
There’s this theory that those of us who remember Berenstain being spelled as Berenstein are (among other possibilities) from a parallel world, and we slipped into the Stain universe on accident or due to a glitch in the Matrix or because Mars is retrograde or something. Other notable theories include one which states this is an alternate timeline due to someone going back into the past and fucking with something (dammit, Barry!).
Now, in truth, these theories are most likely the result of confabulation on a wide scale (known in some circles as the Mandela Effect. It’s relatively common to have a confabulated memory which is specific to you (for example, for a few years I was convinced that my great-uncle, whom I knew as Uncle Leonard, was dead, and then I ran into him at a family thing. Awkward, lemme tell you), but it’s really an interesting phenomenon that we get them en masse like this. The universe is a weird and wonderful place, but it’s probably not evidence that some of us are from a parallel earth/alternate timeline.
Anyway, spoilers under the cut.
This is one of the first episodes where I really related to Barry. I have understood where Barry’s coming from, I have sympathized with him, but this is the first time where he’s been in a situation I have been in, for what I feel like might be similar reasons?
I have trouble interpreting people’s emotions based off their body language and expression. Normally I can interpret their vocal tone (if I can hear it, which I can’t always, anymore) but I generally just have to either believe what they say or not. Now, given time, and some knowledge of the person, I normally can go through and interpret things correctly later, but it’s definitely an intellectual exercise and not something that is intuitive or natural to me. And it’s no help in the moment when I need those interpretations for conversational purposes. I just have to roll the dice, try to assume most people are trying to be nice and doing their best, and I tend towards taking people too literally.
I mean, I’m just guessing here. I think it’s probably something Barry’s not aware of in himself. There’s definitely part of him that wants to like Jay Garrick, but he’s afraid to because of what happened with Wells. He takes this to rather an extreme level, at one point yelling at his team for not having enough evidence to show that Jay is what he says he is. Iris has to have a “dude, trust your team” conversation with him, but here’s how I interpret it: Barry feels like the rest of his team is more or less like him, and maybe they’re letting their eagerness to like a nice-seeming dude overwhelm their good senses.
But most of his friends are able to intuit intentions and emotions and lies better than he, so Iris basically has to say “uh you need to believe these people who support you unconditionally because it’s a two-way road, and also quit taking your damage out on them”.
Anyway, that’s how I’m interpreting it.
Moving right along- we meet a fun new character this episode, by the name of Patty Spivot. (She’s really cool! She’s sciencey and nerdy and likes to help people! She and Barry bond over cop dad and Monty Python and the Holy Grail and it is insanely adorable!) She wants to be on Joe’s anti-meta-human task force, she’s very perky (I mean, perky is possibly her number one character trait, it’s very endearing) and is also very determined. She is as instantly likeable as Jay Garrick, actually (who manages to charm Caitlin Snow, since she is also a science nerd who likes to help people).
The difference is that Patty does not know about Barry being the Flash. And I think if we’re going to push this interpretation deeper than probably necessary, it is essentially why he kept the secret from Iris for so long. Barry Allen, in his own self, is never under real danger. He’s a forensic dude, and Barry never deals with criminals. As Barry Allen, he doesn’t have to deal with people who have ulterior motives regarding the Flash. As the Barry Allen who is also the Flash, he has to be more guarded and wary.
Okay, so, because Patty is kidnapped by the bad guy (hm), Barry has to ask Jay for help, which leads to possibly the coolest thing Barry has learned how to do so far: throw the lightning of the Speed Force at a target.
…however. Um. Okay, so, the lightning strike immediately vitrifies the dude (he’s made of sand or something) and then the guy shatters into a jillion pieces. So this is the second week in a row where Barry Allen as the Flash has straight-up killed a dude.
It’s…a little disturbing.
.Final thoughts before passing the baton:
- Cisco is keeping a secret from all his friends, and this secret is SUPER POWERS.
- I think someone needs to take this whole group of people to a group therapy session and talk about secret-keeping and when it can be hurtful and when it’s appropriate because basically everybody has had something happen so far and they’re like DON’T TELL ANYBODY IT’LL BE AWFUL IF SOMEONE FINDS OUT THE TRUTH
- (It was only awful because of the part where the truth didn’t come out in a reasonable period of time, for the most part.)
- Uh, anyway, we need to talk about Stein not feeling so hot.
- Also there’s another Harrison Wells from Earth-2.
- And everything is shiny and gold there.
- This is one of those episodes where lots of things are coming together, so forgive me for being a little fragmented; they’re still setting up the season.
- I find it impossibly cute every time Cisco defends his territory as Namer Of the Rogues.
- Even if, most of the time when he is doing it, he is agreeing with the person who named the Rogue like THIS IS MY JOB but u did ok buddy.
- Seriously, like, Barry had to know this would kill the dude; does he have a therapist or something? ‘Cause…I have A Concern.
- Patty “I wanna help capture metahumans who are committing crimes; I’m determined and smart and good at being a cop” writers: *she is immediately kidnapped, causing the Hero to have Feelings*
- I mean, it’s not just me, that was a little…ugh, right?
- She’s still adorable and I love her, but the plot point made me frowny.
Season One was about legacy. What you leave behind, what you strive to attain. Barry’s legacy extended across decades – centuries, even – and brought back a villain to try to undo the whole thing. Eobard Thawne was so focused on his own legacy that he altered history itself1 to further his own goals – it’s a plot point in the comics (which gets brought up later this season) that Thawne became the Flash’s arch-nemesis specifically because history told him he would. Eddie Thawne actually changed his legacy to stop a great future evil, and also because he saw Looper that one time.
Iris West’s legacy is a driving plot point throughout the entire season.
Where Season One is about legacy, Season Two is clearly about parallels, both literal and figurative.
We see a parallel world in the glimpse of Earth-2 at the end of the episode. Jay Garrick is a parallel of Barry, from the story of how he got his powers to his description of Zoom, who seems to be Jay’s own Reverse-Flash.
Barry fears that Jay is, instead, a parallel of the Reverse-Flash, and treats him as such. His accusations are not entirely unfounded – we did just have a season of someone doing exactly that, after all – and while his instincts are valid, they’re also coming from a place of vulnerability. He’s just been betrayed down to his very core, and it hurts. It’s fresh. It’s enough to eventually convince him that he’s not being objective, so he gives Jay a chance.
The Earth-2 doppelgangers are another literal parallel, and one that will keep coming up again and again. These are the what-could-have-beens, the almost-weres. These are an exploration of nature versus nurture in many respects.
Officer Spivot herself is a parallel of Barry. She’s what Barry would have been if he had gone into enforcement instead of forensics. She has the same intelligence, the same trainingand she even went into law enforcement because a metahuman (or someone who would become one) killed a family member of hers. Her relationship to Joe West parallels Eddie Thawne’s – the blonde, driven detective with their heart in the right place.
Last week’s episode reestablished the status quo, but this is the first episode to really inform us how this season was truly going to go.
Keep looking for more parallels as we progress. They’ll be coming at you a lot.
Things to note:
- Jay Garrick’s theme. I don’t know how to explain it, but it sounds more old-fashioned than Barry’s.
- All speedster themes so far have a common thread. Rapid strings underneath a dynamic horn melody. Barry’s is the previously-mentioned jet engine taking off. Reverse-Flash’s theme is a corruption of the main Flash theme. Jay Garrick’s theme is the auditory equivalent of the Golden Age.
- Badass Adorable Officer Spivot hits a lot of my aesthetics – tiny nerdy lady who can also kick my ass.
- Look I don’t make the rules okay
Kevin O’Shea is a writer and current subscriber to the Fox-Broome Multiverse Theory. You can find him on Twitter (@osheamobile), Tumblr (osheamobile), or ordering a hazardous materials cleanup because broken glass, seriously?
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- Maybe. Multiverse Theory and Predestination Paradox both exist simultaneously in this continuity, which makes it almost impossible to predict what time travel is going to actually do in the long run.
- You can always tell what it is I’m writing when I go on weird tangents on Twitter. I’m not even kidding.