So it occurs to me that an alternate universe version of Joe West could theoretically be called a “poppelgänger” and you can’t fire me I’m the boss. Enjoy this recap of CW’s The Flash.
So it’s time for the fun Elseworlds issue…uh, I mean episode of The Flash. There’s a 1940s retro aesthetic in the alternate universe of Earth-2, but more advanced technology than Team Flash has access to on Earth-1.
Spoilers under the cut.
The episode opens with a monologue from Harry reminding us that the life of his daughter Jesse (a speedster herself in the comics) is the main stake of the story. A beat, and then over to Team Flash announcing that they’ve closed all but one of the fifty-two breaches which have been plaguing them for the season so far. We also take a breather over at the West family home to remind the audience what the universe is like here on Earth-1, highlighting the current relationship status quo between Joe, Iris, Henry, Patty, and Barry. That way, it’s fresh in your mind when they turn it on its head.
In a fun aside, the trip through the dimensional breach offers up a collage of images from alternate worlds, providing fodder for future plotlines and stories that may or may not be used, including a glimpse of the ’90s Flash TV show followed by Supergirl to give her show a tenuous connection to the CW’s collection of shows. [EDITOR’S NOTE: At the time this episode aired, Supergirl was airing on CBS.] Of course, the moment they jump, the breach destabilizes to ensure coming home won’t be as easy as leaving was. This seems like an unnecessary conflict to add, but they have to set up a problem to be solved for both halves of Team Flash instead of just doing a “villain of the week” scenario on Earth-2. It’s one of the weaknesses of the show’s overall narrative – how hard they cling to the aforementioned format instead of letting themselves focus on the larger story (and occasional world-building). However, not doing that would make it harder for new people to jump in on any given week, so it’s just a part of the format one must accept.
Barry and Cisco are the worst at dimensional travel. They’re the chatty wide-eyed tourists, jumping at every doppelgänger who doesn’t behave like they person they know from their Earth. It’s simultaneously hilarious and a reminder that despite all their experiences to date, the boys are still inherently the honest, trusting, heart-on-their-sleeves types…much to Harry’s annoyed chagrin.
Just to make sure everyone has a problem to solve this episode, Cisco’s Vibe powers aren’t working due to frequencies being different here. They really stuffed an unnecessary number of conflicts into a single episode; it’s become a bit of a bad habit.
While Cisco and Harry are sidelined repairing the Vibe goggles, Barry kidnaps his nerdy doppelgänger so he can walk around as him. Barry is, again, terrible at impersonating his doppelgänger. I don’t know why Harry agreed to letting him run around Earth-2 unsupervised. Barry is many things, but subtlety and being a good liar are not among his skills. Not helping matters is the fact that professional singer Joe West hates Barry, and Barry reacts like a kicked puppy instead of even attempting to act like he knows what’s going on.
Of course we need more conflict to the story, so we also have Caitlin as Killer Frost and Ronnie as Deathstorm performing the parts of Zoom’s henchmen and literal villains-of-the-week (because we have to give the Flash a metahuman to fight). Back on Earth-1, a metahuman called Geomancer shows up for Joe, Caitlin, and Jay to deal with. Geomancer is used to reveal more info about Jay Garrick, drawing him closer to Caitlin and reiterating that he is dying due to side effects of speed shenanigans.
The Earth-2 metahumans expose Barry’s already terrible charade, kill Joe, and begin the henceforth-hanging threat of Caitlin becoming a villain like her comics counterpart. It is also used to reiterate that the Flash Family is the Flash Family in every universe as far as altruistic Barry is concerned, and he and Wells continue to clash over valuing everybody rather than just those you know personally. It’s Barry’s heroic nature at work. We also get the late episode reveal of Reverb, Cisco’s villainous counterpart, who teases that Cisco’s ability to warp frequencies can be expanded to reality-bending ends. Zoom then kills Reverb about five minutes later.
There were a lot of solid concepts and conflicts introduced in this episode, but overall each felt underserved because it was so much to address in just one episode. Whereas Season One was painfully slow to move the plot forward at times, Season Two repeatedly suffers from trying to do too much at once and rushing through plots before fully developing them.
The episode ends with our intrepid heroes still stuck on Earth-2 and Barry added to Zoom’s glass menagerie of Jesse and and a mystery man in an iron mask.
It’d take too long to list everything I loved about this episode, but here are some fun but largely irrelevant Easter Eggs on Earth-2:
- Henry Hewitt, mild-mannered lab assistant.
- Mayor Snart (not specified if it’s Lewis, Len, or Lisa).
- The number 52 everywhere (DC canon claims 52 parallel Earths).
- Captain David Singh is a mobster.
- Deadshot is a cop with terrible aim.
- Iris West is the family detective and Barry’s wife.
- Barry’s mom is alive.
- The West-Allen home speed dial includes Dad (Joe West), Mom & Dad (Henry & Nora Allen), Eddie (Thawne), Bruce (Wayne – Batman), Hal (Jordan – Green Lantern), and Diana (Prince – Wonder Woman) – a proto-Justice League.
This episode, being a two-parter, doesn’t really have a thematic element in and of itself. Because of this, and because it is such a reference-heavy episode, I’m of two minds about this one. On one hand, the references are neat, the season’s arc is moved along at a brisk pace, and there are still some incredibly heartwrenching moments. Furthermore, it uses the dimension-hopping trope to give us a glimpse of the characters we’ve come to know from a different angle. But there are parts that just fell flat for me, such as the Barry vs. Deathstorm/Killer Frost fight and Vibe vs. Reverb. By the way, Carlos Valdes is way too much of a cinnamon roll to actually kill you.
Joe-2’s heartbreaking death was another thing that felt off. It was still sad – thanks to the awesome chemistry between Jesse Martin, Candice Patton, and Grant Gustin – but something felt missing, and I think it was the fact that we’d already had the earlier emotional gut punch of Barry talking to his mother. Steven Spielberg once said that when test audiences finally got to see the shark for the first time in Jaws, everyone in the theater screamed. He decided that he wanted another moment like that in his movie, so he went back and filmed the scene with Hooper free-diving underneath Ben Gardner’s boat. When the footage was edited into the movie, people screamed at Ben Gardner’s head…but only half of them screamed at the reveal of the shark. The law of diminishing returns is real, especially when you’re manipulating an audience’s emotions.
But that talk with Barry and Earth-2 Nora…I have no words. Although the ending is still pretty memorable, there is no scene which encapsulates this episode more than seeing Barry both happy to talk to his mother once again and incredibly sad because she isn’t really his mother. It broke my heart. I’m also convinced that this is where the producers decided to implant the idea for the very end of the season, but we’ll get there.
I don’t really have to much to say after that. Some random thoughts:
- I love the art deco designs of Earth-2, as well as it being an obvious homage to Bruce Timm.
- Barry-2 has Bruce, Hal, and Diana on speed dial, but not Clark?
- Because of course Barry would be a total poindexter on Earth-2.
- Hmm…everyone on this Earth who has superpowers is bad…very subtle clue. I like.
George Hatch’s Earth-2 dopplegänger would probably like vegetables. A lot. Probably in an unhealthy fashion. He can be found on Twitter at @Raeseti.
Becky Shire is everyone’s favorite Flash Guru, cosplayer and all-around badass. You can find her on Twitter at @ElfGrove.
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