Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Flash 2x01 "The Man Who Saved Central City" (Forward) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"The Man Who Saved Central City"
Original Airdate: October 6, 2015

The Flash has always been the more lighthearted counterpart to Arrow –– right down to the color schemes being brighter and more colorful and the main character being a lot more cheerful. I mean, in one of the Summer Re-watch reviews for The Flash, I likened Barry to "a Labrador puppy made of light and dandelion fluff." It's easy to forget, amidst all the saturated colors and the cheerful voice-overs and the one-liners from Cisco, that this show is dealing with dark stuff, too, just like Arrow: Barry's mom was murdered and his dad got the blame, Caitlin Snow lost her fiancĂ© (then found him again, then got married, then lost him again), and even Cisco grappled with some alternate timeline memories of his own death at the end of season one. Throw in the team's leader/mentor secretly being an evil time traveler with a stupid name, Eddie's sacrificial death, and Barry losing what he thought was his last hope for getting his dad out of jail, and you've got the perfect blend for a much darker second season of The Flash.

But wait –– everything's happy when we open the episode! Over-the-top villains are making over-the-top comments while fighting! Ronnie's all teamed up with Barry! And Ronnie and Caitlin are very happily married! Eddie's back! And Dr. Wells is –– oh, this is a daydream sequence, isn't it? Yeah. As it turns out, reality finds Barry alone in the lab surrounded by shadows and sadness.

Even his voice-over is sad as he tells us it's been six months since the singularity and how he's been on his own this whole time because being alone keeps everyone he cares about safe. He just runs a lot and saves the occasional day, but at the end of that day he's alone –– and he feels guilty for not keeping more people safe when the black hole almost sucked up reality. Because of course he does: Barry's a hero even when he's not a superhero, and he feels responsible when bad things happen on his watch.

I think it's probably a hero thing that elevates guilt levels to "alienate yourself from all your friends and family" because it happens a lot with shows (and movies, comic books, etc.) like this. I suppose that Barry feels like he's got such an advantage over the regular people in his life that if anything goes wrong with any of them, he believes he should have been able to stop it and keep them from getting hurt. It's a good –– if irritating –– trait for a hero to have, because otherwise they'd probably be a superpowered jackass, dodging responsibility left and right.

But for Barry, avoiding his friends and taking on the weight of everything –– from the damages caused by the singularity to the deaths of Ronnie and Eddie –– for six months was just pointless because of course they don't blame him for trying his best to save the world. Barry just needs to accept the idea that people will make their own decisions and the consequences of those decisions are not his fault.

Anyway, the Metahuman of the Week for this episode is a large, mysterious guy who came out of nowhere, killed a dude who looked just like him, and is apparently immune to the new gadget Cisco cooked up for the police to use in the event of metahuman crises. This metahuman attacks during Central City’s “Flash Day” celebration and things do not go according to plan for Barry, probably because he’s alone and we all know that The Flash without Team Flash isn’t a superhero at his maximum potential. This show’s all about that teamwork –– and so is Iris, apparently. She decides to get everyone back together and try to make Barry see that he can’t expect to fight this “Atom Smasher” (so dubbed by Professor Stein, with Cisco’s approval) alone. Like Joe says when Barry tries to get them all to leave: “You need your partners. You need your friends.”

More than that, though, Iris brings up an important point when she tells Barry that everyone who helps him doesn’t just do it because they care about him; they do it because they also care about the city and want to make a difference. It’s another case of Barry assuming responsibility for things when he doesn’t need to –– the automatic assumption that he’s… not exactly the only one who cares, but maybe that he’s the only one who’s supposed to care. Barry spent the time after the singularity thinking he was keeping the people he cared about –– peripheral people, people who just got involved in fighting metahumans because he dragged them into it –– safe by not including them, but he was ignoring the fact that their desire to make a difference does not revolve around him. He might be the conduit for their ability to face the metahumans, but he is not the only reason why they do it.

It takes a serious talking-to from Joe for Barry to finally understand that he doesn’t need to take all the blame for what happened at the end of season one, but it does seem like he eventually gets it. Joe urges Barry to try and rebuild his friendships and his team, and just let the past go, and he looks like Barry is moving past it when he goes to talk to Caitlin… But he does have one other thing weighing on him, and that’s the knowledge that Eobard Thawne escaped justice and Henry Allen is still in jail for a crime he didn't commit. But then, toward the end of the episode, we get a surprise from Dr. Not-Wells: in a living will, he confesses to the murder of Barry's mother. It's enough to get Barry’s dad out of jail and it's parties for everyone, huzzah!

Oh, wait –– yeah. Henry doesn’t think Barry can be who he needs to be with his dad hanging around. So he isn't staying and Barry's losing the only true family member he has left. What happened to this show being the happy one?



Other Things
  • Everyone has got to quiet down when talking about The Flash/Barry in public. I know it's cool that you’re all in on the secret now but, jeez. He wears a mask for a reason and it's not to hide how cute his face is.
  • Cisco and Joe bonding! I'm all for it, and we got multiple scenes this episode.
  • So Ronnie's probably actually just trapped in another universe, right? I’m sensing an “alternate universe” theme to this season.
  • "Expecting trouble?" "Cops always expect trouble. In this city I expect super evil flying monsters." "…That's a solid expectation."
  • The mayor reduces black holes, the city's very own superhero, and week after week of metahuman attacks down to "some pretty weird stuff." What an understatement, dude.
  • We get some more Cisco-as-Vibe hints in this episode!
  • “I did not do anything that would cause that. I’m 92% sure… I’m gonna go make that a hundred, excuse me.” Cisco’s my absolute favorite.
  • “Well, if you keep getting no for an answer, stop asking questions.” “I say that! You quoting me to me?” Joe’s my favorite too.
  • “Because he absorbs atomic power and he… well, smashes!” Professor Stein also gets Favorite Points this episode.
  • Oh, Caitlin. She just doesn’t get to win anything, does she?
  • "Hello Barry. If you're watching this, that means something has gone horribly wrong. I'm dead, and the last fifteen years have been for nothing. Bummer."
  • The Wells confession is very good for Barry, of course, but… before Eobard stole his face, Harrison Wells was a guy who wasn’t evil and now he’s going down in history as a murderer.
  • Grant Gustin’s delivery of the line: “You’re the only family I have left” was subtly different from the way that line would normally be delivered, and it was perfect.
  • “So people can't just waltz in and out of here.” “Exactly.” (Someone waltzes in.) “For real?”
  • Fun fact: Jay Garrick originally got his Flash superpowers while on a cigarette break in a laboratory. Because, you know... the 1940s.
What did you all think of The Flash's premiere? Let us know in the comments!


  1. There were so many powerful emotional moments in that episode and I thought it was really well done. I loved that Iris pointed out that the whole team are involved with saving the city because they want to make a difference and help people. Everyone on Team Flash would be trying to make the world a better place whether or not Barry was the Flash. Think about it, Joe is a cop. Talk about a job where one risks their life regularly for the sake of others. Both Cisco and Caitlin have always used their big brains to help people and they showed loyalty to Wells long before Barry woke from his coma. Prof. Stein got himself in a very dangerous situation with his inventions because of his own passion. It's just part of who they are.

    I think that's a large reason why I find the whole "superhero martyr complex" so irritating in people like Barry and Oliver (and others). I understand that they are the most powerful members of their teams and they feel the weight of that. They have a deeply ingrained sense of responsibility which is great. In the end though, taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong actually does a disservice to the people they love and to themselves. I love that Joe did not pull any punches in that talk with Barry. Did Barry's actions that day contribute to the events that followed? Absolutely. And Barry is responsible for his choices. But then Joe really gets to the core of the matter. "You were not the only person making choices that day." Preach Joe! To blame himself for everything that happened is to lessen the agency and heroism that Eddie and Ronnie showed that day. They are grown men and they made their own choices. For Barry to claim that responsibility implies that they were victims of his decision making rather than powerful agents and masters of their own choices (Prof Stein inspired Eddie with that very idea, he was not a victim of fate!). Don't take their heroism away from them Barry. Eddie is a cop through and through and gave his life to save all of them. He's always been willing to do that. Ronnie wasn't just saving Barry that day. He was acting to save his wife and every other person in that city (the world really) by helping Barry close the singularity which he could never have done alone. (Barry's speed stabilized it but it required Firestorms energy to close it.) Ronnie sacrificed himself for everyone when the accelerator blew and he did it again. Giving of themselves for the good of others is part of who those men are. Don't diminish that. Let them have their heroic choices Barry. They deserve it. It's not all about you (said in the most loving way I can.)

    Okay rant over. Other thoughts:

  2. Iris chaffed under the whole "we were doing it to keep you safe" line last season and she showed that big time this episode too. She was so over Barry's protective "for your own good" thing. I really liked seeing her play a real active role in the team. It doesn't feel totally defined yet but I look forward to seeing where they go with that.

    Cisco is still my fav of all and I can't wait to see how his ability to see other timelines is explored. That's gotta be a little mind-bending. He is still the most adorable (even more than Barry) and his hug with Prof. Stein was the best.

    Moment that killed me the most: When Joe said to little Barry "I got you" in the flashback and then said it again as Barry awoke in the present. The number of times that man has brought me to tears...

    A couple problems I had:
    - What was up with the whole Harrison Wells is now officially dead thing?? If Eobard Thawne was erased from existence how did he kill Barry's mom, or the real Harrison Wells or build the accelerator etc?? Stupid time travel stuff. That sacrifice of Eddie's should have had much more far reaching consequences right? Or is there something I just don't get?
    - The bit about Henry Allen leaving felt a little off to me. It felt like a ploy to get him out of regular appearances on the show rather than something true to character. I would rather have seen him going off trying to figure out his place in the world again after more than a decade of incarceration than that thing about his presence not letting Barry become who he is becoming. How exactly is further separation preserving Barry's ability to grow? Yes, his driving need to exonerate his father was a big part of his development. However, that goal is accomplished whether his dad sticks around or not. Barry's motivations seem pretty focused on saving even more people now no matter his family situation. Maybe I would have felt better about it if it were a little clearer in the dialogue that Henry didn't feel he fit into Barry's life any more or that he didn't know how to be part of Barry's life as a parent or anything else. I don't know.

    So excited about this season! And so glad they came right out in the premier with the name of our next big bad: ZOOM! Without the creepy Harrison Wells moments that served to lay out the tension right from the beginning. As Prof Stein said- Kadimah. Forward!