The following is another entry in my ongoing reviews for The Flash that appear on Culture Fly
It’s taken a while but in the penultimate episode of season two, a mass meta-human melee went down and it was crazy. Zoom (Teddy Sears) wants to distract the S.T.A.R Labs squad from his Machiavellian plan, so he unleashes a menagerie of Earth-2 badies to kick the final play into motion. It’s a promising premise the show squanders as the super-villain army is just fan service, with a CW budget possibly preventing a full-on splash-page superhero showdown with the action focusing on The Black Siren (Katie Cassidy), Laurel Lance’s doppelgänger.
Cassidy returns to the ‘Arrowverse’ after Laurel was killed and she is good fun, making use of the goth make-up. Beyond Harry (Tom Cavanagh) The Flash fails interrogating the nuances between the doppelgängers, with the actors just picking camp as the go-to acting choice. It’s all very wink wink, nudge nudge and the knowingness is appreciated. However, playing every copy the same way doesn’t allow for a deep exploration into the original characters psyche — the audience learns next to nothing about Caitlyn (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) through their interactions with Reverb and Killer Frost.
This self-awareness gives the show one of its many humourous moments as Cisco and Caitlyn distract The Black Siren by pretending to be their doppelgängers. They do pretty good imitations, and they inevitably get foiled, but it was nice to see Caitlyn no longer be Zoom’s bait for Barry.
Currently, there is a big polarisation between how superhero media handles tone. The DC film universe kinda keeps things serious and dark, whilst the MCU is a colourful rainbow in comparison. The Flash — with its heart, humour and spectacle quota — manages to strike a nice balance between the two. Caitlyn may be back on the team but she is suffering from some sort of PTSD. This is a serious theme that doesn’t get lost amongst the quips and in a couple of scenes Panabaker sells Caitlyn’s pain. For the first time in forever, you will actually care about the Jay/Zoom-Caitlyn love plot.
Speaking of Zoom, it isn’t clear what his actual plan is. A couple of weeks ago he just wants to be fast, last week he wanted to turn Caitlyn bad and this week he just wants to show Barry (Grant Gustin) they’re the same person, moulded by different circumstances. In the nature vs nurture debate, Zoom is 100% Team Nurture. Normally, the villain always has the upper hand but not giving the audience hints is not the doings of an evil mastermind, it’s just bad plotting. As the season two finale is next week, The Flash may just have too much catching up to do.
Then again, it’s always amazing how efficiently this show tells its stories. This episode is crammed; it develops Wally’s story, it develops Barry and Iris’ (Candice Patton) relationship and it kills a major supporting character.
It’s an old, and normally sexist, superhero trope to have the villain kill a supporting character, normally the girlfriend, to give the hero some third-act motivation. Whilst the show thankfully doesn’t go full on woman in the refrigerator, a fan favourite character perishes to teach Barry he is not invincible. Whilst the dying character will be revealed next week (don’t want to spoil anything, after all) it is a wasted opportunity as the show kills an underdeveloped character and the impact isn’t as devastating as the writers hope. Gustin always does a solid cry face, though.
This was a fun episode that leads nicely into the finale, but you can’t shake the idea The Flash is leaving itself too much work to do in too little time.