“Flash of Two Worlds” is a significant improvement on the premiere, ending on especially strong notes. But even though the last half of the episode provides some great character moments and a lot of fun, something still feels off. Is it the enormous loss of Harrison Wells? The limited world-building beyond what’s going on in S.T.A.R. Labs? That all plays into it. Mostly it comes down to how safe The Flash is playing things. This episode continues to take a more timid approach to the Multiverse than I expected, but we do get important glimpses into Earth-2 that give an idea of where this season is heading. The first being a flashback to the newly introduced Earth-2 speedster Jay Garrick and his battle with Zoom before being sucked into the singularity. There are a lot of little Easter eggs for comic fans, including the mention of 52 breaches across the city that open up to Earth-2 (or perhaps others), and Professor Stein explaining things to Joe by mentioning how in another universe he could be a physicist.
“Flash of Two Worlds” pivots around the introduction of two new characters, Jay Garrick and Patty Spivot. Only one of these really works. The main plot involves another metahuman from Earth-2 trying to kill Barry. This time it’s the Sand Demon, a metahuman with, you guessed it, the ability to turn his body into sand. He’s not all that interesting, but at least he has a bit more personality than Atom Smasher.
Almost everyone takes an immediate liking to Jay, especially Caitlin, who enjoys examining his physique a bit too much. But I’m surprised at some of the choices the writers made. Jay has only been the Flash for two years, yet he operates as a mentorlike stand-in for Wells. This isn’t a good thing, since Barry still hasn’t worked out his feelings over Wells’s betrayal. He’s afraid to trust anyone else. I understand Barry’s wariness of Jay, but they laid it on a bit too thick this episode, especially when he decides to lock him up in the holding facility used for metahumans. (Did anyone bring him water? How did metahumans use the bathroom? There are a lot of uneasy ethics at play.) Jay is unbelievably chill with Barry’s over-the-top suspicions. Barry can at times feel a bit petty, like when Cisco notes how much smaller Barry’s sweatshirt looks on Jay (but at least that’s hilarious).
What I don’t get is why he lost his powers coming onto Earth-1. I know of no comic-book parallels to this (but let me know if you do). Considering that the point of the Multiverse early on was to team up our version of the JLA with those of other Earths, it would be kind of joyless (and pointless) for them to lose their powers crossing into other worlds. Jay doesn’t even have any traces of the Speed Force coming up in all the tests Caitlin subjected him to. I’m curious to find out why, especially since Zoom and various metahumans aren’t losing their powers coming over here. Or maybe this harkens to why Zoom isn’t just facing Barry himself?
There’s a lot to like about the direction The Flash is going in with Zoom by setting him apart from what we’ve seen before. He looks like a literal Speed Demon. There doesn’t seem to be a human underneath the suit, just darkness and blue bolts of electricity. Zoom is somehow able to tap into the breaches and move through worlds. He’s pulling metahumans from Earth-2 in order to kill Barry. Getting gravel-voiced actor Tony Todd (of Candyman fame; if you haven’t watched it, ’tis the season for a good horror flick) is a smart choice. Unfortunately, his introduction feels like an afterthought — it needed a bit more weight behind it. Even if Barry doesn’t trust Jay, he needs his help when it comes to Zoom and the metahumans he’s bringing over from Earth-2.
After Barry continuously hammers at Jay despite his story checking out (kind of), Iris takes him aside. “Not everyone is Harrison Wells. You beat him because you trust people.” Iris is right. Barry’s strengths lie in his humanity and ability to work with his team. Again, Iris acts as the voice of reason, understanding Barry better than he understands himself. But who understands her? It’s definitely not the writers.
The Flash’s most glaring issue has been its inability to make use of Iris despite all her potential. They don’t have that problem with Patty Spivot, the Central City beat cop angling to be a part of Joe’s metahuman task force. Patty becomes a major force in the plot especially when she gets kidnapped by the Sand Demon. I’m always excited for more female characters (hopefully Earth-2 will have a few female heroes and villains of its own, but I won’t hold my breath).
Unfortunately, Patty represents everything wrong about how CW shows write the stock quirky-hot-girl character. I saw more than one person refer to her as Felicity 2.0. She’s plucky, nerdy, and ambitious to the point of being pushy. Turn it down a notch, please. When she meets Barry for the first time on a crime scene, she gushes about reading his forensic reports and provides valuable intel after investigating the scene on her own. Their flirtation continues to ratchet up as the episode emphasizes how much they have in common. If you told me she was going to become the lead female character on the show, I’d believe you. Of course Joe brings her onto the task force, and she’s going to become Barry’s new love interest.
In one episode Patty is given more development and story lines than Iris was given all of last season. Iris is the lead female character in billing, but not in how the show writes her. As much as I love The Flash, it’s a good example of Hollywood’s issues with diversity. Casting black characters isn’t enough. You have to give them story lines and treat them with importance.
Shows like this often seem unable to develop more than one female character at a time. Caitlin at least has some flirtation with Jay, the weight of Ronnie’s death she’s still contending with, and already being a more integral part of the team. Which is more than I can say for Iris.
The show has been feeling a bit claustrophobic lately, with very little seen outside of the workings of S.T.A.R. Labs. Having Iris work as an ace reporter finding out about other strange occurrences happening due to the breaches, new metahuman crimes, and giving the show a way to look at how the knowledge of metahumans is affecting the public works on multiple levels. It develops Iris as her own character and opens up the show a bit more. Because right now Iris is legitimately just standing around the labs looking beautiful and acting as Barry’s therapist.
What has been working from the jump is Cisco further developing powers. When examining the sand from the metahuman found at the crime scene, his abilities kick in, and he sees what Sand Demon is up to. This intel is valuable, allowing the team to learn where the metahuman is hiding out, and his plan to use a bomb. But Professor Stein isn’t a fool and doesn’t buy all these lucky hunches Cisco is getting. Cisco admits what’s been going on (“I get a vibe” being a nod to his superhero name from the comics). Despite his eagerness to learn about metahumans elsewhere, he’s afraid of his growing abilities. He’s learning things he doesn’t want to know. And his powers remind him of Wells. He wonders if Wells was evil — what does that mean about his abilities? It’s a touching moment between Cisco and Professor Stein. While I don’t agree with Cisco’s insistence to keep his powers a secret (we all know how well that works out), I understand why.
I’m being harsh on the missteps in character work, but the last half of the episode is a lot of fun. Iris, of course, gets through to him, which gets us a nice, heartwarming moment of Caitlin giving Jay back his helmet and the two Flashes teaming up.
Jay may not have his powers, but he’s still able to help. It’s through his coaching that Barry learns a new skill: how to throw lightning. Jay is prime hero material, putting on his Flash gear to distract Sand Demon so Barry can save Patty before a bomb goes off. Although, how is Jay able to keep his helmet on?
The fight between Sand Demon, Barry, and Jay is thrilling. Seeing Barry spinning around Sand Demon and throwing the lightning was The Flash at its best. Great effects, fun action, important stakes (emotional and otherwise). The nod to the original Flash of Two Worlds comic cover is an especially nice touch. Although it’s kind of weird how comfortable everyone is with killing metahumans this season.
When Professor Stein collapses while explaining the breaches across the city opening up to other worlds, we know he isn’t going to die, which zaps the moment of dramatic potential. This is likely a setup for the new other half of Firestorm. Victor Garber is such a fantastic actor, and I love seeing him as Professor Stein. I’m not going to be happy when he has to jump ship for the Legends of Tomorrow spinoff.
The most shocking introduction this episode is Iris’s mother, Francine. I wasn’t expecting her to pop up so early on. Hopefully this means Wally West (one of my favorite DC characters) will follow soon.
There are a lot of directions The Flash can go in (maybe on Earth-2 Iris has a life of her own?), especially since we still know very little about Zoom. Even Jay’s explanation of Zoom doesn’t say much. He’s stronger, faster, always a step ahead. He wants to be the most powerful speedster on any world, which is why he’s so hell-bent on killing Barry. The problem with this sort of motivation for a villain is, well, it’s kind of boring after a while. Wells worked so well because of the emotional punch of him being the Reverse Flash. Barry didn’t just gain an enemy — he lost a valued mentor, and everyone’s lives were dramatically shaken up in ways they’re still dealing with. But I think there’s a way to have fun creating Zoom into something fearsome and mythical.
I’m still not quite feeling how The Flash is handling the Earth-2 story line, but I liked the glimpse into this alternate world we get at the end. It has a sort of golden-hued, retro futurism. Earth-2 seems far more advanced than ours, considering how casually the tour guide mentions S.T.A.R. Labs’ accomplishments, including artificial intelligence and metahuman studies. This reminded me of how Fringe played with alternate universes. The guide gets flustered when she sees someone offscreen introducing him as the founder of S.T.A.R. Labs and the “savior of Central City.” It’s none other than a very dapper-looking Harrison Wells. The ghost of Wells has haunted The Flash this season. Tom Cavanagh is one of the main reasons season one worked so well, and the show is working overtime to make up for his loss. But how will everyone react when Wells, even in his Earth-2 form, comes back into their lives?