The Flash Recap: Vanishing Act

Grant Gustin as Barry, Jesse L. Martin as Joe. Photo: Bettina Strauss/CW
The Flash

The Flash

Rupture Season 2 Episode 20
Editor's Rating 4 stars

Since its very first episode, The Flash has exhibited a full-hearted thoughtfulness that seems missing from other superhero adaptations. Although the show has never forgotten that crucial aspect of itself, its second season has definitely struggled. “Rupture” goes a long way to correct those missteps. As far as plot is concerned, not much happens until the last few minutes, with the rest of the episode focused on the shifting emotional dynamics between Barry and the people in his life. Should he agree to help Harry re-create the particle accelerator explosion? Is it too great a risk?

As the episode opens, the team is struggling to keep up the appearance that the Flash is still active. They’ve been using a hologram to fool criminals, which we see in action during a high-speed chase. But a hologram has limits. Harry is quick to point out that it’s only a matter of time before someone notices that this “Flash” doesn’t speak or actually touch anyone. Harry believes he can re-create the right circumstances to bring back Barry’s powers. But what if he is wrong? The whole city would be endangered. Barry might even be killed.

Without his powers, Barry says he doesn’t feel like a complete person anymore. Being the Flash isn’t just about heroism for him; it’s about being the man he feels he’s meant to be. Without his speed, he’s coming undone. There’s a sad, lost quality to him that Grant Gustin imbues throughout the episode. So it’s understandable that he would go to his other father Henry Allen for advice.

Having Henry leave Central City remains an incredibly odd choice. Nevertheless, “Rupture” makes good use of how Henry upends the dynamic of Team Flash. Barry has three father figures, all of whom share different opinions about what he should do. Who is right?

(Side note: At the cabin, Henry casually mentions that his mother’s maiden name was Garrick. Very interesting! This is all but guaranteed to come back up. I wouldn’t be surprised if it somehow ties in to the Man in the Iron Mask. We still don’t know anything about him.)

Back in Central City, Team Flash’s hologram success gets tested when Zoom returns with Caitlin in tow. He also brings along Rupture, who is the Earth-2 version of Dante Ramon, Cisco’s older brother. Rupture wields a pretty badass scythe and is hell-bent on vengeance — he incorrectly believes Cisco killed his brother.

The episode spends a lot of time detailing the strained relationship between Cisco and Dante. There are moments when Dante’s disregard for Cisco are just utterly heartbreaking. The focus on these brotherly issues also gives actor Carlos Valdes a chance to shine. He balances Cisco’s nerdy humor with a much-needed pathos, pulling off everything quite well. When Dante sees that Rupture looks just like him, he obviously has a lot of questions. But it isn’t until Cisco sees Rupture die at the hands of Zolomon that he comes clean about everything: Earth-2, his own status as a metahuman, and what he’s been afraid to tell Dante, since they don’t have much of a relationship.

So, why did Zolomon kill Rupture? Why does he kill any metahuman under his employ? Failure. Rupture is tasked with killing off the Central City Police Department. The police officers gather up at Jitters, which really must be the only coffee shop in the city, after Zolomon threatened their lives at the station. They are briefly spared, due to Caitlin’s influence, but even that has its limits. The Flash hologram is able to trick Rupture, who gets captured by the CCPD. Of course, Zolomon isn’t having that. He swiftly kills off most of the police force, sparing only Joe, Captain Singh (thankfully!), and Barry. As he speeds throughout the coffee shop, he kills them so quickly that it’s hard to register what’s going on until it is too late. Thanks to Tony Todd’s voice work and Zolomon’s growing power, he’s become a terrifying villain — even as whatever’s going on behind the mask doesn’t hold up.

Caitlin: What’s your plan to kill everyone?

Zolomon: Not everyone.

That said, Caitlin playing the damsel in distress isn’t fun to watch. Zolomon’s creepy obsession certainly highlights his monstrous villainy — he actually believes kidnapping Caitlin will lead to love. But we’ve seen this story line across pop culture many times. And of course, Caitlin isn’t a fool. She’s constantly figuring out how she can still help her friends. Thanks to her quick thinking — she finds a cell phone in an evidence bag while being handcuffed at the police station where Zolomon keeps her — she is able to warn Team Flash about the Rupture attack. Throughout “Rupture,” the writers drop a lot of hints about where Caitlin and other characters are headed, and how they may align with their comic-book counterparts. Zolomon truly believes there’s a darkness in Caitlin (as evidenced by her Earth-2 version Killer Frost), and it’s only a matter of time until she taps into it.

Across town, Joe the Flash has led Wally to question what he wants to do with his life. He wants to help people — a noted West family trait. Joe assures him he’ll find a path that satisfies his “need for speed” and desire to do good, which completely foreshadows what happens at the end of the episode.

Undoubtedly, the episode’s standout development is what occurs between Iris and Barry. I have been very hard on The Flash for its treatment of Iris. Candice Patton is the perfect actress to play such an iconic character, mixing the right amount of intelligence, bravery, sweetness, and beauty in her performance. But the show seems to forget how important she is. When Iris confesses her love to Barry, I outright cheered, with tears in my eyes. Finally!

Iris: Barry, you’ve always had someone to come home to — me.

Iris mentions that she doesn’t care if he’s the Flash or not. His lack of power doesn’t affect how much she loves him. She’ll always be by his side. It’s time for the music to swell and these two lovebirds to kiss, right? Guess not. At first I was angry with how the scene ended. Come on, Barry! Why wouldn’t you kiss the love of your life? But until Barry regains his powers, he simply won’t feel like himself. He may also be struggling to understand how Iris could still want him without his powers, since he doesn’t even want himself. Given that context, Iris revealing her feelings takes on an incredibly sad hue.

Barry’s trio of father figures don’t make his decision any easier. Harry, of course, champions his idea to recreate the particle accelerator explosion so Barry can become the Flash again. On the other side, Henry is vehemently opposed since it might kill Barry. Then there’s Joe in the middle. Both Henry and Harry have good arguments, but in the end, Harry wins out. “Being the Flash, that’s the best version of me. … I have to do this,” Barry says.

As he’s strapped into Harry’s device, we see that he’s crying. Is any modern superhero more in touch with their emotions than Barry? I think not. The chemicals present at the accident are painfully injected in his body. Cisco uses a weather device (which was created to deal with a previous metahuman) to generate the lightning needed for the accident. But, in a tragic surprise, the result is a totally unexpected one.

Barry’s body is ripped apart, totally disintegrating into the speed force. All that remains are the charred scraps of his uniform. Wally and Jesse are hit from the blast when they decide to venture out to see what happened. Could it be …?

As far as superheroes go, The Flash has really only had Barry. (Cisco too, but his powers are just beginning to develop.) The big surprise at the end of “Rupture” suggests that Jesse and Wally will become speedsters, just like their comic counterparts. Although I have enjoyed Keiynan Lonsdale’s Wally, I hope speedster powers will bring the character some levity and aligns him with the Wally West I grew up loving in the comics. Will his and Jesse’s powers manifest differently? What will this mean for the characters going forward?

In the comics, the speed force operates as a sort of afterlife for speedsters. If the same is true for The Flash, Barry isn’t dead — he’s merely trapped in the speed force. And what’s the only thing will be able to get him out? His love for Iris. With the exception of “Welcome to Earth-2,” this is the best episode of the season. It took way too many episodes to get the plot into high gear, but “Rupture” has just the right amount of character development, action, and heart — all of the things I want to see when I watch The Flash. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait as long to meet Central City’s newest speedsters.

The Flash Recap: Vanishing Act