Last show to review. For those who want the quick take: I would place this season at #2 of the shows I reviewed. If you’ve read my previous season reviews, you can probably guess where each other show ranked from there.
I don’t envy the show runners. Season 1 of Flash was so ridiculously good almost any followup had the odds stacked against it. Well S2 wasn’t quite as good as S1, it was still pretty darn good.
But it clearly suffered from a lack of direction too, which was probably compounded by the first half of the season being spent building the world and players for the soon to broadcast Legend of Tomorrow show.
Rarely was this lack of direction more apparent than when one noticed that several things from the season were repeating and not in a good “foreshadowing/echoing” kind of way. Episode 6, Zoom makes a move that injures Barry to the point that next episode Barry must spend time relearning to run. Then in episode 18, Zoom injures Barry to the point that the next episode Barry must spend time relearning to run. The big difference between them being that at least the 2nd time they took 3 episodes to get Barry back to “normal” instead of 1 like they did the first time. One can kind of see what the show runners were wanting to do, foreshadowing what Zoom would do to Barry, but rhythmically and tonally it flopped because:
- On a real world level, breaking the spine is just instinctually more serious as an injury to the viewer while “robbed of speed” is more nebulous and less “real” to our minds so even if on paper the first is less bad than the second, the audience just can’t feel it.
- The first victory was followed by a cross town gloating by Zoom to the city’s residents. The second was followed by Zoom just running off and Barry at least able to save face as the Flash for awhile. It should be pretty obvious why the first felt more impactful than the second. (remember when it comes to foreshadowing you want to build into a crescendo, not fade away)
- With the first battle Barry fought Zoom with everything he had, everyone pouring all their resources and minds into the challenge, and still lost. In the second battle, everyone acted like an idiot, just giving up to let Zoom win. Again, when the heroes try their hardest and fail, it feels more devastating to the audience than if the heroes just shrug their shoulders and give up.
And this keeps happening in season 2. Towards the end Zoom goes on a rant about Barry being “just like him” but it falls flat because we know nothing about him as a character. Which is a shame because last season they demonstrated how to do this so well when the villain infiltrated the heroes. Part of the fun of re-watching S1 is realizing and reinterpreting a lot of “Harrison Wells” actions in light of his true motivation, we find out a lot about his character even by him lying to us. This season, “Jay Garrick” barely interacts with anybody on the team save for Caitlyn, certainly not with Barry so we don’t even have a sense of continuity between the lies & truth of the Hero/Villain interaction. Had “jay” actually talked with and had more scenes with Barry and we saw them bond and grow closer over things they had in common or their personality types, etc then Zoom’s later claims of “we’re just alike” would actually mean something to us. Instead it just comes off as a late addition by the writers to try and give meaning to the finale.
Actually much of the finale felt like it was in the wrong order. We have an episode about Barry visiting “heaven” for some therapy in getting over his mom’s death even though Barry has barely spent much time in the season talking about his mom and had even forgiven “Harrison Wells” much earlier. But right after Barry’s father is taken from him making the audience wonder why we bothered with the heaven therapy? Why not have Papa Allen die and then Barry having to visit heaven to deal with that? Then of course the season closes with Barry running to the past to save his mom making the emotionally powerful episode come off as completely pointless. Or why not have it take place after this act where it would kind of make sense?
Regardless, when the season tried, it did very well at times. Barry’s visit to E2 was memorable and a great moment and on the whole the show was fun to watch it just straight up embrace some of the wackiest parts of comics that was ever seen. When it stood alone or was tangentially related to the arcs, the episodes were great fun and enjoyable, it’s only when the season’s story arc really became a major focus that the season stumbled badly.
Yet even when it stumbled, the show maintained an entertainment value and fun factor that keeps me coming back for more, and still looking forward to next season.