‘The Man Who Saved Central City’
The last time Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) was on the screen, he was running up a collapsing skyscraper into the eye of a world-eating singularity. This was the audacious ending to a first season filled with time-travel, zany fun and great superhero moments. Those moments were what made The Flash great. It wasn’t beholden to its cinematic counterparts like the Marvel stock and it didn’t need to adhere to the pseudo-real-world physics like Arrow. No, The Flash gave you a talking, telepathic gorilla named Grodd, and said: “Deal with it!”
So, it was a bit surprising that the season two opener, ‘The Man Who Saved Central City’, started with a dour note. Team Flash has disbanded and Barry is fighting crime alone and moping in the corner, dreaming of happier times. This flip is dizzying and unexpected and proves that series creators, Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns, are not afraid of placing the right storytelling in front of fan expectations.
During the course of some pointed flashbacks we learn Barry has become a lone avenger because of the good old-fashioned hero-wants-to-protect-love-ones cliché. This trope, no matter what medium, is scattered across the splash pages of the superhero genre and it is an easy dramatic device. But, the theme of this week is teamwork and the character separation only makes the episodes final third more satisfying. Our featured villain is the Atom Smasher and by following the Buffy tradition of the villain of the week being indicative of the episode’s themes, the Atom Smasher plays his role well as he is the physical threat that can draw the S.T.A.R Labs squad together, as well as sow the seeds for the season-long mystery surrounding the new big bad, Zoom.
Whilst Zoom doesn’t make an appearance, our series favourites are all back in action. The actors were universally good with Carlos Valdes keeping Cisco’s ability to annoy in check and Danielle Panabaker showing why platonic relationships should be involved in more TV shows. Men and women can be friends everybody.
Gustin shows why a five-year-old would quote lines back at him and Jesse L. Martin is once again on a mission to make the audience cry and his chemistry with Gustin is strong enough to make their scenes the emotional core. Victor Garber (yes, the Victor Garber from Titanic and Legally Blonde) gives Dr Martin Stein a splash of dry wit that makes him a nice addition to the team.Tom Cavanagh gets a significant cameo and he reemphasises why Harrison Wells was one of the better superhero villains. He gets across the bitterness, the resentment and also the pride that Wells held for Barry. His character may have been erased from the timeline but Cavanagh is so good he’s somehow still a series regular.
‘The Man Who Saved Central City’ does its job as a season opener well. It gives you everything you loved about last season – Wentworth Miller deliciously delivering his hammy lines, some meta-humour, a whole lot of heart – whilst buffering the impact of multiple Earths storyline to allow the audience to catch up. Hopefully the writers will be able to have The Flash keep its identity as it moves into more Fringe-y territory. This season two opener remembered to be fun and if it’s anything to go by, then we’re in for one hell of a ride.