‘Welcome to Earth-2’
In a week where DC are trying to kick start their cinematic universe to seemingly divisive results , it is interesting to watch The Flash expand the DC TV universe by exploring the multiverse idea head-on with confidence and well-deserved swagger.
Barry (Grant Gustin), Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Harry (Tom Cavanagh) travel to Earth-Two to save Harry’s daughter from Zoom’s fortress whilst Joe (Jesse L. Martin), Jay (Teddy Sears) and Caitlyn (Danielle Panabaker) attempt to save Central City from a new, not-really-worth-mentioning threat.
The reason Geomancer (Adam Stafford) isn’t worth mentioning is because he’s just there and the Earth-One action distracts from the awesomeness of Earth-Two. The alternate dimension is an art-deco designer’s wet dream, with the show presenting this new Earth with a retro-futurism bent complete with a monorail, a mix of bronze and gold and 1940s costuming. It is sort of like Tomorrowland with the added benefit of not being in Tomorrowland. From certain visual effects in previous episodes, it’s clear that The Flash works with a television-sized budget, so the show deserves credit for making familiar sets slightly unfamiliar. More importantly, the show does this with the characters as well. It makes sense for the show to play around with doppelgängers when travelling to a parallel universe and while the inversions here are not as nuanced as say those in Fringe, The Flash does an efficient and fun job in playing with what the audience already knows — Deadshot (Michael Rowe in a nice cameo) can’t hit a target, Joe is now a jazz-club crooner and Barry and Iris (Candice Patton) are married.
Barry’s doppelgänger is a wet fart who looks like Milo Thatch but lacks the heroism Thatch and Earth-One Barry have, but his wife, Earth-Two Iris, is a hoot. Iris is the aggressor in their relationship and isn’t afraid of shooting first and asking questions later — it is clear that Patton is having fun with this twist in the tale and relished the opportunity to make up for the writers’ recent fumbling of her character.
Panabaker also appears to be having fun with her villainous turn as Killer Frost. Caitlyn has been pushed to the back burner this series, only really delivering exposition and emotion stock faces (crying, laughing etc) so it’s brilliant to see Panabaker camp it up and cut loose. Her performance might occasionally appear as a Harley Quinn audition but it is great fun, and that’s exactly what this episode of The Flash is: fun. The show also understands that fun has to be balanced with emotion and Barry soon learns that even if he is married to Iris and that his mother is alive, not everything is rosy. Earth-Two Joe hates Earth-Two Barry’s guts and Gustin is able to funnel all the emotions and all the head-twisting alien universe into a compelling performance.
Earth-Two is a place where the audience will want to spend time, want to soak in all the retro-futurism goodness. This is the universe everyone knows well but with little twists here and there that make Earth-One look dull by comparison…it’s a good thing this week’s cliffhanger suggests next week’s episode will feature more Earth-Two goodness.
P.S. Shout out to the writers for having Barry and Cisco taking a selfie after arriving on Earth-Two. That is a moment most twenty-somethings will Instagram.