Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 27, 2016)
With Season Two of The Flash, the “World’s Fastest Man” returns for more TV action and adventure. This four-disc package includes all 24 episodes from the show’s second year. The synopses come from the Blu-ray’s liner notes.
The Man Who Saved Central City: “After the singularity, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) has chosen to protect the city on his own – until a metahuman named Atom Smasher (Adam Copeland) attacks.”
Though “Saved” takes place months after the end of Season One, it looks at the aftermath of that year’s events. It does so in a fairly dramatic manner, which means it manages to turn into a good show. The new villain doesn’t work, but the emotional impact adds depth.
Flash of Two Worlds: “Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears), a mysterious visitor from Earth-2, appears at STAR Labs with a dire warning about an evil speedster named Zoom who is set on destroying the Flash.”
In the comic book work, Garrick was the original “Golden Age” Flash. When they “rebooted” Flash as Barry Allen in the mid-1950s, eventually DC came up with the “multiple Earths” concept that allowed both to co-exist.
The “multiple Earths” notion was always confusing but fun, and “Worlds” uses it pretty well. The presence of a second Flash – albeit one sans powers at this time – adds intrigue and helps make this a solid show.
Family of Rogues: “When Barry and the team learn Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) has been kidnapped, they form an uneasy alliance with his sister, Lisa Snart (Peyton List).”
The Snart family offered some of Season One’s most interesting moments, so I welcome their return here. With the introduction of Papa Snart, matters become more intriguing, and Michael Ironside gives the evil patriarch the right sense of cruelty. These factors add up to a good episode.
The Fury of Firestorm: “Barry and the team look for another Firestorm match for Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber) but when they meet Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (Franz Drameh), Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) has her reservations.”
Because Season One of Legends of Tomorrow hit Blu-ray before Season Two of The Flash, I knew about this episode’s events before I watched it. Legends debuted in January 2016, whereas “Fury” aired in October 2015. For consistency’s sake, I guess Warner should’ve released the Flash BD first – or I should’ve watch the series when it initially ran.
Even though “Fury” feels someone like old news since I watched S1 of Legends, it still manages some useful story information. The subplot related to Iris’s mother gets into soap opera territory, but the action elements fare pretty well.
The Darkness and the Light: “When Dr. Light (Malese Jow) comes through the portal, Barry sets off to capture her. During a fight with the Flash, however, she blinds him and drops some shocking news about Zoom.”
Though parts of “Darkness” entertain, the episode feels a little more in the soap opera vein than I’d like. Even the identity of Dr. Light comes across as more melodramatic than I’d prefer. While not a bad show, “Darkness” seems mediocre. It does offer more foreshadowing of Legends of Tomorrow, though.
Enter Zoom: “Barry comes up with a dangerous plan to defeat Zoom. Although Caitlin sides with Jay and deems it too dangerous, Iris West (Candice Patton) shows her support with a surprising ally.”
Dr. Light remains a lackluster character, so her continued presence means “Zoom” doesn’t do much to top “Darkness”. Some action spices up matters but I have to admit S2’s overall narrative is starting to lose my interest.
Gorilla Warfare: “When Grodd kidnaps Caitlin, Barry and the team race to find her before it’s too late. Patty Spivot (Shantal VanSanten) suspects that Barry is hiding something from her.”
I thought S1’s Grodd introduction worked well, but “Warfare” seems less successful. Some of that stems from its “very special episode” vibe, as it focuses on Barry’s loss of confidence. We still get some good action but the show leaves me a little cold.
Legends of Today: “Vandal Savage (Caspar Crump) sets his sights on Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renee), forcing Barry to hide her in Star City with Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Team Arrow.”
Referred to as “Episode 8a”, this acts as part one of a two-part “epic crossover event”. I’ll save my comments until I get to Episode 8b.
Legends of Yesterday: “Barry and Oliver hide Kendra and Carter Hall (Falk Hentschel) while they figure out how to defeat Vandal Savage.”
Given that the pursuit of Vandal Savage forms the primary narrative for Legends of Tomorrow, I don’t think it qualifies as a spoiler to reveal that Flash and Arrow don’t defeat him. Of course, audiences who watched “Today” and “Yesterday” when they first ran in December 2015 didn’t know that – as I related earlier, Legends didn’t debut until January 2016 – but those of us who came the shows later find a decreased level of tension.
Nonetheless, the “Legends” episodes entertain. I like the Arrow crossover, and the inclusion of so many heroes adds life to the series. Even without a ton of tension – and with a feeling that the programs exist mainly to set up Legends of Tomorrow - these two shows offer more excitement than we’ve seen in a while.
By the way, note that “Legends of Yesterday” actually provides an episode of Arrow, not Flash. Since the two shows crossed over, its inclusion here becomes mandatory – as does the presence of “Today” in the Arrow Season Four package.
Running to Stand Still: “Villains James Jesse (Mark Hamill), Captain Cold and Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre) run amok in Central City during Christmas.”
After the big crossover, “Running” comes back with a three-pack of baddies. That approach goes well, as it creates a nice level of fun and excitement. The three villains give the show flair to make it a solid re-entry to the standard narrative following the two-part “Legends” shows.
Potential Energy: “While Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and Iris get to know Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale), Barry considers telling Patty that he’s the Flash. The team hunts down a metahuman who can slow time itself.”
Normally I would appreciate a series’ attempt at a major overall story arc, but in the case of Flash S2, I prefer episodes that focus on various villains and less on the season-long narrative. That helps make “Energy” better than average – while it continues those character developments, the time-slowing baddie gives the show excitement and energy.
The Reverse-Flash Returns: “When Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) gets a vibe of Eobard Thawne (Matthew Letscher), Barry and the team don’t believe it. But after an attack, Dr. Christina McGee (Amanda Pays) confirms that the Reverse-Flash is back.”
After a couple of good semi-standalone episodes, “Returns” immerses us in the main narrative again – and mediocrity results. My problem isn’t with the overall arc – my issue comes from all the soap opera melodrama we find along the way. “Returns” still offers some excitement, but it suffers from a dip after the last few shows.
Fast Lane: “Barry teams up with Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) to figure out how to close the breaches, while Iris – concerned for Wally’s safety – makes a bold move that puts her in danger.”
With a scary new villain in tow, “Fast Lane” comes with a lot of potential. However, it only capitalizes on those areas occasionally, as a lot of it bogs down in the same character tedium. In particular, Wally West’s arc isn’t getting any more interesting.
Welcome to Earth-2: “Barry, Wells and Cisco journey to Earth-2 to rescue Wells’ daughter Jesse (Violett Beane), but Barry’s stunned when he meets Killer Frost and Deathstorm (Robbie Amell).”
Alternate universe stories usually offer fun experiences, and that holds true here. “Welcome” gives us an entertaining take on the similarities/differences found on Earth-2 and also manages to ramp up the action well.
Escape from Earth-2: “In the conclusion of their Earth-2 journey, the team races to find Zoom’s lair by seeking help from an unlikely source. Back on Earth-1, Caitlin rushes to perfect Velocity-9.”
“Escape” brings various events to a head in a lively manner. While I’ve not always enjoyed the path S2 took to get here, I think “Welcome” and “Escape” manage to bring matters home in a satisfying manner. Expect a lot of excitement here.
King Shark: “Arrow’s John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson) cross over to Central City to help Flash with an escaped King Shark.”
Though “Escape” seems like an end to the Earth-2 material, that’s only partly true. “Shark” explores the ramifications of those events and sticks Flash with a big scary baddie. It’s not quite as dynamic as I’d like, but it’s a mostly good episode.
Trajectory: “The Flash faces a new speedster in Central City. Meanwhile, Iris faces a challenge at work, when friction turns to flirtation with her boss (Tone Bell).”
Even with a new villain, “Trajectory” comes across as somewhat limp. We get too much soap opera material and not enough good action. The show feels like it should work better than it does, so it ends up asa mediocre program.
Flash Back: “Determined to stop Zoom forever by increasing his speed, Barry travels back in time to consult his former mentor/nemesis Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne.”
Time travel stories can be fun – or they can be cheap and cheesy. I won’t call “Back” “cheap” or “cheesy”, but it doesn’t provide the thrills I hoped to get. The show gets better as it goes but remains less than stellar.
Versus Zoom: “Equipped with the tachyon device, Barry believes he is fast enough to stop Zoom and convinces Wells and Cisco to open the breach to catch him.”
Much of “Versus” finds the crew in touchy-feely mode, but the action does kick into higher gear as the episode progresses. Some good revelations about Jay add bite and make this one satisfying by the time it ends.
Back to Normal: “A super-strong meta-human named Griffin Grey (Haig Sutherland) mistakes Harry for Earth-1’s Harrison Wells and kidnaps him, demanding that Wells cure him of his current condition.”
I thought the Earth-2 adventures would end a while ago, but they continue here. The biggest shift comes from Barry’s loss of powers – call me crazy, but I suspect he’ll get them back before long. Contrivances aside, “Normal” comes with enough intrigue to succeed.
Rupture: “When Zoom arrives back on Earth-1 with the villain Rupture (Nicholas Gonzalez), Barry and Wells devise a very dangerous plan to stop them forever.”
This episode exists mainly to amp up the threat from Zoom. Honestly, I have to admit I look forward to the season’s end just because this thread got tiresome for me a while back. “Rupture” comes with some interesting twists/drama but it still leaves me eager to see the whole shebang conclude so I don’t have to watch Zoom any more.
The Runaway Dinosaur: “With Barry gone, the team must figure out a way to handle the return of an old enemy, Girder (Greg Finley), by trying to trap him in STAR Labs.”
With the quirky title and Kevin Smith as guest director, I thought “Dinosaur” might go for a lighter/more comedic vibe than usual. The opposite proves true, as much of the show sticks with Barry in limbo where he talks with physical representations of his speed abilities – really!
That’s not a recipe for an entertaining show. The bits with Barry in contemplative mode tend to drag and they feel like they exist for contrived emotion. A few of the bits with Girder entertain but “Dinosaur” falls flat much of the time.
Invincible: “After Zoom unleashes an army of metahumans on Central City, Barry is shaken when he sees their leader is the Black Canary’s Earth-2 doppelganger, the Black Siren (Katie Cassidy).”
Like many other S2 episodes, “Invincible” comes with some good moments, but it gets too bogged down in its own introverted melodrama. That remains my biggest problem with S2: it tries to make Flash into a darker than usual vibe and this doesn’t work especially well for the character. “Invincible” occasionally comes to life but it doesn’t leave me excited for the finale.
The Race of His Life: “Zoom reveals his true plan and Barry vows to do whatever it takes to stop him.”
I won’t say that “Race” brings S2 to a merciful end, as that would offer too much criticism for the year. While it’s clear I didn’t enjoy S2 nearly as much as I liked S1, it’s a good year – it’s just been spottier than I’d like, especially based on the pleasures of S1.
This renders “Race” as a decent but not great finish to the year. While it comes with the requisite drama and action, it doesn’t soar for me simply because I found it so hard to buy into the season’s overall narrative.
None of this makes “Race” a bad show – or S2 a bad collection of episodes. Overall, S2 works moderately well and gives us reasonable entertainment.
However, Season One set the bar pretty high, and I don’t think S2 lives up to the first year. I still think Flash shows potential and I look forward to Season Three, but S2 turns into a moderate disappointment.