The Flash S02E01 “The Man Who Saved Central City” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: Sky 1, Tuesdays, 8pm
Writers: Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg (story); Andrew Kreisberg & Gabrielle Stanton (teleplay)
Director: Ralph Hemecker
Essential Plot Points:
- The Flash saves Central City from the singularity, but only with help from Firestorm, who paid for his efforts with half his life – Ronnie died but Dr Stein survived.
- A depressed Barry decides to go it alone from here on in, fearing that working as a team puts his friends in danger.
- But when a new metahuman, Atom Smasher, almost kills Barry, Joe convinces him he needs his team behind him. Barry agrees and together Team Flash defeats Atom Smasher.
- With his dying breath Atom Smasher says that someone called Zoom ordered him to kill Barry, in return for which Zoom would send him home.
- Part of Harrison Wells’s will is a video confession that he killed Henry Allen. Henry is freed as a result but immediately leaves town saying he would get in the way of Barry’s new life, immediately winning the award for Most Ungracious Dad Of The Year award, though Barry is very understanding.
- Some guy called Jay Garrick turns up at STAR Labs saying that his “world” is in danger.
The Flash is back! And while, if the prepublicity is anything to go by, this coming season promises to shake the formula up big time, “The Man Who Saved Central City” follows the season one blueprint very closely. The only thing missing is a scene with Barry and Iris looking adoringly at each other before going, “Nah, not gonna work…” and that’s no great loss. Hell, Joe even gets to say, “Run, Barry run!” in Wells’ absence.
There are a few hints of what’s to come. The final scene, of course with Jay Garrick showing up and announcing his world is in danger. It’s a great cliffhanger if you recognise the name, slightly underwhelming if it means sod all to you, especially as he’s not even in costume. Then there’s Cisco having another of his visions of an alternate reality. Quite why he’s reluctant to tell anybody about it isn’t clear as of Team Sky knows he has that ability after last season. You’d think he’s be going, “Hey guys, not quite sure what this mean but something that’s probably important has just happened.” But that’s never how TV works…
And then there’s the opening scene, in which everything in hunky dory and catching crims is a blast. It’s clearly supposed to be Barry’s day dream – or, indeed, a pipe dream – but in a season where multiple, even infinite, alternate worlds will become an important element, there is the teasing possibility that on one of them that exact scenario may well be taking place.
Aside from that, “The Man Who Saved Central City” is formulaic The Flash. Luckily, The Flash has a very good formula, and the writers are deft at making it work. This is slick small screen heroics with enough genuine heart and wit to give it a charm beyond its comic book action. The script is economical to the point of thrifty; look how it repositions Barry from moping blame-masochist to cheery team player in three easy steps; flashback, talking to and revelation. It could all be mechanically manipulative but dialogue is precision-built for maximum emotion out of minimum schmaltz while the acting is above and beyond, especially from Grant Gustin and Jesse L Martin.
There are clunky moments. In a machine with as many moving parts as a Flash episode (think how many elements it’s juggling) the gears are bound to crunch occasionally. Dr Stein’s sudden conversion to grinning geek feels a little like false jollity. Atom Smasher looks a bit silly and is totally wasted in a B-plot masquerading as an A-plot. And Caitlin’s big emotional moment about blaming herself for Ronnie’s death suffers from her being last in the queue of blame. If anything, the episode almost tries to cover too much ground.
It also suffers from some sub-par special FX which is slightly worrying for an all-important season premiere, but hopefully they’re saving the budget for bigger things down the line.
So, a good episode but not a great one. That’s nothing to worry about, though. You get the feeling “The Man Who Saved Central City” had to finish up a lot of necessary housekeeping, and from next week we’ll be seeing season two begin properly.
- That tear. So understated. So powerful. It’s amazing to see a male superhero cry because of self pity (crying over the death of a close friend/family member is different) but Gustin makes you want to hug him rather than go, “Pull yourself together you big softie!” To be honest, the dialogue in the scene is nothing special but Gustin and Jesse L Martin bring a whole new dimension of heart and depth to it.
- You have to love Cisco’s sartorial choice for Flash Day – a red shirt with little yellow lightning bolts all over it. Where can we buy one?
- Wells’s confession is wonderfully unexpected development.
- Great line: “Hello Barry, if you’re watching this, that means something has gone horribly wrong. I’m dead and the last 15 years have been for nothing. Bummer.”
- Great moment: “That’s where you’ll find your atom smasher… because he absorbs atomic power… and he, well, smashes.” “Come here. That’s a great name. Welcome to the team.”
- The FX shot above was terrible – it looked like some body wearing a Ronnie Raymond cardboard mask. Somebody on the editing team clearly thought the same and kept the shot as brief as possible.
- Although not quite as bad, some of the overly smooth, bendy-doll CG on Atom Smasher had the unfortunate effect of making him look like Stretch Armstrong.
- The villains-of-the-week in this show often little more than plot devices designed to get the main characters from emotional and/or arc plot point A to emotional and/or arc plot point B, but even granting that Atom Smasher has about as much depth as a puddle.
- Henry Allen’s excuse for getting right out of town is selfish to the point of suspiciously like hiding something else. Why doesn’t Barry question it more? And if he’s not hiding something, what an ungrateful git!
- The game of blame one-upmanship for Ronnie’s “death” becomes a bit tedious after a while (not that we believe he’s dead for a moment… he’s bound to be in a parallel reality somewhere).
And The Random:
- Weathersby & Stone, the legal firm dealing with Wells’s will, is the name of the fictional law firm in the show Eli Stone, in which Victor Garber played a regular character, and which The Flash executive producer Greg Berlanti also worked on an as exec.
- Previously in the show, Albert Rothstein was listed as one of the people killed when the particle accelerator exploded, a fact which seems to be disputed by this episode (he was killed at the start of the epsisode and Cisco says he wasn’t even in the city when the accelerator had its hissyfit). So, continuity error? Or something more complex to do with all this multiworlds stuff?
- 52 Spotting: There were lots of uses of the number 52 in season one (a reference to DC’s New 52 line, presumably) and this appears to be continuing in season two. Not only do we have the return of Channel 52 but look at the car registration plate in the image at the very top of the page.
- The Flash’s costume now has the white emblem that the future Flash wore in season one. To quote the Doctor here: “Bootstraps paradox: Google it.”
- How come Cisco missed the opportunity to call this the “Flash Light”? He does make an oblique reference to Batman though when Caitlin asks him where he got the idea from: “I think I saw it in a comic book somewhere.”
- Atom Smasher is played by WWE Superstar Edge, aka, Adam Copeland, who has also had a recurring role on Haven in recent years. Atom Smasher first appeared in All-Star Squadron #25 (September, 1983) and is actually a superhero in the DC world. He’s been a member of the Justice Society Of America and is god son of Al Pratt, the Golden Age Atom. He did go evil for a while but that happens to every superhero.
- Not so much a goof as a oddity: two newspapers with exactly the same headline?
- Vito D’Ambrosio returns as Mayor Anthony Bellows (he was last seen in season one’s “Tricksters”). He also appeared in 17 episodes the 1990 The Flash series playing a cop called… Officer Tony Bellows!