Jay Garrick reveals himself to Team Flash as The Flash from another world (which Stein later names Earth-2.) Barry has trouble believing anything Jay says, still burned by his misplaced trust in Harrison Wells. The team runs copious tests on Jay and find that there are no signs of the Speed Force in his body — when he crossed over, he lost his speed. Barry locks him in the Particle Accelerator prison until he can determine if he’s telling the truth. Jay’s story checks out; he explains that the singularity on Earth-1 opened a connecting rip in Earth-2, sucking Jay into it. It also brought over Zoom, Jay’s mysterious speedster archnemesis whose goal is to destroy every speedster across all worlds, and his sights are now set on Barry. Zoom has discovered how to traverse between the two Earths, and plans to bring villains over to fight this Earth’s Flash just as he did with Atom-Smasher. This week, Zoom brings over Sand Demon, a metahuman who can turn into sand. Barry is unable to take him down, but does get the prints to determine his identity as Eddie Slick. Meanwhile, a new cop named Patty Spivot pleads with Joe to let her join the anti-metahuman task force, but Joe denies her request on the grounds that everyone on his task force has died or quit. She tries to prove her worth by tracking down Eddie Slick on her own, and he’s brought in for questioning. He’s released due to lack of probable cause, but they quickly realize he’s the unpowered Eddie Slick from Earth-1…and the powerful Earth-2 version arrives, knocking out Joe and kidnapping Patty.
Jay tries to teach Barry how to harness the energy from his speed and essentially throw lightning — defeating Speed Demon by turning him into glass — but the similarities between Jay and Wells proves too much for Barry. Iris, however, convinces Barry that he needs to get back to believing in people like he used to before Wells betrayed him, helping him realize how important it is to keep everyone in STAR Labs close to him. While trying to figure out where Patty is being kept, Cisco harnesses his latent metahuman power to peer into Sand Demon’s previous locales, and sees his confrontation with Patty in the abandoned Woodrue warehouse with a concussive grenade. Jay puts on his Flash suit to distract Sand Demon while Barry rescues Patty, who is able to harness the lightning and defeat Sand Demon. Afterwards, Patty reveals to Joe that her desire to be on the task force is because her father was killed by the Mardon brothers — the two Weather Wizards — before they got superpowers, and she wants to be able to stop the bad guys who have the ability to do anything. Stein confronts Cisco about his “hunch,” and Cisco explains his power, fearful of seeing things he doesn’t want to see, and asks that Stein keep it a secret. They reveal to the team that they have found 52 tears throughout Central City — the biggest of which is right at the Particle Accelerator — but just after that, Stein collapses and starts convulsing. In the end tag, we see a glimpse of Earth-2, where Harrison Wells is alive and well.
“Flash of Two Worlds” is much more consistent and cohesive than the season premiere, even if it’s too plot-focused to excel as emotionally as its predecessor. This is definitely an episode about making things happen and not so much about making us feel — both of which are things The Flash as a whole has been really, really good at. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an engaging hour, not to mention a particularly strong one.
For an episode tasked with so much long term set-up, it surprisingly doesn’t feel tedious or overstuffed. This is the episode introducing Jay Garrick, Patty Spivot, Iris’s mom, Zoom, not to mention the entire concept of the season’s parallel world storyline, plus kicking off Cisco’s and Stein’s arcs, all of which are big concepts. So for “Flash of Two Worlds” to feel so uncluttered is a testament to the brisk plotting of the episode.
Part of that is because the main story of the episode — Barry overcoming his distrust of Jay — is essentially the aftermath of season one’s Harrison Wells arc. Whereas the premiere hinged on how Barry dealt with Eddie’s and Ronnie’s deaths, this follow-up deals with the events that caused those deaths. The first episode of the season was very character-centric as a result, but this macro-view of Barry’s general trust issues fits well as the linchpin of such a plot-heavy installment. Barry’s issue is clear from the start, and it’s easy to track as he steadily overcomes the barriers he’s put up. It’s nothing terribly complex or even particularly introspective here — the solution essentially amounts to Iris telling him to “believe in people” — but it works for an episode like this.
That issue also mediates something we were worried about regarding Jay Garrick: would he just be another mentor/father figure for Barry? That ends up being Barry’s exact thought-process; the poor guy had one mentor utterly betray him, and last week his real dad up and left. It makes perfect sense that Barry wouldn’t be excited to bring another person like that into his life, especially when that person suspiciously offers to bestow a wealth of knowledge that sounds ridiculous. The similarities between Jay and Wells is clever writing — both are experienced speedsters who lost their powers, both wanted to teach Barry how to be stronger, both have mysterious backgrounds that tie into the larger arc. Barry doesn’t feel in the wrong, even though he very clearly is, and that’s all thanks to how this builds on what we already know about his experience and sympathize with him. If there’s one major flaw, it’s that it doesn’t directly touch on Henry Allen’s abrupt departure — which in the show’s timeline just happened a night or two earlier — because it’s not hard to read Barry’s resurfaced mentor distrust as a result of that, too.
In any case, it’s not just about trust — it is, as Iris states, about believing in people in general. Barry excelled as a hero in the first season because of his unbreakable optimism, and so far this season he’s had a decidedly darker outlook. We saw shades of this darker Barry back in “The Trap,” and that certainly led to his failure. It doesn’t feel like backtracking thanks to the circumstances, but certainly makes it satisfying when Barry overcomes this hurdle finally teams up with Jay. The trust issues help skirt past the usual “heroes fight each other before teaming-up” — a trope that even this very show used — because it still has the two heroes go through an down period to make the joy of an inevitable tag-team in the climax palpable.
And of course, there’s that climax, which not-so-slyly recreates the iconic “Flash of Two Worlds” comic cover to ridiculous detail. The action sequence that precedes it is one of the show’s best, with great music and lightning effects as Flash races to save Patty, only to be hit by the concussive bomb. But the much-hyped comic recreation that ends the scene is an admittedly hokey moment, staged rather awkwardly with the sole intention to get those specific poses. It’s fun and silly and cute, don’t get me wrong, and it’s a fanboy-squee-inducing thing only The Flash could really pull off. But it normally does better at making these in-jokes and references a little more organic.
Teddy Sears is a commanding presence as Jay, and that authoritative air helps establish him as a mentor-like role despite being in close age to Barry. Sears has a notable big brother chemistry with Grant Gustin, and it will be fun to see the two play together further now that the barriers have broken down. His aesthetic matches his personality — he’s in the style of an old-fashioned, 50s era serial hero, and Sears plays Jay like a man out of time. He’s not, of course, as the well-rendered end tag reveals that Earth-2’s America is a stylized, 50s-inspired art deco culture. It will be exciting to see more of Earth-2 and Jay based on our glimpses here, especially with references to the “War of Americas,” an explanation for where his otherwise out-of-place helmet came from.
However, the Earth-2 villains ought to match that air too. So far they haven’t been much different from typical Flash villains, albeit a little stronger. Kett Turton (who also played Smallville‘s first invisible man) does nice dual work as Eddie Slick and his doppleganger, adjusting the thickness of his accent and general villainy of his delivery between the two. But there’s never the sense that Earth-2 Sand Demon is a villain from the same world stylized world wee see at episode’s end, nor does he seem like the type of old school villain we’d have expected Jay to face off against. The effects for him are great — basically on par with the much-bigger budget of Spider-Man 3 — but as per usual with the metahuman characters, he’s not much more than just a bad guy.
Hopefully that will improve as the show continues to flesh out the parallel universe, now that the introductions are out of the way. There’s a hefty chunk of time spent on explaining the concept of parallel worlds — of which there are 52 portals to in Central City, in a clever reference. Though, there’s more exposition than probably needed for today’s audience, especially we genre veterans. Joe’s reactions are genuinely funny at first, but despite how on point Jesse L. Martin’s line readings always are, it seems more like Joe is being purposefully oblivious considering just how dumbed-down Stein and Cisco’s explanations are by the end. But then again, we do get Cisco telling Joe “Bless your heart,” so that just about makes up for it.
Zoom is promising here too, even if he’s not much more than an evolution of how Reverse-Flash was portrayed early on. As expected, Zoom is a mysterious, monstrous version of The Flash, made more mysterious considering he came from Earth-2 but looks like The Flash of Earth-1. Tony Todd is the perfect voice for this type of character, and it seems like he’s going to be more of a presence than a character, at least for a while. His motivation of “being the only speedster in all worlds” seems like a misdirect, because it’s way too simple for this show, so it will be interesting to see where this goes. He’s already upped the ante by throwing substantially more powerful metas at The Flash, to the point that the team has resorted to being lethal in both cases — something I dearly hope the show addresses soon — and there’s a definite sense that the stakes are higher.
Patty Spivot is also more of a presence than expected, especially considering her role as yet another love interest, and one who was to be modeled after Felicity Smoak. That last part doesn’t really check out, but that’s a good thing — Shantel Vansanten captures a unique energy for Patty, displaying spunky and geeky elements perhaps lifted from Felicity, but with much more confidence and solid footing. Patty is interesting because she seems to have such a steady head on her shoulders, not to mention a tragic backstory, but still adds to the joyous, jittery energy that makes The Flash so fun.
She’s very much in line with how Smallville tried to play late-entry Cat Grant, a sweet and eccentric newbie with a tragic past who wants to prove herself. But Vansanten has loads more charisma and strength than that character ever did, and she doesn’t ham up the geekiness. The whole “kismet” bit with she and Joe is a weird exchange of dialogue, but Vanstanten actually makes it sound relatively natural. She’ll surely be a divisive character simply because she’s plugged right in the way of Barry’s two other established love interests, but she’s on a much better track as a character than Linda Park was last year (and I’m saying that as someone who really dug Malese Jow as Linda.) The effort to get the sparks flying is a little heavy-handed — she reads Barry’s forensic reports…for fun? — but it’s charming that they’d hit it off so well with Monty Python references. That’s a specific type of geeky we never get to see Barry indulge in with any of his love interests, so it’s easy to see what Patty has to offer that his other suitors don’t.
Cisco, meanwhile, continues to get “vibes” that lead to visions of past events, and the fact that these events always involve death and evil have really shaken him up. This is another promising plot, as it’s the first metahuman power that truly has been a burden rather than fun, not even considering that Wells basically tainted the idea of the Cisco being a metahuman. It’s interesting that this episode has Patty Spivot address the injustice of bad guys getting cool powers, as we see how profoundly affected a good guy getting not cool powers is. It’s unfortunate for Cisco, who would have probably been uber excited to get a more typical superpower, but it gives Carlos Valdes a type of frustration and drama he’s very good at playing. It’s not totally clear how his power works — is it related to alternate timelines and parallel worlds specifically, since he’s only seen them in relation to events in or characters from outside the Earth-1 timeline? Either way, that he confides in Stein is nice for their budding relationship, even if it looks like the show is already starting to get Stein on his way to another separate story arc by episode’s end.
And then, in the style of the Harrison Wells tags of old, we close out with the man who laid the groundwork of all this grief and distrust in the first place. Earth-2 Harrison Wells isn’t exactly a shocker if you’ve seen Tom Cavanaugh’s name in the credits, but it does tie together this season’s major plots: Recovering from the damage Harrison Wells did, and Earth-2 in general. As a starting point, “Flash of Two Worlds” does a nice job reconciling those two storylines, and powering ahead as we’d expect. Even with the quantity of material we get, it’s still only a mere dip into the larger ocean of a plot this season is sure to provide. But it’s no less promising or exciting.
Odds & Ends
- You can’t tell me the wormhole we see in this episode wasn’t at least partially inspired by the vortex on Sliders. (Also I’ll never stop arguing for that show to have a remake.)
- This episode is packed with obscure references, from the abandoned Woodrue warehouse to a namedrop of Joe’s first partner that we all forgot about, who’s also a comic character.
- How exactly does Caitlin measure how much “Speed Force” could be in Jay’s body? Is there a scale for that stuff?
- Iris doesn’t have much to do this week, but I like her role as the person Barry can open up to in a way he doesn’t completely to anyone else. That worked well last week and this week. It’s not totally clear what she does with the rest of the STAR Labs team — I expect she could use her journalism contacts the same way Clark Kent does as Superman — but we haven’t seen much of that yet.
- That said, I love Iris and Caitlin hanging out together and fawning over a hottie. “I was being thorough!”
- Also, Iris’ mom shows up, so we’ll see where that goes. We’re still waiting for Wally West, right?
- Green Arrow’s heroic speech pops up on a television screen — with Cisco remarking that he “hates when they put a color in their name.” I’d be okay if the shows kept their references to background gags like this except for the major crossovers.
- I like that Caitlin bonds with Jay via their respective losses, no matter how different those losses are. This wiser, healing version of her character is really working for me.
- “Gettin’ goosies!” may be my new favorite Cisco line. Victor Garber’s silly, excited run out of that scene is also adorable.
- “Hey, beautiful mind? I think you need to take a breather.”