Nov 1, 2015
The Flash: Mainstream, but Renegades
So here’s the thing. This spring, the Flash finale happened. And the week the Flash finale happened, I…moved to New York City. And by moved, I mean I slept on an air mattress in the to-be nursery of a grad school friend’s sister in Brooklyn because I had two weeks to find a place to live and the place I found didn’t actually become available until June 1, but I had to start my job on May 18. So with nothing but my netbook, and no legal or illegal way to watch the Flash finale, and then no furniture for two more weeks after I moved myself and my dog into my apartment, I…never wrote a recap. And now there is a Flash premiere! And here is a recap for the Flash premiere! But I’m not going to go back and write one for the finale. I will, however, provide a (much abbreviated) summary, because I’m nice like that.
Harribard continues to manipulate things from his particle prison by pinkie swearing to Barry that if he runs Mach 2 he can save his mom. Barry takes a vote of his friends and family about rewriting the timeline. Adoptive Hot Dad says yes, Biological Hot Dad says no, Iris is noncommittal, Cisco is unsure; it was a pretty useless poll. Barry decides to risk his life (if he fails to run fast enough) and Earth’s life (if he doesn’t come back and shut down the wormhole in time) to give it a try. Harribard will, meanwhile, escape back to his own time, and good riddance. Barry successfully travels back, but decides not to save his mom because Reasons. He does get to have an extended and tearful goodbye with her, and then returns to punch Harribard and his time machine (Rip Hunter shoutout and Jay Garrick hat! Woo!!) in the face. Harribard rants and raves but ultimately falls victim to coincidence, because his great-great-whatever-grandfather, Eddie, commits suicide to erase him from existence (this was actually a really awesome arc and scene). But even though Caitlin and Ronnie shut down the wormhole, it somehow magically becomes a black hole anyway, and Barry has to run really fast to, um, turn it off, just like he did with that tornado because singularities and tornadoes are pretty much the same thing. Also: Ronnie and Caitlin got married, and Harrison tells Cisco he’s a metahuman.
And now season 2! If you need previouslies, reread that paragraph above.
We open not with voiceover, but with a fight. Barry is taking on Captain Cold and Heat Wave, but he’s not worried; he’s confident. He outruns them and gets them to fire on each other, and then Firestorm shows up just in time to knock out Leonard. Barry quickly dissembles his gun and leaves him for the oncoming sirens.
Barry and Ronnie joyfully head back to STARLS, and you-the-viewer start to get a feeling that something about this scene isn’t right. Cisco high-fives Barry, Caitlin and Ronnie kiss – with Martin thankfully out of the Firestorm merge – and Joe congratulates Barry. But then Eddie does, too. And then Harrison does, too. And then we fade back to Barry, standing alone in STARLS, with full-on emo face.
Voiceover, because this is the real world. The words are the ones you remember, but the delivery is subdued. And at the end, you get why: he failed in his mission to save his mother and get justice for his father. And six months after the events of the season 1 finale, he is apparently going solo to keep his friends and family “safe,” which is superhero-speak for “I like being an emo kid.” The face of things in Central City has clearly changed, though, because there are huge banners up on the buildings proclaiming “Flash Day.”
CSI!Barry is on the scene of a murder at the nuclear plant, and things between him and Joe are clearly strained as they make case-related small talk. Barry, who I should stress is a forensic tech and not a medical examiner, tells Joe the dead welder was strangled, but it was not Grodd. Joe tentatively asks if Barry is going to make an appearance at Flash Day, and Barry isn’t sure. He clearly doesn’t think he deserves the accolades. As he leaves the crime scene, a sketchy photographer takes some shots of him.
Back at the police station, it’s exposition central (get it, because it’s Central City?) as we learn that Cisco is the CCPD’s new Anti-Metahuman Task Force Scientific Advisor, who does not get a badge; Caitlin is working at Mercury Labs but isn’t in contact with them; Barry is all lone wolf; Iris is totally over Eddie’s death except for a brief bit of emo when she sees his picture on a memorial wall; and they still have conversations about Barry being the Flash in the middle of crowded places.
Barry, meanwhile, is speed-renovating Jitters, which is, I hope, a throwback to this panel:
He and Iris talk a bit about his emo-ness, she tries to convince him to come to the damn rally, and then we flashback to the day-saving event: Barry has stabilized the singularity by “adding to its angular momentum” (real life check: mmhm.) But they still have to “merge the inner and outer event horizons” (real life check: mmmmhm.) And the only way to do that is for Firestorm to separate inside it. Caitlin protests (of course), but Ronnie knows it’s the only way. He and Martin quickly merge and blast up into the eye of the singularity. They separate; Barry is able to catch the falling Martin, but Ronnie is nowhere in sight. The singularity is also not in sight.
Cisco and Joe are hanging out at the Flash rally, which is a veritable sea of yellow and red, and turns out Caitlin is there too! And Martin! And so is Iris, of course. Also, the creepy photog from the welder crime scene! And probably the welder’s killer, given there’s a big dude in a hoodie shouldering rudely through the crowd. The mayor is speaking, and he assures the crowd that all the weirdness and tragedy is a fair trade-off for having the Flash watching over them. Then he’s presenting the key to the city to the Flash, who…actually shows up! Barry waves to the crowd, but before he can take the key, a Doctor Doom knockoff throws a food cart onto the stage, so Barry has to rescue the mayor instead.
The Doctor Doom/Bane lovechild (comic check: judging by the mask and the sleeveless vest, this is Atom-Smasher, and even though that costume belongs to Al Rothstein, and even though IMDB says the character is Al Rothstein, Al…wasn’t a villain) knocks Barry easily aside and…triggers some sort of metahuman flashback thing in Cisco.
Joe yelling snaps him out of it, and he’s got a new toy for the anti-meta task force. Joe shoots Al around the ankle, but the energy that’s supposed to take him down just makes him stronger, so he snaps off the anklet. Barry comes to and collects a compressed gas canister from a nearby food truck. His canister and Joe’s bullet cause an explosion that miraculously harms no one but Al, who shrinks back down, removes his mask long enough to show everyone he’s the not-so-dead welder from earlier, then puts his mask back on and runs away. Okay.
At the police station, Cisco and Joe verify that the dead welder was in fact in the morgue all night and also wasn’t in Central City when the accelerator exploded in the first place. Weirder, according to Iris, a bunch of imaging machines in a nearby hospital failed all at the same time, and Cisco is pretty sure it wasn’t him causing that, though of course we all know that anybody named “Atom-Smasher” might wreak some havoc. Iris and Joe also talk about how they might keep Barry from continuing to push them away, and Iris is pretty sure that not letting him is the answer. Profound!
Cisco visits Caitlin at Mercury Labs (Tina McGee from S1:E9 and S1:E18 is her boss) and admires all her sweet tech, but of course he’s there to get her help on their meta problem, even though she claims she’s out of the game. Cisco’s sweet-talking works, and she takes the little bit of evidence from the scene.
Barry is moping in the Worst Lab Ever (update: still a terrible lab) when an attorney comes by. Turns out Harrison left Barry the STAR Labs property in his will, but to actually retain ownership, Barry has to watch a video message that Harrison left on a flash drive (ha). Barry tells the lawyer he will not be watching it. Mmhm.
As he’s pointedly Not Watching it, he gets an alert that there’s been an unauthorized entry at STARLS, and he speeds over to find Cisco, Martin, Iris, and Joe working on the problem of the Atom-Smasher. Per Iris’ suggestion of not letting Barry push them away, they all ignore him sputtering at them and proceed to nail down Al’s hideout. They officially dub him Atom-Smasher – it’s Martin who comes up with the name, and it earns him a hug from Cisco, who clearly approves. But Barry gets the last word, so to speak, by leaving his earpiece behind so they can’t talk to him when he goes to find Al.
Atom-Smasher is literally breathing in radiation from…um, apparent barrels of radiation? Okay. As the team hacks into the security cameras, Barry’s wind arms don’t work and neither do his punches, but at Martin’s suggestion, Cisco turns on the alarm system long enough to distract Al – who doesn’t even get to give us a proper villain monologue! – and allow Barry to escape back to STARLS…
…where he passes out in the hall and into a FLASHback. Joe is trying to feed young Barry his favorite, mac and cheese, but Barry refuses to eat. Joe tells Barry he doesn’t have to be angry to be strong and that he’s allowed to be sad. Barry hugs him, and it’s sweet.
When Barry comes to, Joe informs him that they’re not staying away from Barry anymore and that he can blame himself but he can’t pretend nobody else made any decisions. And also since he’s been rebuilding the city, maybe he should rebuild his own life gosh Barry.
He goes to see Caitlin at Mercury Labs, and she assures him she doesn’t blame him for Ronnie’s death. She blames herself because she didn’t leave Central City when Ronnie asked her to. Of course, then all of Central City would be dead, but whatever, Caitlin. When Barry offers her a handkerchief for her tears, the FLASH drive falls out of his pocket even though we saw him throw it decisively on his desk earlier. Caitlin suggests that if Barry’s afraid to watch it, they could do it together.
And I admit, I did not expect Harrison’s message. Sure, I figured he’d be “old” Harrison, not the villain we’d gotten used to, and I expected him to try and tell Barry he wasn’t the real enemy, which he did, a bit. But most importantly: he confessed, on video, to the murder of Nora Allen. Knowing that Barry could do nothing else to get his revenge if Harrison were dead (or successfully back in the future), he gave Barry the means to free his father.
Back at STARLS, things are sounding good on the phone with the DA to free Henry Allen, and Caitlin has an idea to stop the Atom-Smasher, which begins with a Bat Flash Signal. They lure Al to Barry, who runs away, leading the bad guy into the nuclear power plant. They trap him in the reactor core and turn it on, somehow, and since he can’t absorb it all, he shrinks back down to normal size, dying. Barry asks why he was trying to kill him, and Al chokes out that “he” promised to take him home if he killed Barry. Who is he? Zoom, although the way Al says it sounds more like “Zelma” (comic check: Zoom, a.k.a. Hunter Zolomon, was the son of a serial killer in the comics who ended up becoming a profiler and BFFs with Wally West (Barry’s successor as Flash), but then later he was paralyzed by Grodd and so, comics being comics, became a villain).
Henry walks out of Iron Heights Penitentiary, and Barry is there to hug him. They head to Joe’s house, all of Team Flash is there to greet him, and…it’s really sweet. There’s cake and punch and champagne and “Renegades” by X Ambassadors (a.k.a. my new favorite song), and everyone hugs. Joe gives Cisco his very own police badge. Martin gives a speech, and since he told us all he was ordained as a Rabbi when Caitlin and Ronnie got married, he offers the Hebrew word “kadima” meaning “forward.”
Barry suggests to Henry they should find an apartment, and he could get his medical license back (after 14 years? I hope there’s some continuing education involved) or come work with Team Flash at STARLS. But Henry doesn’t think he can stay. He thinks Barry won’t continue to grow with him around, because he’ll devote all his attention to Henry, and not to the Flash. Barry doesn’t understand, but Henry’s frankly probably right. He wants Barry’s approval to leave, and Barry nods; they hug.
The next day, Barry is melancholy after dropping Henry off at the train station (it’s not clear where he’s going, or with what money), but he clearly starts to feel better when Joe gives him the key to the city. The rest of the team is in the Cortex (yes, I finally called it that) telling him about upgrades to STARLS security and his suit. Iris swears that people can’t just wander in and out of STARLS anymore, and so of course, someone wanders into STARLS.
No worries, though! It’s Jay Garrick! He was a Flash! He was the FIRST Flash!
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