Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Flash Makes Multiverse Theory Explicit With "Flash Of Two Worlds!"

The Good: Good moments of character, Decent performances
The Bad: Very basic plot
The Basics: "Flash Of Two Worlds" establishes that the second season of The Flash will deal with villains from alternate realities when Jay Garrick arrives to help The Flash pursue the Sand Demon from his Earth.

At the climax of the first season finale of The Flash, "Fast Enough" (reviewed here!), a giant wormhole singularity was created over Central City. That grew out of a tear in the space/time continum formed by the wormhole that Eobard Thawne used to attempt his trip home. The event that prompted Thawne to power up his time machine was the appearance of a metal helmet that fell through the wormhole, which he recognized as coming from an alternate reality. With the second episode of the new season of The Flash, fans are not left wondering exactly what is going on long.

"Flash Of Two Worlds" is the second episode and it picks up immediately after "The Man Who Saved Central City" (reviewed here!). In the final moment of "The Man Who Saved Central City," the S.T.A.R. Labs Flash team was giving itself a pat on the back when Jay Garrick appeared to warn Barry Allen and his team that their world was in trouble. "Flash Of Two Worlds" picks up right at that moment.

With Jay Garrick appearing at S.T.A.R. Labs, the Flash team is surprised to learn that Atom Smasher was from an alternate reality. Cisco and Dr. Stein try to explain multiverse theory to Joe, who gets frustrated and leaves. Jay claims to be a speedster from an alternate reality where Earth is slightly different and he says that he has been on our Earth for six months, powerless, gathering information on the Flash team's identities. He tells the story of how he was nearly defeated by the villainous speedster Zoom when he was sucked through the singularity into our universe. Joe returns to the Central City Police Department where he is accosted by Patty Spivot, a new recruit who wants to join his Anti-Metahuman Task Force. Joe is resistant to having her work with him and he pushes her away. After Dr. Snow runs a number of inconclusive tests on Garrick, Barry runs out to stop a fire, where he encounters a metahuman.

Investigating the scene of the crime the next morning, Barry concludes that the fire was arson. Patty, however, theorizes that a metahuman is the arsonist and she asks Barry for help in getting onto Joe's task force. At S.T.A.R. Labs, Garrick identifies the sand residue from the crime scene as belonging to a metahuman from his Earth named Sand Demon. Garrick wants to teach Barry how to defeat Sand Demon, but Barry is anxious because of his feelings for how Eobard Thawne betrayed him. Joe discovers that Eddie Slick is the mundane identity of Sand Demon and tracks him down, but he finds our universe's version of him. When Slick is released, Sand Demon takes Patty Spivot hostage. With the help of Jay Garrick and Cisco's new powers, The Flash goes on a mission to rescue Patty.

One of the more annoying aspects of "Flash Of Two Worlds" is how the characters continue to refer to Eobard Thawne as "Harrison Wells." They know that Thawne killed Wells and replaced him for over a decade . . . it's insulting and imprecise that the group of scientists continues to refer to him by his alias's name. Similarly, Joe and other characters seem to be pretty slow on the uptake with the idea that alternate universe characters are in our universe, which seems especially dense after Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher in the prior investigation.

The only other real aspect of "Flash Of Two Worlds" that is troubling is Victor Garber's presentation of Dr. Stein. Stein has suddenly seemed over-the-top at a few key moments - in the prior episode, it was when he named Atom Smasher - and that is Garber's performance of him. While this might be deliberate, especially given where Stein ends at the end of the episode, it bodes poorly for Legends Of Tomorrow if Garber's Stein becomes ridiculous. The most sensible explanation for the sudden wackiness of Dr. Stein is that he is suffering ill-effects from the death of his other half, six months prior.

That said, "Flash Of Two Worlds" does quite a lot right. While the plot is simplistic as a "defeat the metahuman of the week" story, it is peppered in with enough character moments to keep it entertaining and engaging. Cisco now understands his powers, though he is not at all comfortable with them. He uses his ability to see different times deliberately and that speaks well to his character. He is a young man who wants to do good and he feels like the team must use all the tools at their disposal to succeed and in "Flash Of Two Worlds," he embodies that determination well. Carlos Valdes plays the moments well and there is something heartbreaking in his performance when Cisco asks Dr. Stein to keep his power secret.

While actress Danielle Panabaker is given the chance to open the character of Dr. Snow up with some fun, flirtatious moments - Dr. Snow is instantly smitten by Jay Garrick - the timing is a bit harder to handle for the character. Dr. Snow spent months cold and distance after the apparent death of Ronnie Raymond when the particle accelerator appeared to kill him. After eight months of mourning, she discovered he was alive and reluctantly had to let him go while he and Dr. Stein went on the run. After getting him back and getting married to him for a whole day, she lost him again. Now, only six months later, she's smitten again.

The two new characters, Jay Garrick and Patty Spivot, are introduced well in "Flash Of Two Worlds." Barry Allen and Patty Spivot instantly gel and their scene outside Slick's interrogation room is wonderful (and holds up over multiple viewings!). Jay Garrick instantly steps in as a new mentor character and while "Flash Of Two Worlds" offers a lot of exposition about the new villain Zoom (I'm placing my bet that he's Barry Allen from Jay Garrick's Earth now!), but his characterization as a patient, rational scientist makes him play very well with the S.T.A.R. Labs team.

Actress Shantel VanSanten sets the bar for Patty Spivot exceptionally high with her first episode. In "Flash Of Two Worlds," she plays determined (in trying to get onto Joe's team), goofy (when playing nerd with Barry Allen) and hurt (when giving character backstory in the episode's final act). In short, Van Santen has great range, which she shows in her first The Flash outing. If she has a deeper well for range, this season might have some truly powerful moments.

Ultimately, "Flash Of Two Worlds" does exceptionally well exactly what it needs to. The season premiere is responsible for tying up loose ends and laying the framework of the new season; the second episode has to firm up the framework for the new season and push the season's concept forward enough to hook the viewers. With Garrick, Spivot, the few shots of Zoom, and the whole introduction of multiverse villains, "Flash Of Two Worlds" does all it is supposed to!

For other episodes with multiverse theory, check out my reviews of:
"Parallels" - Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Rise Of The Cybermen" - Doctor Who
"Parallel Lives" - VR.5


For other television episode and season reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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