Thursday, February 18, 2016

Masks And Alternate Universes Become Vital When The Flash Tries To "Escape From Earth-2!"

The Good: Grant Gustin's performance, Danielle Panabaker's acting, Plot pacing and reversals, Moments of character
The Bad: Light on theme, Earth-1 villain
The Basics: "Escape From Earth-2" finishes the story begun in "Welcome To Earth-2" and leaves so many more questions for fans of The Flash!

The Flash has been one of the most pleasant surprises on television the last few years. With its second season heating up, the show refocused with a two-parter that put three of the heroes from The Flash on Earth-2. The two-parter that began with "Welcome To Earth-2" forced a conflict between Harrison Wells and Barry Allen and their mutual nemesis, Zoom. Like any two-parter, The Flash ran the risk of setting up something that it could not deliver upon. Fortunately, the show's streak for pleasant surprises remains unbroken with "Escape From Earth-2." "Escape From Earth-2" is one of the rare second parts that lives up to (or exceeds) the promise made in the first part.

"Escape From Earth-2" is the second part of a single story that began with "Welcome To Earth-2" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without some spoilers on the prior one. "Welcome To Earth-2" climaxed with Barry Allen, on Earth-2, trapped by Zoom in a prison with Jesse Wells and a mysterious stranger, while Geomancer menaces Central City on Earth-1. The bloodbath that ended the first episode sets up the foundation for "Escape From Earth-2" and those who have not seen the first part are likely to be lost and confused with just this episode.

Opening with Zoom hunting for Wells throughout Central City, Cisco reunites with Wells at S.T.A.R. Labs. After recovering the Earth-2 Barry Allen, Wells and Cisco escape to the Earth-2 equivalent of the time vault in S.T.A.R. Labs when Zoom attacks. Narrowly escaping the villainous speedster, the trio regroups to try to come up with a plan. At Zoom's lair, Barry consoles Jesse and together they try to learn the identity of the other prisoner Zoom has there. On Earth-1, Jay Garrick fixes the speed cannon and Iris meets her new boss. While Dr. Snow works to create a new permutation on the drug needed to give Jay Garrick speed, Iris West-Allen is reunited with her husband and helps the team formulate a plan to find the Flash. The Earth-2 Barry Allen uses his research to extrapolate a probable location for Killer Frost's lair as their best plan to finding where Zoom hangs his hat.

Encountering Killer Frost on Earth-2 puts Wells and his team in danger, though Cisco manages to reach the Caitlin Snow part of her that remains at her core. Geomancer attacks S.T.A.R. Labs, leaving Snow and Iris to attempt to stop him. In the process, his attack damages the speed cannon and Garrick, Snow, and both Joe and Iris West. While they work to get it fixed, on Earth-2, the team finds Zoom's lair and encounter the villain in a showdown that puts them all at risk.

"Escape From Earth-2" is not overly flawed, arguably because it does not try to be as clever as "Welcome To Earth-2." The preponderance of easter eggs in "Welcome To Earth-2" created some unforeseen issues for die-hard fans (i.e. fans have to accept that Zoom is more powerful than the combined might of the Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Batman?!), but "Escape From Earth-2" is very straightforward. Outside the special effects surrounding Killer Frost's route to Zoom's lair and the somewhat inconsequential nature of the Geomancer, "Escape From Earth-2" is a pretty tight episode.

With Geomancer very easily disabled, "Escape From Earth-2" is preoccupied with teasing the audience. For sure, there is the wonderful motivational speech from Barry Allen to Barry Allen, but the episode is all about jerking the audience around. The third prisoner spells out "Jay" and confirms that he is talking about Jay Garrick, leading the Flash to make some of the least imaginative guesses and suppositions possible . . . and leading fans to cream themselves with new theories about the identity of Zoom. "Escape From Earth-2" is engaging and well-paced and it may have introduced a time-travel element to Zoom's narrative (and, without confirmation, made its own big mistake). But, at the end of it "Escape From Earth-2" does what most great television does; it gets viewers talking and thinking and theorizing.

What makes "Escape From Earth-2" so engaging on its own is the performances. While "Welcome To Earth-2" was heavy in performance moments from Jesse L. Martin, Carlos Valdes and Danielle Panabaker, "Escape From Earth-2" is dominated on the acting front by Danielle Panabaker and Grant Gustin. Panabaker once again absolutely smashes it as Killer Frost. As Killer Frost, Panabaker is able to play a different skill set than she usually does as Dr. Caitlin Snow. Moreover, Panabaker playing double duty as both Snow and Killer Frost allows her to showcase her range and flexibility with performing and she nails both roles with very different emotional levels (and amazing make-up differences!).

Grant Gustin plays the Earth-2 Bartholomew Allen for the bulk of "Escape From Earth-2" and his super-nerd self is dramatically different from the regular Barry Allen and heroic Flash he usually plays. Bartholomew Allen may be relegated to comedy relief in "Escape From Earth-2" and a big dramatic speech, but Gustin makes the role work. Bartholomew Allen feels like an entirely different character and Gustin is the one who deserves the credit for that.

"Escape From Earth-2" is satisfying and entertaining episode that does what its title promises, but also sets up a potentially big de facto third part when Zoom's identity is finally revealed. The dynamic between Killer Frost and Zoom, the budding powers of Vibe and the man in the mask on Earth-2 make for an episode that is exciting to watch and discuss, even if it is generally not very complicated.

For other works with alternate universes, please read my reviews of:
"Through The Looking Glass" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"Doomsday" - Doctor Who


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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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