Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tease The Fans: Why "Welcome To Earth-2" Is So Successful For Fans Of The Flash!

The Good: Awesome acting, Great character moments, Engaging plot
The Bad: Some bad editing/direction, Minutia
The Basics: "Welcome To Earth-2" puts Cisco and Barry Allen on Earth-2 in a distracted attempt to rescue Jesse Wells from Zoom.

As a fan of the graphic novels for The Flash, there are a number of things that have come up on the television series The Flash that I have not yet known. To wit, last year when the DC Comics Super-Villains trading cards (reviewed here!), I had to look up information on the prominently appearing character of Killer Frost. Killer Frost is a villainess from the Firestorm books and because Firestorm has appeared in The Flash, it was quickly spoiled for me that the character of Dr. Caitlin Snow in the television show had the potential to go that way. Caitlin Snow, in the books, is one of the incarnations of Killer Frost and knowing that, there are a TON of clues throughout The Flash. For example, Dr. Snow is usually seen wearing white and blue, at least throughout the second season! White and blue are Killer Frost's colors. When Harrison Wells outed Cisco in "The Darkness And The Light" (reviewed here!), his metahuman detector did not indicate Snow was a metahuman (but still, Wells sneered at Snow, which implied he knew she was Killer Frost and they had some personal history on Earth-2!). So, like most fans, I've waited for Killer Frost to appear and I managed to keep the secret of Snow/Killer Frost from my wife, who has fallen in love with the television show for the past eight months! With "Welcome To Earth-2," we are rewarded with seeing Killer Frost and Earth-2 and the payoffs are a lot of fun.

"Welcome To Earth-2" is essentially "Mirror, Mirror" (reviewed here!) for The Flash and the episode, reasonably, pays homage to the classic Star Trek episode. "Welcome To Earth-2" follows on the heels of "Fast Lane" (reviewed here!) with just enough time for Barry Allen to have supper with his family before he makes the leap through the looking glass. Interestingly, the only truly direct tie-in to "Fast Lane" is the character explanation for why Barry Allen is willing to make the trip. Allen now considers Harrison Wells a member of their team and he is willing to forgive Wells for betraying him and stop Zoom, as opposed to sending Wells back to Earth-2 and letting him fend for himself.

Opening with Barry sealing up all of the rifts to the Multiverse around Central City, save the one in the basement of S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry has a going away meal with Iris and Joe. Iris expresses her concerns to Barry, but shortly thereafter, Cisco, Allen and Wells go through the final breach to Earth-2. The device that allows them to make the leap malfunctions, leaving Dr. Snow and Garrick to work desperately to fix it. On Earth-2, Barry Allen discovers things are just a bit off from how he remembers them and Harrison Wells is troubled by how Zoom attacks have escalated in his absence. Knocking out his Earth-2 counterpart, Barry Allen replaces Bartholomew Allen to try to get information on Zoom's location. Unfortunately, Barry gets sidetracked with his counterpart's life with Iris and the fact that his mother is still alive.

While Barry and Iris are out, they are attacked by Killer Frost and Deathstorm. On Earth-1, a new metahuman, Geomancer, pops up to wreak havoc on Central City, taking advantage of the perceived absence of the Flash. Jay Garrick is unwilling to take Velocity-6 again to attempt to save Central City, which prompts him to be honest with Dr. Snow about his medical condition. On Earth-2, the attack from Killer Frost and Deathstorm leaves Barry shaken and it puts his team in a position to learn about the true hierarchy of Zoom's organization. When Cisco encounters his doppelganger and Zoom appears to capture Barry, all appears lost.

"Welcome To Earth-2" risks, but manages not to fall into the trap of, becoming a kitsch episode that plays on the spectacle of the constant reversals of the primary Earth-2 characters. Intermixed with Jay Garrick being honest about his issues with Velocity-6 blends with Joseph West sternly deriding Barry Allen at Jitterbug's. The serious character moments play as substantive against the gleeful shock value of seeing Killer Frost, Deathstorm, and Reverb. The Earth-1 plotline with Geomancer feels more like filler (and potentially a set-up for a somewhat ridiculous climax in the second part) than a truly legitimate and developed plotline.

The character elements in "Welcome To Earth-2" keep the show engaging. While reversals with people like Deadshot (Floyd Lawton) are amusing, Barry Allen's sudden obsession with avenging Joseph West illustrates well the depth of his love for his father. The mission to Earth-2 is initially focused, but Barry Allen quickly derails it unintentionally and that is fascinating to watch. Also impressive is the late-in-the-episode appearance of Reverb and his interactions with Cisco.

The acting in "Welcome To Earth-2" is some of the series's best. While Jesse L. Martin is predictably fabulous, as always, the episode finally allows Danielle Panabaker to illustrate her exceptional range. Panabaker plays both Dr. Snow and Killer Frost and the roles require her to not just look completely different, but to perform at opposite ends of the emotive spectrum. Panabaker delivers for The Flash like she never has before in "Welcome To Earth-2!" Similarly, Carlos Valdes acting opposite himself makes for one of the most memorable episodes of the entire series thus far!

The details in "Welcome To Earth-2" are slightly off. Jay Garrick immediately leaps to a probable conclusion as to why the cannon blows out after the team travels through it to Earth-2. Given that the team is made up of scientists and Garrick realizes so quickly what happened, it seems odd that the group did not discuss and anticipate the possibility and shore up the device to prevent it from stranding the team on Earth-2. Similarly, while fans might absolutely geek out over Hal, Diana and Bruce appearing on Bartholomew Allen's speed dial, one has to question how Zoom could rise to and retain power over Central City if Allen could just call in such powerful members of the Justice League at a moment's notice!

Similarly, the editing in "Welcome To Earth-2" is noticeably off. The way the episode is cut, it seems like Deathstorm is as fast as The Flash and their race around Central City is problematically truncated. Similarly, the sudden appearance of The Flash's helmet on a statue is somewhat ridiculously placed (statues seldom are molded with such detachable parts!). The timeframe for Dr. Snow developing Velocity-7, which apparently happens in a single afternoon(!), is only accomplished by denying the weird time-compression that comes from editing.

For other works with alternate universes, please read my reviews of:
"Parallels" - Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Rise Of The Cybermen" - 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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