A lot of comic fans are giddy about this week’s Flash, and well they should be. The episode title, “Flash of Two Worlds” references one of the absolute classic Silver Age (60’s-80’s) stories. While the exact story is different, the basic element is intact: Barry Allen meets Jay Garrick, the Flash of an alternate Earth.
I always loved Earth-2 stories; the Jay Garrick version of the Flash always interested me. I particularly love that they’ve kept his classic origin largely intact. Teddy Sears mostly does a great job. He’s a little stiffer than I’d like, and his calling Barry “kid” is kind of grating as Mr. Sears is the same age as I am. I may think some of my younger colleagues are kids, but I never would call them on to their faces.
It helps though, that Barry is acting like a kid. He refuses to trust Jay, subjecting him to all kinds of tests. He goes so far as to justify his actions by saying that they’re scientists and a journalist, so they shouldn’t believe anything without constant testing. This is coming from someone who has seen exploding people and telepathic primates. Thankfully, Iris talks him out of being a dick and makes him realize his distrust of Jay is about Wells/Thawn, not Jay.
Speaking of Iris, Candice Patton got to do more than sit around and look confused, which was a welcome change. It was also nice seeing her interact with more of the cast. I particularly think she and Danielle Panabaker have solid chemistry, even if their interactions have been talking about boys.
I find it interesting that in all the discussion of a breach between two worlds, not one person suggests maybe Ronnie was sucked into the other Earth. Martin Stein brings out the heavy science, and gives a great Easter egg with the “Earth-1/Earth-2” discussion. He’s also the one who coins the term multiverse.
It’s interesting that Joe hears all this, sees Al Rothstein last issue, is told it was a bad guy from Jay’s Earth… and still goes after the version from Earth-1. Although he has a lot on his mind. The call he’s dodging turns out to be Iris’s mom. Woah.
Cisco also has an interesting bit, using his secret powers to track the bad guy (an obscure Firestorm bad guy named Sand Demon, who is now an Earth-2 Flash foe). I’m intrigued by his keeping it a secret from everyone. Does he think the team is suddenly going to throw him in the Pipeline just because Wells told him? Although Barry does exactly that to Jay, so maybe he’s not off base.
Cisco’s powers help the team rescue new cast member Patty Spivot (played by Shantel VanSanten). In the comics, she’s a forensic scientist like Barry. On the show, she’s a cop 7 months out of the academy who wants to join Joe’s Metahuman task force. She also holds multiple degrees and was the top marksman in her class. Barry almost immediately feels a connection with her. Indeed, later we learn they share very similar motivations in life. Honestly, if I had been reading a fanfic and this character was introduced, I’d have rolled my eyes at the Mary Sue-ness of it all. Which is almost unfair to the creators. After all, didn’t I spend all last year complaining about the lack of strong women on the show?
Except that’s not the issue. The issue is that we want characters who have more to do than be a love interest. Almost every single woman on this show is defined by a man. Plastique was running from one, Peek-a-Boo’s boyfriend was her motivation, Caitlin was mourning Ronnie (and now is again and is apparently going to be involved with Jay in some way), Iris has gone from being Barry’s creepy crush to his conscience, and when we see Hawkgirl she’ll be dealing with a reincarnated lover she does not remember who wants her back. Now we have Patty, who is motivated by her father’s murder. I’m not even touching on Barry’s mom.
The show doesn’t have the densest characterization overall, but it would have been nice had Patty simply been motivated by wanting to help people or by scientific curiosity. That she’s just there for Barry to fall for makes it even more annoying. A glossy “tough, super smart, funny, and everyone likes her” veneer doesn’t take away from her not being a solution to the show’s issues with women, but a damning indicator. Having her serve as damsel makes it even more damning. Why the heck didn’t he take Joe too, or take Joe and leave her? Joe’s a high-value target as the head of the metahuman task force. How did Sand Demon even know Flash would come for Patty? He’d just met her, and he wouldn’t even know that.
Wow, sure looks like I hate the show, huh? I didn’t though. I really, really enjoyed it. It’s just this one aspect that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. But overall, the show is charming and fun. Little touches, like Woodrue grow house or there being 52 breeches makes this enjoyable for me as a long time comics fan. But I’m sorry, I and a lot of the other GeekDads have a real problem with that one aspect of The Flash.
You know what we do like though? Mystery! Who is Zoom? A speedster who showed up on Earth-2 the same time Jay did, eh? Our first view of him shows a dark version of Barry’s costume. Could he be connected somehow? What if Wells didn’t vanish from the timeline altogether? Could he have ended up on Earth-2? Yes, I know we see a Harrison Wells in the last few minutes, but that feels more like the actual Wells. Come to think of it, shouldn’t there be an Earth-2 analogue of Barry out there (hat tip to Loren Collins for suggesting this one)?
Also, did anyone else notice that Barry straight-up murders the Sand Demon? Last week Atom Smasher died, but one could argue that Barry didn’t mean for that to happen. This was actual premeditated murder on the part of Barry and the rest of his team. They actually plan to do this. That’s gotta have some kind of repercussions, right?
That’s the kind of thing that keeps me watching, despite the show’s troublesome gender politics.