The title of the fifth episode of season two of The Flash–“The Darkness and the Light”–is heavy with meaning. Some of it is outright. The dark matter released by Earth-2 STAR Labs created Doctor Light. More of it is implied meaning. It’s the conflict between two opposing forces, and this conflict is at the heart of this week’s episode.
It could be the conflict between knowing that Earth-2 Harrison Wells is not the same person that was Earth-1 Harrison Wells, who betrayed Team Flash and was directly responsible for the deaths of many of the people that the Team cared about. Not that the Earth-1 Harrison Wells was really Earth-1 Harrison Wells either.
It’s interesting to note that when Jay Garrick announced his presence this season, Barry instantly rejected Jay. The last person who had tried to help Barry betrayed the Team. But, when the Earth-2 Wells shows up–the doppleganger of the man who betrayed the Team and who caused Barry to distrust strangers who sat they want to help Barry–Barry does trust Earth-2 Wells. In fact, Barry seems to trust and go along with Earth-2 Wells more than he goes along with Jay’s line of thinking regarding how to confront Zoom.
Barry’s not the only one acting out of character. Joe West has been one of the few constants that this show is founded upon. How jarring was it to see him walk into STAR Labs and just fire off three quick rounds at Earth-2 Wells? Or to give Iris a gun and tell her it ain’t murder if the world already thinks Wells is dead?
Even though this Wells isn’t that Wells. Not that that Wells was Wells…
The Team still seems to be having a hard time with the whole “even though this meta isn’t from our world, he or she is still a living person” thing. Case in point, “we’re batting 1.000 against breachers.” Not “we’ve stopped every breacher” nor “we’ve captured every breacher” nor even “we’ve returned every breacher back to his own earth.” Instead, it’s almost boyish bragging. Breachers come to Earth-1 and we put ’em in the ground. I believe that this episode attempts to address that problem with Wells’ constant assertion that he is not Earth-1 Wells and with the Team actually capturing an Earth-2 meta alive for once.
The conflict is also between our pair of Earth-2 refugees helping Team Flash. Everything we’ve been shown about Jay is that he was a hero back on Earth-2. We get this a few different ways. First, Jay was the Earth-2 Flash. That name carries a lot of baggage with it. Could it be possible that on one of the other Earths, the name “Flash” carries a negative connotation, or should we assume that every person who uses that name is a hero? We also get this from Caitlin, who is always calling Jay a hero. Last week showed us just how far off Cait’s assessment of people can be. To Jay’s credit, he did act selflessly in helping Barry take down Sand Demon earlier this season (another breacher buried, baby!), and we have decades of comic book history that says Jay Garrick is a hero.
But Wells doesn’t see Jay that way. Wells is bitter toward Jay. Wells contends that if Jay had truly been a hero, then Zoom would have been stopped already. Instead of running toward danger as Barry does, the Earth-2 Flash ran from Zoom. Wells goes so far as to say that Jay is hiding from Zoom on Earth-1.
So, what’s up with this version of Harrison Wells? According to Jay, Earth-2 Wells created the meta-human mess, then profited by it. But something has changed. Wells is no longer content to sit back and get rich off of the tech he creates to help other people feel safer from the metas. Now he’s obsessed with Zoom. What has changed on Earth-2?
The situation has changed for Wells, that’s what. No technology was able to keep Wells’ daughter safe from Zoom. Let that sink in for a minute… Earth-2 Wells has a daughter and Zoom has abducted her. The question we’re left with is whether Wells is really helping Barry by urging him into calling out Zoom or whether Wells is goading Barry to rush head-first into that confrontation as a condition for Zoom releasing Well’s daughter.
Maybe a better question would be whether or not Wells even cares at this point. If Zoom is manipulating Wells and Barry is killed, then presumably Wells would get his daughter back. Not that you can trust a villain. On the flip side, if Barry defeats Zoom, then the Team could find and release Wells’ daughter. I guess. Unless Zoom has put some sort of dead-man’s switch in place, which seems likely to me.
Lest we get all bogged down in drama and intrigue, this episode of The Flash was also the very special “Valentine’s Day in November” episode. (Somewhere, an evil greeting card magnate is wringing his hands together Mr. Burns style and cackling.) Jay and Cait have been building toward a star-crossed lovers moment and finally got it in this episode. The two get this close to that first kiss. Then Doctor Light shows and blows up the car. At episode’s end, Cait is still on board with following Wells’ direction, but has that decision cost her relationship with Jay?
After another blown episode where Plucky Patty flirts and fawns all over Barry, Cisco offers to show Barry how it’s done. Mr. Ramon promptly strikes out with Hawkgirl, who has taken over Iris’ old job at Jitters. Personally, I liked having my next Legend of Tomorrow introduced slowly and on the side instead of shoved down my throat, so this was a good example of the writers showing a little restraint with crossoverpalooza. By episode’s end, Cisco has Kendra Hawkgirl’s digits and we get to learn more about her character vicariously through Cisco, not with a half-hour of exposition stuffed into a single episode of The Flash.
Then there’s Barry and Plucky Patty. Barry finally asks Patty out on a date. Patty running late is the least of Barry’s concerns. His encounter with Doctor Light turns this into a literal blind date for Barry, with Cisco playing wingman via a pair of STAR Labs sunglasses. This whole sequence was just too cute. Barry and Plucky Patty are just too cute. So much cuteness. Cuteness overload.
Sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah. Cisco gets to play voyeur during Barry and Patty’s date. Hopefully he was able to pick up something he can use in his date with Kendra Hawkgirl. A fun set of scenes.
So, how does it all come together? Doctor Light is Earth-2 Linda Park. Following Cisco’s hunch, the Team figures out that Linda will likely head to meet her Earth-1 doppleganger and kill her. Doctor Light does just that, showing up at the newspaper office and saying that she is going to kill Linda and assume her identity in order to hide from Zoom. Things go south when Iris shoots the visor off of Light’s head (say what?) and Light kills Linda’s editor.
With the visor in the Team’s possession at STAR Labs, Wells spills Cisco’s secret. And that was pretty anticlimactic. While Cisco sort of expected the rest of the Team to shun him for his powers, Barry, Caitlin, and the rest don’t even give Cisco a “huh, okay.” Cisco tries to use his powers to find Doctor Light, but just shows how little control he has over his new abilities. Wells figures out how to get Cisco’s powers turned on, and Cisco finds Light attempting to leave Central City.
Now, Cisco gets a nickname.
Barry confronts and catches Doctor Light–with no help from Jay, who’s out of ideas–by listening to Wells, who tells Barry to use the speed image ability that Earth-1 Wells used to trick the Team last season. Except… that wasn’t Wells last season. That was the Reverse Flash. Anyhow, the point is that any of these speed abilities can be used for good or for ill. It’s a person’s choices that determine which side of their personality wins out in the end. The darkness or the light.
-I like this version of Wells. Last season, he was demanding but gentle on the outside, but full of nougaty hatred on the inside. This Wells is gruff and doesn’t care about these people’s feelings. His daughter is in danger! Plus, he gets points for calling Cisco “Crisco,” which I have typed more times that I care to admit when working on these reviews.
-Most awkward scene of the night? Cisco getting shot down by Hawkgirl? Cisco playing wingman on Barry’s blind date? Or Barry investigating the crime scene at the newspaper office, where he has to interact with his first love, the woman he dated last season to try and get past his feelings for Iris, and his new gal?
-The writers get points for deftly handling Kendra Hawkgirl’s introduction, but lose points for the Wild Wild Wests this episode. Joe and Iris aren’t gunslingers. Joe is a cop, not a murderer, and Iris can’t shoot the helmet off a woman’s head. Because I liked most of the rest of the episode, I’m willing to call this a tie and say both the writers and the viewer walk away with a win this week.