If there’s one thing I’ve learned about The Flash over these past two seasons it’s that despite it being considered the lightest of the DC television shows on The CW, it still possesses a great amount of darkness as the stakes tick up at the end of the season.
The Flash is well adept at providing emotional, heart-wrenching shockers that leave the audience on the floor after what seems to be a victory. That shock – in the penultimate episode of The Flash’s sophomore season – came in the form of Zoom wanting so much to bring Barry down to his level that he killed Henry Allen right in front of him – and he did it in Barry’s childhood home in the same exact spot that his mother was killed by Reverse Flash. That’s not just horrible, that’s downright gruesome.
Though I will admit this could’ve been a whole lot worse than it was. Not that forcing Barry to watch Zoom kill his birth father in the same spot that his mother was murdered wasn’t horrific. But had it been Joe, like the show seemed to be alluding to, I know that it would’ve physically weakened me. I know because when I considered the possibility of that happening it brought me to tears.
In a way I knew this was coming – the moment Henry Allen came back to town to be a part of his son’s life was a giant red flag waving in front of us. There’s only one way that ends when you bring a guest star back “permanently” when they’re not a series regular. Not to mention there were warnings of “needing tissues” and “watch live” that pretty much indicated that someone was going to die in this episode. It just said it without saying the words.
When it comes down to it, “Invincible” was another solid episode that gave us everything that makes The Flash so amazing: heart, action, stunning visual effects, and a cliffhanger that leaves us with our mouths gaping open. The stage is set for Barry and Zoom’s final battle in next week’s season finale. Zoom wants Barry to stoop to his level? Well, he won’t do that, but now Zoom just forced Barry to retreat to a place he hasn’t gone before: killing when necessary.
Let’s break this down:
The Difference Between Barry and Zoom
When it comes to executing an effective hero-villain dynamic you need to establish a personal connection. The Flash flourished with Barry-Reverse Flash last season because of the whole Reverse Flash killing Barry’s mother. In the latter half of this second season, The Flash has managed to do the same with Zoom but in a more compelling way.
There’s this interesting question that the show raised several episodes ago with Hunter Zoloman’s origin story. Just how close were we to having the tables turned on Barry and Zoom? Both experienced horrific tragedy in their childhood – watching their mothers die – but both essentially turned out differently due to their upbringing. Zoom essentially experienced much more darkness than Barry and lacked the support system that Barry has always had in the Wests and now in Team Flash. It made you wonder how close Barry came to being the villain of this story. What would’ve happened if Barry didn’t have the Wests? What would’ve happened to him? This paralleled dynamic between Barry and Zoom has been one of the more subtle satisfactions.
In this episode we Zoom really start to question this too. He believed that him and Barry were the same. Only Barry hadn’t experienced the trauma to the extent that he had – meaning watching a parent die right in front of you. Barry was spared this as The Flash got him out of there. Only Barry had to experience it again last season when he time traveled to the future and had to listen to his mother die.
In an effort to bring Barry down to his level, Zoom kidnapped Henry and led Barry to his old childhood home. He then forced Barry to watch his father die in front of him in the exact same spot where his mother died years ago. That wasn’t just sad, that was gruesome.
What Zoom doesn’t understand is that there’s a fundamental difference between him and Barry. It’s not about the bad experiences – they’ve both had those. It’s about how they’ve reacted to these tragedies. Barry had that support system and as a result he grew into a man that is optimistic and loving. Zoom has only known darkness, but he’s shown that he kind of yearns to know what it’s like on the other side of the spectrum. I believed that was what the whole Caitlin thing was about. He wanted to experience that love. Only he went about it the wrong way, obviously.
Zoom believes that he’ll ultimately win because Barry is too concerned about being the hero. The funny is that’s exactly why Barry will win. Do you ever wonder why good trumps evil? It’s because the good know what they’re fighting for. Just as love trumps hate and hope trumps fear, good trumps evil. And that’s why Barry will ultimately defeat Zoom.
Overconfidence Can Be a Weakness, But Fear Is Necessary
When it comes to confidence there’s a fine balance. You can’t be overconfident or not confident enough without repercussions, as Barry learned in this episode. Granted we’ve seen Barry on both sides of the spectrum, most notably being his complete lack of confidence when it came to defeating what appeared to be an unstoppable Zoom. But “Invincible” saw Barry experience a change in personality. He now appeared to be overconfident to the point where it cost him.
When it comes to fear there’s often a certain negative connotation that comes with it being the ultimate confidence destroyer. That’s not to discount the fact that fear can be someone’s greatest weakness – I know fear has limited me in my life at times. But the truth is it’s healthy to have a little bit of fear instilled within you. Because, as Iris so eloquently pointed out, fear allows you to determine which risks are reasonable and which risks are downright ridiculous. Basically, it keeps you grounded and keeps your pride in check.
In a way, fear and confidence work together to keep a person grounded. But Barry let one get away from him and was acting like he was invincible. Barry completely missed what the Speed Force was trying to tell him when it told him, “You can’t outrun the tragedies in the universe.” That wasn’t them telling him that he was invincible; it was telling him he was not invincible. When you start acting like you’re invincible it’s not only your life on the line but the lives of those you care about. The team knew it from the beginning, but luckily Iris was able to get through to him instilling that fear can be healthy as it keeps you in check, which seemed to get Barry back on track.
Black Siren Makes Waves
While Laurel Lance met her tragic end on Arrow a few weeks back, her Earth-2 doppleganger came out to play. Black Siren, an evil metahuman, led Zoom’s group of metahumans in an all-out assault on Central City while poking fun at her deceased Earth-1 doppleganger. And Laurel Lance fans thought it was just Arrow…
To be honest, I enjoyed Katie Cassidy in this villainous role much more than I did as Black Canary. Maybe that’s because I’ve always had my issues with the way she was written on Arrow – although she was much more enjoyable this season. But I don’t know but there’s just something about Katie Cassidy playing the villain that is always so appealing. She’s so damn good at it. But there was also a natural confidence that Cassidy exuded as Black Siren.
Let’s get one thing clear: Black Siren isn’t Black Canary. She’s the antithesis of who Laurel Lance of Arrow was right down to the supersonic scream. There were fans that clamored for it, but you were never going to get it on Arrow because the show doesn’t dabble in metahumans and super powers. Just look at Team Arrow. Not a super power in the bunch – unless you count Felicity’s intelligence a super power, which I mean it kind of is.
But then there were some parts about Laurel’s characterization on The Flash that felt off. First: How were we supposed to know that Team Flash knew that Laurel had died? They never referenced it in their previous episodes like at all. Because they weren’t shocked that she was dead. They already knew that. Only we never got to see their reaction. Second: How are we supposed to take a line like “we loved her” seriously when she’s only met them a couple of times? For supposedly “loving her” they didn’t show up to her funeral. Just saying.
Anyway, The Flash didn’t kill Black Siren, which leaves the possibility to her returning on The Flash. But you’d assume that once they stop Zoom that Barry would send all evil metahumans back to Earth-2 – locked up, of course. But Arrow doesn’t deal with metahumans – except for that one time in season three – and the show has insisted there will be no more Laurel on Arrow. But with the fun of Earth-2 metahumans, it was nice to see Cassidy return with a twist that was quite surprisingly pleasant.
Wally West Wants to Prove Himself
Ever since Wally West came a knocking in the final moments of The Flash’s midseason finale, I’ve been waiting for Wally’s story to be fleshed out. Give us an idea of where he’s headed. I’m not going to lie, for most of this second half of the season he’s been a tad annoying and it was almost as if the writers weren’t sure to do with him. Flashforward to episode 2×20 when Wally was blasted by the Particle Accelerator and seemingly given super speed, along with Jesse. Only those powers haven’t emerged just yet. But The Flash doesn’t do things without the intent to play that storyline out. So I assume that eventually – maybe even as early as next season – we’ll see those powers start to manifest.
This episode showed that Wally possesses the bravery and need to do good that every hero should have – powers or no powers. Powers don’t mean anything if your heart isn’t in it. Wally wants to do good, and he wants to prove to The Flash that he was worth saving. The moment those words came out of his mouth all I could think was: Wally is the Roy Harper of The Flash. He’s going to train under Barry – assuming he gets his speed like we all expect. Barry is going to take on a mentor role like Oliver did with Roy and train Wally when the time comes. It was a nice tease of what we can hopefully expect from Kid Flash moving forward.
Caitlin’s Emotional Struggle
After what’s felt like an eternity, Caitlin finally returned to the team after being held hostage by Zoom for several episodes. In last week’s hour, Zoom gave Caitlin a choice: stand by him or retreat to her friends only to fall along with them. Of course she chose the latter – was there ever really a doubt she would? – but it was clear that she wasn’t the same after her time with Zoom. As well as she shouldn’t have been fine. What she experienced in these episodes
For most of the episode, Caitlin was in this trance-like state as she kept seeing visions of Zoom appearing in front of her. At first I began to believe that he was really there showing himself to her – I mean he can travel between worlds by himself – but we came to learn that it was more inside her head than anything, which was reassuring but then it wasn’t considering what she’s gone through. In a heart-to-heart with Cisco, Caitlin revealed that she sees Zoom everywhere; that she’s afraid all the time; that she doesn’t believe she can ever be whole again considering everything he took from her.
But Cisco promised her that wasn’t the case. And we got a glimpse of Caitlin beginning to climb out of that hole when she helped put a stop to the metahumans wreaking havoc on the city. She told Barry and Cisco that for the first time in a while she felt good – saving the city and working with the team. That’s always been the difference between Caitlin and Killer Frost – Caitlin has people that care about her, and they’ll never let her fall into that darkness.
NEXT TIME ON ‘THE FLASH’
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.