The Flash Season 2 Review: A Solid Sophomore Season Not Without Its Faults

Following one of the best seasons of a new series, The Flash had a lot of hype to live up to following its stellar freshman season. One of the most challenging aspects of television tends to come in that second season, where there’s the pressure of success from that first season along with wanting to not only match that season’s success but surpass it.
While The Flash remains one of television’s best dramas, it wasn’t able to recapture the magic from that first season. But that was always going to be an impossible task. The thing that made The Flash’s freshman season a standout was its freshness and how we didn’t know quite what to expect from it, which made those painful cliffhangers midseason pack even more punch. We didn’t know just how vast this world would become.
The Flash remained one of television’s best shows especially when it came to arcs like Earth-2, which seemed to catapult it to a new level. But The Flash is at its best when it’s hammering home those emotional storylines, which include Barry’s relationships, the West family dynamic, and Barry’s emotional journey. Seriously, every time Barry cries, we all cry.
But it definitely wasn’t without its faults, which included an overall inability to let Barry evolve as a character throughout this second season. While the visual effects remained mind-blowing and the comic storylines intriguing, somewhere along the way The Flash forgot that its hero needed to grow this season. Barry failed to learn a significant lesson from this season, which is what leads us to where season three will pick up.

Overall Impression

While The Flash’s second season paled in comparison to its sensational, near-flawless freshman season, it was still a solid season all around. While The Flash struggled at times with its own narrative, it seemed to find itself in season two with the introduction of Earth-2, which opened up a world of possibility and intrigue. The Flash has so much storyline at its disposal with so much we’ve yet to see in this Arrowverse, which has always given it an edge. We got to delve deeper into the characterizations for Barry/Iris, Cisco, as well as the West family as a whole, which was a nice treat. The Flash set up a compelling villain arc with Zoom, which worked up until he was revealed to be Jay Garrick (sorry, Hunter Zoloman), and he lost that terror edge.
The Flash has always been known for its cliffhangers and shockers that leave its audience gasping for more, but in a way it felt like it was relying too much on that when sometimes all it needed to be was itself. But more than anything one of the problems with season two was Barry’s overall characterization, which showed us a flawed hero, yes, but one that didn’t learn anything throughout the course of the entire season. But despite its faults, The Flash remains one of television’s best shows with its superb visual effects, writing staff, and impressive cast of actors. Season two might not have lived it to the overall hype, but it didn’t exactly disappoint.

What Worked

Earth-2

While The Flash has never been disappointing, following a sensational season like its freshman run was always going to be challenging. Despite the threat of Zoom early on, The Flash’s second season was lacking something to make it that standout show we all know and love. But in the backhalf of the season, the show made a promise on an arc it had been setting up when Barry, Cisco, and Harry traveled to Earth-2.
I’m not sure what was more satisfying: getting to see and explore Earth-2 and its intricacies or getting to watch a show build up to such a significant storyline. With The Flash introducing the multiverse with an emphasis on Earth-2 there was only so much the audience could take of teases without capitalizing on an unsaid promise of getting to explore said storyline. Getting to step into Earth-2 with its similarities and differences, especially the dopplegangers, was such a thrilling journey. Getting to see these characters we know and love as something completely different was something incredible to watch. But there was just something about the Earth-2 storyline that elevated this show into something truly special.

Cisco’s “Vibe” Storyline

While The Flash is very much about Barry Allen’s origin story there’s no denying that this diverse cast surrounding him is an important component to the show. While Cisco is known for his comedic relief in even the darkest of circumstances, he is so much more than that, which we got a taste of this season. While it was speculated that Cisco would ultimately become Vibe in this series it was never something that was guaranteed. Getting to see Cisco make the transition into Vibe through what was an earned and compelling journey was satisfying.
One of the best parts about Cisco’s “Vibe” storyline was how it wasn’t something he simply slipped into rather he struggled internally with what was happening to him. There was an inner struggle as Cisco wondered if there was darkness inside of him given his powers, which caused him to keep it secret for quite some time. When he met his Earth-2 doppleganger, who had his same powers but was evil at his core, Cisco began even more to question what was happening to him. He began to wonder if these powers made him inanely evil. But Cisco learned that it’s the people in your life that shape the person you become, as well as the choices that you make. It was always Cisco’s decision whether he followed in his evil doppleganger’s footsteps or forged his own path.

Barry and Iris’ Development

When it comes to epic loves that love has to be earned. There’s no denying that The Flash has made it clear that Barry and Iris are their endgame, which should come as no surprise, but there’s a challenge and pressure that comes with that. Will they do right by their relationship? Will it feel earned?
The Flash did a beautiful job of continuing to cultivate Barry and Iris’ complicated yet loving relationship in its second season. This is a slowburn, which means that it’s going to take some time before they dive into the romance aspect. But more than that this season presented its obstacles for Barry and Iris. For so long it’s been Barry who has been ready and waiting for Iris to come around. But Iris took a significant step this season as she worked to get over Eddie’s death, which brought her to a good place where she was ready to be in another relationship. More than that, Iris finally allowed herself to think about what a future with Barry would entail. Sure, it took something like knowing she and Barry and married in the future and her Earth-2 doppleganger is married to Barry’s doppleganger. But this wasn’t Iris settling for something she felt she couldn’t outrun. This was Iris finally taking the time to think about being with Barry, and she realized that she wants to see what a future with him looks like.
But just when it seemed like Barry and Iris were on the same page, the events of the final two episodes of the season happened. Suddenly it was Barry who wasn’t in the place he needed to be in order to be with Iris. There was so much darkness within him that Barry didn’t feel like Iris deserved that part of him. So Iris told Barry that she would wait for when he was ready. Just like he did for her for so many years. And it was simply beautiful.

Barry-Zoom Parallel

One of the great things about The Flash’s big bads has been the personal tie to Barry. That’s what truly makes a good big bad because of that personal connection to the hero. From the start, there was something so terrifying and chilling about Zoom – whether it was the voice, his unknown face, or the sheer terror he reigned down upon Central City. The threat was always there, but there was something that made Zoom even more compelling.
The thing I found the most intriguing was the parallel between who Zoom is and who Barry is – and how they both could’ve been in different positions had their upbringing been different. When The Flash explored Zoom – Hunter Zoloman’s – background – how he watched his father kill his mother in front of him and then himself and then he was sent to an orphanage – we really got to see just how similar Zoom and Barry’s upbringings were.
Both boys had witnessed their mother murdered right in front of them when they were young, as well as lost their fathers. Barry’s father was wrongfully accused of killing his wife while Zoom’s father had killed his mother. But perhaps the most telling was what happened after those events. While Zoloman was sent to an orphanage to rot, Barry was raised in a loving environment by Joe West, which ultimately shaped both of their upbringings. Zoom believed that Barry was exactly like him, but in the end it was their differences that spelled Zoom’s downfall.

Harrison “Harry” Wells

Following the death of Eobard Thawne/Harrison Wells in the season one finale, we were left to wonder how Tom Cavanagh would appear in the second season. Bringing Cavanagh back as Earth-2 Wells was brilliant. It allowed the show to explore a different Harrison Wells while also dealing with the shock of the doppleganger effect. Harry Wells was what Wells was supposed to be in season one: a true ally, mentor, and friend to Barry and Team Flash.
Introducing Wells with the tease that he was helping Zoom get Barry’s speed in order to save his own daughter was brilliant. We got to see a good man pushed to his breaking point, but we also got to see him realize that he was crossing a moral line that his daughter wouldn’t appreciate. When Wells came clean and then pledged allegiance to Team Flash it was a defining moment in the season. Wells became a true member of Team Flash and helped the team eventually take down Zoom, as well as explore his relationship with his daughter Jesse.

What Didn’t Work

Barry’s Regression

My main complaint with this season was Barry’s character regression. That led to many of the issues with this second season. A hero should grow and evolve throughout a season, but Barry did the exact opposite. It doesn’t matter that Barry is the lighter of the superheroes on The CW, he still needs to grow with each season. The thing is it looked like Barry was poised to make that progression as we neared the end of the season. For much of the season Barry continued to back himself in a hole, whether it was with the lying or the inability to learn that when it comes with running through time that there are consequences.
It appeared as if Barry was going to make that leap in episode 21, when the Speed Force had a stern talking with him. This was them stepping in because they saw the threat that Barry’s emotions posed to the situation. They knew how certain events have triggered a dangerous emotion within him where he was liable to make some rash decisions. When they told him that even the Flash can’t outrun tragedy, that was their way of warning him that there was tragedy in his future, but that he couldn’t do anything about it – such is life. Tragedy is a part of, and no one can escape that, not even The Flash.
The problem here wasn’t that Barry was making mistakes throughout the season. It was that he failed to grow as a result. That’s what heroes do; they make mistakes and they learn from them. Barry made mistakes, but he did not learn from them.

Henry Allen’s Death

Henry Allen’s death was something that was more for shock value than anything else. Or perhaps it was as a means to send Barry over the edge where he made the decision to save his mother and alter history. But the thing is that it just didn’t feel necessary. Henry was expendable, yes, but his fate wasn’t directly tied to the show. Yes, it affects Barry, but The Flash lives on. Granted this whole thing is probably going to change given the fact that Barry rewrote history because he couldn’t deal with his grief. So who knows at this point.

Barry Saving His Mother

This is something that even a few weeks later still irritates me to no end. When it comes to life-defining moments this was the one in Barry’s life that has shaped his entire life, including the world we grew to know on The Flash. I’m not angry with Barry for wanting to save his mother, but that was the focus last season. Just two episodes before this Barry had come to terms with his mother’s death. He understood that while he lost someone he loved very much that he had gained others that he loves immensely. So what happened?
Barry was selfish, that’s what happened. He became so angry after losing his father, as well, that he selfishly decided to go back and rewrite a history that had already happened. It made no sense in the overall narrative of the story after Barry had accepted his fate. It served as merely shock value and a way to shepherd in a comic storyline for next season.

What We Wanted to See More Of

Iris as a Reporter

One of the most important things that shows need to remember is that female characters are not defined by their romance storylines. They exist outside of that romance and need to be allowed to grow. Something that we were promised heading into season two was that we’d see more of Iris tackling her journalism career at Central City Picture News. While we got to see that in the beginning of the season, somewhere along the way the show abandoned that focus and instead honed in on the WestAllen of it all.
While I’m a fan of WestAllen, I’m a fan of Iris West first, which means that I want to see a focus on just Iris. The thing is, from what we’ve seen so far, is that Iris is damn good at her job outside of Team Flash. Her journey from lowly reporter to established journalist is something that I’m so interested in seeing. But the show seemed to shift the focus elsewhere, which left me disappointed and hoping we’ll get to see more in season three.

Patty Spivot

When the casting call was released for the character that would become Patty Spivot, I was hesitant because they tried to liken her to Arrow’s Felicity Smoak. But The Flash and Shantel Santeen managed to forge a unique path for the passionate and driven police officer that would become the apple of our Barry Allen’s eye.
The thing with Patty is that she was never just considered the love interest of Barry. She was her own person; someone who had a tragic backstory that heavily influenced her life. While I consider myself an avid WestAllen fan, I couldn’t help but enjoy Barry and Patty’s relationship. They were so much alike in their demeanor and interestingly enough had similar motives to their separate paths to justice. They worked. But ultimately it was Barry’s unwillingness to confide and completely trust in Patty that spelled their demise.
But while Barry and Patty were never destined to work, I never understood why they had to send Patty away. Sure, they made it work for her story as she went off to CSI school, which was her dream. But it felt like the writers felt she had served her purpose and simply sent her away. Patty was an empowering, strong, and inspiring female character that we don’t get enough of on television. It’s just disappointing that she had to go away. I’ll just be over here hoping for her return.

What We Wanted to See Less Of

Barry Being Stupid

While I love Barry very much there is no denying that he was quite stupid throughout season two. No one is perfect, but damn did Barry screw up royally on multiple occasions. The thing with Barry is that he always acts before thinking. That was something that Oliver warned him about the previous season. You can’t just rush into a situation or act without thinking it through.
There were two distinct times when Barry said, “F*** it” and decided to do what he wanted to do regardless of the consequences. The first time came when Barry went back in time to try and figure out how to get faster. Not only did Harrison Wells/Reverse Flash catch on pretty quickly and threatened to kill Barry, but Barry ended up altering the timeline in a minor way. But nothing was more infuriating than Barry’s selfish decision to save his mother because he couldn’t handle his grief in the season finale. While we haven’t seen it yet, that decision affected everything. I don’t care who you are it doesn’t give you the right to change everything because you can’t handle that grief.

Barry Lying 

This sort of ties into the whole “Barry Being Stupid” thing, but it deserved its own category because of reasons. I don’t know what it is about our heroes on The CW, but they have a truly unique gift/curse for lying – and getting caught. Here’s the thing, I understand lying as a means of preserving your secret identity with those that you don’t trust. But when it comes to lying to those that you love and trust, it baffles me. Granted, Barry’s lying was something that was a real issue in the first half of the season in his relationship with Patty.
There was always that fear of dragging someone he cares about into this mess especially with Zoom on the loose. And that’s caring and all, but the other person always should get a choice. Don’t decide what’s best for them; that’s their own job. Barry had several opportunities to come clean to Patty about him being The Flash – and this was during a point where they were in a full-blown relationship. And yet he hesitated every time. Every time until Patty found out on her own. Come one, Barry, Patty is a detective. Did you really not think she would figure it out eventually? See how this ties into the whole “Barry being stupid?”

Henry Allen as the Perfect Father Figure

Well, considering the tragic fate that awaited him in the penultimate episode we won’t be seeing Henry Allen too much. Actually, with Barry changing the future who knows at this point. But something that I’ve always had a problem with is how talked-up Barry’s birth father is especially considering how incredible a father Joe West has been in Barry’s life. Joe doesn’t get nearly enough credit for raising Barry to be the man he is. But there was this sort of “Henry Allen can do no wrong” vibe that rubbed me the wrong way. I understand that Henry is Barry’s birth father, but Joe is responsible for raising Barry to be the man he is today. The things that happen to Barry impact both of his fathers in the same way.

Shocking Cliffhangers

Don’t get me wrong, I love those shocking moments that take you completely by surprise and leave you in the most vulnerable of positions, but The Flash needs to learn that less is more. One of the things that made what it did in its first season so effective was its ability to organically weave those moments in without overdoing it at every turn. I feel like The Flash has overly embraced its reputation for emotional cliffhangers perhaps a little too much. But with that said, those cliffhangers were definitely impactful.

Favorite Episodes

“Welcome to Earth-2” (Episode 2×13) – This episode was one of the season’s best as it finally delivered on the promise of exploring this other Earth. Up to this point the season had been subpar, but the Earth-2 arc jumpstarted it into something special.
“Enter Zoom” (Episode 2×06) – This was the first episode where the true threat of Zoom was felt. Before that he was just a name, but when he beat down The Flash and dragged his body throughout Central City that was the first time when we were like, ‘Well, shit.’
“Invincible” (Episode 2×22)The Flash’s penultimate episode was just a well-rounded effort all around. With that emotional cliffhanger, the appearance of Black Siren, and it appearing like Barry might learn something to help progress his character, this episode was sensational.

Least Favorite Episodes

“Gorilla Warfare” (Episode 2×07)– While it’s always incredible to get a glimpse at Grodd, this episode as a whole failed to wow with its storyline. It felt like an ordinary episode of television with a massive, talking gorilla.
“Back to Normal” (Episode 2×19) – While it was interesting to see Barry return to a life without powers, the overall execution of this episode disappointed. It wasn’t anything worth remembering.
“The Race of His Life” (Episode 2×23) – The end of this season finale was what ultimately ruined this episode for me. While it opened the door to an amazing storyline for next season, it also seemingly erased everything we’ve watched the past two seasons.

Season Finale Impression

While it certainly possessed that shocking, knock-you-on-your-ass cliffhanger, “The Race of His Life” wasn’t the most satisfying season finale you’ll ever see in your life. Following its freshman season finale, which was simply phenomenal, this finale fell short and still agitates me due to the inconsistency of Barry’s characterization. With season finales you’re supposed to have your main hero come full circle, but all Barry did was regress throughout this season in terms of learning what it takes to be a hero and he once again didn’t think before acting, which now will have dire consequences come season three. But it wasn’t just Barry’s selfishness in this finale that took away the joy, the resolution with Zoom felt less than satisfying following the fantastic build-up this season. But it did have its surprises, including the reveal of Henry Allen’s Earth-2 doppleganger being the real Jay Garrick and the Man in the Iron Mask. But it was Barry’s decision to go back in time and save his mother that ultimately ruined this finale for me. Barry’s selfishness basically changed EVERYTHING that this show has built over the course of two seasons. And right now it’s hard to have faith after that.

Next Season Speculation

Is it even possible to speculate on where the hell The Flash is going in season three given that massive cliffhanger? Basically, other than speculating that Flashpoint Paradox is happening, good luck trying to nail where season three is headed. When Barry went back in time and saved his mother from dying at the hands of Reverse Flash, everything reset itself. The big speculation rests with how the events of the season finale will ultimately affect not only The Flash but the other DC shows as well, including Arrow, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and newbie CW show Supergirl. While it shouldn’t affect them in a drastic way, there’s no doubt that the impact will be felt. As far as The Flash is concerned, if Flashpoint Paradox is where we’re headed, and that seems likely, Barry will spend a majority of this arc knowing that this timeline isn’t the right one and will likely be fighting to get back to the right timeline. Expect lots of changes as his decision will affect everything, including his relationships with Iris, Joe, and Team Flash. Plus the most important question: Will Barry be The Flash in this timeline?

What were your thoughts on The Flash season two?

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