The Man Who Saved Central City
Last season we ended on a cliffhanger, with the Flash running up into the singularity threatening not just Central City but the entire Earth, attempting to stabilize it with the force of his speed. This season begins six months later, with Central City more or less intact and Barry having distanced himself from his friends and family, fighting crime alone. Cisco now works for the CCPD as a scientific advisor, Caitlin works for Mercury Labs, and Barry spends his time rebuilding local businesses at night. The city is preparing for a Flash Day celebration in which the mayor is set to present the key to the city to the Flash, the man who saved the day. Except Barry doesn’t feel like he saved the day.
In flashbacks to the day in question, we discover that Barry momentarily stabilizes the singularity, long enough for Firestorm to fly into it and separate, neutralizing it with the expelled energy. Barry is able to save Dr. Stein, but not Ronnie. While Barry feels like its all his fault, Iris convinces him to make an appearance on Flash Day to accept the key. The moment is interrupted, however, by an attack from an ultra-strong meta-human who can grow larger at will. As Barry and Joe try to stop the attack, they discover that the man behind the mask is the same man the police found dead a few days earlier. They also later discover that this meta-human, dubbed Atom Smasher by Dr. Stein, absorbs nuclear energy to grow stronger.
While the team forces an intervention with Barry, deciding to insist on their participation in the investigations, Barry tries to go after Atom Smasher alone and totally fails. He escapes with the team’s help and Joe talks him into getting the team back together – which means facing Caitlin, who has also grown distant from the team. Barry thinks it was his fault that Ronnie died, while Caitlin thinks it was her fault for refusing to leave Central City when Ronnie wanted to start a normal life somewhere else. Barry and Caitlin watch a message that Dr. Wells left for Barry (along with STAR Labs) in his will, discovering that Dr. Wells left a confession that would clear Henry Allen’s name in the murder of his wife.
While the wheels are put in motion to get Henry released, the team tricks Atom Smasher into a nuclear reactor, flooding it with too much radiation for him to absorb and thus defeating him. Atom Smasher tells Barry that Zoom promised to take him home if he killed the Flash. Later, Henry gets released and there’s a heartwarming party. While Barry expects to spend his time helping Henry readjust, perhaps sharing an apartment with him, Henry decides instead to leave town so that Barry can focus on being the Flash. Throughout the entire episode there has been a mysterious man watching proceedings, taking photos and watching from crowds. He appears at STAR Labs, somehow bypassing all the new security, and introduces himself as Jay Garrick, telling the team that their world is in danger.
Barry always seems to carry a lot of guilt and unnecessary responsibility, particularly for things that he can’t change or had no power over. Having these powers, he feels like he should somehow have been able to do something differently to save everyone. Of course, as Joe says, there are more people than just Barry, and they made their choices freely. Of course, this being a sci-fi show based on comic books, you never know who’s really dead or how long death might last. The weird love/hate relationship between Barry and Dr. Wells continues after his death, with Dr. Wells leaving Barry STAR Labs as well as a confession to finally save Henry Allen. It looks like Barry will have his work cut out for him this season, not just working with Jay Garrick – also known as the Golden Age Flash – but also Wally West, the Modern Age Flash. This, of course, opens up the multiverse storyline and the possibility that Ronnie may just be lost in another universe through the singularity.
It was established that Cisco’s vision of the alternate timeline wasn’t just a weird echo reserved for those who cheat death via time travel, but very possibly a manifestation of an as yet unknown power. Dr. Wells said that he had suspected previously that Cisco may have been affected by the explosion, counting him among the growing number of meta-humans. Cisco clearly hasn’t told anyone else yet, because he experienced a brief vision during the Atom Smasher attack on Flash Day and he was reluctant to tell Joe what had happened. Fans of the Justice League will know Cisco Ramon as Vibe, a meta-human who did not have psychic abilities but could emit shockwaves and breakdance, among other skills.
Zoom, otherwise known as Hunter Zolomon, is initially a good friend and eventual enemy of modern Flash Wally West. In the comics he lost his ability to walk and asked his best friend the Flash to go back in time to prevent it from happening. West rightly refused, saying he couldn’t risk interfering with the timestream. When Zolomon tried himself, he gained time travel and super speed abilities and dedicated his life to making Wally West a better superhero through providing personal tragedies and challenges to overcome. Wally West, who will also feature prominently this season, is Iris’s nephew in the comics – though that relationship in the show seems somewhat unlikely unless there’s a hidden sibling somewhere that no one ever talks about.
This show, as always, is amazing at portraying relationships between not just individual characters, but an entire family of people. These people have a way of interacting that is unique, a culture and tradition all their own that is intensely endearing. That is exquisitely displayed at Henry’s welcome home party, and really between Joe and anyone else – and that’s mostly down to Jesse L. Martin being such a genuine presence at all times.