There’s a lot of things I’ve liked about the Flash. I’ve liked the optimism that’s largely defined the show, the expansive imagination with effects despite what must be a real tight budget on network television, and the attempts to keep the adventures as near the comics that every Flash from Jay Garrick to Barry Allen to Wally West had. Even with Season 2’s frankly repetitive attempts to recapture what made Season 1 so great, there was still plenty to enjoy: the addition of Wally West to the cast, the introduction to Earth-2, and episodes like the return of the Rogues.
However, ever since the reveal of Jay Garrick being Zoom, the show has somehow become even more muddled. Zoom having vague motivations worked at least somewhat during the time when he was meant to be a mysterious threat behind the scenes, but his lack of consistent motivations is glaring, and having a face to put behind it simply makes things worse.
Teddy Sears’ performance as Jay Garrick was great, yet, as he’s said in interviews: even he believed he was playing the Flash. While that would normally be a great bit of enforced method acting into inverting his performance into something even Zoom started to believe in, it doesn’t come across in execution. While Sears is a great actor, there’s not much he can do to rescue a character whose motivations are practically non-existent. His initial motivation of wanting to be faster than the Flash was loose at best, his current motivation of bringing Earth-1 to its knees makes almost less sense.
Normally unmasking a character and revealing his origin would clear up questions, but it’s only made things more confusing, and hampered Teddy Sears’ ability to draw anything out of his character. Most of the danger from Zoom came from not knowing his capabilities, and being voiced by Tony Todd. But his being unmasked doesn’t just make him vulnerable, it’s made him neutered, especially when his charade as the Flash makes almost no sense with the “time remnant” explanation given. That said, Hunter Zolomon punctuates what’s been my largest problem with Season 2, it’s been a poor man’s attempt at recreating Season 1. With a speed-based villain who’s faster than the Flash, a friend who’s actually a villain, and (a) Harrison Wells involved. What gave Season 1’s rivalry with the Reverse-Flash such potency was, in what could have been a convoluted plot (and it was in its original form in Flash: Rebirth), their relationship was stripped down to a pseudo-mentor relationship, which made what Thawne did to Barry’s mother cut much deeper than if he’d just been a mustache twirling villain.
That last bit also ties into what’s also bothered me about the Flash lately. The show runs on a veritable engine of dead mothers for backstory and trauma. While it’s somewhat understandable the show wanted to provide an overall arc for the show’s first season, it becomes a sad running gag when Barry, Hunter, and Wally all have dead mothers as the motivational fount of their backstory.
In general, the Flash has not had a very good relationship with how it treats female characters. From the over reliance on having Caitlin being defined by her relationships with Jay or Ronnie, Iris with Barry or Eddie, and Barry’s mother whole utility being to make him feel bad in the first season. It’s understandable that a supporting character is just that: supporting, and there to help prop up the overall arc of bigger characters, it gets to be irritating when time after time, the easy shortcut becomes to kill off a mother to create drama in a major character’s backstory. Which, given tonight’s twist, makes it hard not to feel like the writers are running out of ways to amp up the stakes for the show. While the CW tends to veer towards drama, what made Flash so great was its exuberant charm, right down to the choice of lead. Grant Gustin’s a great actor, all of them are really, but the material is dragging down otherwise fantastic acting, so it’s become a lot harder to enjoy what was once a fantastic show.
2 out of 5 Dead Parents
- I don’t watch Arrow, but I’m kind of curious now. Is Katie Cassidy always this great? Because what I’ve heard has not been kind.
- Was Cisco channeling Captain Cold in his Reverb performance? Because that was actually a lot of fun.
- “It’s like a Hitchcock movie in my head!”