The CW network’s ever-expanding DC shared universe took off in a big way last year, with the premiere of the Arrow spin-off series, The Flash. Centered around the origin story of future Justice Leaguer Barry Allen, the series averaged over 6 million viewers per episode in its first season, a major improvement over the average viewership of its predecessor (Arrow has averaged just under 3.5 million per episode in its first three seasons). The series was a hit with critics as well, registering a whopping 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The show was buoyed by breakout performances from young star Grant Gustin, emerging talent in Carlos Valdes (Cisco Ramon), and Tom Cavanagh (Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne), veteran of the stage and screen. The inaugural season of The Flash has set the bar incredibly high for season two.
But for the fastest man alive (in the DC universe anyway), the sky very well may be the limit. Here are 12 Ways Season 2 Can Be Better than the First.
A word of warning: MASSIVE SPOILERS lie ahead for season one.
We know who Harrison Wells is; now keep him interesting
One of the most intriguing questions of the first season was the identity of the Reverse-Flash, Barry Allen’s mysterious tormentor. Three men have held the title of the Reverse-Flash in the comics, but the character universally identified with the role is Eobard Thawne, a Flash-obsessed time-traveler from the 25th century. The show eventually revealed Dr. Harrison Wells, Barry’s quasi-mentor, to be the man behind the mask. Thawne is seemingly erased from existence in the season finale after the suicide of his ancestor, Eddie, but has in fact been confirmed to feature regularly in season two. Sort of.
Executive producer Gabrielle Stanton recently commented on the character’s return, implying that season two Wells will be from another world or timeline. In recent months, the concepts of time travel and the multiverse have been heavily teased by the creative minds behind the show, so Stanton’s comments shouldn’t come as any particular surprise.
In a flashback sequence, the real Harrison Wells was shown to be an unassuming, well-intentioned scientist before his identity was stolen by Thawne. Tom Cavanagh’s good guy facade certainly had its charms, but it was the actor’s underlying wickedness that made him so fun to watch. Will a wholly kind-hearted Wells be anywhere near as watchable? Probably not. Let’s hope season two’s version of the character has some edge to him.
A more interesting role for Iris West
One of the few fan complaints from last season was the largely-uninteresting Iris West (played more than competently by Candice Patton). West was a bit of a bore in season one, with her job as a reporter at Picture News serving little to no narrative purpose. The will-they-won’t-they relationship between Barry and his longtime love interest seemed to lack spark, a serious disappointment for comic fans who know the potential for adorable-ness that these two share. It should be noted, however, that things certainly took a turn for the better once Iris discovered the Flash’s secret identity.
She appears primed for a more prominent role this season, as it seems she’ll take on a leadership role in the events of the series. That role may not be at S.T.A.R. Labs, but it sounds promising nonetheless.
Many were confused by Team Flash’s decision to keep Iris in the dark about Barry being the Scarlet Speedster—despite the team’s numbers seemingly growing by the week—but now that she’s in the know (and Eddie’s no longer in the picture), we have every reason to expect better things from the character in season two. At the very least, Iris looks to be safe from the kind of fan hatred directed at Lori from The Walking Dead, where viewers openly campaigned for the character’s demise.
Don’t be afraid to kill off characters (for good)
The permanent elimination of a character from a show that isn’t defined by death (like TWD or Game of Thrones) is always a difficult call. But when you’re dealing with a show that prominently features life and death situations, it only makes sense that certain tragedies occur every now and then. Season one of The Flash had its share of Central City-threatening events, but it’s light-hearted nature almost always resulted in happy endings, with a few notable exceptions.
In the fifteenth episode, “Out of Time,” Cisco discovers the identity of the Reverse-Flash, and is subsequently murdered by Wells/Thawne. That heart-wrenching scene was quickly undone by the magic of time travel though, something we hope doesn’t become a trend (more on that later).
Eddie’s suicide in the finale shocked many, but it wasn’t without purpose. His death raised the stakes and gave the show true emotional weight, as well as tied up the romantic thread with Iris that, let’s face it, wasn’t really going anywhere. Showrunner Andrew Kreisberg has said in that past that because of the sci-fi nature of the series, various deceased characters can indeed return from the dead. If this is the case, the show could end up suffering from the exact problem that’s plagued the comics that inspired it: deaths don’t mean anything. The creative minds behind The Flash would be well-advised to take characters’ deaths seriously, and to use them thoughtfully.
Cisco Ramon’s (brief) death was arguably more jarring than Eddie’s, mainly because of how much of a fan-favorite he’d become over the course of the season. One of the show’s true highlights, Cisco may have displayed the most intriguing character growth of any of The Flash‘s principal players, displaying time and again that he was more than a source of comic relief. Of course, his trademark humor shouldn’t be overlooked; it’s a major part of what makes this series work.
It goes without saying that Carlos Valdez’s character is deserving of more screen time, but non-diehards probably didn’t see that season finale twist coming: while in containment, Wells informs Cisco that his ability to see events from alternate timelines is evidence of latent metahuman powers. That’s right fans, Vibe is on the way, and Valdez basically confirmed as much a few months back.
For the uninitiated, Vibe is a DC superhero with the ability to manipulate sonic vibrations (shock waves) capable of creating sizable seismic activity and even disrupting the speed force. That sounds like something that could hurt Barry as much as it could help him, but in any event, we should expect to see Cisco’s powers start to manifest over the course of this upcoming season. Ten bucks says he names himself.
Don’t become overly-reliant on team-up episodes
While it’s imperative that the focus of the show remain on the eponymous hero, who doesn’t love to see the Flash run with a few super-powered friends every now and then? His season one team-ups with Oliver Queen (Arrow), Ronnie Raymond (Firestorm), and Ray Palmer (Atom) made for highly memorable TV-watching, and were some of the series’ highest rated episodes. And it seems that even more crossover possibilities will exist for season two. But to what end?
Early next year, The CW’s second superhero spin-off series, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, will introduce the likes of Rip Hunter, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl, as well as feature several Arrow and Flash supporting characters in more prominent roles. The latest addition to the network’s shared DC universe has been described by Andrew Kreisberg as basically being “crossovers every week,” so there should be no shortage of team-up episodes in the Flash’s near future.
If overdone, however, these heroes could quickly become overdependent on each other, and eventually none of The CW’s DC shows would be able to stand on their own. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow may be defined by its team-centric approach to world saving, but that doesn’t mean The Flash has to. Keeping the number of crossover events to a minimum helps keep the focus on Barry, while simultaneously making those crossovers more of a special occasion for fans.
Don’t allow time travel to dominate the narrative
Speaking of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, it would appear that the concept of time travel is about to get a whole lot more prevalent in the coming months. The new series will focus on the efforts of a ragtag group of heroes and villains working together to stop the immortal Vandal Savage and his quest to achieve world domination. Star Caity Lotz has confirmed that the series will take place in various time periods, as has showrunner Phil Klemmer.
The time travel trope was first introduced to The CW’s DC universe in the aforementioned fifteenth episode of The Flash, where Barry (in an effort to save Central City from a tsunami created by Weather Wizard) pushed himself to run so fast that he ran backwards through time itself. This allowed Barry to undo several tragic events in the next episode, including the kidnapping of Joe West and Cisco’s death, but it also erased a kiss he shared with Iris from the timeline. While an excellent pair of episodes in their own right, they may have set a dangerous precedent for the show’s future.
One of the Flash’s greatest powers in the comics is his ability to use the Speed Force to travel through time, but it’s a gift he rarely uses due to potentially catastrophic repercussions that may result from his altering of the past. In the show, Barry deliberately time travels only once—in the season finale, in an effort to save his mother; something he ultimately decides against doing. But should Barry begin disregarding the potential harm in traveling back in time to right wrongs, things could quickly unravel. The show would likely lose any resemblance of meaning or purpose if the Flash constantly undid major narrative events by simply going back in time a bit. Here’s hoping his time-traveling abilities aren’t overused in season two.
We’ve talked about the likely emergence of Cisco as the metahuman Vibe in the upcoming season, but that appears to be just the tip of the iceberg. Another member of Team Flash, Danielle Panabaker’s Caitlin Snow, has long been rumored to eventually evolve into her New 52 alter-ego, Killer Frost. It may not happen right away, but with every known employee of S.T.A.R. Labs receiving super-powered-abilities as a result of the particle accelerator accident, it would make sense for Caitlin to start exhibiting her own gifts sooner rather than later.
Season two will also introduce famed speedsters Jay Garrick (DC Comics’ original Flash) and Wally West (Barry’s sidekick and future successor) to the series. Their respective roles in the series are not yet clear, but fans of the comic have to be excited by the possibility of seeing these heroes grace the small screen for the first time. Wally will obviously be related to Joe and Iris in some way, but how will Garrick fit into the equation? Will he be from an alternate reality, like the recent Flash promo seemed to suggest? And will Wally have his super speed already, or will we witness his rise as Kid Flash firsthand?
With Jesse Quick set to be introduced this season as well, Barry Allen’s self-given “fastest man alive” title may be in jeopardy. It looks like we might have a race or two on our hands…
Explore classic Flash storylines
One of the most intriguing season 2 teasers was of course the image of Barry and Jay Garrick running alongside one another that was released last month. At first glance, it merely seemed to be a clever way to show off the look of the soon-to-be-introduced original Flash, one that represented the show’s reverence for comic history. But the comic that inspired the image, The Flash #123, “Flash of Two Worlds,” is infamous for introducing the idea of the multiverse to DC, and any possible TV adaptation should have fans jumping for joy. Garrick’s inclusion in the series is something diehards have been hoping to see since he was first teased in the season one finale, and the multiverse he brings with him contains infinite narrative possibilities.
The finale also explored elements of another classic Flash story arc, Geoff John’s “Flashpoint,” though it was forced to skip the Atlantean/Amazonian war that made the comic (and animated adaptation) so unforgettable. The show’s adherence to the comics is admirable, and the creative minds behind it would be wise to continue the trend in season two. Though an adaptation of the outstanding crossover series “Crisis on Infinite Earths” is probably out of the question, there’s no shortage of comics to draw from for inspiration. Expect to see more straight-from-the-comics storylines—especially from the New 52, which heavily influenced season one—in the future.
If you know your DC comics, then you’re more than familiar with the vaunted adversaries that regularly plague Batman and Superman. But the villains that call the Flash their nemesis, better known as the Rogues, have more than earned their place among the greatest super-powered rivals in all of comics. The first season of The Flash owes quite a bit of its success to the decision to embrace the (occasionally silly) members of Flash’s rogues gallery, which went a long way towards establishing the show’s light-hearted tone. Fans witnessed the origin of several of the Scarlet Speedster’s toughest enemies—namely Captain Cold, Weather Wizard, and even Captain Boomerang in the Arrow crossover episodes—last season, and more are likely on their way in the very near future.
The most recent season two promo highlighted the introduction of the Atom Smasher, a villain capable of increasing his size, strength, and density. But several classic baddies have yet to be introduced, and could make their debut in the coming months. Villains like Top, Savitar, and Mirror Master are all prime candidates for adaptation. (Speaking of the latter, according to Comic Book Resources, at the series’ WonderCon panel back in April, Kreisberg said, “I think we definitely want to meet the Mirror Master next year.”)
A larger-than-life big bad
The mystery surrounding the identity of the Reverse-Flash was a big part of the fun of season one. Once Harrison Wells was revealed to be “the man in yellow,” his already-interesting characterization became even more complex as the layers of his personality were slowly pealed back. Now that (this reality’s) Eobard Thawne has been erased from existence, season two has a large, villainous void that needs to be filled.
Promotional material for the upcoming season has placed a heavy emphasis on the impending arrival of Zoom, a new speedster nemesis hellbent on terrorizing Barry and the rest of Central City. Kreisberg has described the character as an otherworldly “monster…a demon,” a man from an alternate reality whose “specific agenda” will constitute “the plot of the first nine episodes.” Mirroring the Reverse-Flash mystery of season one, Zoom’s identity will evidently leave audiences theorizing and playing guessing games for weeks.
We have our own theories on who the man in the mask will be this season, but all we know for certain is that horror legend Tony Todd will be providing the character’s voice. The 60 year old actor has been tapped to help bring Zoom to life, though his physical identity will remain a mystery for at least another month or two. Hopefully, Zoom can prove to be a worthy adversary for the increasingly powerful Barry Allen…
An improved crime fighter
Few heroes are experts right out of the gate, and the Flash is certainly no exception. Barry’s gradual understanding of his newfound powers was another consistently fun plot-driver in season one, but now that he’s had a full year as a speedster under his belt, it might be time for the training wheels to come off. He and the rest of Team Flash worked tirelessly towards the bettering of his abilities last season, and it’s time we start to see that hard work pay off.
One of the greater aspects of the Barry Allen character of the comics is his complete mastery of his particular skill set. Not satisfied with simply being the fastest man alive, Allen incorporates his extensive knowledge of chemistry and forensic science (two underdeveloped aspects of the character from year one) into becoming the very best Flash he can be. His increased knowledge of the Speed Force eventually allows him to vibrate through solid objects and travel across time and alternate dimensions at will, three skills in particular that fans of the show should keep an eye out for in season two. Barry has only scratched the surface of his abilities; surely his upcoming adventures will demonstrate that. The bad guys of Central City don’t stand a chance.
The CW loosens the purse strings a bit
Before the series premiered, Flash fans understandably had their concerns over whether or not a television adaptation of the fastest man alive could possibly do the character justice from a visual standpoint. But one of the more impressive elements of the first season ended up being the series’ surprisingly solid special effects. Television shows are rarely gifted the necessary budget to provide top-notch CGI, and The CW isn’t exactly known as a network that produces overly-realistic special effects. Nevertheless, there were several stand-out moments from last season—a remarkably detailed Gorilla Grodd comes to mind—and season two looks primed to continue setting a high bar for superhero shows.
The rousing success of the first season will likely result in the show being given a bigger budget from the network. A higher budget (assuming it’s put to good use) should mean bigger, better special effects, as well as more super-powered showdowns than we’ve previously seen. Characters like Grodd surely are expensive to create, but that’s the price you pay for producing outstanding television.
As Barry Allen comes to better understand his abilities, he’ll become increasingly powerful, which will necessitate more special effects shots and CGI work. But as long as The CW recognizes this massive crossover hit for what it is, budgetary concerns won’t be a major issue for the show going forward.
For all intents and purposes, The Flash was a huge gamble for The CW, one that has paid off in a major way. The adaptation of one of DC Comics’ most powerful heroes is a certified hit with critics and audiences alike. With expectations for season two about as high as expectations get, fans of the character are certainly in for an interesting ride in the coming months.
What are you looking to see in the second season of The Flash? Are you still angry about that Aquaman reference landing on the cutting room floor? Do you think Professor Zoom will be a familiar face, or a new character altogether? Sound off in the comments below.
The Flash Season 1 is now available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD. Season 2 premieres on The CW on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at 8pm; The Flash will be in theaters on March 18, 2018.