[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash Season 2, Episode 14.]
After taking a trip from their own planet to the strange, doppelganger-filled alternate world of Earth-2, the stars of The Flash found their attack on Zoom in his own backyard quickly turned into a rescue operation. Luckily for viewers, the mission to save Barry Allen from the clutches of Zoom capitalized on most of the show's strengths... while the surrounding plot points are better left completely forgotten.
In "Welcome to Earth-2", directed by JJ Makaro and story by Aaron and Todd Helbing with teleplay by David Kob, Barry (Grant Gustin) is locked away in Zoom's prison with a strange cellmate sending a cryptic message. He must rely on his friends to break him out with the help of Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker), while Jay (Teddy Sears) finds a possible cure for his lack of superspeed, and not a moment too soon. But his hopes of returning to normal are cut short as the last breach is closed.
Viewers were led to believe that the masked man in Zoom's lair, tapping with purpose on the the glass of his cell would play a bigger part in this episode, and weren't disappointed. We've already broken down the massive secret he may have been letting slip, but within the actual episode, it offered a surprisingly gripping element to what could have been a slower paced chapter of Barry Allen's life (waiting quietly while his friends seek him out). If nothing else, Barry's commitment to return for the prisoner, by any means necessary, is the kind of true-to-character tease that fans will be more than willing to wait for.
Yet the actual saving of the day is completed by the most unlikely suspect: Killer Frost a.k.a. Earth-2's Caitlin Snow. After being pushed to the periphery of the story for most of this season, there was no better time to give her not just a chunk of an episode, but a twist allowing her to play a completely different character (showing she can have just as much fun as her castmates, should the story call for it). Her double, triple, then quadruple-crossing of Zoom may have been hard to follow, but Panabaker guaranteed that the journey to that destination was a fun one.
Of course, it's Gustin who shines brightest in the ensemble, playing a goofier, meeker, but just as entertaining version of Barry Allen. In truth, he plays it so well, it's almost guaranteed fans will leave wishing they had gotten more of his take on Earth-2 Barry(not quite a missed opportunity, but certainly leaving fans hoping for a future appearance). And at this point, any chance for Iris (Candice Patton) to bite off a sizable story or her own was more than welcome. Although she takes a bit more of a backseat than the last episode had implied, her new role will, at the very least, silence any viewers who feel her lower-priority storylines reflect what she can bring to the table.
Back on Earth-1, the Jay Garrick story moved forwards in leaps and bounds, with Caitlin not just synthesizing a longer lasting, cleaner-burning speed fuel, but potentially reversing the deterioration of Jay's cells. The upturn in his fortunes seems like it was waiting for the other shoe to fall, and while we have our own theory on the side effects of Velocity-9, the episode concludes with his fate left hanging in the balance. With the breach to Earth-2 closing just as Zoom launches an arm through Jay's chest, it seems his story is just getting started.
This week offered some serious problems for fans watching with even a mildly critical eye, particularly the masked prisoner's sudden disappearance from Barry and Jessie's subplot. But even more troubling is the fact that Barry finally encountered an obstacle he couldn't overcome with his existing powers: a sheet of 'carbide glass'(?) that he couldn't vibrate through... until, once again, a pep talk from his friend made him realize he absolutely could. We've mentioned before that the 'you can do this, Barry, now do it' is getting worn out, not to mention undercutting Barry's heroism. To see it return here just as unconvincing is something we sincerely hope will be addressed (read: cast side completely).
The bad news is that the strong character comedy and dynamics, and the infinitely compelling reveal of the man in the iron mask, are balanced out by two of the worst moments in recent Flash memory. It's safe to assume that, at this point, everyone even somewhat familiar with superheroes has heard of the police chief or (the far more stereotypical) newspaper editor who, based on nothing but plot conventions, decides that the hero is actually "an unknown menace." To this point, it's the kind of lazy trope that the writers of The Flash have avoided as best they could (while Arrow has arguably returned to the well with frequency). So to inject not just the new subplot, but an entirely new character who at this point seems to exist solely to advance the idea - that the hero the city loves, and rescued from a singularity threatening the entire planet - is evil.
The single scene introducing the subplot is even more puzzling, since it's never returned to or elaborated upon to justify it. But even more disappointing is the thing - probably best to not even call it a character - called upon to give the team at S.T.A.R. Labs their own battle. Seeing Jay regain his speed and leap into the fight is a treat for fans, but even he isn't forced to lower himself to what is possibly the worst villain the show has introduced thus far. Such formulaic or standard superhero fare can usually be written off as required to give fans a reliable episode, but with Caitlin and Iris each given their own minor subplots, there was really no reason to include the villain, other than hint at Jay's secret activities.
The Flash returns next Tuesday with "King Shark" @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: