The Flash: Season 2, Episode 14 – “Escape From Earth-2”

After last week's disappointment, "Escape From Earth-2" is a welcome return to form for this winning series.

After last week’s disappointing journey to Earth-2 –- that parallel but alternative version of Earth-1 where our familiar heroes and villains exist in parallel but alternative doppelganger forms — this week’s “Escape From Earth-2” is a welcome return to form for this winning series. The first episode of this two-part story quickly went off the rails when — shortly after arriving on Earth-2 to rescue Wells’ (Tom Cavanagh) daughter Jessie (Violett Beane) from the terrifying clutches of Zoom (voiced by Tony Todd) — Barry (Grant Gustin) became obsessed with his doppelganger family. The fact that on Earth-2 Barry was married to Iris (Candice Patton) and at odds with Joe (Jesse L. Martin) was apparently more than the Flash could handle. He kidnapped, then impersonated, his Earth-2 version and took up temporary residence in his life. It all struck me as more than a little creepy and way off track in the quest to rescue Jessie and defeat Zoom.

Meanwhile back on Earth-1, Jay (Teddy Sears) continued on his mopey way as a Flash without superpowers who’s also dying from a terminal illness. One of the greatest characters in the DC Comics canon was reduced to a pitiful state. Together, those two storylines almost managed to kill any joy that came from seeing Caitlin (Danielle Panabeker) as the villain Killer Frost and being introduced to Reverb, the cooler and more powerful version of Cisco’s (Carlos Valdes) Vibe.

Luckily, things start full speed ahead in this episode, with the menacing Zoom scouring the city for Harrision Wells. The speed demon patrols the city, leaving crackling blue lightning in his wake and burning flaming messages into the side of skyscrapers. Zoom wants to take Barry’s speed but needs Wells in order to do it.

Zoom’s rampage sends Wells and Cisco scurrying to find Barry before it’s too late, but not before they remember to free the captive Barry-2. This Barry is a lot less heroic than his Earth-1 version, constantly hyperventilating as if the speed force is trapped inside and trying to get out. The three soon team up with Iris, who in this world is a tough and competent police detective. These two provide much of the fun of this episode. Gustin gets to play his usually somber and serious character for comic relief, while Patton is given a chance to turn Iris, who in her Earth-1 from is often left out because she is neither a superhero nor a super-scientist, into a strong heroic lead.

The heroes team up with Killer Frost in order to find Zoom’s lair and free Barry and Jessie, although, of course, once they’re on Zoom’s turf, things are anything but easy.

All this unfolds while, over on Earth-1, Caitlin finally hits upon the right formula that promises to restore Jay’s speed, cure his disease, and allow him to finally stop feeling sorry for himself and get in on the action. It’s a welcome change.

Fun, alternative versions of the characters, combined with plenty of action and a few unsolved mysteries (who is the man in the iron mask?), make this episode one to remember. From start to finish, the episode maintains a sense of excitement and danger. Our heroes are in trouble and it isn’t clear, even to the last moment, if they are going to fulfill the title’s promise and make their escape.

To give credit where it’s due, most of the threat and tension in this episode is provided by the sheer force of Zoom. Tony Todd’s menacing voice, combined with the leathery, fleshy blackness of the speedster’s mask, makes Zoom seem more monster than man. And, for the second time this season, Zoom’s overwhelming physical assault makes Gustin’s Flash look like a broken doll. Zoom is like an avenging angel, like death itself. This series moves at near the speed of light, but I sure hope they take their time with revealing the mystery of Zoom. He’s too good to waste.

Last week’s trip to Earth-2 left me disappointed. This week’s escape from the alternative Earth left me laughing then shivering in fear, cheering then collapsing in disappointment. Last week’s episode left me wishing the series had never gone there. This week’s left me wishing they could stay.

RATING 9 / 10