Arrow logically played things safe at first, debuting as an action and adventure show with an angry vigilante ostensibly based on DC Comics’ Green Arrow and slowly evolving into a bona fide superhero show. Its first spinoff, The Flash, didn’t quite have that luxury. While Oliver Queen could gradually become Green Arrow, Barry Allen had to pretty much become “The Flash”, right away or else we wouldn’t have a show.
Speeding around in a dark-red leather costume with full headgear and mask, Barry Allen/ The Flash (Grant Gustin) didn’t have the luxury of taking his time in becoming his comic book superhero namesake. This was episode one material (after two guest shots on Arrow of course). While Arrow launched the whole thing and lent its name to “The Arrowverse”, The Flash is the real launchpad of the DC Comics live action universe on television.
Then again, this does make a lot of sense. It was Barry Allen’s debut in Showcase #4 (October, 1956) that ushered in the Silver Age of comics, leading to revitalized characters like Green Lantern, The Atom and Hawkman (the latter two appearing in the “Arrowverse”). It was also Barry Allen’s Flash who introduced the concept of the DC Multiverse in DC’s own The Flash vol. 1 #123 (September, 1961) in which Barry Allen teams up with the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick.
For all that The Flash has done for DC on television, it’s this later story that props up the second season of The Flash. As the first season came to a close, we saw a rift opening over Central City and threatening to destroy the entire planet (and more). While this leads both to a satisfying end to the first season and a riveting kickoff for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, more importantly this singularity opens allows the first crossovers between “Earth-One” and an Art Deco, sepia toned “Earth-Two”. With the Reverse-Flash (Tom Cavanaugh) defeated, a new arch villain arises from another Earth in which there is another Flash named Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears).
This gives The Flash the unenviable task of helping to launch the future spinoffs of the “Arrowverse” while also exploring the multiverse, crossing over with Arrow and Supergirl and somehow managing to satisfy audiences as its own show while competing with its first season. The surprising thing is that The Flash succeeds at these lofty goals across two Earths. It’s almost impossible not to want more with each and every episode as it comes.
The terrifying, super-powered serial killer known as Zoom
As compelling and even disturbing as season one’s Reverse-Flash was, this new villain who creates crises on multiple Earths is even more terrifying. “Zoom” is another speedster from “Earth-Two” who has become obsessed with both men who call themselves “The Flash”. Dressed in a pitch black version of the uniform worn by both Flash and Reverse-Flash and played by multiple actors (to help disguise his identity) “Zoom” cuts a terrifying and sadistically dark image. Add the deep and throaty voice of the great veteran actor Tony Todd and you’ve got one of the scariest villains on television.
Indeed, there’s no other villain quite like him. The same can’t quite be said for this series’ namesake, though. While having two superheroes with the same name might be confusing to television audiences (as much as it might be to DC Comics’ new readers), it becomes one of the most interesting plot points of this new, mysterious season. The other fascinating element of the saga is the identity of Zoom himself. With virtually every character on The Flash having a doppelganger on Earth-Two (many of whom become Zoom’s pawns), Zoom could be just about anybody. With everyone with a claim to the name “Flash” having time travel abilities, that person might surprise any of us.
That’s the fun of The Flash. While the DC Extended Universe has faltered on film, the Arrowverse has proven to be both true to the comics and its own unique set of stories. The Flash could have been a jaunty, jokey kid’s show, but it turned out to be a unique and complex television drama that’s as addictive as they come. Episode by episode, there are more and more layers.
And the ensemble cast is only growing. Tom Cavanagh returns as a different version of Harrison Wells, forcing everyone to question whom they can trust. Keiynan Lonsdale appears as Wally West, a very recognizable name in The Flash comics. Jesse L. Martin is excellent as ever as Detective Joe West and actually sings (he did originate the character of Collins on Broadway in Rent before becoming a Law & Order cop) in this season.
Meanwhile, Barry’s “other dad”, Henry Allen, is still played by John Wesley Shipp (in a fit of casting genius as he did play Barry Allen/ The Flash in the 1990 series of the same name). Shipp’s acting is good here and even though the central focus of the character (serving time in prison after being framed for the murder of his wife) was resolved last season, Shipp’s role actually expands in the second season to encompass some huge surprises.
With four hours of bonus features including deleted scenes, a gag reel, Comic Con panel and some engrossing featurettes (not to mention the crossover episode with Arrow so the entire story is presented) the 2016 Blu Ray release from Warner Home Video is a winner for collectors. But the show itself is the real reason to collect. As I mentioned in my review for Arrow Season 4, this is the closest thing to a comic book (and comic book universe) on television. Not everything plays out exactly as it did on the gridded page, but that makes for a great deal of good surprises in the Arrowverse.
More importantly, The Flash remains true to its namesake character and proves that DC Comics can indeed be translated successfully (and accurately) into live action.