The Flash, Season 2, Episode 1, “The Man Who Saved Central City”
Directed by Ralph Hemecker
Teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Gabrielle Stanton
Airs on Tuesdays at 8 pm (ET) on The CW
It’s been six months since we last we saw The Flash save Central City when racing up a building in a desperate attempt to prevent his hometown from being destroyed by a temporal vortex. The first episode of Season 2 — “The Man Who Saved Central City” — doesn’t concern itself with the immediate aftermath of this event. Instead, the show jumps forward six months and opens with the Scarlet Speedster and Firestorm squaring off with Captain Cold and Heat Wave. As it turns out, it is only a dream and for Barry, saving Central City came at a heavy cost. Still feeling responsible for Eddie’s death, Barry pushes his friends away and is now determined to protect the city all on his own. As Barry says, he wasn’t the man who saved Central City and he believes everyone he’s close to would be better off without him. It’s a strong opening to the sophomore season, and a harsh reminder of just how emotionally torn apart Barry was by the end of season one.
As far as the rest of Central City is concerned, however, the Flash is the hero, and the man who saved the city from total annihilation. In showing their appreciation for his bravery, the city organizes a Flash Day rally which Barry reluctantly attends. Just before The Flash is handed the key to the city from the mayor, the festivities are interrupted by the arrival of a new villain, nicknamed the Atom Smasher, and played by former WWE superstar Atom “Edge” Copeland. The radiation-powered metahuman is a dead ringer for a recently deceased nuclear power plant worker named Al Rothstein, and his power allows him to increase strength and density to whatever size he chooses (it was explained in JSA #75 that his muscles and bones actually break and reform as they grow in order to achieve these great heights). At first, Atom Smasher is too powerful for The Flash to handle but it doesn’t take long before Barry — with help from his team —finds a way to stop Atom Smasher from destroying more lives. Needless to say, we won’t be seeing him ever again since he doesn’t make it out of the episode alive. While Atom Smasher does bring some pretty neat special effects and a couple of modest action scenes, his real purpose in the episode is to remind Barry that he can’t do everything alone and desperately needs the help of his crew. The season 2 premiere is quick to teach Barry a nuanced lesson while placing his teammates further into the spotlight.
The Flash (at least in the TV series) has never been a one-man show – he’s always worked with a team, and truth be told, he’s often relied on his former mentor Harrison Wells, along with Cisco and Caitlin, to get him out of dangerous and tricky situations. He’d be less of a superhero without them and most likely dead if not for their constant guidance. And so it shouldn’t be a surprise that after distancing himself for six months, it would take a new threat in the form of a superhuman, to bring the team back together. The battle between The Flash and Atom Smasher was exciting to watch, especially when seeing Atom transform from a regular size man to a giant beast. But his reasoning to exist in this episode is two-fold and he’s more than just a catalyst for unifying the team. With his final breath, he tells The Flash that he’s been sent by Zoom to kill Barry, strongly implying that he is from the future and setting up what will surely be the season’s most important arc.
“The Man Who Saved Central City” isn’t the most exciting episode of The Flash but it does a fine job in balancing action, mystery and more importantly, finding time for the supporting cast to play a bigger role. For a show that’s centered around the superhero lore, it is the characters and their relationships with each other that make it all worth watching. It wasn’t a big surprise to see Dr. Wells make an appearance this week, considering the CW announced that Tom Cavanagh would remain a series regular for Season 2. I guess it makes perfect sense that his brief cameo would come by way of a video recording. But what I wasn’t expecting was a full blown confession that he murdered Barry’s mother. Not only did Wells pretty much hand over the keys to S.T.A.R. Labs to Barry, but in this episode he gives Barry what he’s always wanted — his father’s freedom. The sequence was well played but leaves viewers with plenty of questions. For starters, what is his motive for finally giving Barry the evidence he needs to prove his father is innocent of the crime? And now that Thawne is dead, are we to assume that Cavanagh will return as a different version of Wells from another timeline? Whatever the case, the scene reminds us that Dr. Wells know Barry Allen better than anyone else, including Barry himself. And as Wells stated in his video confession, Barry will never be truly happy, no matter how hard he tries.
As the episode draws to a close, fans of the Flash comics are treated to the eagerly anticipated arrival of the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears), who warns Barry that his world is in grave danger. This development will no doubt please fanboys since Garrick is one of the most popular, and arguably, one of the most important superheroes in the DC canon, but I can’t help but think his arrival overshadows the best moment of the episode. Everything involving Henry’s welcome home party hit all the right notes, and watching Grant Gustin and John Wesley Shipp together in one scene makes me wish Henry would stick around a little bit longer. Throughout all of season one, Barry’s best moments came during his scenes shared with his adoptive father (Joe), his father figure (Wells) and his real dad (Henry). With Wells gone, Henry leaving and Joe now spending more time with Cisco, I can’t help but think that Barry’s character arc won’t be as interesting this season. Barry finally enjoys a moment of true happiness, but it wouldn’t last very long. As Henry explains, Central City needs the Flash more than it needs Henry Allen’s son. I would argue that the show and Barry, need Henry more than he thinks.
The first season of The Flash seemed to never slow down, racing through major plot points almost as fast as Empire rushes through scenes between commercial breaks. By the end of the season, the show had embraced its origins and managed to please fans of the comic and newbies equally. “The Man Who Saved Central City” sets up a whole season’s worth of new mysteries while reminding us that foes like Grodd, Captain Cold, and Dr. Wells are still at large. “The Man Who Saved Central City” delivers plenty of action, strong visual effects, a good dose of humor and a couple of great emotional moments to boot. And thanks to the ending, it’s clear Season 2 is wasting no time in setting things in motion.
- Seeing Cisco in his new role as the CCPD’s resident tech advisor was pretty great, especially since he and Joe have such a good rapport, and watching Cisco and Professor Stein enjoy some bonding time was also a lot of fun. I especially like the moment when Cisco hugs Stein after he comes up with the nickname Atom-Smasher!
- Cisco got the idea for the Flash signal from a comic book.