Two episodes into the season, it’s becoming clear that the upcoming “Crisis On Infinite Earths” is not just another annual crossover event. It’s the driving force of the season, or at least the first half of it. That has an impact on the storytelling in more ways than one. Narratively, The Flash is laying the groundwork for the crisis to come and Barry’s role in it. From a production standpoint, the show appears to be saving bullets by toning down the superheroics early on in order to have a sufficient budget to pull off the Crisis. That makes for an episode more concerned with character development than flashy special effects, and for the most part it works pretty well.
Barry had hoped the headline indicating he would disappear in the Crisis meant he could return at some point, but the Monitor squashed those hopes last week. He’s gotta die if everyone else is going to live, and now the timetable has been advanced significantly. Barry decides to take a peek at the future, specifically the day after his sacrifice, but an anti-matter barrier prevents him from speeding ahead through time. As we learn later, anti-matter is popping up all over the multiverse, and those familiar with the comic book version of Crisis On Infinite Earths know that’s not a good thing. (Actually, I’m pretty sure anyone could figure that out.)
Barry enlists the help of Jay Garrick, formerly the Flash of Earth-3 and doppelganger of Barry’s late father. John Wesley Shipp is always a welcome presence, even when he was sadly under-utilized as the Flash of Earth-90 in last year’s “Elseworlds” crossover. Whether or not he’s playing Barry’s actual father, he conveys the kind of solid reliability a hero needs in desperate times. This time Jay is joined by new wife Dr. Joan Williams, and wouldn’t you know it, she’s a dead ringer for Barry’s mom (both characters are played by Michelle Harrison). Using Jay’s old Flash helmet, the two are able to rig up a mental fast-forward that allows Barry to view billions of possible outcomes of the Crisis, all of which end in death for everyone unless he gives up his own life.
The neural hyper-collider leaves Barry feeling fried and sidelined for most of the episode, so the villain of the week becomes a case for Joe and Cecile. It’s great to have Jesse L. Martin back at full strength this year, and he and Danielle Nicolet make for an appealing crime-solving duo. This episode marks a turning point of sorts, as Cecile finally realizes her empathy powers aren’t exactly a good fit for her role as a prosecutor. Despite all evidence to the contrary, she’s convinced radio wave-controlling meta Allegra Garcia is innocent, even when a witness is murdered shortly after Cecile has arranged for Allegra’s release on bail. When it turns out she’s right, and it’s actually Allegra’s cousin Esperanza doing the crimes, Cecile decides defending metas would be a better use of her time than trying to put them away.
Also dealing with an identity crisis of sorts is Killer Frost, trying to master everyday human interaction and coming up short when she can’t help but voice her true feelings about Kamilla’s photography exhibit. Still, the gallery visit unlocks a previously hidden affinity for art in the frosty one, and even though her crude drawings aren’t necessarily ready for their own showing, Cisco happily displays one among the collection of photos Frost bought out of guilt. Danielle Panabaker has previously presented a clear division between Caitlin and her alter ego, but she starts to blur the lines here, mixing a bit of the former’s vulnerability in with the latter’s bluntness.
As for Barry, he’s only a Joe West pep talk away from embracing his destiny, even if it means his own demise. All this preparation for the Crisis has me wondering just how this TV version is going to play out. As longtime DC readers know, the comics version was a means to an end: it was supposed to streamline the DC universe by clearing out all the parallel Earths and resetting the various superhero storylines to allow new readers in. It worked so well, DC has to keep on doing it every few years. But Barry Allen really did die, and he stayed that way for a couple of decades, which has got to be some kind of comic book record. Surely even if the show kills off Barry, he won’t stay dead long. More than that, though, is the plan here really to collapse the CW multiverse? Will all the other Earths go away? That doesn’t sound like much fun. Where would we get our new Harrison Wellses from?
- The episode title comes from the William Knox poem Joan reads to Barry in order to get his synapses firing again (although he usually opts for Lady Gaga). The poem is called “Mortality,” portentously enough.
- Ramsey Rosso makes a few brief appearances this week, first seemingly killing a weapons merchant with his morphed-out arm and then finding out he’s not dead after performing a test that reveals a strange substance coagulating the victim’s blood.
- Is this the first time we’ve heard that the speed of light is 80 times Barry’s top speed? He’s slower than I thought.
- It seems there’s a secret organization exploiting metas. More on this to come, no doubt.