Like its title character throughout most of this episode, “Invincible” is brimming with a confidence that has been missing too often this season. Right from its opening minute, which plays like a live-action version of a crazy splash page from a Silver Age comic book, the hour never lets up even as it finds time for banter and heart-to-heart talks among all the regular players. The only question is, what took so long? Why cram the entire “metapocalypse” into the penultimate episode of the season? At times “Invincible” felt like a recap of a multi-episode arc about Central City under siege from a horde of Earth-2 villains, offering tantalizing glimpses of a major event that could have been a lot of fun if played out at length. Maybe that’s too much to ask of a CW budget, however impressive The Flash often is within those constraints. As it is, the result is easily the most satisfying of the Zoom-centric episodes this year, even if the ending leaves a sour aftertaste.
It’s clear from the beginning that Barry’s time in the Speed Force has changed him. It’s the equivalent of a religious conversion, and that’s the way the rest of Team Flash views him as he expresses his unbridled optimism about defeating Zoom and all his minions: as a zealot. He’s got the Speed Force down in his heart and now all things are possible. To his credit, this newfound confidence brings out the best in him as a leader. For once he doesn’t need to mope around until he gets a pep talk from a father figure; in fact, it’s quite the opposite, as both Henry and Joe (as well as Iris) try to reel him back in a bit. This time Barry takes charge of the situation, coming up with the idea of neutralizing the Earth-2 metahumans by using their vibrational frequencies against them.
On the other hand, Barry’s sense of invincibility blinds him to a few things right in front of his face. For instance, he brushes off the fact that Black Siren would have killed him if Wally hadn’t shown up just in time to run her over with his car (which was pretty hilarious and easily my favorite Wally moment to date). Then again, that wouldn’t have been possible if Barry hadn’t blurted out the address right in front of Wally in the first place, so maybe he’d be justified in believing it was all meant to happen. The other big thing Barry doesn’t notice is the “Dead Meat” sign hanging around his father’s neck. Okay, so Henry Allen isn’t literally wearing a sign, but if Barry has ever seen an episode of television before, he should have recognized the signals. Beloved character returns after a long absence; said character has heartfelt talk with son, expresses his love and belief in him; having fulfilled his purpose, character is murdered by lead villain in order to spark hero’s quest for vengeance in the season finale.
It’s more than a little disheartening that the CW superhero shows can’t seem to find any other way to raise the stakes besides having the hero’s loved ones killed off by his Big Bads. I mean, didn’t Arrow just do this? (Yes, which is why Katie Cassidy was able to free up her schedule for this episode.) It’s true that Henry Allen doesn’t really have a place on the team, but after Barry spent the entire first season trying to win his father’s freedom, this can’t help but feel a little cheap. That’s not to say I’m 100 percent sure John Wesley Shipp is gone for good: we still haven’t seen the man behind the iron mask, and the fact that Henry’s mother’s maiden name is Garrick at least suggests the possibility that Shipp will turn up as the real Golden Age Flash.
The death of Henry Allen aside, though, ”Invincible” is a thoroughly entertaining hour. As she proved last season, Katie Cassidy is a much more lively presence on The Flash than Arrow usually allowed her to be. Cisco and Caitlin going undercover as Reverb and Killer Frost is pure gold, as is the interplay between Cisco and Harry over the vibrational frequency doohickey. There are well-played character beats throughout, from Caitlin overcoming her PSTD by getting back to doing good with the team, to Harry switching headphones with Jesse when hers malfunction, to Cisco discovering a new power in a moment of crisis.
That ending is worrisome, though, because it suggests the creative team has learned the wrong lesson from Barry in this episode. The Flash is at its best when it is genuinely optimistic, when its characters truly believe they can accomplish their goals with humor and a spirit of adventure. Yes, the show needs darkness, too, but the balance has been out of whack too often of late. Whatever else the season finale holds in store, it should bring closure to the Zoom storyline. At the very least, that’s a step in the right direction.
- At least John Wesley Shipp finally got to share the screen with Amanda Pays, his co-star on the 1990 version of The Flash. There’s still a trace of the old chemistry there, which makes it even more of a shame that he’s been killed off.
- Tina McGee figured out on her own that Barry is the Flash, and Zoom revealed it in front of Wally. Just publish it in the paper already, Iris.
- “Why do so many villains we go up against use sound as a weapon?” “WHAT?”
- That dinner at the end was going pretty well until Cisco vibed Earth-2 splitting in half. It was all downhill after that.