Tonight’s episode of The Flash titled “Welcome to Earth-2” might be the best episode of comic book TV so far this season.
That’s also high praise, considering that comic book adaptations are the hot thing on television this year, with Arrow, The Flash, iZombie, and Legends of Tomorrow over on The CW over to Gotham and Lucifer on FOX, Supergirl on CBS, The Walking Dead and its spinoffs on AMC, Jessica Jones on Netflix, and the shows involving Marvel and agents over on ABC.
What makes tonight’s episode of The Flash work so well?
It embraces the source material but it is also well aware that fans have things they want to see. And, oh, there’s a lot to see.
So far this season, the show has introduced Earth-2 and an alternate Harrison Wells who comes from that other world. There’s even a Flash from the other world, Jay Garrick, who has been marooned on “our” Earth, “Earth-1.” Regular character Cisco has developed the ability to see between worlds, and it’s become handy since an evil being from Earth-2 named “Zoom” has been wreaking havoc across the universes. Many characters from Earth-1 also have doppelgangers on Earth-2, who may look the same but are very different people.
Does that all sound confusing? It should, but when you watch the episode it’ll all make sense. In any event, this episode sees Barry/The Flash, Cisco, and the Wells of Earth-2 traveling to that other world to stop Zoom and rescue Wells’ daughter. While there, we see a different, nerdy Barry; a Joe who’s a jazz singer; a frosty villainous Caitlin who has a very different Ronnie at her side; and a much more self-assured, bolder Iris who has a special place in her heart or a certain Mr. Allen. Along the way, we’ll see characters and things I never, ever expected to see on The Flash TV series, which might open the door to even more amazing storytelling in the future. That’s the other thing that The Flash does at its best — it lays out the possibilities in such a way that the imagination starts racing.
So, there are definitely things for the comic book fans, including some obscure things and some not-so-obscure things. There’s an Easter egg with some Justice League names if you look closely enough; sadly, that might be my only complaint about the episode, as the placement of said Easter egg doesn’t make much sense in the overall scheme of things. And, oh yeah, there’s a lot of stuff for fans of the individual cast members, too. The show finally finds an excuse to let Jesse L. Martin sing, and it’s just as great as you expect it to be. (Side note: Joe and Barry have a very different relationship on Earth-2). Those of you who want to see Barry and Iris together, “WestAllen” fans in the house? You’ll get everything you want, and more. Missing Robbie Amell’s Firestorm or anxious to see Danielle Panabaker’s Caitlin go full Killer Frost? It happens. Want to see Jay Garrick go fast? You might even get that, too. Also, an Arrow favorite who is no longer on the show is alive and well on Earth-2, and seeing that character provides a lot of amusement.
Like last night’s very well done episode of Supergirl, this week’s episode of The Flash also deals with a lot of wish fulfillment, as on Earth-2, Barry has a lot of the things he’s always wanted. But is it really all that perfect? That is also a theme that this episode deals with. Grant Gustin, particularly, delivers a performance that at in one scene may tear your heart out. And, of course, Carlos Valdes’ Cisco has all of the best lines, especially when they see characters from Earth-1 who are… very different people on the other side. I was also happy to see Candice Patton’s Iris playing such a prominent role in this episode, and just wait until you get a look at the Barry of Earth-2… he is such a dork, and I mean that in the most complimentary way.
This wouldn’t be a very complete review without mentioning the excellent job done by The Flash’s VFX team and production designers who made Earth-2 look like a very different place. Even the original Flash series, when doing an alternate universe story, had that Sliders-like limitation of just trying to convert a backlot. I can only imagine that a lot of pre-production went into this to make it look right, and the finished product is fantastic.
If The Flash “Welcome to Earth-2” is an indication of what’s coming for the rest of the season, it’s going to be a fun ride. I’ve always had a love for alternate universe stories, when they’re done right – Lois & Clark’s “Tempus Anyone” is forever a favorite, as is G.I. Joe “Worlds Without End” – and this one is right up there with the rest of them.