The trailing seconds of last season’s finale saw Barry being sucked up in a massive blackhole created in the space-time continuum. “The Man Who Saved Central City” opens six months later with Team Flash disbanded and Barry shouldering the blame for Eddie's death like the giant-hearted superhero that he is.
Even if he is the fastest man live, Barry is spreading himself too thin. He has inherited the now abandoned Star Labs as well as the debt and the ghosts that come with it. He still daylights as Central City CSI, moonlights as The Flash and he even re-builds the businesses destroyed by The Singularity (though I wonder why they haven’t been repaired already. Does insurance cover not cover damage created by black holes?)
So why is Barry so guilt-ridden he doesn’t feel worthy enough to attend his own celebration? And why is Caitlin noticeably absent?
Because Ronnie is also dead.
Barry used his speed to stabilize The Singularity, and Firestorm used his incendiary gifts to merge it, and was presumably caught in the blast. To Barry, Ronnie is “The Man Who Saved Central City” and he is the man killed him. Thus, he hogs the blame and blitzes into missions alone.
And you already know how successful that is. Barry gets his beautiful face smashed in by a radiation-guzzling hulk, and even that doesn’t knock some sense into him. Because that’s Joe’s job. In the flashback young Barry, grieving for a dead mother and an imprisoned father, is always angry. It’s Joe gives Barry permission to be sad and seek comfort. “I got you,” he says both times.
Joe West's (Jesse L. Martin) effortless wisdom and palpable love for Barry is the beating heart that charges “The Flash.” When combined with Grant Gustin’s emotive powers and adorkableness, they create SuperFeels. They're able to induce ugly-cries with a single monologue and whip up angst with a slight furrow of the brow!
The rest of the episode boasts some wicked surprises, namely a new take-charge Iris West reassembling Team Flash; Cisco’s strange snap-back to another world or alternate timeline; and Harrison Wells confessing to Nora Allen’s murder which frees Barry’s father!!!
As an avid television viewer, epic highs immediately makes me tense for the gut-wrenching, I-might-have-to-call-in-sick-to-work-because-Barry-Allen’s-life-fell-apart lows. Is Papa West going to contract cancer? Is Caitlin going to angst about Ronnie’s death for a second consecutive season? Is Iris West going to lose her fabulous wardrobe?!
The other shoe drops, and it’s a maddening one: Henry West, literally 15 minutes after being sprung from the clink and with Barry making plans to move in together and make up for a missing decade with his father, is leaving Central City. So Barry can be The Flash. Huh?! It’s obvious that Joe West is Barry’s father, blood relation or not, and Henry would have be sidelined somehow to keep their relationship going. I was worried the Atom Smasher would attack the prison and kill Henry West before he could be freed. As painful as that would have been, it would have made more sense. Almost anything else would have. But Barry’s life mission has been to reunite his family, and the second he’s done it, Henry vanishes before the frosting on his own celebratory cake dries.
I’m not new to superhero series, cinematic or animated, and the “love and family is a distraction” a stupid, overused cliché that needs to die a death worthy of the worst villains.
However, I may be more a little happy that Joe’s position as Barry’s surrogate father, cheerleader and shrink is firmly intact, especially since Jay Garrick and his dorky helmet arrives with an ominous warning.
Ultimately, “The Flash’s” season opener was a thrilling, intense sprint of an hour that was empowered by Gustin and Martin's soulful performances and stunning visual effects, but was tripped up by hurdles of Henry West’s ridiculous excuses for departing and narrative issues. Thankfully, this season is a marathon, not a sprint. Grade: B+
Best Moments: Cisco’s seemingly ad-libbed “fo’ real?!” when Jay Garrick bypasses Star Labs’ newly upgraded security system. And the Flash symbol or is it a Flash Light?
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