Last week’s “Welcome to Earth-2” did everything right by both The Flash and the intrigue swirling around this season’s biggest story arcs, and “Escape From Earth-2” wraps up Barry and the gang’s latest space-bending adventure by feeding off of the momentum of that previous installment. Zoom continued to build traction as the season’s primary villain, and the high stakes of this week’s second half helped elevate the episode well above a good portion of anything else the show has produced lately.
Such high stakes were firmly established by Zoom, himself, who’s recent spurts of brutality have helped remind us as viewers why he’s been perceived as such a dangerous presence in the first place. One standout scene in particular involved him and Barry, as he beat the Scarlet Speedster senseless just to clarify the costs of simply communicating with the other prisoners in his “lair” (Side note: Cisco declaring Zoom’s living quarters a “lair” was as awesome and as Cisco as it sounds). His declaration to Jessie that he was only keeping her alive so that Wells could watch her die was effective enough to feel immensely threatening, and the brief showdown at the precipice of the episode almost brought his promise back around full circle in a heartbreaking way. Up until the aforementioned showdown, I had a legitimate feeling that Zoom was going to guarantee at least one character fatality, and while that may not have been the case (or it very well could be, as I’m suspecting that he murdered Killer Frost for betraying him and he stabbed Jay before pulling him back into Earth-2), his heightened maliciousness these last couple of weeks kept the pendulum swinging.
However, his intentions continue to appear a bit vague, and after he determined that Barry’s role in his plan is simply to grant him more speed I can’t help but wonder what will make of Zoom if everything works out for him. We know how he used Jessie to get to Wells both psychologically and resourcefully, which in it’s own twisted way is pretty fucked up – but what else is he planning on doing with Barry’s speedforce? He’s already faster than Barry at this point without it – is there a time limit to his own speed or something? It appears The Flash would probably be better off leaving Zoom’s motivations under interpretation, because as far as I’m concerned his endgame is losing my interest the more it’s unraveled.
“Escape From Earth-2” had the benefit of last week’s episode fleshing out this alternate universe and drawing stark contrasts between the inhabitants of both worlds. We are aware that there’s a deep enough correlation between the two for us to feel emotionally invested in Earth-2’s Barry, or Iris, or Caitlin independent of their Earth-1 counterparts. Therefore, last night’s narrowed focus on those three particular characters paid off splendidly. The quirkier, geekier Barry of Earth-2 proved that he’s no Bruce Wayne without the suit, and The Flash spared no expense in labeling his attempts of heroism as a sort of comedic, “Are you serious?” parody to our Barry’s more experienced comportment. But the same level of effort to save the day is present, and when Earth-1 Barry needs a big enough lift to phase his way out of Zoom’s cage that same nerdy doppleganger is there for ample support. Mind you, the show still had plenty of fun with Earth-2 Barry last night, but it really ran away with the character by having him culminate with our Barry in a more heartfelt fashion.
Earth-2 Caitlin/Killer Frost didn’t have the benefit of being emotionally uplifted by her opposite half, but leave it up to Cisco to re-imagine who she really was behind the rough exterior. Having him be the voice of reason for her was as perfect a writing decision as could be, specifically because of how strong their friendship has become over on Earth-1 – and also because of how long we’ve seen them play off of one another’s goofiness. Without a doubt, no one else knows Caitlin better than Cisco, and seeing him step up to the plate and help Frost turn the corner that she did in the wake of Deathstorm’s demise felt very true to the character. And just like the two Barry’s, Frost’s turnaround agrees with the type of person our Caitlin has learned to become – while Cisco continued to provide his signature zaniness (“You would be very disappointed in you right now!”).
I’m glad that the show decided to cap off the Earth-2 adventure this week and bring everyone – Wells and Jessie included – back home, and that’s mostly because Jay’s character arc never took off down in Earth-1. Despite Caitlin’s increasing fondness in him and the brief moment of victory he experienced from saving all those lives from that falling building – I’m still hardly convinced that this is a man worth caring about. Maybe if The Flash didn’t try and cram his failing health on us so abruptly, or carefully developed him as something more than a one-dimensional speedster, my stance would be different. But the episode tries too hard to brush him and Caitlin up together instead, which is only for the sake of us feeling sorry for Caitlin when Zoom drags him back into Earth-2 (seriously, though: Why did he stand right in front of the dimensional portal for so long, even after everyone had already returned?) To sum it all up: I’d rather the show make Jay’s struggle to be a true hero for Central City in his world a top priority over all this extra stuff.
This week also had an ongoing issue sparking any fascination out of Geomancer or the intriguing idea of a city temporarily without a savior. Practically every attempt to inject some life in this subplot fell flat, from Iris’s new boss haggling her for fresh leads on the Flash, to the blandness of both Geomancer’s intentions and his personality. Considering how much ground the West-centric story arc has covered beforehand, coupled with a severe lack of motion in any other Earth-1-related plot – this half of the episode was begging for the S.T.A.R. Labs team to return to 100% capacity.
Also: Does anyone else suspect that masked guy in Zoom’s other cage to be Barry’s father? I’m under the belief that he’s Earth-1 Harry, and Barry’s incessant hankering to rescue him along with Jessie was the show subtly trying to callback the father/son dynamic of last season. Let’s not also forget that Zoom has physically overcome the Flash, yet is insistent on keeping him alive at least until he’s siphoned his speedforce. Harry hasn’t been seen or heard from in a while, either – so there’s that, too.
“Escape from Earth-2” had no answer for Barry’s absence back home, but did an excellent job ratcheting up the stakes on the other side of the dimensional coin. Zoom’s very presence this week added to the extremities of the rescue mission at hand, while similar character beats from last week were explored with interesting depth. The emotional link between the two worlds also helped carry the proceedings, providing a compelling outlet for meaningful dialogue that demonstrated the flaws these characters have lived with their whole lives – regardless what world they’re from.
+ Emotional link between Earth-1 and Earth-2
+ Cisco reaching out to Killer Frost
+ Zoom continuing to make his presence felt…
– While also losing some scary points for revealing his plan
– Jay’s still very underwritten
– Earth-1 material was bland and momentum-killing