Synopsis of 2×13: Barry, Harry, and Cisco make the jump to Earth-2 and encounter more fan service than they can handle.
There are few prospects more tantalizing to a genre writer than the alternate Earth.
It is a place beaming with potential energy. Every wacky idea, bizarre piece of character development, or moment of unthinkable insanity that has never been considered twice is suddenly on the table. The show doesn’t have to live with the consequences. Everyone is killable and nothing gold needs to stay.
The team behind The Flash really takes the license to cut loose with Earth-2. Barry is a huge nerd! He’s married to Iris! Who is a detective! And takes him to Jitterbugs! Where Joe is the lead singer! Who hates Barry! And he’s attacked by Evil Caitlin and Evil Ronnie! Who are working for Evil Cisco!
Every single Alternate Earth cliché is on display and all of them are emboldened by The Flash’s characteristic charisma and charm. It’s a frankly incredible amount of fun made even better by staging a compelling story at its center. Barry (and, by extension, we) do exactly what Jay warns against: we become invested. These people look like the people we love. Doppelgangers or no, we want Joe alive, Iris safe, and Caitlin to be a good little lab tech.
“Welcome to Earth-2” has its tone perfectly set before anyone even sets foot on Earth-2. As the Speed Cannon fires off Barry and Co. between dimensions, they travel through a wind tunnel of Easter Eggs, like that scary Willy Wonka tunnel turned from nightmare fuel to fanboy fuel. It’s very similar to a tunnel we got near the end of last season, the very same tunnel that gave us our first look at Killer Frost almost a year ago. This one’s little nuggets: brief appearances by Jonah Hex and Supergirl, both of whom will be officially joining the Arrowverse soon enough.
The first doppelganger they encounter really sets up the kind of reversals we can expect on Earth-2. In S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry and Cisco come face-to-face with Henry Hewitt, a fire-spewing villain on Earth-1, who is a kindly scientist. It’s a funny moment (Grant Gustin and Carlos Valdes’ reactions are wonderful) that introduces people unfamiliar with these kinds of stories to the bizarro world they’re charging into.
Unsure of what to do from here, Barry kidnaps the nebbish CSI version of himself and knocks him out (always the simplest and most effective method). Donning his clothes, our Barry heads off to CCPD to look for answers. And he finds more than he bargained for. Specifically, Iris’ tongue down his throat. Yes, West-Allen true believers, Barry and Iris are married on Earth-2, and happily so. Which is nice.
Doing exactly what every Almost Famous-type mentor figure will tell you not to do, Barry becomes embroiled in the trials and tribulations of these alternate folks. When he discovers that Joe hates his guts, Barry feels compelled to rectify this, which he just about does before Joe dies in his hospital bed. From wounds by fireball. That happened because Barry was in Jitterbugs that night. If Barry manages to escape Earth-2 with his life, he’s going to have some real survivor’s guilt.
The most fun this week has to have been had by Danielle Panabaker and Carlos Valdes, who get to flex their villain muscles to their fullest potential. Panabaker imbues Killer Frost with a ravenous snarl, one that might suggest she would use her looks as a weapon if she didn’t have ice powers. And she’s partnered up with Ronnie, who long ago shut up the Dr. Stein half of their Firestorm dynamic and became “Deathstorm” and maybe it was a good thing this guy died. They’re a power couple (ha!), the only person the other one can kiss. And Zoom kills the gadzooks out of him. I wonder if anyone will survive Barry’s journey to Earth-2.
Valdes takes a less Poison Ivy route with the Reverb iteration of Cisco. He removes Cisco’s inherent dorkiness and personality, making him sound like one of those long-necked cloners from Attack of the Clones. Reverb has an incredible amount of power. It’s enough to keep Killer Frost and Deathstorm in check. But even he answers to Zoom.
Zoom, whose law it is that a found speedster must go unharmed, kills Ronnie and Cisco and takes Barry prisoner. Now Barry is trapped in a glass cage by the most powerful foe any of them have ever faced. But at least he found Jessie?
On the Earth where Leonard Snart isn’t the mayor, a new metahuman that calls himself the Geomancer is wreaking havoc on Central City. With no Flash to protect them, Caitlin decides it’s time to turn the Science up to eleven and get Jay his speed back. At least for a while. Seeing Jay kick into action for only the second time since he appeared is wonderful. That hat-punching technique is really effective. Maybe Jay can help against Zoom. Maybe Caitlin will finally get the credit she deserves.
Find out in Part Two…