“I Just Want One Week Where We’re Not Surprised By Somebody From Our Past.”
This week’s episode of The Flash, “The Darkness and The Light” picked up right where we left off, with one glaring plot hole: Where did King Shark go? After such an amazing debut, it’s pretty unusual that we didn’t even see that amazing monster get locked away in the pipeline. Regardless, even with that cardinal sin of an omission, “The Darkness and the Light” was a great episode that really took it’s name to heart by offsetting some of this seasons darker moments with a truly light and delightful comedic interlude.
Ok, to be fair, the return of King Shark is almost a given. While his cameo was a fun coda that felt more like a nod to Halloween than anything else, the sheer cost of including King Shark must have been massive. So instead of focusing on that portion of the coda, we instead pick up with Barry talking to the Harrison Wells from Earth Two. While we weren’t privy to Barry’s initial sense of shock, we were certainly there for the reactions of the rest of Team Flash, which more than made up for the time saving jump.
One really great moment that helped us get into the rhythm of this week’s episode was the flashback to Earth Two. You have to give the creative time serious props for establishing the difference between the two realities with simple visual cues such as fashion, vehicles, architecture and lighting. It’s a world that fell in love with the 60’s version of the Jetsons with a healthy injection of Art Deco that seems to paint it as a world that, at least superficially was more innocent before Zoom‘s appearance.
When you tie those visual cues to a prolonged look at Harrison Wells, we get a profoundly different personality than the Wells from Season One. Where Eobard Thawne/Harrison Wells was a slow, calculating madman bent on destroying the flash, the Harrison Wells from Earth Two is a confrontational jerk who has no problem telling people exactly what he’s thinking. This is thanks to the tremendous acting talent of Tom Cavanagh who was sorely missed. You can tell that the other actors enjoyed their beats with Cavanagh this week as well as almost everyone had a few good scenes with this smarmy mentor, including Joe choosing to shoot first and ask questions later. Of course, none of these scenes tops the budding antagonistic mentorship between Wells 2 and Cisco. Allowing the sweet Cisco to finally tell off the man who tangentially killed him and is the source of so much pain in Earth One was just awesome. It shows how much the young Cisco has grown in the last year and points to some great potentially in the future.
In the middle of all of this drama though, this week also dropped a new villain into the fold in the form of Doctor Light/Linda Park (Malese Jow) from Earth Two. Depicted as a petty thief with laser powers, Doctor Light is determined to escape the thrall of Zoom and hide out on Earth One. In order to do that she will kill her counterpart and assume the young reporter’s life. It’s an interesting narrative choice that not only shows Light’s desperation in choosing to kill but also gives us an idea of just how evil Zoom must be to drive someone to that point.
Flash Fact: The Silver Age Doctor Light was originally, Arthur Light, a small time supervillain who clashed with the Teen Titans frequently. During Crisis on Infinite Earths, Doctor Light was re-imagined as Japanese Astronomer Kimiyo Hoshi. Her brusque personality convinced people she was a villain despite the fact that she was trying to help. It appears our TV counterpart is mixing the two different origins in with a healthy dose of Linda Park (the wife of Wally West, the third Flash)!
Her face-off with Flash at the end of the episode was fantastic as it made for an exciting showdown and premiered one of my favorite powers in the Flash‘s arsenal: the Speed Mirage. By moving so quickly, the Flash can create an afterimage of himself so he can appear to be in multiple places at once. to be fair we saw this for a moment last year with the Reverse Flash, but it was awesome to see Barry try this power out for himself at long last. It was also a great moment that established Jay as a true mentor to Barry. While Jay may be the older of the two men to hold the name of Flash, he is not immune to things like fear and guilt. While he is certainly brave and selfless he’s failed numerous times to stop the dark speedster and this weighs on the man. To see him admit this and tell Barry that he can be better Flash was a phenomenal beat that gave Jay new depths of heroism despite his lack of speed.
Flash Fact: The Speed Mirage is a power that has graced the pages of the comics for decades. A frequently used trick that allows The Flash to appear in two places at once, the Speed Mirage is a helpful tool for letting people see Barry Allen and the Scarlet speedster at the same time, thus keeping his tenuous secret identity safe.
I will call foul though that after his first encounter with Light, that Barry didn’t approach Team Flash about protective eye gear. It’s a tough thing to justify when you’re in charge of a multi-billion dollar bleeding edge tech company. Ah, such is life. In any event, it’s great to see the writing team develop Linda into a more well rounded character, especially since the teaser for next week seems to play on the idea that she will become an integral part in hunting down the nefarious Zoom. Linda has always been a very proactive person and evolving her into something more than a failed love interest for Barry is definitely a smart move. While combining her with Doctor Light may have been a strange move, the end result is that we may get a far more interesting character than another reporter that can’t put two and two together.
Speaking of love interests and developing characters, we were also given a proper introduction to Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renée), aka Hawkgirl, in tonight’s episode. While there’s been very little to indicate her greater role in Legends of Tomorrow, we are able to get a sense of her character before she takes on a heroic mantle. The fact that she’s also the new love interest for Cisco here is just a bonus as the two have clear on screen chemistry.
Speaking of on screen chemistry, can we all just admit that Barry and Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten) are just too damn adorable together? From their few scenes in the last couple of episodes its clear that these two just work so well together and have created another paradox: a better love interest than the person the hero is “meant” to end up with. Now to be clear, Iris is growing on me, but she seemed far better suited to Eddie than she ever has with Barry. Add on the sheer amount of charisma and charm Patty and Barry share and you’ve pretty much doomed any believable resolution where Barry ends up with Iris. The only way out is to kill off the adorable Spivot, and I can already predict the very justified fan reaction: Kill Spivot and We Riot.
Why wouldn’t we? This week’s episode spent a good portion of time developing the relationship between Barry and Patty. The macguffin of Barry being blind and Patty playing along because he’s just so charming was pure genius. That’s what makes this show so great. While it can veer off into dark territory from time to time, the creative team behind The Flash really knows how to balance these elements into a welcome piece of fiction that is tremendously engaging. Add to that the phenomenal performance by Tom Cavanagh and the surprising twist that Doctor Light was Linda Park’s evil doppelgänger from a parallel world and you have an amazing piece of TV.
Now of course, we have to figure out what’s going on over in Earth Two as Zoom has apparently taken a very unhealthy interest in…Harrison Wells’ daughter?