The Flash is two episodes into Season 2 and so far it seems … off.
All the major pieces are in place. Barry is still fast and getting faster. Joe, Cisco and the rest of Team Flash are safely ensconced in STAR Labs. The show has even managed steer away from the creepy Barry-Iris romance so far.
What’s missing right now is what defined the show in its first season: its joy.
In a superhero TV landscape filled with stoic superspies and drab olive archers, The Flash was a breath of fresh air. As bleak as Agents of SHIELD or Arrow might be on a given night, The Flash being a light-hearted ride unlike anything else out there was virtually guaranteed.
While Barry realized the link between power and responsibility early on, it didn’t mean he wasn’t going to have fun with it along the way. The discovery of his superpowers fit Barry’s personality to the letter. The scientist in Barry found joy in the new possibilities with his abilities. The human in Barry found ways to help people in ways never possible before. Barry found his gifts to be a blessing rather than a burden.
When the season premiered last week, the opening voiceover was telling of the change in tone. Instead of breathless enthusiasm when Barry introduced himself as the “fastest man alive,” the breathlessness came from exhaustion because Barry had been going it alone for a number of months following his showdown with Dr. Wells. For the first time, Barry didn’t like being The Flash.
It’s not like The Flash hasn’t been doing good things so far. It’s gone all in with the time travel and the multiverse concept. It’s introduced a new character in Patty Spivot, so at least someone doesn’t know The Flash’s true identity. Jay Garrick, the Flash from the Golden Age of comics, was brought on board with a fun little Easter egg thrown in.
Unfortunately it’s all been done against a drab canvas that’s thrown the whole show off-kilter. The prime example is Cisco’s discovery of his own powers. There’s no one on the show who normally would geek out at getting powers more than Cisco, but they’ve manifested themselves as a cross somewhere between a seizure and a bout with crippling constipation. These powers scare Cisco rather than energize him, which is part of this overall change that’s bringing the whole show down.
Watching these first two episodes have been like drinking a Coke that’s lost its fizz. All the components of the experience you know so well are there, but it’s a huge letdown when those first couple of sips from the glass fail to tickle your nose.
Fortunately, there is still time for The Flash to turn things around. The show has laid a ton of groundwork for the upcoming season in these two episodes. With the mission clear, the possibility for new villains endless and Gorilla Grodd out there somewhere, hopefully The Flash can recapture the spark that made it unique.
Craig Wack still doesn’t like time travel, but is dealing with it. Please follow his Twitter.