CW's The Flash was up to its old tricks again last night. It shrugged off the success of Kevin Smith's heartfelt, almost leisurely episode last week in order to once again try and cram in enough plot points for three regular shows. The result was a return to the uneven, awkward experience that's become a running theme this season.
The evening began with the most disappointing hand-waves in the series' short history.
Remember that teeming throng of metahumans bent on Central City's destruction? Yeah, well they were given all of 30 seconds on screen before Flash zipped in to snatch them all up in an instant.
In the beginning the scene had such promise. There was a helicopter shot of dozens of fires raging across Central City. Iris West (Candice Patton) was at her computer, typing away at an editorial meant to inspire the citizens of Central City to persevere. Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and his partner were on the front lines pinned down behind their squad car while a half dozen evildoers tossed SWAT team members around like matchsticks. There were metas in the air, metas on the ground, metas throwing green wads of energy and arcing huge gouts of flame. It was glorious chaos for an instant... and then the camera cut away and an orange light from off screen darted in. The streets were suddenly empty.
After that point, only a single meta other than Zoom (Teddy Sears) was seen on screen for the entire episode. And yet the whole cast kept going on and on about how the city was under siege from dozens, maybe hundreds of them. It was jarring, especially when Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) rolled into STAR Labs that next morning with a spring in his step while the rest of the team kept wringing their hands about the Metapocalypse.
Even more jarring was Barry's doe-eyed acceptance of the Speed Force as his lord and savior. Seems that his time inside the Speed Force has made him become born again, instilling him with a new sense of purpose and completely banishing fear from his mind.
It's creepy, and the folks at STAR Labs immediately start trying, one by one, to have an intervention before Barry gets himself killed. But it's no use. He goes the entire episode in a state of quasi-religious bliss.
Meanwhile, Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) is having terrifying flashbacks from her time in Zoom's captivity. She's hallucinating images of him everywhere, and seems emotionally and physically frail. Around the same time Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) begins having troubling vibes about dead birds falling at his feet.
The monster of the week is Black Siren (Katie Cassidy), who just happens to be Laurel Lance's doppelganger from Earth 2. It's hard enough fighting a meta with a paralyzing scream let alone one who's a dead ringer for his old ally Black Canary, but Barry manages with the help of Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale). Seems his adopted brother has turned into a part-time vigilante, finding crimes in progress with the help of a police scanner and running down metas with his trusty muscle car.
Anyway, Zoom has Black Siren running around Central City bringing down buildings, starting with Mercury Labs. In the show's one extended special effects sequence, Barry races into the collapsing structure to save Dr. Tina McGee (Amanda Pays). He swoops her up in his arms, and then skips along chunks of demolished concrete with ease before dropping her safely to the ground. It was the most heroic we've seen Barry in quite some time and, even if he is a little bamboozled by the Speed Force, at least he's finally living up to his potential.
But not even Barry can keep the streets clear long enough to make time to fight Black Siren. She's simply putting too many people at risk, and all the while dozens of other metas are wrecking havoc in the background. So the team at STAR Labs hatches a plan to, with the help of Hartley Rathaway (who's our ally now, stay with me), create a sonic field that will bring all of the Earth 2 metas to their knees.
Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) sets up an speaker to broadcast the tone out of the lab, and Flash races a circuit around the city in hope of amplifying the sound. To prevent Black Siren from pancaking the floors of the city's biggest skyscraper, Cisco and Caitlin dress up like Reverb and Killer Frost and try to lure her into an alliance against Zoom. But the gambit nearly falls apart when the pair can't hold up the charade. Black Siren has them cornered when Cisco lashes out with previously unknown force powers.
The tone goes off in the nick of time and every resident of Earth 2 now roaming Central City (including, unfortunately, Dr. Harrison Wells) collapses in a heap, only to get snatched up by Barry and locked away. But Zoom escapes by somehow materializing a breach out of thin air.
In the closing moments of the already jam packed show, Cisco finally gets another vision of a dead bird. He turns around mid-vibe to see Earth 2 being torn in half. But is it a vision of the present, or a vision of the future? No one can say, when all of a sudden Zoom shows up and kills Barry's father.
I'm not saying that I didn't see it coming. Zoom's own backstory so closely mirrored Flash's own that it was a foregone conclusion something like this would happen. But the way it went down pushes Zoom's character so far towards off-the-charts, mustache-twirling evil at this point it's just silly. And especially after all the hard work last week of putting Barry back together, of getting his confidence back to where it should be and finally giving him some peace of mind, it was a brutal move by the show's writers.
I only hope that next week's finale makes it all worth it.