[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash Season 2, Episode 20.]
Well, you can’t say the writers of The Flash don’t know how to write a compelling cliffhanger. After dropping one massive bombshell as Zoom– sorry, Jay Garri– sorry, Hunter Zolomon explained his master plan and origin and left Barry Allen without his powers, the show took a bit of a week off, calling on another largely forgettable villain as the writers were biding their time for the story which would propel the cast into the season finale. And propel, it has.
In “Rupture”, directed by Armen V. Kevorkian and written by Kai Yu Wu & Lauren Certo, Barry (Grant Gustin) and his friends learn that their holographic substitute for The Flash won’t work forever, which means the dangerous particle accelerator replication proposed by Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) may be the only solution. Elsewhere, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is brought closer to his brother Dante (Nicholas Gonzalez) with the help of a murderous doppelganger – who is soon out-murdered by Zoom (Teddy Sears) himself.
All good things must come to an end, so even the slight calm bought at the price of Caitlin Snow’s (Danielle Panabaker) abduction turned out to last just over a week, before the allure of another world to conquer brought Hunter Zolomon back to Earth-1, and havoc, predictably, ensued. Judging by how forgettable the week since his reveal proved to be, his return couldn’t have come soon enough. And as clumsy as his constant mask-donning and removal – with altering voice to match – may be from scene to scene, the writers didn’t pull any punches when it came to showing just how much this villain is to be feared.
Hearing Harrison Wells talk about the horrors Zoom committed on his world is one thing, but actually seeing it is something else entirely. The previous shot of Zoom taking in a world on fire stepped into over-the-top comic book territory, but seeing him snap the necks of a dozen police officers in a heartbeat brought a sense of terror, gravity, and finality when it was needed most. If the audience needed to know that Zoom was still every bit the monster he was before revealing his true face, that scene accomplished the task and then some.
Entertaining in the moment, while pushing the overall plot forward, it’s almost enough to overlook the fact that Caitlin is still being (literally) dragged along in the story. Not to mention a subplot involving the Brothers Ramon that feels like it probably could have carried some weight – and carries some by the end of the episode – but is so transparently shoved into the proceedings that it’s best taken at face value. Criticism aside, “Rupture” offered all the horror needed to force Barry and his S.T.A.R. Labs team to actually… act.
While the inexplicable departure of Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) remains one of the show’s dullest notes to date, it also means his returns to the action are more than welcome. Although he’s mainly called upon to simply play “the worried dad” here, Henry’s arrival allows for the three mentor figures/adopted fathers in Barry’s life to share the stage, discussing what is best for their son, adopted son, and superhero protege. For Harry, the pragmatist, the plan that stands a chance of returning Barry’s powers is the only one to take, regardless of the risks.
For Henry, any path that could lead Barry into danger is automatically one too dangerous to consider. And Joe, perhaps the easiest to empathize with, has absolutely no idea what to do, having been so far removed from his own sense of right and wrong that he can only channel his parental instincts into hiding his son away in a secure room.
It’s a clever way to bring the themes upon which the show was based (fatherhood and a son’s growth into adulthood) back to the forefront, since Barry quite literally stands aside, watching his father figures try to choose his fate for him. But where the show’s previous season finale saw Barry truly embrace what it means to be a superhero, being faced with a conflicted group of role models and mentors leaves just one solution: decide his own fate, and in the process, become his own man.
With the window dressing changed from that of a standard comic book story to something from the pages of “Frankenstein” (or, more specifically, Geoff Johns’ “Flashpoint” comic series), the particle accelerator experiment could have proven to be more silly than sincere. But, as usual, the buildup is an emotional one more than anything else, with a surprising amount of fighter pilot/experimental science adventure thrown in for good measure. And as each member of Barry’s family delivers what may be their last words, each of the scenes – even the long-coming romantic one between he and Iris (Candice Patton) – are carried off with surprisingly straightforward heart.
As always, it’s Gustin who helps these moments sing, bringing a sincerity to nearly every line of dialogue; his explanation to Henry that being a superhero is “the best version of me” is one fans won’t soon forget. He and the writers (and the supporting cast) have already succeeded in delivering one of the most faithful, emotionally grounded live-action superhero stories DC Comics has ever seen, and unlike some of his colleagues, the apparent ‘death’ of Barry Allen is earned by the time the lightning finally strikes.
Whatever did or didn’t happen in the scene is better discussed elsewhere, at length. But as the credits roll, it’s clear that Barry’s next chapter will be another important step on his way to becoming the hero he’s meant to be – and we have no doubt that his return may be one of the character’s most defining moments in the series so far. Safe to say… we’ll be watching.
The Flash continues with “The Runaway Dinosaur” next Tuesday @8pm on The CW. Watch a preview below: