The Flash Season 2 premiere recap: “The Man Who Saved Central City”

Jeff Pfeiffer
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Happy Flash Day, Barry!

As The Flash Season 2 kicked off (following a quick overview of what happened last season), we find it is 6 months after the Singularity, and we can assume that Barry (Grant Gustin), as The Flash, is, indeed, as the title of this episode indicates, The Man Who Saved Central City. We learn that the city is holding a Flash Day in honor of the hero who saved them, but as Barry has flashbacks throughout the episode, we learn at what cost it came, as Ronnie (Robbie Amell) and Eddie (Rick Cosnett) both appeared to perish during the battle to stop Wells and the Singularity.

In the wake of losing his friends, Barry is determined, now, to work alone as The Flash, not willing to risk any more of his loved ones. Joe (Jesse L. Martin), Iris (Candice Patton) and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) want to reach out to Barry to help him, but he will not let them in. He appears to feel guilty, and not really heroic, so he is hesitant about showing up to Flash Day to receive the key to the city. Unlike the science medals he garnered as a youth, this is an honor Barry doesn’t feel he has earned. Even Iris can’t get Barry to decide to show up to receive the award, even though she tells him the city still believes in The Flash — and so does she.

Along with rapidly fixing up destroyed buildings around Central City at night as The Flash, Barry still has his day job, and early on we see him meeting Joe at a crime scene, where a dead welder named Al Rothstein is found at a nuclear plant. Barry tells Joe the man appears to have been strangled by someone very strong (but not Grodd, he reassures Joe). Meanwhile, we see a stranger is seen photographing Barry at the scene.

Cisco is now a science adviser to the police (sadly, the captain won’t give him a badge), and he is working on a device he calls “The Boot” that he tells Joe will help in the war against evil metahumans. We learn that Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) has taken a job at Mercury Labs, now that Star Labs is defunct following the fallout with Wells.

Following a flashback to the Singularity, we see why Barry thinks Caitlin may be reluctant to see him. Ronnie and Dr. Stein (Victor Garber) merged into Firestorm to help Flash stop the event. They were successful; unfortunately, while Flash was able to catch the Stein as he plummeted to earth, Ronnie, the other half of Firestorm, was nowhere to be found. This, coupled with Eddie’s self-inflicted death to prevent Wells from ever existing as the Reverse Flash, are at the root of Barry’s guild and his desire to work alone.

Something or someone, though, perhaps Iris, eventually gets through to Barry, as he does show up at Flash Day (as his alter-ego, of course) shortly after the mayor announces how grateful Central City is. Flash speeds onto the stage to applause, and takes the key. As this is going on, a hooded figure is pushing his way throughout the crowd, toward the stage. Soon, a truck is hurtled toward the stage, with Flash saving the mayor just in time.

A masked figure attacks Flash; police bullets don’t stop him. Cisco gets his new Boot device, essentially a large, strong ankle cuff that temporarily zaps the man, but doesn’t last long. His leg expands to massive size, breaking the Boot off as the man continues to grow in height and musculature. The man’s mask comes off, revealing Al Rothstein — the supposed corpse Barry had seen earlier.

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Atom Smasher

Following the confrontation, Barry’s friends are determined to help find the identity and location of this new metahuman, whom Stein dubs Atom Smasher (much to Cisco’s pleasure; he tells Stein how proud he is that he came up with such a cool name). Cisco then visits Caitlin at Mercury Labs and enlists her help in tracking down Atom Smasher (played by guest star Adam Copeland); she’s not entirely sure she wants to, still smarting from Ronnie’s death.

Meanwhile, Barry gets a visit from an attorney, who says that Dr. Wells has left Star Labs to Barry. He hands a video drive to Barry, and explains that among Wells’ last requests was that Barry watch the video. Barry doesn’t want to, but takes the drive.

When Barry goes to Star Labs, he finds the gang there, trying to track Atom Smasher. They tell Barry the metahuman is likely back at the nuclear plant to replenish his energy, but before he takes off in pursuit as The Flash, Barry tells them again that he wants to do it alone. “You need your partners, your friends,” Joe says, with Iris adding that they all want to help their city as much as Barry does. “You can’t deny us that,” she tells Barry. Barry, though, is still obviously concerned about putting his friends at risk. He speeds away, and the others realizes that he has left his communicator behind; they have not been able to reach him figuratively before, and now they cannot talk to him literally.

Racing to the nuclear plant, Flash encounters Atom Smasher, and proceeds to get pounded by the brute. The team back at Star Labs manages to tap into the plant’s security cameras, so they can keep tabs on Barry. Cisco also hacks into the alarm system, and the noise distracts Atom Smasher enough that Flash can escape.

As he races away, Barry passes out, and has another flashback, to when Joe was raising him as a boy. Joe is telling him it is okay to let himself feel, to be sad. He doesn’t have to be strong all the time. Young Barry breaks down and hugs Joe, and this memory seems to have an effect on adult Barry, who begins to realize that he does need his friends, and that while it’s okay to grieve for those who were lost, he must move on. Later, as adult Barry is recovering, Joe — referencing Barry’s tendency to want to rebuild Central City — gives him more advice, telling him he should “try rebuilding things that really matter.”

Among those things that really matter would be his friendship with Caitlin. Barry visits her, and they talk about Ronnie. Caitlin tells Barry she knows he did all he could to save him, but she actually blames herself for the loss of Ronnie. She thinks that if she had left Central City with Ronnie when he asked her to, he would still be alive. Barry reassures her it’s not her fault, and later, the two decide to sit down and watch the video Wells left for Barry together.

Wry as ever, the video Wells (Tom Cavanagh) explains how much of a “bummer” it is that Barry is watching this, since it means Wells is dead and the last 50 years have meant nothing. But Wells does give Barry want he wants, and needs — he confesses to the murder of Barry’s mother, and tells him to bring the confession to the police.

Barry gives the evidence to Joe, and word from the D.A. is that it sounds positive that Barry’s father, who had been wrongfully serving time for the murder, will be released.

Excited about the news of possibly reuniting with his father, Barry also further reunites with his friends at Star Labs, finally coming out of his “lone wolf” phase and asking them all for help in tracking Atom Smasher. They decide to have Flash lure Smasher back to the nuclear plant, trap him in the reactor core, and overload him with radiation, since he could not absorb it all at once.

The plan works, and an over-radiated Atom Smasher regresses back into Al Rothstein. Barry apologizes to him, but asks him why he was so determined to kill him. Rothstein tells Barry that someone named Zoom promised to “take him home” if he killed The Flash. There are a couple of characters named Zoom in the Flash comics, one of which was the Reverse-Flash who disguised himself as Wells. Is he back, or is another threat on the horizon?

Barry’s father Henry (John Wesley Shipp) is released from prison, and he is welcomed back at a party at Joe’s house. But Barry’s happiness is kind of short-lived, as Henry tells his son he must leave, that Central City needs him to be The Flash, not Henry Allen’s son. Barry sadly tells his father it’s okay for him to leave, and they embrace.

Later on, Cisco (who now actually does have a police badge) shows Barry the upgrade he’s made to his Flash suit — the chestplate with lightning bolt against a white backdrop, as seen in the future newspaper last season.

That upgrade is tying in with the future, a future that Barry says is fast approaching, and a future which the mysterious Zoom probably knows about, too. We should find out more about Zoom soon, as this episode ends with the stranger who was photographing Barry at the crime scene suddenly appearing at the supposedly now-impenetrable Star Labs. He reveals himself to be Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears). “Your world is in danger,” he warns them all, as we fade out.

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The team confronts an unexpected visitor at Star Labs

Jay Garrick, in the comics, was the Golden Age version of The Flash, first appearing in 1940 and garbed like the speedy god Mercury of old, with a winged helmet (the helmet was seen in last season’s finale flying out of the singularity, so maybe that’s how Garrick arrived into Barry’s world). It sounds like for this series, Garrick will be a multiverse, Earth-2 version of The Flash. We’ll see more of Jay Garrick in next week’s episode, “Flash of Two Worlds,” which was teased a few months ago with this cool re-creation of a classic DC Comics cover depicting both The Flash and Jay Garrick:

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“Flash” Points: “The Man Who Saved Central City”

  • I have to say, Atom Smasher as presented here reminded me a lot of Bane in the Batman comics, both in his costuming here, as well as in his ability to increase in strength.
  • Speaking of Batman, there was a nice Caped Crusader reference when Flash lures Atom Smasher out by sending a “Flash signal” — his trademark lightning bolt — into the sky via a spotlight. When asked how he came up with that, Cisco just says “I think I saw it in a comic book somewhere.”
  • Generally, in the comics, Atom Smasher had been portrayed as a superhero, and not the villain he is seen as here. Perhaps he, too, came from Earth-2, or was brought by Zoom, where he is an opposite of the man he would have been in this universe.

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© 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Credit: Cate Cameron