Like many people, I rate Prisoner of Azkaban’s story very highly (even if Order of the Phoenix was my favorite), but there’s one part that always loses me a little. That’s when Harry steps up to produce a mass Dementor-smashing Patronus at the lake purely by believing that he can do it because he thinks he already has in a very timey-whimey fashion. It just pushed things too far in terms of confidence trumping ability. That’s not to say that confidence and self belief cannot be powerful weapons but as we see in this week’s Flash, they can also be double-edged swords if they cause you to abandon all caution.
Invincible –Zoom’s army of Earth 2 metahumans wreak havoc on the streets of Central City but after Barry shocks the rest of the team with his confidence. That is until a shocking arrival gets him on the ropes; Earth 2’s Laurel Lance aka Black Siren.
Now as tantalizing as last week’s metahuman army ending was, we have to be realistic on the TV budget the show has we were never going to get a full hour of non-stop super power battles but the opening few minutes give us a very satisfying compromise of chaos in the streets. The slow-pulling back camera shot to Joe and Captain Singh is ja- dropping as all manner of different metahumans flash in and out of shot. Iris’ article-writing narration even throws in a great reference to an infamously perilous comic story, “It is only in the blackest of nights that we can truly see the light”. So after showing Barry having a mass round up episode takes a more focused approach on one of Zoom’s key Lieutenants: Earth 2 Laurel Lance, aka Black Siren, aka evil Black Canary. If it was a more routine villain, that would come with some degree of disappointment but there’s just so much here to enjoy. For one thing, Katie Cassidy appears to be revealling in taking on the bad girl role, making her performance a lot of fun as she reveals in overpowering The Flash. It also provides some good dramatic notes as the episode fully reflects her recent Earth 1 death on Arrow. Her reveal is teased nicely for half the episode. The real skill comes from how quickly the script reflects the emotional impact without overselling it. Jessie is used as a group newcomer to question who Laurel is allowing Catlin to affirm her significance. Speaking of Catlin, although she does well selling her post-Zoom captivity trauma, it’s her “really bad idea” antics with Cisco that produce the funniest sequence of the episode. Although faking it as your doppelganger is something we’ve already seen a lot this season (Harrison Wells to Grodd, Barry on Earth 2, Linda as Doctor Light), seeing Cisco and Catlin trying to bluff themselves as Reverb and Killer Frost is immensely fun, especially they get rumbled and all composure gets dropped.
The issue of Barry’s overconfidence becomes an interesting plot point despite proving somewhat inconsistent throughout the episode. It is fascinating to see Barry affected by last week’s Speed Force parlay by going into to full self-righteous mode, believing that the Speed Force and even the entire Universe is on his side (a twist on the classic “If God be for us, who could be against us?”). Having other characters challenge that self-belief out of concern works well but as the episode wares on, so does it ware thinner and feel increasingly out-of-character for Barry to stay the super optimist. Yes, the intent is obviously to build up to the climax and make a tragedy hit Barry harder for believing himself invincible but what actually takes place is so powerful it would have been fine without it. The Wally and Jessie arcs continue to be an enjoyable tease over whether or not either will be super suiting up. We see Jessie requesting further tests convinced that something should have happened to her while Wally goes full-blown vigilante with some Felicity Smoak-worthy vehicle based take downs. Wally’s scenes are much more effective, and Keiynan Lonsdale really delivers when explaining to Joe about his personal guilt driving him to action. He’s convinced he has red on his ledger and wants the chance to make it right. We could still see something happening to either Wally or Jessie next week, following some form of triggering event. In fact, we even get sly nods to Kid Flashes with Joe promising to give Barry hell if he ever has kids. Combine that with the dinner scene toast “to family” and it really feels like The Flash Family is on the way. Especially considering that next week’s iron unmasking still looks like: it will reveal the face of the real Jay Garrick (and we all know who we’re hoping it will be).
So the stage is set for next week’s finale, which looks like it will be taking place in Earth 2, which means mass destruction and high casualties are very real possibilities because the show leaves the entire world behind if it has to. This setup episode isn’t the best offering this season but it ticks all the required boxes. It’s great to have Amanda Pays’ Tina McGee back again and her sussing out Barry’s identify is the best of its kind since Quentin Lance clocking Roy Harper as Arsenal. Episodes that waver like this show us that despite many people placing the show on a very high pedestal, it is far from invincible. Still, anyone that survived last year’s emotional meat grinder of a season finale will go into next week expecting something quite spectacular.