REVIEW: The Flash, S6E2 – A Flash of The Lightning

flash 602 lightning review

The Flash‘s season premiere was a strong opener, but it’s “A Flash of The Lightning” that really kicks things off this week. Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candice Patton) must deal with his impending doom just as they’ve begun properly grieving the fresh loss of Nora, while Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) uses her powers to help a falsely accused metahuman and Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker) learns about art. As you can tell, it’s an episode that runs the gamut from highly emotional to lightly comic, but it works on every level.

Candice Patton was the star of last week’s episode, as she conveyed Iris struggling to move on from her daughter’s evanescence (and not the kind to wake you up inside). She shines once more in “A Flash of the Lightning,” but this time Grant Gustin is right there with her, and the camera lets his face do all the work through heartbreaking close-ups as he works out whether he’s willing to sacrifice his life for everyone else’s. Juxtaposed with wide shots of the couple remembering they’re stronger together, it’s as effective narratively speaking as it is impressive on the acting front.

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Henry’s soulmate across the universe.

Iris, taking the necessary role of the optimist this time around, can’t watch Barry give up on himself before he’s even tried. After she convinces him the newspaper can change yet again, he tries to time travel to December 11th – the day after his disappearance – only to run up against an antimatter wall blocking his path and injuring him greatly. So instead, he goes to get his “second opinion” from Dr. Jay Garrick… And his wife, Joan, who is naturally a doppelganger of Barry’s mother Nora. This may have been The Flash‘s unintentionally funny moment for the night: two multiverse-renowned scientists being surprised by this information, despite already knowing about Jay being Henry’s double.

Nevertheless, it’s touching to hear Barry talk about his mother to Joan, and it’s terrifying to watch as Barry is rendered shocked and helpless by the billions of world-ending possibilities. Over and over again, he must watch everyone he loves die, and the only option that saves them all is his own death. (Guess his CW vision didn’t include a screener of Arrow, but that’s another story.) He’s so disheartened that Iris literally has to walk away from him in a particularly painful scene, but one of Joe’s (Jesse L. Martin) trademark pep talks does the trick and reminds him never to give up. Once he faces the metahuman of the week – solo and weakened, I might add! – he takes his newfound tenacity to his wife and promises he would never choose to leave her. Westallen’s chemistry is as strong as it ever was, and thankfully new showrunner Eric Wallace actually lets them showcase some of it in private moments.

But back to the metahuman case in “A Flash of the Lightning,” Cecile starts off the episode ready to seek maximum penalty for a young woman who has spent her life in and out of Iron Heights, but an empathic wave lets her know that the suspect is innocent. Armed with knowledge but no evidence, she takes Allegra’s story to Iris and the fledgling team there decides to investigate. Fans who have been waiting six years to see Iris’ journalism storyline get off the ground may wonder at the number of characters on Team Citizen, but for its first outing it seemed a rousing success. Iris and Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) work together wonderfully, Cecile and Joe engage in an important debate about the mandates of her job versus her duty, and even Kamila gets to dip her toe in.

Allegra’s innocence gets called into question even more when the witness who identified her is found dead – with her standing right over him. But with Cecile’s powers and perseverance, they soon learn that her cousin Esperanza is the one behind the deaths – and that she’s working for a shadow organization utilizing metahuman assassins. It’s the first time The Flash has delved into that kind of territory, as long as you ignore the 3 episodes where they pretended Savitar had a cult following, and it has a lot of promise in terms of widening the world of Central City. Meanwhile, Allegra gets an internship at the Citizen once she’s freed and Cecile gets a new career of metahuman defense attorney. Between introducing bit characters who actually hang around without dating anyone and acknowledge real world-esque cracks in the justice system, “A Flash of Lightning” was full of firsts.

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You WILL respect his gf’s blurry photos.

Killer Frost’s story also unfolds thanks to a recurring character, and it was a surprisingly refreshing change of pace for both “A Flash of the Lightning” and her character as a whole. Upon attending Kamila’s art show opening at Cisco’s (Carlos Valdes), Frost not-so-accidentally steps in it when she insults not just Kamila’s photography but modern art as a whole. She then becomes consumed by the need to learn how to draw herself, and learns both the value of art and the existence of guilt. Cisco and Ralph are both hilarious partners in this misadventure, especially Cisco thanks to Valdes’ impeccable delivery of one-liners, but it’s a little ridiculous that Frost didn’t feel guilt when she was trying to kill Iris or trafficking metahumans for Amunet. But we cannot blame the sins of the past on the showrunners of the present, and this little side plot was an enjoyable use of the rest of the cast.

Finally, Ramsey Rosso’s (Sendhil Ramamurthy) storyline keeps building, revealing our first look at his powers and his own ignorance of them. While cowering in fear after a dark matter exchange goes south, black sludge (blood?) shoots from Ramsey’s body and appears to kill his adversary. He seems shocked enough, but it’s nothing compared to when the corpse reanimates and attacks him while he performs the autopsy. As these are not quite the powers he had in the comic, it’s unclear where The Flash will take him. But it is good that we’re along for the ride that turns him into a full villain, rather than just watching him wreak havoc before he gives a backstory monologue several episodes later.

“A Flash of The Lightning” was not only an excellent setup for Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was also a stellar episode on its own. If this season keeps up the pace and quality, it could be the one we’ve had in years. We’ll find out as The Flash continues airing Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.