The sophomore season of the superhero drama has been retracing the steps of its standout first season, from its super-powered speedster Big Bad, to how Team Flash plans to deal with its new foe. And as the show heads closer to the season's end, the team is rehashing the bad ideas from last season in an all too familiar setup -- but it's not too late for the show to break the cycle.
But first, let's talk about why Season 2 is feeling like we're watching Season 1 all over again.
This year's big villain, Zoom (Teddy Sears), is a hyper-fast speedster from another place in the time-space continuum, just like last year's Big Bad, Reverse Flash (Tom Cavanagh). Zoom, like Reverse Flash, introduced himself to the group by posing as their mentor, used his knowledge of the speed force to help Barry get faster, and then revealed he was assisting the team only to take Barry's speed for himself.
If it feels like they did a find-and-replace with "Zoom" and "Reverse Flash," the similarities are an intentional play by the producers.
"We've always said ... that we didn't feel that this season was a repeat of last season. This season happened because of last season," executive producer Andrew Kreisberg explained at a recent screening event. "[The team] wanted to believe it. [Hunter] kind of told them everything. The way he talked about Zoom, the way he lost his powers -- they took a lot of it on faith."
We can follow the logic of how Team Flash fell for Zoom's masquerade as the "heroic" Jay Garrick, but on Tuesday night, the team will answer his betrayal by trying to recreate the particle accelerator explosion that initially gave Barry his powers -- to try and give Barry his lost speed back. Last season, the team had a similar answer for beating Reverse Flash, when they used the particle accelerator to go back in time to try and stop the villain from killing Barry's mom. That opened the multi-verse, which paved the way for Zoom to make his way to Barry's Earth in the first place.
The danger is that if the team goes ahead with rebuilding the accelerator, they could rip another hole in the universe and find themselves in a repeating loop of the same problems in Season 3. If the plan works, how far will the team have moved -- physically and emotionally -- from where they were a year ago?
If The Flash wants to avoid the feeling of being in a rinse and repeat cycle, they are going to have to diverge the team from their path by the end of the season. Luckily, they still have a mystery card to play that could change everything: the Man in the Iron Mask. The mystery prisoner being kept in Zoom's lair has appeared in multiple episodes now, implying that his identity is important to the overall arc of the season. He needs to be someone essential to the narrative of the show, not just an exciting comic book cameo. Whoever is in the iron mask should not only be crucial to helping the team stop Zoom (without making any holes in the universe), but propel them into a completely new direction for next season.
The good news is that Kreisberg feels confident the reveal will do just that. "The answer is going to blow your minds," he says. "The two things I am most proud of this season are [Earth-2 Harrison Wells] and the identity of the man in the mask."
Here's hoping that whoever the Man in the Iron Mask is, he helps The Flash break out of this current, repetitive cycle.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/9c on The CW.
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