I don’t think any other episode of The Flash has left me with such a split feeling. I am equal parts thrilled and frustrated by “Invincible,” the penultimate episode of The Flash‘s second season. The things it does right continues the great momentum these last few episodes have had, but its fumbles are so big that it threatens the entire enterprise going forward.
I’m going to go into something of a tangential diatribe here in a bit, but it deals directly with the end of this episode. Consider that your spoiler warning.
The death of Henry Allen is awful and not in its intended way. Firstly, the show couldn’t help but foreshadow it with every viewer under the sun calling his return a setup for a death. Bingo! But it’s also symptomatic of a larger “character death = drama” problem that seems to be more prevalent than usual in our current pop culture landscape. Yes, characters have been getting killed off since Cain and Abel, but the way it’s being utilized in a lot of popular fiction these days feels more motivated by shock than drama. Even staying in the DC universe, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice killed off one of its main characters and it had zero weight to it. The DC shows have been knocking folks off left and right as well. Has Game of Thrones turned everyone into shock-death loving lunatics? I’m sure I sound like a fuddy-duddy but I’m getting bored with this. While Henry’s death in The Flash is structured appropriately to give his death impact, it feels like a real slight against the show and comes across as hollow. Of course I loved John Wesley Shipp’s performance and didn’t want to see him go (especially after reuniting with Tina McGee!), but the way he went left me disappointed instead of sad.
To continue this more tangential rant, I’m sick of character deaths becoming analogous to “spoilers.” I have my issues with the concept of spoilers in general, but it seems like content creators have gotten wind of this and are now trying to engineer “don’t spoil me!” moments into their stories, and the easiest way to do that is to kill a character. It creates a secret knowledge about that piece of art that you have to buy into if you want to experience it properly. If you don’t want to be “spoiled” by something, then you obviously care enough about that something to curate how you obtain information about it, meaning that you are probably going to sonsume it in the near future. I feel like executives are figuring out how to manipulate a culture that places such a high value on “spoilers” and this is the result.
With that out of the way, there was a lot going on in this episode that knocked it out of the park. The metahuman angle works wonders (someone tell me which metas we saw. It’s 3:30 in the morning and I’m lazy), giving us lots of potential baddies for the future. Zoom continues to feel like an actual bad guy (although his “not so different” shtick is old hat) and everyone is pretty on point this week in the performance department. The threat has been intensified (bye bye, Earth-2?) and things have built to an enticing boiling point. As far as the main arc goes, it’s found its footing these last few episodes and hasn’t budged.
Still, I feel a lot less sure about how this season will close out. “Invincible” really dovetailed into the worst soap opera aspects of The Flash this week, but the comic book stuff was a slam dunk. Am I the only one who is nervous for the finale? I’m really interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on this episode.
Favorite moment: I can’t choose between Cisco and Caitlin pretending to be bad guys or Harry’s insistence that Earth-2’s frequency is higher not erratic.
Unfavorite moment: Honorable mention goes to “the metapocalypse,” for sounding both dumb and way too close to the superior Metalocalypse.
The big one this week though was seeing Caitlin’s somewhat uneventful return turned into a rape survivor metaphor. I think making her uneasy after her experience with Zoom makes total narrative sense, but the writers just dropped all attempts at subtlety with this. There were just too many of Caitlin’s lines that really pushed that comparison to the limit. There was a better way to approach her having PTSD from her betrayal and kidnapping than the uncomfortable and poorly handled way it was dealt with in “Invincible.”. Danielle Panabaker and Caitlin Snow deserve better.
Next Episode: The Race of His Life