Up is down. Black is white. Caitlin and Ronnie are evil. Deadshot is a wimp. Barry’s mom is alive. In “Welcome to Earth-2,” The Flash upends its dynamic characters, even the minor ones, and explores every opposite interpretation in a packed but excellently-paced hour in which Cisco and Barry embark on a mission to stop Zoom on the parallel Earth-2, the home of Harrison Wells.
None of the differences in Earth-2 are played for laughs or cheap novelties, but to illustrate the complex dimensions of everybody who populates the worlds — both of them. The Flash is truly the best superhero show on TV right now, succeeding not because of the SFX-heavy action, but because we give a shit about everybody. Even the doppelgängers.
I could pick any of the Earth-2 mirrors and the altered relationships from Earth-1 — Earth-2’s Joe West having a hostile relationship with Barry is a clear stand-out — but none of them were as powerful nor best embodying The Flash’s compelling storytelling as Earth-1 Barry hearing his mother’s voice. Nora Allen, whose murder propelled Barry to become the Flash, is alive, healthy, and maybe a little bored on Earth-2.
Of all the scenes that illustrate Earth-2’s opposite nature, Barry’s brief reunion with his mother was a prime example of so much with so little. We do not see Michelle Harrison return on screen as Nora, nor is the phone call actually important to the plot. It’s just a poignant but impactful character moment for Barry that exhibits how really deep a ridiculous comic book concept like “multiple worlds” can still benefit believable and grounded storytelling.
Shout out to Grant Gustin. In one phone call, Gustin’s face shows shock, joy, pain, remorse, and even love — with no cutaways or split-screen to Nora. She’s just a voice on the other line, still like a ghost to Barry, but Gustin’s expressions were as vivid and real as if he were performing live on a stage.
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least gush on The Flash’s extra effort to really stretch the concept. Deadshot, aka Floyd Lawton, as a police officer with Stormtrooper aim was not only a fun joke with a great punchline, but also a pleasant surprise, given Deadshot is very dead in the Arrowverse. Iris West as a confident detective with swagger was a great look, while Joe being an utter dick to Barry — with legitimate reason! — felt absolutely fresh. All the more painful when Joe died of Deathstorm’s attack.
Oh, yeah: “Welcome to Earth-2” finally introduced Killer Frost and Deathstorm, Earth-2’s evil Caitlin and Ronnie, respectively. They’re guns for Zoom, along with Reverb — the villainous Cisco Ramon of Earth-2, fully in control of his powers — and they also saw Earth-1 Barry and Cisco cross worlds. This is where The Flash invests in its near future, and with Barry imprisoned by Zoom with Wells’ daughter Jesse (and was that Earth-2 Diggle tapping on the glass?). Next week continues Barry’s and Cisco’s stay in Earth-2, but with their plans to kill Zoom out the window, it will probably be an escape.