Now that The Flash has officially kicked off its eighth season, it appears the show has really embraced what is a much darker tone than previous seasons. That's a welcome change after The Flash Season 8 Episode 1 was sort of an incoherent mess that seemed to be trying too hard to be light and funny while dealing with a villain that was supposed to be too powerful for the Scarlet Speedster to deal with.
Despero made his first appearance in The Flash season premiere and there were several questions as to what he was doing there and why. In fact, the character came off as rather goofy, especially in his human form where he looked more like a circus-strong man than anything else. His proclamation that Barry Allen was going to turn against the entire city also seemed a bit odd, considering that someone telling the team that would almost certainly diffuse the situation. However, Episode 2 seemed to understand the mess that its predecessor made, perhaps simply because it was so hard to set the stage for this while also reintroducing so many relatively new characters. The episode seemed tp pick up the pieces and even managed to set the stage for a very good mystery.
Darkness Descends On The Flash
There's very little doubt that since it first aired on the CW, The Flash has tried to set itself apart from the other long-running Arrowverse series, Arrow by taking a more upbeat tact. While Oliver Queen and company were living in a city that was one step away from descending into total chaos - and it did just that from time to time - Central City is brighter and cleaner and the show's tone has largely echoed that appearance. Over the years there's been lots of talk about how hope and friendship can overcome everything. Season 8 Episode 2 plays on that upbeat hopefulness by showing that there aren't many people on the usual gang of do-gooders who actually believe that.
Part of the lack of the upbeat approach that runs through The Flash is the prediction by Despero that Barry is going to lose his mind. While Iris and the rest of the crew outwardly express their belief that there's no way their good friend would actually do what the alien visitor claims he would do, there's some very obvious doubt and concern running through everyone. Kudos to the callbacks to Season 7 in order to make it more believable that they would start to believe The Flash would turn bad. That was the season in which Barry "leveled up" to the point where he could think faster than a computer, but it also made him emotionless and basically evil. The show did a very good job of laying out the fact that turn eroded a bit of trust from his crew.
This is also where it helps that the show has so many newcomers. If Joe and Wells and Cisco were still around, it would be harder to see the erosion of friendships that's been forming. Caitlyn and Iris are the only "originals" left on the crew and they are largely left in the background. There's also the fact that Barry and Iris have had some clashes over the years with weird behavior from both. In that regard, the writers have done a very good job of laying the groundwork and then taking advantage of it as this season of The Flash unfolds.
When Barry does start losing time and starts lashing out first at friends, and then apparently on Central City, the worry in his friends' faces is real and makes quite a bit of sense. Then there's the fact the pressures continue to mount outside of clashes with supervillains. There's the sudden investigation of Barry as a crime scene investigation and the loss of Star Labs because the gang hadn't been good about the upkeep. Both of those things are quite out of character for Barry and could be hinted at as him losing his grip even earlier than anyone involved might have started noticing.
Mysteries Inside Of Mysteries
Yet another nice touch for The Flash Season 8 Episode 2 was that the rather obvious reason why Barry was having his problems was first set up as the answer, and then very clearly wasn't. It feels like in the past, Zotar would have been a very easy out to use and abuse for the five-episode run of "Armageddon." However, after making it look like she was absolutely the reason he was losing time and doing rather odd things like attacking his friends, the show made it very, very clear she was not it at all. The comments about how she was wearing the power dampening cuffs when he went batty slammed the door on that possibility.
Add in the fact that Barry is genuinely confused about the death of Joe West - who was around at the end of Season 7 - and there's an extra level of darkness. The show laying that layer of confusion on the viewers is a nice touch as well. There are other details that are small enough to be missed, even by the most loyal viewers, that have been "resolved" in a way that is likely going to need to be examined as the season continues. The episode did a fantastic job of building excitement for The Flash Season 8 Episode 3.
Still Some Missteps
That isn't to say that this episode of The Flash did everything right. Several of the monologues and anecdotes still came off as clunky at best. Among the worst of the worst was Chester's tale of woe. In explaining that he's "a pacifist" he told Allegra a story about how as a child he built a Marvin the Martian - from Looney Tunes fame - blaster, and accidentally burned down his friend's house. That the scene was told with total seriousness and was not meant to elicit laughter probably means that's just about enough backstory from the man who has been more annoying than not since joining the show.
The Flash airs on Tuesday nights on The CW
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