I am a huge fan of the show Fringe. I never gave up on the cult classic, despite it’s convoluted plotlines involving alternate universes and magical babies and particle accelerators and- wait, that last one is from The CW‘s The Flash.
Ever since the ‘breaches,’ portals between worlds created by the singularity, were introduced on the CW juggernaut, it’s been hard not to compare the two shows that both love playing with alternate depictions of reality. Nowhere was that more apparent than in ‘Welcome To Earth-2,’ an excellent episode that finally fully delves into the parallel world populated by doppelgangers that have been wreaking so much havoc in our version of Center City. It was extremely entertaining witnessing the characters we know and love in what seemed to be, for the most part, direct reversals of themselves: Earth-2 (E-2?) Barry Allen appears reserved and bookish, dressed in a three-piece suit and absolutely thrilled to meet Dr. Wells; Iris is a brash and practically reckless detective married to Barry, despite the fact that he and her father despise each other.
Caitlin and Ronnie are still together, but in this universe they are both metahumans, Caitlin as the ice-wielding Killer Frost and Ronnie as Deathstorm, with the same powers he has as Firestorm. (I was absolutely thrilled to hear Earth-1 Cisco ask if Dr. Stein was still ‘in there,’ which was literally a question I’d been yelping at my television all episode- and how horrifying was Deathstorm’s response, that he hadn’t let him out ‘in years?’) And *our* Cisco’s double, the evil and much more powerful Reverb, shocked himself when he demonstrated offensive capabilities, sending out sonic booms to attack *our* Barry as The Flash.
Everyone seemed to be enjoying playing different versions of their characters, especially Candice Patton as the more straightforward Iris and Jesse L. Martin as the jazz-singing, cop-hating Earth-2 version of Joe West. (As a huge fan of Rent, I am always here for Jesse L. Martin singing! More Joe West singing on The Flash, please.) Another major change involved Barry’s mother still being alive and his parents together on Earth-2, which also reminded me of a similar plot point on Fringe: the Olivia of the alternate timeline is perky and happy, due to her mother still being alive and never being in the Cortexiphan drug trials. (There is also a scene where our Barry switches places with Earth-2’s Barry, intending to sneak around and locate Jesse in disguise, where I said out loud, “I’ve seen this on Fringe and it ended horribly!”)
The one thing that didn’t hold much weight was the plotline back on Earth-1. Earth-2 was so wonderfully imagined and executed that it seemed jarring and at times downright boring to return to Earth-1 (a problem that Fringe suffered from, as well). I could have lived with an entire episode dedicated to exploring Earth-2, rather than one that attempted to jump back and forth, and too many of the Earth-1 scenes felt rushed, designed to merely impart information before getting back to the truly savory Earth-2 storyline.
The pacing of the Earth-1 plotline seemed off from the beginning, when the breach was overwhelmed with energy and malfunctioned a mere seven minutes into the episode. While this certainly gave our heroes that were left behind on Earth-1 something to do while Barry was away, it happened so early on it felt like a clear plot machination to give the task of finding Jessie some urgency. Now, not only does the gang on Earth-1 have to repair the breach, the gang on Earth-2 only has ONE day to find her before they possibly get trapped in Earth-2 forever. Despite the fact that Barry continuously went out of his way to impress upon us that Joe and Iris were his family no matter what dimension, knowing there was a time limit so early on, I couldn’t help but think that the clock was ticking while Barry was wasting time hanging out with people that he didn’t actually know. I would have much preferred to have that plot point dropped closer to the end of the episode.
I also felt the Earth-1 plotline involving the metahuman Geomancer was weak and seemed to exist for the sole purpose of letting us know that 1. V-6 is deadly (or something along those lines- again, the scene felt so rushed, Caitlin rambled through an explanation full of assumptions while barely letting Jay get a word in edgewise) and 2. Jay still exists. After rambling for ten minutes about The Flash being away, Jay stumbling and Geomancer being shot felt anti-climatic.
But those are really only minor quibbles in an episode that was pretty freaking fantastic. The depiction of Earth-2 was rich with color and detail, including more advanced technology, a tram winding through Center City, and an interesting yellow palette. There were also dozens of hints and Easter eggs dropped throughout the episode, my two favorites being the briefest glimpse of Supergirl that we catch when traveling through the breach, and the mention of a ‘Mayor Snart’ in Earth-2.
Stay tuned for the latest news regarding Grant Gustin’s The Flash and the rest of the Arrowverse shows.