The Flash’s 22nd episode (“Invincible”) gives us a very upbeat, almost Pollyanna version of Barry Allen. He’s earnestly positive and totally convinced that good will prevail and that all it takes is a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down. So to speak.
And that’s absolutely true—right up until the moment it isn’t. But we’ll get to that in a second.
The city is besieged by Earth-2 meta humans, causing chaos—but none more so than Black Siren, Laurel Lance’s (aka Black Canary, played by Katie Cassidy) Earth-2 doppelganger. She’s toppling buildings with verve, leaving Barry to save Dr. McGee (Amanda Pays) at Mercury Labs. McGee hilariously guesses his real identity. How? Basically, because she has eyes and pays attention. It was charming.
Meanwhile, Wally is desperate to prove he’s worth the Flash saving his life, which means he’s being stupid and risking his neck, fighting metahumans. It’s relatable, because he brings up everything he’s done wrong and bad in the past. And who hasn’t been there, carrying around that baggage, wondering about our worth, because of things we’ve done? That’s very human. Wally will probably never be my favorite character, but I love Joe’s interactions with him. You can see his heart in his throat when Wally is questioning his self-worth.
Again, Barry’s actions can be summed up like this (this is an actual line): “Barry, don’t do it.” Guess what? Barry does it. Because he thinks the Force is with him or whatever. It doesn’t matter that his Dad tries to talk some sense into him, reminding him that (like Boris) he’s not actually invincible. Barry always blunders in without thinking. The only difference in this episode is that it’s coated in a “We Can Do It!” layer of optimism.
The trouble is, Zoom isn’t buying it. He thinks that Barry and he are two peas in a pod. That they’re the same: “Same tragic background. Same reason for running.” It’s curious that Zoom seems almost desperate for this commonality. I mean, why? Would that somehow justify his own twisted existence and behavior? Or is everything he’s done some perverse attempt to not be alone? Granted, trying to take over the world isn’t exactly a chapter in How to Win Friends and Influence People, but hey.
Anyway, the Nerd Gang decides to make a vibrational technology, activated by Barry running a loop, that will knock out all of the Earth-2 metahumans. It’s great, except a) Wells ends up knocked out due to faulty headphones to combat the tech, and b) Zoom manages to create a rift back to Earth-2 (how? NO ONE KNOWS) and escape.
So, they cut off all the hydra heads, except the one with the brain. Hail Hydra! Wait, wrong show. *ahem* But it did give us a glorious opportunity to see Cisco and Cailtin enact the worst idea ever: impersonating their Earth-2 counterparts to distract Black Siren. I’m *slightly* disappointed that Cisco didn’t make an “I’m not left-handed” Princess Bride joke, but that’s a small gripe.
Turns out, Caitlin’s jaunt as Killer Frost helped her get over her Zoom PTSD, and she feels more herself when she’s helping people. Which I totally get. No matter how crappy I’m feeling, if I can make a difference in someone else’s life? It is an instant mood lift.
But can we talk about how Barry gives the worst advice? Because he does. He tells Joe, in regard to not talking Wally out of his do-gooder streak, “We’re supposed to think we’re something we’re not, until we become that thing.” I wanted to scream. It feels like that commercial that’s been made into a meme: because that’s not how it works. Yes, there’s some validity in the “fake it until you make it” mentality. But Wally has literally no skills, except driving a mean getaway car. I mean, just because I think I’m a great singer doesn’t mean I’m going to kill it at karaoke. And Joe, bless his darling heart, takes Barry’s advice to heart and encourages Wally.
Think about that. Advice from Barry, who blunders in and rarely thinks things through. That is like taking sobriety advice from a guy taking a shot. DO NOT DO IT. And yet…
But, obviously, we need to talk about the ending. Cisco spent the entire episode randomly vibe-ing about dead birds: “Birds? Why? It’s like a Hitchcock movie in my head.” It turns out, he’s seeing Earth-2 split in half, which he realizes during dinner, celebrating Henry (who charmingly flirts with Dr. McGee). But that’s not the worst thing about the evening.
No, Zoom shows up, steals Henry, taking him to Barry’s childhood home…and then kills him in front of Barry. Why? Because he’s crazy. But he’s also trying to prove that Barry will become the same as him, once he’s suffered that trauma. It’s really weird, even while it’s disturbing. He’s so desperate not to be the cheese standing alone…that he ends up being the cheese standing alone. Murderous cheese.
Is Henry’s death going to turn Barry evil? No. No more than a blonde wig and emotional menacing made Caitlin evil. Perhaps that’s why Barry had to careen so far into enlightened cheerful positivity—so that when this occurred, it didn’t break him. And let’s be honest: it would have more of an impact if it had been Joe whose heart Zoom had torn out. He’s always been the active father figure. Not Henry, which is why I didn’t mourn the loss as much as I might’ve otherwise. We didn’t exactly get a chance to care about him.
Barry may be fast. He may be able to outrun a lot. But, like the rest of us mere mortals, even the Flash can’t outpace a broken heart. No one is invincible, no matter how we convince ourselves otherwise. There’s always an Achilles heel.
That begs the question: what is Zoom’s?