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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Soundtrack Review: #TheFlash Season 2

The Flash: Original Television Soundtrack Season 2 speeds to thrilling musical pulse.

Review by Matt Cummings

Season 2 of CW's The Flash was almost as good as the first, expanding the DC universe with new and thrilling villains to contest Flash (played by the great Grant Gustin). And just like its lead, Composer Blake Neely speeds the series' score to new and darker heights, confirming what we already knew: this guy can make music.

As he moves on from the defeat of the evil Reverse Flash, Barry Allen (Gustin) is attempting to piece back together his shattered family which includes the release of his father (John Wesley Shipp) from prison. But trouble is on the horizon, as the dangerous Zoom unleashes an army of baddies from an alternate universe where he rules supreme. Faced with the reality that he cannot defeat Zoom alone, Barry cobbles together allies from an alternate universe called Earth 2, which include the kinder, gentler Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) and daughter Jesse (Violet Beane) along with his Earth-1 friends Sisco (Carlos Valdez), Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), Iris (Candice Patton), and father Joe (Jesse L. Martin). Together, The Flash will learn to push his abilities beyond anyone's imagination, forcing an epic showdown that will see Team Flash fundamentally altered by its conclusion.

Neely takes the themes so beautifully established in Season 1 (which you can read HERE) to darker heights with Season 2, pulsing to drums and cellos in track 9's The Face of Your Hero. But if you merely start there, you'll be missing out on 8 other solid pieces, such as How It Ended..., Jay Garrick Warns of a Man..., and Stein Explains the Multiverse. Then it's on to Grodd Into the Breach, which reminds us of the impending War for the Planet of the Apes, transitioning into a nice piano piece before ending with some of the trademark Flash elements which Neely introduced in Season 1. Then you get to the super-dark and very cool Vandal Savage Arrives, reminding us of his role in Season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow.

It says a lot that Producer Greg Berlanti has given Neely so much room to explore each of these series and their musical backbones. Having such a talent across all of your superhero shows creates a serious amount of connective tissue, so it's enjoyable to hear elements of Arrow and Legends pop up in a song like Who is Kendra?.... But such connections can create potential headaches for all involved, which Neely so masterfully stays far away from, weaving every series throughout each other, in the same way Berlanti does that with his superhero crossover episodes.

Throughout Season 2, we're gifted with this kind of dynamic sound (evident in the incredible Stuck in the Speed Force), as well as shown more tender moments that have also become Neely staples. You Have a Son... and The Right Decision are just such themes, filled with whole-noted synths to drive the beat and a piano melody to melt the mood. But then it's back to the Wagner-esque pulses of Let it Snow Villains which offer some very nice tympani. You can never get enough tymps in my opinion. I also love how Neely and Berlanti treat Season 2 as even more dark than 1, injecting our hero with a conflict that will upend his team, his love for Iris, and even the world that he knows. While I loved the playfulness of Season 1 expressed in Neely's work, I think his mood change for Season 2 resonates even more.

For 25 tracks, Neely takes us through the emotional heartbeats of Season 2, reminding us of his absolute command of the television score. All you have to do is read my other reviews of his recent Arrow, Legends, and Supergirl scores (which you can read HERE, HERE, and HERE) to see just how good Neely has become. He never overuses a character's theme, and yet it always seems to be there either lurking in the background or finding a spot right up front. I'll say it again from my review of Supergirl: Much like the network that employs him, Neely is boldly pushing new frontiers and the effect is pure joy.

In reading the liner notes, it's clear that Neely appreciates the love which audiences have given him. He certainly earns that again with perhaps his best effort so far in The Flash: Original Television Soundtrack Season 2. This is The Flash and the world we had hoped CW would bring, learning from the overly-slow and universe-limiting Smallville to deliver a fantastic score that will find itself vying for Top Soundtrack of 2016.

The Flash: Original Television Soundtrack Season 2 is now available on CD and digital download.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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