The Flash Review: “Flash Back”


Jim’s Thoughts

Without a particularly bad episode of Arrow to offset it (I watched the shows out of order last week), this week’s Flash didn’t sit very well for me. It wasn’t all bad. There were some things this episode did that could help tighten the show moving forward, and if that’s how it plays out, maybe this week was just a pill we all had to swallow.

I hate sounding like a broken record, so I’ll just get this critique out of the way. I hated the Eddie/Iris subplot. I thought Eddie’s message from the past was trite, and having Iris in grieving seemed a regression for her character, but I’ve been critical of CW’s handling of female characters for some time. There’s nothing new here.

The issue of time travel always gives the plot the potential to lose cohesion, but it’s been done with a lighter touch in past episodes. This week the plot felt convoluted, and the show expected us to remember quite a bit about an old episode.

There were a few things that came off as huge cheats. First, the team’s solution to the Time Wraith invasion came too easily. Yes, they had a year to solve it, but presumably, Eobard Thawne had been dodging them for far longer, and knew quite a bit more about them. Second, Barry tinkered with the past quite a bit, despite being warned not to. That’s not necessarily a problem, but when he came back to the present, all that seemed different was a seemingly inconsequential cameo appearance from a former baddie (I’ll avoid that small spoiler by not naming names).It’s true that they may show more things affected by Barry’s jump to the past in future episodes, but for now, it seems too clean. Lastly, Eobard’s answer to the speed equation also came too easily. It felt a bit like Barry going back in time to learn a cheat code to a video game, and that’s an unsatisfying way for him to level up to Zoom.

The big positive I can take away from this episode is the existence of Time Wraiths. Kyle and I have gigged the show pretty hard for using time travel and alternate universe’s as something of a “mulligan” for the show, not unlike the Lazarus Pit in Arrow. Time Wraiths offer a good reason for Flash to avoid time travel, and force the show to get things right the first time. All of that hinges on the team’s magic button to defeat Time Wraiths having limits on its effectiveness, but it’s something to hope for.

Kyle’s Take

I don’t have much hope for Time Wraiths placing a limit on Flash time traveling. Eobard said that he avoids them while he’s traveling, so I don’t see why Barry wouldn’t do the same. Even if one hops on his back, Team Flash (with their new member who happens to be a former baddie) has the means with which to deal with them. And the show still has alternate universes as a cheat code.

I agree with Jim and his two huge cheats. Team Flash figuring out Time Wraiths made little sense because Thawne had more advanced technology and had been dealing with them for years and couldn’t crack that nut. I also don’t buy the lack of timeline changes. Barry whispered sweet futures into many ears and the future didn’t alter much. I’m hoping there are more subtle alterations to this new Earth, but I doubt it. Flash has a history of incongruities.

I’m still fuzzy about how Barry can’t run as fast as Zoom. Sure, the Velocity-9 angle has been used but “Flash Back” showed Barry not only time traveling but pinpointing an exact moment in which to time travel. Also remember that it’s Barry who opened the 52 rifts between the two Earths, not Zoom. As far as we know, Zoom doesn’t have this ability because he’s still stuck on Earth-2, so that leads me to believe that Barry is a more capable speedster than Zoom. So how is Barry slower than Zoom? I don’t buy the explanation we were fed through expositional dialogue. Also, a data dump in dialogue isn’t effective storytelling.

I remembered a lot from the episode Barry ran back in time to this week, but that’s because I liked that particular episode so it stuck in my head; it has something to do with the former baddie who shall not be named. That said, I’m not sure that it’s the best episode to use for Barry’s flash back. The gang didn’t explain why it was a good week. I may have missed something, but a less hectic day and week would’ve made more sense. The only reason I can think of for Barry to return to this week was that we could be reintroduced to the former baddie.

Iris mourning Eddie didn’t bother me as much as Jim. Sure, it was out of place, and Eddie’s message to Iris was beyond trite; it was cornier than harvest time in Nebraska. But Iris didn’t have the time to mourn for Eddie. I’m sure Jim’s trying to induce amnesia when it comes to the West family drama—I am too, if you’re keeping score—but that mountain of family drama could’ve easily delayed her grieving process. Add in her drive to become a good reporter—I don’t buy Iris’s progression as a reporter—and Iris going out on her first date with a man since Eddie, and you could get tears for her lost love.

I also can’t ding the CW too much on taking its time with Iris’s grief because when the CW usually screws up its female characters, it does so in the opposite direction. My husband of ten years is dead, rigor mortis hasn’t set in yet, but I’d love to hop into bed with you. Wait for the body to get cold. Even though I’m giving the CW a pass on Iris/Eddie, I still don’t think it was well handled. And there has to be one CW female who can stand on their own.

Flash went back in time this week and so will I with my final gripe. The CW needs to drop the real-time lapses between seasons. iZombie worked because it was only off the air for two or three months, so season two only fast forwarded the narrative a month or two, but these six month gaps are killing character development. Viewers lose half a year of these characters’ lives and we have to play catch-up, and the CW doesn’t do a good job of filling in the blanks.

Caitlin could’ve grieved for Ronnie during those six months, but we didn’t see it. Arrow would’ve made more sense if it didn’t have a six month gap between last season and this season; Palmer Technologies would’ve been closed after six months of inactivity. And the CW is doing the time gap thing because Marvel does it with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but Marvel does a better job of doing it and they incorporate their cinematic universe. CW superhero shows are separate from the DC cinematic universe. So why do it? This rant may seem out of place but it’s not really. The West family drama started after the break, so Iris could’ve mourned for Eddie during the off-season, but we didn’t see any of that. I know this undercuts my previous point about Iris not having the time to grieve for Eddie, but this illustrates how inconsistent the CW is with its leap forwards.

I’m sure things will look up once Flash returns to Zoom, and we did get a small assurance that Flash won’t time travel again in the near future. But in order to get to Zoom, Flash will have to cross into an alternate world. Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start. Looks like Barry has 99 lives.

Thanks for reading.

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