Flash has always been flexible with its dealings with time travel and its consequences—didn’t someone say something about time travel being another Lazarus Pit last week?—so it should come as no surprise that the Reverse-Flash, whose ancestor Eddie Thawne killed himself so there would be no more future Thawne’s, would make his triumphant return. Okay, Flash gave us a reason. Eobard was stuck inside the Speed Force (the extra-dimensional source of super-speed that exists on a plane of existence, which Geoff Johns the series producer thinks is silly) when Eddie killed himself.
I think many fans shrugged off this explanation and liked seeing Reverse-Flash’s return. Others snickered at how goofy Flash handled its plot holes and Reverse-Flash’s origin story. Still more viewers would moan that the show pulled a fast one and betrayed its audience with a flimsy, pseudo-science reason for Eobard to exist. For the most part I laughed at the absurdity. I don’t know where Jim falls on this sliding scale of reactions. Regardless, this was a source of irritation, and yet there was one good development.
Barry’s culpability in his mother’s death (by returning Thawne to his timeline and fixing a time paradox) and putting the rest of Season 1’s events in motion added some weight to the message Eobard/Harrison left Barry: you’ll never be happy. The video’s contrived and didn’t work for me at the time but the events of “The Reverse-Flash Returns” sold the tape a little more than Season 2’s premiere and better yet, Flash didn’t beat us over the head with “Barry can never be happy.” Well, sort of.
I’m glad the Barry/Patty relationship has flown to Midway. Barry was stupid for not telling Patty he was the Flash last week (when I thought he would) and Patty was dumb for insisting the two of them talk after she invoked the silent treatment just a few days ago because he wouldn’t talk to her. After that Barry goes full on martyr and cries, “Everybody I love always leaves me, so I’m used to this sort of thing.” If you listened real close, you could hear a violin play until the moment Detective West slaps Barry upside his head reminding him that not everyone he loves leaves him. Then we had to suffer through Patty giving Barry plenty of last chances, even though she packed her desk last week. People can change their minds and they can fight for a relationship they think can work but this back-and-forth-and-back-again was torture.
Applying the salve was Cisco and his going full on Vibe. I also liked the bickering between Cisco and Harry as they work together. What we found in “The Reverse-Flash Returns” is that Harrison Wells, from any Earth, can serve as Cisco’s mentor. The fact that Cisco doesn’t trust Harry adds an extra layer. We also saw Barry choose to save or help others even if it costs him personal happiness. Understandably, Barry wanted Eobard to rot in his cell but he freed his nemesis to save his friend, and I liked that Barry, who wallowed in his own self-pity for the majority of the episode, could look beyond himself and be a hero.
I’ll start by answering Kyle’s question right off the bat; my reaction to the sleight-of-hand that brought Thawne back into the fold was a negative one. Because Wells/Thawne made mention of the Speed Force last season, when he was talking Barry through the process of phasing through solid objects, I can’t say it’s exactly a cheat. They’ve established that the Speed Force is a thing, but it’s something shown to be drawn from, not trapped inside of. You might say that’s a nitpick, and you might be right, but the explanation for Thawne’s survival is unsatisfying to me. It’s the thematic equivalent of having the bad guy survive the destruction of his secret lair because he was in the crapper down the hall.
This show has gone the direction of a young Barry Allen. I was skeptical at first, but Grant Gustin has done a marvelous job, so it’s worked. When they have him whine, though, when they have him feeling sorry for himself and moping they run a very high risk of giving us an emo Flash. I don’t think we quite hit those lows with this episode, but it’s something they need to keep in mind. The audience needs to always be able to cheer for Barry, but if he starts wearing guy-liner and quoting Holden Caulfield, I’m switching my allegiance to Zoom.
I’ve said in a number of reviews now that I think the time came, sat down, had coffee, chatted about the weather, fell asleep on the couch, and drove away in the morning for Barry to tell Patty about his identity. It went from the right thing to do, to the only thing to do, and somehow he still hasn’t done it. For me, that makes their relationship officially uninteresting. I can’t root for Barry to get the girl here, or for the girl to get the Barry because he doesn’t deserve her, and she deserves better. I’m glad we got her saying his name aloud, clearly demonstrating that yes, she does know his big secret anyway. I can go back to taking her seriously as a detective, but at this point, I want them to drop the relationship from the story, and I know they won’t.
I’m not sure I understood or bought Cisco’s condition this week. By that, I mean how he fell into seizures because of the temporal changes. This isn’t even the third time that’s happened, and as for Thawne not “belonging” there, neither do Jay or Diet Dr. Wells. I don’t doubt this was explained and I missed it, but I still felt like another cheat to force Reverse-Flash back into play.
I think the strength of this show continues to be its characters. The story is tripping on its own lose ends and falling into its own gaping plot holes, but the fact remains that I like these people. If they can keep the emo off of them, I think I can hang with it.
Want more Flash? Zoom to our Flash secrets page. Thanks for reading.