Season Two, Episode Seventeen — “Flash Back”
By Jarrod Jones. You gotta love Barry. He has a big heart, even for a superhero. He loves his friends, he is voracious in his passion to do what’s right, and he’s probably an amazing tipper. Because of this, he is constantly met with supremely evil jerkfaces just itching to destroy everything he stands for, every fleet-footed step of the way. At this point, it’s common knowledge that The Flash‘s high drama is the big lure of the show, though all that multiversal and temporal hopping around doesn’t hurt, either. Things are always going to get worse for Barry before they get better, and if they get too bad, Barry can always go back and fix things — right? Riiight.
And with “Flash Back” (another episode of The Flash that concerns itself with time travel, sticky as that can be), Barry’s continuing troubles with Zoom have amounted to a desperate power play, one that definitely puts the lives of everyone on this planet, say nothing of the S.T.A.R. Labs kids, in mortal danger. But it has to happen — right? “I’m still not fast enough to stop Zoom,” Barry huffs to a dry-erase board full of formulas and equations, all of which have proven inadequate to increasing The Flash’s speed. It would probably do wonders if somebody would remind Barry that he was never fast enough to stop The Reverse-Flash either, and yet — guess what happened.
So it’s time to go back into the detail-savvy period of Season One, when Ronnie Raymond was still bopping in and out of our purview in a blaze of flame and bleached teeth, Eobard Thawne vibrated intensely underneath the artifice of Harrison Wells, and his great-great-great-great-great Grandfather, Eddie Thawne, was still crazy in love with Iris West. It was a simpler time, then. But Barry’s about to make it a whole lot more complicated. Because The Flash.
WHAT WORKED: It’s a curious thing to realize that “Flash Back” gets everything about its Season One details right. It would be enough to gloss over the particulars — Barry’s totes in love with Iris, check; no one knows Wells is secretly The Reverse-Flash, check; Eddie is a total babe, check — but “Flash Back” nails the details of “The Sound And The Fury” (where the villain-of-the-week was the Pied Piper, of all people) so succinctly, I almost wanted to go right back to the very beginning as soon as this episode came to an end. And how it implemented the Pied Piper into the consequences of Barry’s actions at the tail end — no spoilers, the ending’s too good to give up here — was a veritable celebration of how smart this show can be.
After watching Cisco contend with Hartley Rathaway (and nearly going nuts by doing so) back in Season One, Episode Eleven, there’s an innate satisfaction in seeing Vibe put the Pied Piper through a torment almost too horrific for words: “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley gets played ad infinitum in Hartley’s cell. As Barry’s actions cause ripple effects through the timeline, Hartley and Cisco are given new moments to irk each other, and it is gold.
Barry’s too much of a sentimentalist to be going back in time, considering all that’s happened. And it certainly doesn’t help matters that Iris is sighing over the one year anniversary of Eddie Thawne’s death just before he goes and does the time warp again. But just when you think Barry’s gonna go and louse another part of the timeline up by giving Eddie the side-eye once he’s arrived, our hero turns the tables on his viewers: Barry’s innocuous request to videotape Eddie wishing Iris a long and beautiful life was enough to splotch the cheeks of everyone present at DoomRocket HQ. *sniff* You’re crying. Shut up.
WHAT DIDN’T: “He’s sweet, and he’s nice, and…” I dunno if Iris hit her head offscreen in-between episodes or whatever, but her perception of Central City Picture News‘ editor-in-chief is waaaay off. If this show doesn’t nip this particular subplot in the bud pronto, we’re in danger of making Iris the least likable character on the show. Again. (For more of my gripes on this matter, check out last week’s recap, found at the bottom of this article.)
Ah, the ol’ “I’ll just drug them with these creepy drugs Caitlin made until I get what I need” excuse. C’mon, Barry! You just helped National City build a prison for super-criminals over on Supergirl just yesterday! I saw you do it! Knock off this whack-a-doo vigilante horseradish — you’re so much better than this. Or, at least, I think you are?
“Your plan is asinine.” – Wells-2, speaking truths.
Barry: “You okay?” Wells-2: “Yeah, I’m okay. Although it turns out that it’s far more easier to find a two-ton gorilla on this Earth than a teenaged daughter.”
BEST MOMENT: Barry vs. Thawne. You don’t get to see Tom Cavanagh seethe as often as he used to, primarily because the character he plays in the second season of The Flash, Harrison Wells of Earth-2, isn’t an inherently evil man. But now that Barry’s back on The Reverse-Flash’s home turf, and he’s remarkably bad at lying, we get the thrill of seeing Cavanagh’s Eobard Thawne put Barry over a barrel. There was no bigger “oh, shit” moment than when Thawne interrogated Barry in his creepy Closet of the Future. (No Gideon cameo, sadly.)
EPISODE’S MVP: Harrison Wells, of Earth-1 and Earth-2. Yes, I know, technically it’s “Eobard Thawne and Harrison Wells of Earth-2″, but you get me. Tom Cavanagh killed it this week, bringing back the evil that used to just simmer underneath his wire-framed glasses as Eobard Thawne, The Reverse-Flash. With practically everybody pulling double duty this week by juxtaposing their past selves with their current ones, it was Cavanagh’s performance I enjoyed the most, if for no other reason than I’ve grown a bit weary of the pissy and downright whispery Wells-2.
– The hell was that thing in the time tunnel. Black Racer? Black Lantern Flash? Nope, Time Wraith. (The hell’s a “Time Wraith.”)
– 3X2(9YZ)4A — Seems like a silly thing to jot down here, to pick but one formula from Eobard Thawne’s memory card. But hardened JSA and The Flash readers would instantly recognize that as Johnny Quick’s speed formula. (He would say it out loud, and… zoom.)
– Funny thing about that formula: Johnny Quick had a daughter, named Jessie. Jessie is the daughter of Harrison Wells of Earth-2 on The Flash, and the wacky circular logic in having Thawne, who was impersonating the Wells of Earth-1, handing over that formula — the same formula that will undoubtedly one day give Jessie her speed — is making my brain do somersaults inside my skull right now.
– Joe fixes the picture of his dear, departed partner from the show’s pilot: Detective Fred Chyre, played on the show by actor Al Sapienza, first appeared in The Flash #164 (September, 2000).
8.5 out of 10
Next: “Versus Zoom”, soon.
Before: “Trajectory”, here.