[Review] The Flash (2014) Episode 2×17: “Flash Back”

I’d like to see you guys try to come up with clever introductory text while you’re not feeling all that well, is all I’m saying before this week’s recap of CW’s The Flash.


BECKY

So we kick off the episode with Barry regretting how once again Barry has messed up by trusting the wrong person. The wrong villain speedster.

Spoilers under the cut.
In Season One it was Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne, and Season Two is doing it again with “Jay Garrick.” Admittedly, this time around was much less frustrating for the audience, since it hadn’t been obvious Jay was a bad guy half a season before Barry noticed. Still, it’s frustrating as viewer to see The Flash retreading such a similar premise already. The narrative needs more variance and the “friend who turns out to be the big bad supervillain speedster” plot loses the emotional punch the second time around. I do appreciate the show lampshading the reception a bit, though I just wish they’d put a season of anything else in-between.

Barry revisiting the Speed Formula – 3×2(9yz)4a – will eternally be a thorn in my paw because that equation was always solely associated with the way Jesse and Johnny Quick access the Speed Force in the comics. Lacking a Johnny Quick on the show, the Speed Formula should be Jesse’s discovery and legacy, but it’s been weirdly divorced from her (thus far) underexplored character and handed to Barry and Harry. On the show, Jesse is powerless and was literally put on a bus and shipped out of the narrative the last time we saw her. I’m admittedly bitter about it.

Wally is back, being adorable and brilliant with his study of speed as an engineer, and his school studies inspire Barry to go back in time to get training from Eobard “Harrison Wells” Thawne. Harry thankfully points out that it’s a terrible plan. Barry’s still going to do it, because time travel is a common narrative with the Flash and you just must accept that.

I will say, for all my other frustrations, I absolutely adore Andy Mientus as Hartley Rathaway, so I love the chance to revisit my favorite Flash Rogue, Pied Piper, however briefly. It’s also great to see Rick Cosnett’s Eddie Thawne again, because Season One made me love a Thawne in a way I haven’t outside of Meloni and Bart, so that’s just amazing. I’d love to see both return to the show as regulars again.

The episode introduces a new concept about midway through as a Dementor-looking creature starts floating through the city and terrorizing folk. Aside from being creepy, it doesn’t seem to actually be doing anything. It’s revealed to be a Time Wraith, trying to locate and eliminate the time distortion caused by Barry time-traveling.

Barry is, of course, a terrible liar (it’s one of the more endearing things about him), so Thawne almost immediately figures out that Barry’s from a different timeline and knocks him out in order to handcuff and interrogate him.

Two of my hands-down favorite scenes of the season happen in this episode, the first being Caitlin and Cisco locking themselves in a pipeline cell with Hartley making Harry Potter jokes as they fend off the “Dementor”. Between the Rick Astley, the Harry Potter humor, and Hartley’s sarcasm, the scene is golden. You just have to watch it to appreciate it. My other favorite scene is at the end of the episode.

There is a very interesting, casually-mentioned reveal here that Barry and Eobard are not the only time-travelling speedsters, and said speedsters are common enough that Thawne knows about Time Wraiths and how to avoid attracting them. I really hope to see the show build on this so I can have a full Flash Family roster eventually.

Of course the timing is off, because Barry, so we end up with past and present Barry interacting for maximum timeline shenanigans and enraged Time Wraiths. Thawne gives Barry a MacGuffin thumb drive to increase his speed, and Barry returns to his own time with the Time Wraith hot on his trail.

Honestly, this episode feels more like it happened because the writers needed to get out of corners they’d written themselves into rather than natural plot solutions, but I’ll accept a lot for my Pied Piper scenes.

Speaking of, Hartley Rathaway literally Tuxedo Masks his way into the scene to disperse the Time Wraith and save Sailor Flash, and I absolutely adore every second of it and the indication that in this slightly-altered timeline, Hartley is on good terms with Team Flash. That we basically never see his character again makes me want to scream at the wasted potential. I am biased towards my favorite Rogue, and I regret nothing.

The episode ends with the MacGuffin acquired, Jesse “Quick” Wells still missing in action, and the focus remaining on the latest version of Harrison’s manpain instead of the badass lady speedster that we could have had helping Barry evolve. I’m an eternally grouchy Flash Fan about some things.

Counteracting the Wells manpain train, we have Iris getting a heartfelt video goodbye from the deceased Eddie, which is sweet, and nice to see a lady getting a juicy narrative moment in this episode.


GEORGE

With the theme of confronting your past all up in our grill this week, I thought I’d take a moment to explain why I’ve been so hard on the show’s obvious Barry/Iris ship. I hadn’t fully figured it out until I rewatched this episode, but I couldn’t get past Eddie Thawne. At the start of the series, he was obviously there just to be the romantic foil, but he became so well-written and Rick Cosnett was so charming in the role that he escaped the trope. It also helped that even when he was forced into secrecy by Joe and Barry, he found a way to tell Iris part of the truth as soon as he could. It was so disappointing for him to be the deus ex machina for defeating the Reverse-Flash that it soured me on the whole Barry/Iris pairing. So yeah, the whole “adopted siblings” thing skeeves me out, but also Iris and Eddie were the best couple on the show, and how quickly Iris got over that bugs me.

That being said, get ready to go back in time.

With Barry travelling back a year to get help with the Speed Formula, we get to go back to one of the Season One episodes that…I haven’t watched. Sorry. But it involves Pied Piper, so Becky’s ecstatic. Before we get into all of that, we get the conclusion to the “Iris dating her boss” storyline. I didn’t realize that the Scott Evans character was only here for two episodes, so I forgot to give him a proper sendoff last time. Let me correct this with hover-text.

What a massive waste of time that plotline was. Anyway, Barry lands back in the Pied Piper episode, but brings a Time Wraith with him. His attempts to fool Eobard fail spectacularly, but the two foes reach a heated compromise while Piper saves Caitlin and Cisco from the Time Wraith. There’s a wonderful dynamic between Eobard and Barry here that I’m not sure can be dragged out for too long, but I really want to see it again.

Once Barry returns to the present, Piper saves them all from the Time Wraith again and has to confront his own past, specifically his parents. This was a great episode that moved the season arc forward and gave us a chance to visit some old favorites.

Next week, the Hunter beocmes the hunted. See what I did there? Because Zoom’s real name is Hunter Zolomon? …I’ll shut up now.

George Hatch can be found on Twitter at @Raeseti. He does not recommend time travel. Just trust him.

Becky Shire is everyone’s favorite Flash Guru, cosplayer and all-around badass. You can find her on Twitter at @ElfGrove.

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