Welcome back to the weekly recaps of The Flash. To read previous coverage, go here.
After a three week hiatus, The Flash is finally back! “The Once and Future Flash,” directed by the show’s very own Tom Cavanagh, was probably one of the darkest and most depressing episodes of The Flash to date. In a future where Iris does die at the hands of Savitar, 2017 Barry finds that 2024 is bleak, hopeless, and the team (and his life) broken beyond repair. If anything, it firmly proved that Iris is the epitome of light, hope, and heart of the team. Her absence in this episode was heavily felt. And while it was a strong episode emotionally, it didn’t accomplish too much in terms of plot.
Also, the Savitar identity reveal is being dragged out for too long and it is becoming increasingly frustrating.
In a lot of ways, Savitar has been such a psychological villain this season. He’s spent less time trying to physically take out the team and more time messing with their minds, tearing down their hope, their optimism, and surrounding them in a blanket of fear. But ever since he escaped the speed force in episode fifteen, he hasn’t really been much of a factor and the show can only go so long by repeatedly saying they need to defeat him. Team Flash needs to start taking on a more active role and this episode may have been the first step, but with only four episodes left in the season, there’s a lot left to accomplish before the end.
Cisco, desperate for the team to get back together, stops Barry from going back to his time. It was all completely understandable given the state of his and everyone else’s lives after Iris’ death, but it felt unneeded after Barry’s talk with himself. It might have been more effective if Barry had received the information from himself earlier and Savitar’s identity had actually been revealed. Besides seeing evidence of his life after Iris, which was emotionally painful, what did Barry truly gain by going into the future? Research? More clues, but no concrete answers? Helping out the team in the future was nice and all, but that future will still come to pass if Barry doesn’t figure out who Savitar is and how to defeat him. What’s the point of trying to fix a future that’s already broken? Fix the past and the future will automatically change.
What the episode did do well for the first 30 minutes or so is hit all the right emotional beats. And by hitting the right emotional beats, I mean it ripped out my heart and stomped all over it for good measure. Aside from the lousy wig sitting atop Grant Gustin’s head, the actor delivered a superb and layered performance as two very different versions of his character. The differences were in the way the future version carried himself, in the timbre of his voice, and the loss in his eyes. It’s a stark contrast to present Barry and it was so well done. The time vault scene between 2017 and 2024 Barry was particularly a standout and gave us some of Gustin’s best work on the show so far. Shout-out to Carlos Valdes and Jesse L. Martin for also giving emotionally nuanced performances.
Although Iris was barely in the episode (I missed her presence dearly), the impact of her death was so deeply ingrained into the core of the episode. 2024 looked akin to a shattered vase that, no matter how hard everyone was trying in the end, couldn’t be put back together. Having said that, the show missed an opportunity for a nice reunion scene between Barry and Iris at the end of the episode. There still needs to be a conversation between them that isn’t just Barry being in denial. They need to have a serious talk where he is there for her in the sense that he tells her that she needs to stop thinking of only others and that her life is worth taking the risks needed in order to save her. How was the entire episode focused on Iris, but she was deprived of any good material after Barry’s return to the present? Given the episode centered directly on Iris’ absence, we should have gotten a nice scene showcasing her in the final moments. Barry telling Joe he loves him and that he’ll always be there for him was a nice moment, don’t get me wrong, but Iris also needed to be told this.
“The Once and Future Flash” had emotional strength and depth. By showing the impact of her death, it made clear that there truly is “no Flash without Iris West.” However, the episode had a lot of missed opportunities in terms of showcasing intimate and meaningful moments between Barry and Iris, the latter of whom the episode was about. Once the episode tried to incorporate the meta-of-the-week aspect, it lost some of its impact. And the longer they take to reveal Savitar’s identity, the longer no one will care or be surprised by who it is. It has truly become the most frustrating aspect of these last few episodes. Perhaps now that Barry has gained some information, the next episode will have him and Iris play more of an active role in trying to take Savitar down.
- Barry said that he went eight years in the future… but 2024 is seven years in the future. How can this team be relied upon to take down Savitar if they can’t do basic math.
- Killer Frost felt a little less menacing in this episode. Or was that just me?
- Savitar called Killer Frost “my child.” Thoughts? What does this mean?
- I am truly surprised that all of Emo Barry’s hair fit into his Flash cowl.
- I felt really bad for Cisco and Joe. They truly had no one. HR was occupied with his novels, he was fine.
- That picture in the vault was precious. Also, I truly felt Future Barry’s pain. So much pain.
- We needed more Iris in this episode, which is why the future stuff could’ve been cut a bit to include more time in the present.
- Wally’s situation was so sad. This whole episode was just really depressing.
- “Iris West will die in your arms and in that moment she takes her last breath, it’ll feel like an eternity. And it will break you. She’s the love of your life, Barry. She was the love of my life.” Excuse me while I go cry in a corner somewhere. Such a great and heartbreaking scene. My heart hurt.
- The metas of the week continue to be kind of lame.
- When did Future Barry get his new suit? He stopped being The Flash after Iris died. The magic of television.