Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of The Flash. To catch up on previous coverage, click here.
I, I’m sure like many others, ended last weeks episode of The Flash with what must have been a visible question mark hanging over my head. The Reverse Flash appeared, I muttered a “what” aloud and then settled into the cozy idea that maybe it would be better if I tried not to rationalize. I know there is plenty, especially those who follow superhero lore, whose first gut instinct is to theorize about just how the Reverse Flash could possible be back after being erased from the timeline but that’s a tiresome sport and as a fan of the series I’d much rather sit back and trust that whatever the reveal is it will be worth the cliffhanger ending.
I kind of was right.
I couldn’t help but think of my mom while I watched tonight’s episode as she tends to find any mention of time travel in a series or film to be discombobulating and the inclusion of such an event can often be a deal breaker, even if it’s not really time travel at all but instead two different realities. Think of her reaction when Earth Two was revealed this year! But when at the end of the episode even I am scratching my head in bewilderment, wondering if I was supposed to get any of the mumbo jumbo science speak that happened, I can understand her frustrations and what had to have been many others confusion. I typically trust in the writers to convince me of the most insane happenings, from the Reverse Flash being erased from existence, to Gorilla Grodd to the fact that I’m supposed to be okay with Iris getting ONE scene with her dying mother in the episode and it’s not even that the show did a terrible job in explaining how Eobard Thawne reappeared.
It’s just that it was buried in so many other storylines that were forced to strain our attentions.
Typically I am amazed at just how much story the series is able to wade through in a given episode, burning through plot lines quicker than many others get through in a season. Usually this is to the shows betterment and it has rarely suffered because it, like it’s hero, stays quick on it’s feet, never boring it’s audience and always keeping them guessing. “The Reverse Flash Returns” is one of the few times where I wished the show had decided to take a bit of breather.
One the one side of the episode there’s all of the emotional baggage that’s being sifted through. We’ve got the entire West family turmoil as Francine is facing her last days and everyone is saying their goodbyes. Iris get’s a touching moment even if I’d argue she deserved more especially when Patty ate up so much screen time. Her anguish over her mother’s soon to be passing along with her confusion of how she can feel such grief for a woman she hardly knows is a wonderful moment for Candice Patton who continues to imbue the character of Iris with a silent strength, keeping a a strong face up when most people would crumble. Her and Wally bonding at the end of the families they could have had and the secrets that were kept from both of them proves that storylines can happen away from Star Labs and there decision to go and see their mother together is strong moment for both.
Then there’s Patty and Barry with the former finally putting together that he’s the Flash, even if he doesn’t readily admit to it. The send off is fine for the character but feels like it should have been in another episode because their relationship drama should pale in relation to the Reverse Flash returning. I don’t know if this is the last that we’ll see of Patty but if it is it’s a good enough goodbye as any.
Even Jay and Caitlin get their own relationship storyline which more than anything highlights just how separated Caitlin has been from the main action this season. It’s as if her sole purpose this year has been to desperately try and make Jay and interesting character while giving soft-spoken advice to anyone on the team that needs it. Caitlin was never my favorite character on the show but as one of the main crew you’d think she’d be given more to do.
Once we’re past the more emotional side plots we get into more interesting territory in theory. Because you can assume that I was thrilled at seeing Cisco with the Vibe goggles on and just as excited as he was when he realized he could see the future with them but it is, once again (say it with me), in need of more time to really grow into something gripping. Carlos Valdez plays Cisco with such an effortless and affable charm that seeing him convulsing at the end of the episode is enough to cause a nudge of panic in any fan but wouldn’t it have been great if the powers he explored and the consequence of delaying the timeline with Thawne wasn’t simply pushed to the last ten minutes of the episode? Even greater than the goggles moment was when we began to realize that Harry has begun to care for Cisco, even when he slurps his coffee in the morning. One of the best and most surprising dynamics of season one was the relationship between Cisco and Wells and it’s good to see that the show is harnessing the rapport between Valdez and Tom Cavanagh still.
It’s taken me a while to talk about the Reverse Flash and that’s because when I really think about it I’m realizing I’m feeling some disappointment in how it all played out. Chalk that up to Matt Letscher’s performance as Thawne barely scratching at what Cavanagh delivered as the character or to it also falling prey to being too rushed but in the and it was hard not to feel as if it had fallen flat to expectations. This should have been a BIG deal. The Star Labs crew are still dealing with wounds of his betrayal and while Grant Gustin played Barry’s frustration well at having to let him go in order to save Cisco, it was a moment that didn’t feel as well earned due to the characters brevity in the episode.
And really, who did get the time travel nonsense? I swear I’ll stop dwelling on it once this review is finished.
There were plenty of strong, individual moments in the episode but they rarely came together to make something uniformly great.