TV Review: The Flash – “Flash Back”

Flash Back
Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find my all of my reviews of The Flash here.
Time travel is always fun, and The Flash hasn’t shied away from utilizing that plot device for some really interesting episodes. “Flash Back” was no exception.
I really appreciate how “Flash Back” took a plot point that had been brewing and was at the forefront last week, namely Barry needing to get fast enough to beat Zoom, and gave it a creative and fun solution. The solution in question? Traveling back in time to Season 1 and getting Wells, a.k.a. Eobard Thawne, to help. It was a patented boneheaded Barry Allen move, but from a writing standpoint, it was a clever way to put Barry in a unique scenario that made for an enjoyable episode.
Revisiting Season 1 has many perks, obviously. Seeing earlier versions of the same characters, throwing into sharp focus how much they’ve changed and how little they knew back then. Looking at an episode we’d watched already from a new perspective, and (obviously) altering it. Seeing dead characters alive, like Reverse-Flash and Eddie Thawne. It was good to have Rick Cosnett back for a guest appearance, and the writers created a nice way for him to be relevant even in the present, as the Iris romantic subplot that was the weakest element of last week made for an emotional ending to this week.
Eddie ThawneBut the best thing about revisiting Season 1 had to be seeing Tom Cavanagh as the Reverse-Flash again. He played both versions of Wells this week and pulled it off really well. Eobard Thawne was as menacing as ever, and the added element of he and Barry knowing each other’s secrets and speaking openly added a new layer of menace to their interactions, even as they kept up the charade in front of Cisco and Caitlin.
Because, oh yeah, Barry messed up badly by making his presence known and severely altering the timeline. Which is another case of Barry making a mistake that was actually a good idea by the writers. It would have been easy to make this episode an in-and-out mission with Barry avoiding trouble while battling the Time Wraith, but the far more interesting route was the one executed in this episode, as Barry’s interference did not go unnoticed. And seeing two versions of the Flash onscreen at the same time (wonky CGI aside) was really cool. Sure, the consequences in the present could have been more severe than a simple Pied Piper face turn (which was a nice touch), but I also understand not wanting to change things too severely and overwrite a lot of this past season’s progress.
Speaking of the Time Wraith, that was the only part of the episode that I had mixed feelings about. On one hand, I like the idea of the writers introducing an in-universe constraint to prevent time travel from being used as a plot device too liberally. On the other hand, it could have been handled a bit better. Time Wraiths came entirely out of left field in a show that has featured time travel a lot (and that’s not counting Legends of Tomorrow). The writers brushed off any questions about why it hasn’t appeared before with a “you were lucky” line from Wells, but still. The fact that it looked like a decaying speedster makes me think it could be Speed Force-related, thus explaining why Legends never has that problem, but I wish the episode had elaborated further. Plus, the design was not that great. It really did look like a dementor from Harry Potter, and pointing that out in a tongue-in-cheek manner wasn’t enough to save that. The fact that it doesn’t exist in the comics and looks a bit too much like Black Flash also didn’t help.
Still, the Time Wraith fulfilled its purpose and added a bit more urgency to “Flash Back”. Overall it was a minor dark spot in an otherwise excellent and very enjoyable episode.

Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)

Notes and Observations

Time travel speculation! So, the original Pied Piper episode had only one Barry. This episode had two, Future!Barry and Past!Barry. But when Past!Barry, for whom the only reality is the one where there was more than one Flash at that time, reached Season 2 and traveled back to that time, did he encounter a past in which there were now three Barrys? It’s kind of a strange, ever-changing loop.
I know, I know. Speed Force. Don’t think too hard about it.
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