TV Review: The Flash – “Back to Normal”

Back to Normal
Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find my all of my reviews of The Flash here.
The Flash slowed things down considerably in “Back to Normal”, a solid episode that dealt with the ramifications of Barry losing his speed, even though its timing was questionable.
Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of how it happened, I understand why Barry had to lose his powers. It put him in a situation of desperate hopelessness and gave Zoom a major victory late in the season, making him into an even larger threat. The only downside was that robbing Barry of his speed at such a crucial time in the season led to a slower-paced episode that undercut the building momentum of the ramp-up to the upcoming finale. To follow “Enter Zoom” with a mostly regular case-of­-the-week-with-a-twist episode was a bit underwhelming.
Removed from that context, “Back to Normal” was a perfectly solid episode of The Flash. The antagonist was decent; he was yet another metahuman who blamed Harrison Wells for destroying his life, which is something we’ve seen before, but the added element of this being Earth-2 Wells with his own, different set of sins kept it from feeling repetitive.
Barry dealing with the loss of his speed and having to take down a villain without his powers was an inherently strong premise. The opening scene, showing Barry’s everyday routine as a speedster and contrasting it with his new, powerless life was an effective way to kick off the episode. Other than that cool sequence, though, “Back to Normal” didn’t deal with those ramifications as much as I’d expected. The aforementioned feelings of hopelessness and desperation weren’t truly felt, unlike, say, the consequences of the Earth-2 journey were felt in “King Shark”.
This was partly because the episode split its focus between Barry and Wells, but also because the conflict with the villain never seemed truly impossible. Griffin Grey’s powers were conveniently manageable, especially with Cisco cooking up a means to protect Barry from them. So although Grant Gustin sold Barry’s turmoil like a champ, the conflict should have really pushed Flash to the limit, when it in fact didn’t.
Meanwhile, Caitlin was trapped in Zoom’s lair on Earth-2, and that subplot was pretty entertaining, mostly thanks to Caitlin’s interactions with her doppelgänger, Killer Frost. Outside of playing Killer Frost, Danielle Panabaker has been criminally underused this season, and although “Back to Normal” didn’t make great strides to fix that, it put more focus on Caitlin and brought back Killer Frost for good measure. The way those two characters playfully bounced off each other was quite fun. I never thought I’d see Caitlin essentially flirting with herself.
Which is why it was ultimately too bad when Killer Frost died. She was an enjoyable character to watch, and one can only hope she returns somehow. Perhaps Caitlin will turn dark someday, or maybe a version from another Earth? Nevertheless, the scene in which Zoom phased through Caitlin, grabbed the icicle in midair, and stabbed Killer Frost with it was an incredibly cool visual.
Overall, “Back to Normal” was a decent outing, even if it was more of a speedbump in the grand scheme of things. Still, Wells’s promise to restore Barry’s speed by recreating the particle accelerator explosion is sure to put the season back on the fast track, and it’s a plot device that is full of possibility. More metahumans? Wally and/or Jesse becoming the speedsters they are in the comics? Time will tell. Between that and Zoom returning to conquer Earth-1, the much-needed sense of urgency has been restored.

Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

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