Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Flash 2x11 "The Reverse-Flash Returns" (Poor Decisions and Paradoxes) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"The Reverse-Flash Returns"
Original Airdate: January 26, 2015

This week on The Flash: Eobard Thawne, He of the Stupid Name, is back. Barry's a complete idiot. Patty feels like a complete idiot. Candice Patton proves she really should get more to do on this show. Cisco's in danger and, surprisingly, ParaWells seems to care.

I really wish Barry would go back to his effervescent Labradoodle self. There's a reason why I don't review Arrow and that reason is because Jenn does a much better job of it, but also because I would have to spend the whole review finding new ways to complain about the brooding hero and I don't want to do that. I liked The Flash because, for a blessed change, we had a hero who seemed to be having fun with the whole saving people gig. Barry cracked jokes and grinned and zoomed around Central City, leaving wind-ruffled pedestrians and broken windows in his wake without a care in the world. I called him a puppy, and he was a puppy. He's not really a puppy anymore, though, and I find this new lack of puppy-like attributes emotionally draining to watch.

I understand that Barry's been through a lot of stuff and it would be poor writing if they didn't have him react to it, but... is it a delayed reaction? Because he seemed to be back to his old self at the end of the season premiere, when you would have thought he'd be in prime brooding mode. His emotional state after his defeat at the hands of Zoom also dipped, then almost immediately picked back up again. So I guess it's all just piling on him now: Zoom, the frustration with his speed, the constant push from ParaWells to be better, the breakup with Patty — is Barry cracking under the pressure of it all? If so, how long is the show going to draw this out before we get our beloved, puppy-like hero back?


Surprise! Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash is back — because they needed to tie up the whole "How did Thawne know about Barry and Harrison Wells and S.T.A.R Labs?" plot thread — and most of the episode is focused on stopping him or capturing him or whatever. Thawne has kidnapped Dr. McGee in order to get her to build him something that uses tachyons for time travel, so that he can get home.

Thawne still really hates The Flash, for reasons that are stupid (summary: he's super jealous of how great The Flash is and how much people like him, so instead of trying to be a hero he decides to be a villain) and his trip to the modern day has allowed him to figure out what time period The Flash is from, a an accomplishment that he brags about several times but I can't actually figure out why. He's just messing with Barry, right? He doesn't want Barry dead — there are far easier, far simpler ways to kill people when you have time travel — so what's his motivation, really? From what I can gather, it's just a power trip. Much like Zoom's desire to be the fastest and best speedster, Thawne just wants to prove that he's "better" than The Flash.

But about Barry being an idiot: when Thawne is captured and locked up, Barry gets rather full of himself and decides to mock him from afar. Without a mask on. Barry is shrouded in shadows, yes, but not enough shadow that he's totally invisible. And the bragging? Not helpful to anything, Barry, and a great way to give your time traveling arch-nemesis all kinds of creative ideas for destroying your life when he escapes. Which he inevitably does, thanks to a time travel paradox situation that nearly leads to Cisco's death/complete erasure from existence.

Hey, Barry? Fantastic job. You get the Hero of the Week award, buddy.

I will say that bringing back Thawne — a Thawne that still thinks he's The Flash's greatest opposition — is amusing when we know about Zoom. Thawne's going on and on about how he's "the one thing [Barry] cannot stop" and ha! Already been stopped, and replaced by someone much more impressive!


…and Patty doesn't deserve to feel like an idiot.

Look, I knew as soon as Patty showed up that the Patty/Barry relationship wasn't going to be a long-term one. It's very clear that Iris and Barry are supposed to end up together, but Barry needed to separate himself from what could be argued as a very deep crush or a "puppy love" infatuation lingering from their teenage years and Iris couldn't bounce back into the dating world after losing her fiance and have such a rebound be taken seriously. So, the writers pulled in a new character for Barry to date and fall in love with and that new character was as cutely awkward, smart, and caring as Barry himself was. They were a nice little match. Still, I knew they were going to break up. I was okay with it.

What I am not okay with is how the actual breakup played out: Patty figures out that Barry is The Flash, confronts him about it, and — here goes that classic superhero story staple — Barry lies to her face and says he's not The Flash because he doesn't want to put her in danger by letting her in on his secret identity. Now, I've already gone into great detail in my last review on why the "keep the secret to protect your loved ones" trope is a stupid, senseless cliche that needs to die a quick death, so let's move on to the fact that this plot line harpooned the ethics of The Flash's titular character by making him lie directly to a person he claimed to love, even though she already knew the truth.

Once that thought's settled in nice and comfy, let's talk about Patty's role in all of this, and how some fans seem to be painting her — and the way she confirmed her knowledge of Barry being The Flash — as in the wrong, for some reason. Patty figures out who Barry is by looking through old case files, with a certain context in mind, and then connecting the dots. The way Joe acts when she tells him about her theory basically confirms it (for real, Joe's strengths do not dwell in the realm of subterfuge) but she wants to hear it from Barry — she begs for him to just treat her like an intelligent human being and tell her the truth, but he keeps lying. So, at the end of the episode, she calls Barry and pretends there's an attack on the train she's riding... and The Flash shows up.

Tell me, if she hadn't figured it out, if she'd called Barry during a real attack and The Flash showed up and she figured it out then, would people still think she was the bad guy? Probably not. I suppose it's the act of tricking Barry that has put her in the wrong for some viewers, but that's ignoring a significant point: Patty did figure out Barry's identity naturally. She did use her own intelligence and detective skills to connect the dots, and when she calmly, nicely approached Barry to get him to confirm, he lied to her. Horribly. It was an insult to their relationship — whether the romantic sort or the friendship they had — as well as to her intelligence, and I don't blame her at all for doing what she did to get the truth.


Hey, you wanna hear about the positives of "The Reverse-Flash Returns"? The first one is named "Iris West" and she's wonderful even though she isn't around nearly as much as I'd like her to be. Iris is kind of like a shooting star these days: rarely seen but brilliant, and I've heard a rumor that if you make a wish while she's on screen it'll come true. Not sure about that last one, though, since the wish I usually make when she's on screen is something along the lines of, "Boy, I wish Iris were on screen more often."

This week, the West family is dealing with the new inclusion of Wally (whose stubbornness and mercurial anger is really getting on my nerves) and the impending death of Francine West. Iris goes to her mother's hospital bed and — in a scene marvelously acted by Candice Patton — forgives her for leaving while simultaneously chastising her for staying away. Because, although Iris was angry at her mother and wanted nothing to do with her when she found out about Wally, time and getting to know her brother both worked to soothe that anger into sadness and regret. Regret for the time they can never get back, when they could have been a family if Francine had just returned to them, and regret over all the moments they're going to miss out on when Francine is gone.

Since Iris recognizes what pain regret can bring, she talks to Wally — who, rather than being angry at Joe for not being around has decided to be angry at Francine for not letting Joe be around — and tells him that if he doesn't spend time with their mother while he can, he's going to hate himself for it later. It's another scene done well, as is pretty much every scene Iris is in this episode.


But a final positive I feel like I really must mention is the brief little scene where ParaWells shows he secretly cared about Cisco all along. I'm not sure if it was written this way or if Tom Cavanagh decided himself to play the scene like he did, but when Cisco basically dies and starts fading away due to Time Paradox Disease, ParaWells is so upset that he can barely talk. It's so abruptly emotional when it happens that I didn't even realize what I was seeing until I was seeing it, as ParaWells stutters through the science on how to save Cisco and actually seems more upset by the events than Cisco's close friends. I know that it could be waved away as ParaWells needing Cisco as a tool to get to Zoom but, nah. I'm going the "he secretly cares" route and you can't stop me.


Other Things:
  • "Barry needs to get better, stronger, faster." Do you think they have Daft Punk on Earth-2?
  • Cisco slurping his coffee to annoy ParaWells was hilarious.
  • "You better not be pulling a Juliet… That's right, I see plays."
  • I have no idea what ParaWells is planning, why he killed The Turtle, or what's going on with him. Intriguing!
  • "You realize that this Earth is my Earth-2, right?" Good point, Harry.
  • "Hi, Cisco." [HIGH PITCHED SCREAM.]
  • I think Harry's explanation of Thawne's continued existence is a bunch of nonsense but I'm not a scientist, so I'll just go ahead and accept his dry-erase doodles as scientific.
  • Cisco gets his goggles! "Those goggles are getting named, immediately."
  • Jay's Earth-1 doppelgänger is named Hunter Zolomon, by the way. Do with that what you will.
  • Cisco actually does some unintelligent bragging to Thawne, too. It would be unfair to not mention that, just because he's my favorite.
  • "Who are you?" "No one of consequence." See, people, Harry knows the right way to talk to a time-traveling super villain.
  • Yeah I don't get the timey-wimey stuff that happened in this episode. I can usually grasp time travel plots fairly well, but this one... nope.
  • You know that Harry paid for Cisco's two Big Belly Burgers in spite of his request for money. You just know it.


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