Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Flash 3x10 Review: "Borrowing Problems from the Future" (Operation: Save Iris) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Borrowing Problems from the Future"

Original Airdate: January 24, 2017

Welcome back from the break, everyone! When we last left our friends in Central City, Barry had a peek at a future in which Iris gets killed by Savitar but bought an apartment for them to share anyway, hinting that maybe Barry would move past the haunting vision of a future without Iris and live life in the present for a change. Of course, we all know that’s not going to happen. Barry’s too Barry to simply take things as they come, especially when his loved ones are in danger and he has the opportunity to mess more things up with well-intentioned idiocy.

So this episode is aptly titled, as Barry spends the whole time “borrowing problems from the future” and acting like a paranoid jerk to everyone around him, fearful that everything he’s doing will inevitably lead to the death of his girlfriend. Or, at the very least, will do nothing to prevent the death from happening.

Also, you know how I spent several paragraphs in my review for the previous episode talking about how The Flash believes that the future is mercurial and impossible to predict? Ha! They go in the complete opposite direction this episode. I feel such a fool. An annoyed, confused fool.


“Borrowing Problems from the Future” is definitely what I would call an “establishing” episode. It’s here to set up the B-half of this season, and very little else. All the elements of the episode, from the reveal of Kid Flash to the Central City public, to Julian’s inclusion in Team Flash, to the reveal that Caitlin will eventually become Killer Frost — all of it had more to do with what’s to come than with what’s currently going on. Which makes sense, since setting up the rest of the season is pretty important. I just wish this sort of thing wouldn’t happen at the expense of the episode-centric plot, which turned out largely forgettable and still failed to remove itself from the Iris Death Flash-Forward.

The main villain for the episode is Plunder and, from what I read of him, he’s a pretty significant character in the comics. He’s just a throwaway villain of the week on The Flash, however, and mostly just there for Barry to work through his fear of the future. Plunder was mentioned during the flash-forward as recently being captured by the Flash, which means that Barry wants to avoid capturing him in order to prevent as much of the future from happening as he can. It is, perhaps, the stupidest and most basic future-prevention plan you could ever imagine, and I’m surprised that Cisco didn’t chastise Barry for his simplistic approach when the team found out.

Although Barry does successfully avoid capturing Plunder, his attitude raises red flags with Team Flash and he eventually has to come clean about why he’s acting so weird. This leads to his acceptance that Plunder has to be captured regardless of his fears — but it’s not the Flash who publicly stops Plunder. It’s Wally, announcing himself as Kid Flash and inadvertently changing the future that Barry saw. Proof that small things can be stopped, but will bigger things be as easy?

Thanks to Cisco’s Vibe powers and a trip into Barry’s future vision, the show gives us a little checklist for future events to look out for, including things like Killer Frost’s rise to villainy, a gorilla attack, a “six-figure book deal” for Music Meister (hello, musical crossover episode!), and Joe West being honored at City Hall. We also get a specific date: May 23, 2017. Hmmm. That date seems oddly season finale-ish, doesn’t it?


You know your main character is kinda messed up when you feel gratitude for him only wasting half an episode lying to and snapping at all his friends and family because something important is weighing on him. And I don’t doubt for a second that the future death of Iris West is incredibly important, but you’d think that heroes in these shows would learn by now that keeping things a secret — for half an episode or half a season, it doesn’t matter — never ends well. At best, Barry lucked out this time by only alienating his team members a little.

The most alienated was probably Wally, because Barry inexplicably took a lot of his frustration out on him. Why? I couldn’t really figure it out. I don’t think there was anything in the flash-forward that indicated Wally would be pivotal in Iris’s death, but still Barry acted like the development of Wally as Kid Flash directly correlated with Iris getting killed by Savitar. Granted, I personally believe Barry is right in saying that just because Wally is the fastest speedster we’ve seen so far, that doesn’t mean he’s ready to be a hero. The moniker “Kid Flash” — while incredibly condescending — is actually pretty accurate. Wally is immature about everything, from listening to orders, to acting instinctively, to dealing with the press. It might be a problem in the future, if he doesn’t grow out of it.

But for now, the problem is Iris’s impending doom, and what Barry plans on doing about it. Initially, he just (unsubtly) asks H.R. questions about time travel theory and fixed points in time. His sketchiness makes it look like he’s going to try to figure it all out on his own but, as I mentioned earlier, he does eventually come clean to Team Flash and Iris herself.

Which, major kudos to Candice Patton for the scene in which Barry tells Iris what he saw in the future. Patton executed a perfect mix of fear, devastation, acceptance, and hope that was incredibly moving and some of the best emotional work I think she’s been given all season. Maybe multiple seasons? Iris hasn’t been able to do a whole lot as essentially the only “normal” member of the team — not super-powered, super-intelligent, or a member of the police — but I have high hopes that this storyline will treat her as more of an active player.

On the surface, Iris looks like a MacGuffin — simply a potential loss for our hero, which triggers the plot and sets things in motion. However, she isn’t locked into this role. If done well and thoughtfully, this storyline could be a huge opportunity for The Flash writers to shine a spotlight on Iris as a character in her own right. They’ve already hinted at her nebulous role on the team through dialogue, and while Iris talking about how she doesn’t fit in with the rest of them might have just been heavy foreshadowing for the danger to come (not to mention shoehorned opportunities for Barry to comfort her and reaffirm her importance), I prefer to give the writers the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I’m wrong in that. Too soon to tell. I truly hope I’m not, though, because Iris deserves to be more than just Barry Allen’s girlfriend.

Other Things:
  • I really love this episode’s title for reasons I can’t pinpoint.
  • Hologram Cisco shouting “SCIENCE!” is super amusing.
  • H.R.’s museum opening was genuinely sad for me. He was so happy about being useful and good for the team, and he failed, and there’s nothing worse than being excited for something and getting disappointed in a major way.
  • And Cisco yelling at H.R.’s sadness was one of the rare times where I did not find Cisco endearing.
  • I’ve decided that I am anti-Caitlin/Julian, on account of the fact that Julian is clearly evil and Caitlin doesn’t need that drama.
  • That said, I like the idea of grumpy Julian being on Team Flash. There hasn’t been enough grumpiness since the loss of Harry.
  • Apparently on H.R.’s Earth, they give reptiles as housewarming gifts?
  • But still, Barry is SO EXCITED that he got a turtle! What an adorable labradoodle.
  • Oh yeah, apparently H.R. is about to get assassinated? Don’t know where that’s going.


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