Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Flash 2x17 Review: "Flash Back" (Second Time Around) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Flash Back”
Original Airdate: March 29, 2016

This week on The Flash: Barry is terrible at time travel! Thawne-Wells is back and whispery-er than ever! Iris is sad! That one guy with the creepy face and explosive hearing aids from season one somehow ends up on Team Flash because, as I mentioned, Barry is terrible at time travel! Seriously though, Barry is so bad at time travel it’s actually remarkable. Literally everything that could go wrong, short of creating a paradox that destroys all of existence, goes wrong because Barry is about as skilled at subterfuge and lying as a pudgy Golden Retriever puppy would be. And we all know Golden Retriever puppies can’t lie.


The reason why Barry has to go back in time in the first place isn’t because a villain is threatening the city or because all his friends have died in a freak accident. No, he wants to go back so he can get the secret to faster speedster powers from Evil Eobard. I can already tell you this plan is going to fall apart within seconds, but the geniuses at S.T.A.R Labs want to go along with it anyway. Probably because they’re running out of options for speeding Barry up that aren’t “all the drugs.”

So Caitlin and Cisco pinpoint a period of time in which little was happening, so Barry could focus on getting information out of Thawne-Wells without having to worry about a metahuman somewhere killing innocent bystanders, and the friendship with Thawne-Wells was strained enough that any of Barry’s weirdness should seem fine. Unfortunately, the team failed to predict exactly how terrible Barry would be at acting like his former self. Barry, I get your awful acting skills on Earth-2 because you were basically a different person, but this is being you from a year ago. How are you this bad at it?

It goes wrong from the start: Barry ends up getting spotted by his former self, interference in his ear piece distracts him, past!Barry escapes tranquilization over and over... But eventually past!Barry is knocked out, his badge is switched, and Barry’s ready to awkward his way through interacting with his past-greatest enemy.

... who figures out he’s not who he says he is when a Time Wraith shows up, because — and I can’t emphasize this enough — Barry is really terrible at time travel. He should not be allowed to have the power to travel through time, because it’s actually impressive how much he manages to screw up within a very small window of opportunity. Barry can’t help but change something (the captive Hartley Rathaway, a.k.a. Pied Piper, gets his explosive ear-implants taken away when Barry remembers the explosion-to-be) even though he’s told repeatedly that he needs to keep the timeline in order, and once he’s changed one thing it’s like everything else is fair game. This is in spite of the fact that the little changes he’s making have actually caused a Time Wraith to appear and come after him but no no, Barry. You go ahead and confront your past self and tell the whole team that you’ll be able to travel through time. You go ahead and hint about things to come. Please proceed, you speedy doof.

Never send Barry on any more missions to the past. If you do, everyone will end up in a Planet of the Apes post-apocalypse, with President Grodd and Vice President Congorilla. I just know it.

Barry gets sent back to the future before he can do any more damage, trailing the Time Wraith behind him. Hartley is the one who stops the Wraith in the present — because he’s good now and occasionally helps out at the lab. Hartley’s survival/turn to the side of good might be important later or it might be one-off, inconsequential time travel aftereffect (which I really hope is the case because it would be hilarious).

After an initial failure to make the technology work, Barry opens up the 3D hologram file that holds the speed equation from Thawne-Wells and can already tell that it’ll be helpful. Apparently the team is on the path toward speeding Barry up and eventually defeating Zoom, thereby saving multiple Earths from his reign of terror. Despite spending so much time in the past, this episode has led to a surprising amount of progress.


I don’t focus a lot of talking about the romantic entanglements on any of the shows I review because usually I’m not that invested in them, but I was reading some negative buzz on social media about fans who are upset over Iris entering into yet another relationship with someone who isn’t Barry, and I have to confess: I’m okay with it. I’m not okay with Iris dating her boss, but I’m okay with her putting off dating Barry for a while longer because it makes sense for someone whose relationship was cut abruptly short by a death to cling to the “what ifs” that occur in the aftermath.

I get that Westallen fans want their OTP to just get together already, and that they’re upset about yet another short-term relationship getting in the way of the Barry/Iris inevitable endgame, but I personally think that anything other than what the writers are doing — i.e., slowly allowing Iris to deal with her loss — would be rushed and unrealistic. It also wouldn’t be a good fit for a character as highly empathetic and considerate as Iris.

Iris did not get closure on her relationship with Eddie. She loved him, she was going to marry him, and then he was gone. Even considering that she definitely had feelings for Barry around the same time, the fact that she never got to work through whatever she had with Eddie would understandably weigh on her. Maybe they would have well and truly broken up — before the wedding, or divorced after — and maybe Iris would have gotten involved with Barry at some point in their future, but Iris never got to figure it out, never got to know for sure if she and Eddie could have made it as a couple. We all know that Barry and Iris will probably get together, but in-story, Iris has no clue how her future with Eddie would have turned out.

As for Iris’s feelings for Barry, it makes sense that she wouldn’t want to damage her relationship with him by using him as a “rebound.” And I don’t mean that in the usual “damage the friendship” way that shows, books, and movies like to use it — I mean, Iris would likely feel some level of guilt in moving on past the death of her fiancĂ©, and that would hurt her relationship with someone new. It would be bogged down by her comparing that relationship with what she could have had with Eddie, and then she would feel guilty for the comparison and everything would inevitably self-destruct. Iris probably knows her relationship with Barry would last (they have plenty of alternate reality/time travel evidence to support this) but only if she’s ready and no longer haunted by the ghost of her hypothetical marriage to Eddie.

So yes, I understand why yet another person has been introduced in order to forestall Barry and Iris getting together. I don’t really understand why this person has to be Iris’s boss, nor do I particularly agree with Iris dating her boss, but I get and appreciate the general idea of this. I’m glad the writers are, in this situation, writing Iris as a thinking, feeling person rather than simply having her cut off her emotions and bounce back from a tragedy like losing her fiancĂ© just to get to that inevitable endgame couple.

The scene of her watching Eddie’s “birthday message” to her was both sad and heartwarming, excellently acted by Candice Patton in yet another scene displaying her aptitude for emotions. Plus, Barry providing another element of closure for Iris was a lovely show of support. Hopefully, this pushes Iris a step in the right direction of letting go and moving on.



Other Things:
  • “With Wells last year, I should have learned my lesson and dug deeper into Jay.” Dug deeper into the guys who was from another universe, Joe? I’m not sure if the CCPD has access to those databases.
  • “Your boss?!” Yeah, Iris. Your boss. Don’t date your boss, even Barry knows that.
  • Joe carrying the casserole dish with bare hands and Iris yelling at him about mittens was really charming. More West-Allen family dinners, show!
  • Thawne-Wells calls Barry “Mr. Al” and it’s weird.
  • "Run. Barry." Barry's like "Ugh, that catchphrase."
  • “What is it with you guys? It’s like you think I have ESP or something. I can’t just magically sense where things are.” Ha!
  • Barry can’t even manage to fake shock at seeing Wells walking. He’s so bad at this.
  • “You are good." NO HE'S NOT. Between this moment and Cisco saying that Barry on Earth-2 deserved an Oscar: show, you can’t just tell us Barry is good at this stuff because he is demonstrably not.
  • If you re-watch the episode, watch Thawne-Wells as Barry digs himself deeper and deeper into the paradox hole by talking to Cisco, Caitlin, and his past self about time travel. He makes the best “why did I choose this idiot as my arch-nemesis?” faces.
  • “He’s—” “Your doppelganger!” “Nope, not yet.”
  • “Every time at the end you turn to me and you say, ‘I have been and always shall be your friend.’” Adorable!
  • “Hartley knows where Ronnie is.” “Okay... What?”
  • “The Time Wraith!” “That’s a good name.” Priorities, Cisco.
  • So I guess the speed equation Barry learns in this episode is what makes him fast enough to travel through universes and to Kara in the Supergirl crossover?

1 comment:

  1. I love everything about your review and I concur with all the points on both Barry and Iris