The Flash: Flash Back review

"Flash Back" plays with the conventions of time travel and the structure of The Flash in some very cool ways.

This The Flash review contains spoilers.

The Flash Season 2 Episode 17

“Your plan is asinine.”

It’s true. Barry’s plan was indeed “asinine.” Luckily “Flash Back” was anything but. I’m prepared to take some heat for this one, though. I’ll be perfectly honest: I’m not sure I completely understood “Flash Back” but I did like it. I rather enjoy when this show just decides it’s going to be Doctor Who for an episode.

And really, that’s what this felt like to me. Not just the strict time travel elements, but concepts like the (legit creepy as hell) Time Wraith, or the fact that never mind traveling through time, let’s complicate it by actually interacting with and influencing events we’ve already seen. Timey-wimey, indeed. 

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So “Flash Back” basically does all the things The Flash does best at a time of year when lots of these shows are airing filler episodes. Incidentally, my apologies for not being around to review “Trajectory” last week, but I was on a secret mission for Den of Geek out in Los Angeles and none of my usual backups were available on short notice. I thought “Trajectory” was quite good, for the record, and better than your average villain of the week installment. Anyway “Flash Back” continued to dance around the wider Jay/Zoom story, but felt like it moved things forward just enough, and instead it let the cast do the heavy lifting with fun character moments.

Tom Cavanagh just continues to amaze with his ability to slip between various versions of his characters, often in the space of a single scene, with ease. This week we got Harry Wells, but we also got Harrison Wells, and we also got Eobard Thawne. Remember, the last time Harry did a Harrison it didn’t totally count, because he was just pretending. This time Mr. Cavanagh got to play all three “real” versions of the character. It’s a small distinction, but an important one, mostly because of how well he pulls it all off.

I like that they’re doubling back down on Barry being completely driven this year. They opened the season on this, but I feel it kind of fell by the wayside, but “workaholic Barry” who is just obsessed with getting faster and faster in order to beat Zoom is a cool side of the character. It gives him an edge that I feel might otherwise be lacking, and it does it without the wailing and gnashing of teeth that other superhero stuff seems to think is necessary. I hope that this is something that Barry has to deal with beyond this season, too. The idea that he has this absurdly driven streak in him could be used for other stories depending on how else it manifests.

It sure felt like it meant something having Eddie Thawne back this week, too. Remember the merry chase they led us on with him in the first season? I spent at least half the year convinced he would turn out to be a villain or just a textbook TV romantic rival, and instead he was the season’s biggest hero. The little things, like Barry’s brief reaction when he first lays eyes on him again, really mattered. The few minutes we got with Eddie wouldn’t have meant a damn thing if they hadn’t put the work in during season one. Great stuff.

I’m still not satisfied with whatever they’re building with Jay/Zoom. I reserve the right to be totally wrong and pleasantly surprised. But right now, I still think this whole thing feels cheap. Yes, my Jay Garrick bias is at work here a little, but I do think that something is off with this whole thing.

Flash Facts!

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– So, when the Time Wraith first showed up, I totally thought it was a vision of Barry’s future in Crisis on Infinite Earths. There is totally a resemblance to what happens there. As far as I can tell, they have no parallel in the DC Universe, but holy moley do they feel right out of Russell T. Davies or Steven Moffat’s playbook!

– I absolutely love the idea of a reformed Pied Piper hanging around to help the team out. In the comics, Hartley did indeed reform, helped Barry out a few times, but really became quite close with Wally West. I would be 100% on board with Andy Mientus becoming a recurring member of the cast next year.

– Cisco has two little moments I love, one is the subtle expanding of his fingers into the Vulcan salute when talking about The Wrath of Khan with the Barrys, but that isn’t even my favorite. 

He refers to the Time Wraith as “Inky.” As in Pac-Man’s ghost foes, Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde (or Inky, Blinky, Clyde, and Sue depending on which version of the Pac-mythology you choose to subscribe to…and I’ve already given this way too much thought).

– Within the speed equation that Barry retrieves from Thawne, you can clearly spot the classic Golden Age formula that gave Johnny and Jesse Quick their speed!   3×2(9yz)4A!

If I missed anything, you know what to do. Shout ’em at me on Twitter or drop ’em in the comments!

Rating:

4 out of 5