The Flash Season 3 Episode 16 Review: Into the Speed Force

The Flash brought back some familiar faces for another remarkable episode.

This The Flash review contains spoilers.

The Flash Season 3 Episode 16

“You don’t like the future, Flash? Change it.”

For, I dunno, the third or fourth time this year, I was prepared to write some kind of 500 word variation of “this episode was okay” and then “Into the Speed Force” decided to shake things up. Again. I’ve loved this season, and I’m pretty sure that by this time last year the wheels were already starting to come off. There’s been no sign of the central premise collapsing this time around and The Flash has gone from strength to strength recently.

But I’ll admit, I was skeptical coming in to this one. I have to confess, I don’t fully understand how the speed force is supposed to work on this show, and the “sentient/collective” nature of it never sat quite right with me. Last season’s exercise in speed force existentialism was the particularly introspective “The Runaway Dinosaur,” which was quite good and a much needed change of pace at the time. But it was also much later in the season, and it set up a rushed conclusion that didn’t exactly sit well with me.

“Into the Speed Force” on the other hand, well, I’m starting to see a very different pattern. It’s like the show is deliberately trying to make up for its own mistakes, just as Barry is constantly trying to atone for his past. Season two Barry gave me whiplash going from overconfidence to acceptance (thanks to his experiences in the speed force) right into outright arrogance and then finally to the sadness/desparation that led to Flashpoint.

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But season three Barry is far more measured. Some of this, of course, is the natural evolution of the character, but it’s also better writing. Barry still makes mistakes, and will continue to make them, and he still has that unfortunate tendency to try and carry everyone’s problems on his own shoulders, but I no longer get the impression that I’m banging my head against the wall waiting for him to smarten up. 

Okay, maybe when it comes to his love life, but that’s it. He’s fine with almost everything else.

For nearly the first half of “Into the Speed Force” I was kind of wondering why we were spending a whole episode here. It felt like more of the kind of pseudospirituality we got out of “The Runaway Dinosaur” and it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Barry would emerge with Wally intact, and their bond would be stronger than ever. Don’t get me wrong, that’s an important piece of this puzzle. It took a while to warm up to the Barry/Wally relationship, but in order for it to be as powerful as it needs to be for their future to unfold the way comic book fans know it should, they have to be more than buddies or co-workers, they have to be family. I think we’re there now, and this episode did it.

Part of that is because both Barry and Wally were able to learn from Jay Garrick. Now, wherever you are in the world, you probably heard me cheer when John Wesley Shipp showed up. Jay Garrick is one of the most important characters in the entire DC pantheon, and he’s the speedster from which all other modern speedsters spring. It’s not about having him teach Barry or Wally to run faster, it’s about him teaching them to be heroes in ways we never expected. This was the most perfect example of that, and the fact that both of the younger Flashes (and by extension, Jesse Quick, too) get to benefit from it at the same time is a wonderful thing.

And while we’re on the subject of the great John Wesley Shipp, here’s another perfect example of The Flash atoning for its past. The way this show handled Henry Allen’s death last year was nearly inexcusable, despite the big apology we got at the end with Mr. Shipp putting the helmet on. While I always figured Henry was a goner, the actual death felt rushed and a little cheap, especially given how the season had progressed. If this is indeed Jay’s final lap, it would mean something.

(fun fact: Den of Geek contributor, Legends of Tomorrow and the kind soul who pinch-hits for me when I can’t get these Flash reviews done, Jim Dandy actually e-mailed me during that scene to make sure I was ok.)

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But c’mon, we all know it’s not, right? There’s no way that Barry doesn’t break Jay out of here (one way or the other) and Jay helps the team deliver the feelgood asskicking of the year to Savitar before Memorial Day. When that happens, I’ll be doing laps around my living room, but in the event that it doesn’t, well, I’m okay with this being how it ends.

What I’m really impressed with is how nobody came off looking bad in this episode. Barry succeeded, even though he paid a price. Wally’s free, and he got to see how other superheroes would unquestioningly lay down their existence for each other. Jesse took on Savitar one on one and fared better than anyone has, even if you still couldn’t exactly call that a victory. Each of them took steps forward, and I think there are exciting times ahead for all three of them. Four if you count Jay. Which I will continue to do, damn it!

It was nice to see Rick Cosnett again, but again, the kind of mealymouthed speed force stuff doesn’t really blow my head off. Wentworth Miller clearly relishes every second he’s back in Len Snart’s parka, and we should, too. Their conversation was a perfect illustration of why no rogue on has come close to Captain Cold, and this show has nailed the nuances of that particular relationship better than I ever thought possible. They need to find a way to bring him back properly, ASAP.

So much of “Into the Speed Force” could have damned this episode to burner episode hell, but it didn’t. We could have been stuck with a dopey villain of the week, but we weren’t. This could have been a “very special episode” and it wasn’t. The Flash just keeps on beating its own times this season, and it’s great. Let’s see if they can keep it up.

Flash Facts!

– I tell ya, having Jesse Quick, Barry Allen, Wally West, and Jay Garrick all taking on Savitar, well, this feels straight out of some of the best mid 90s Flash comics to me!

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– Having Jay disappear into the speed force for a bit makes a lot of sense. Lots of speedsters have done it. It’s kind of like dying, but it’s not. And “golden age” DC characters have a history of vanishing into alternate non-heavens like this. It’s how DC explained why the Justice Society were able to disappear in the 1950s and reappear in the modern DCU without aging. Granted, that wasn’t the speed force, and just a kind of superhero Valhalla, but nevertheless, it works. 

In short, yes, Jay will be back.

– Anyone getting a Louis Tully from Ghostbusters vibe off HR when he’s had too much caffeine?

– Also, he’s right about “Peanuts.” That annoys me, too.

– Can we please have a complete pop culture moratorium on spooky, ghostly “hush little baby” usage? Thanks.

– Snart’s crack about Jay’s “golden age” was cute.

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Mike Cecchini might still be weeping quietly about this whole Jay Garrick thing. Console him on Twitter.

Rating:

4 out of 5