Barry Allen has had a very busy week. Not only did he accidentally travel to another universe to help Kara Danvers save National City on Supergirl, but he purposefully traveled back in time to kindly ask Harrison Wells (a.k.a. Eobard Thawne) for the speed force formula on The Flash. One of these missions involved ice cream cones. The other one involved the scariest dementors this side of Azkaban. Moral of the story: it’s way more fun being a sidekick on someone else’s show than it is being the hero of your own.
The cross-over gave us an opportunity to see DC comic Superhero’s together without all the gloom. As well as Marvel has done at the Box Office, only DareDevil and Jessica Jones have been quality television shows. Agents of Sheild is an insult to the EMCU. So maybe it’s a good thing the DC and Warner Bros. have decided to keep their universes seperate. Not because the The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tommorow and Supergirl would tarnish Batman V. Superman, but vice-versa. I happen to like Ezra Miller and think he will be a great Flash, but we already have a Flash. We already have a Green Arrow, and though she might not grace our cinemas we already have our Supergirl. Grant Gustin, Stephen Amell and Mellisa Benoist, have- with the the brillance of Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kriesberg, become the standard-bearer for these characters. This is certainly not to knock Ben Affleck or Henry Cavill, or for that matter Gal Gadot or Jesse Eisenberg. It’s not even Chris Terrio or David S. Goyer’s fault, the simple fact is Christoper Nolan is gifted and created a space where Batman could flourish. Superman, not so much. Still it is all to easy to blame Zack Snyder, but it’s not really on him either, the visuals.. Aside from the horrid Weta Cgi were beautiful, it’s the nature of the source material. Superman isn’t a flawed character that you can make more realistic, still they try. This is something that the DC television universe has wonderfully circumnavigated, bringing a balance of realism and fantasy to all four shows. The best of which is The Flash.
With “Flash Back,” The Flash is essentially saying to us, “You know, maybe you’re right. Maybe we need to have some bendable rules about how time travel works.” And so we got the time wraith- as a sort of time- travel hall monitor that apparently sucks the life energy out of speedsters for mucking around the timeline all willy-nilly. Of course, by the episode’s end, that’s all we knew about them, too.
Watching Cisco try to figure out which Barry was an impostor was a treat, to say nothing of Wells/Eobard’s increasingly exasperated reaction shots as Present Day-Barry kept mucking up things. Even the Barry-against-Barry fight in the alley was pretty solid. The real treat of the episode, however, was the Wells/Eobard and Barry scene in the time vault. It was so very good, and came at precisely the right time for Barry.
While “Flash Back” leaned heavily on the issue of Barry being suckered and betrayed by two mentors, this episode, far more than “The Return of the Reverse-Flash,” felt like the conclusion of Barry fully coming to grips with Wells/Eobard’s final words that quasi-motivated a lot of Barry’s beats in the first chunk of the season. Beating the Reverse-Flash in his Eobard Thawne form is one thing, but I felt like it meant more to watch Barry outthink and outplay the face of Thawne that actually betrayed him.
The Flash is winding down its second season, and I’m not totally sure what to expect. With Arrow, after three full seasons, I had a pretty solid sense of its seasonal structure and how it knocks over those last few dominoes. The Flash, however, has all sorts of room to do all sorts of things. This time last year, it did the Tricksters and then- Ray and Felicity swung by to fight the Bug-Eyed Bandit. Even as the show entered the final stretch, we had a Grodd episode and a Captain Cold episode, both that connected to Reverse Flash’s final moves, still they mostly saved the fireworks for the finale.
“Sometimes, the only way to move forward is to revisit the thing in your past that was holding you back,”
Barry voiceovers at the end of the episode. While The Flash may have eschewed the exploration of some larger ethical themes in “Flash Back,” it did highlight how both Barry and Iris have been held back by the events of the past year. For Barry, he still seems to believe that he will never be happy — as Wells told him in his video message in the Season 2 premiere.