Picking up a month after Barry saw a future in which Savitar murders Iris, “Borrowing Problems From the Future” is an enjoyable episode that does what it’s supposed to do. It sets up the back half of the third season and has a sense of direction and purpose. And even though we might know that Iris won’t actually die, the emotional impact and journey she, Barry and co. will take to get there will hopefully be a great one. Not everything in the episode worked, but it is a much stronger winter premiere than last year’s with the intention of defeating the villain even higher than ever.
The episode opens with Barry waking up from a nightmare about Iris’ death. He hasn’t told anyone yet, but Iris obviously knows there’s something wrong. With some prodding and the realization that the villain-of-the-week is Plunder, the same guy who has escaped in the news story from the future, Barry tells Iris about her possible future. She is devastated, but immediately puts on a brave face as they tell the team (minus Joe). Cisco and Barry vibe into the future and begin collecting information on everything they see, including all the news headlines. But the future has changed just by the fact that Barry and Iris decided to tell the team. H.R. is now on the roof in the future with what looks like Plunder’s gun (which feels important because it was mentioned more than a few times).
I’m going to take a moment (a long moment) to acknowledge how memorable, heartbreaking, and strongly acted the scene in the time vault was. Candice Patton is superb and expresses fear, heartbreak, devastation, and selflessness that exudes from Iris throughout the scene. Grant Gustin is equally good and Barry’s stalwart promise that he will protect Iris is a much more confident Barry than we’ve seen in some time. The two actors have such amazing chemistry and balance each other so well. The time vault scene is perhaps one of their greatest and most powerful scenes together thus far. I also appreciated how much Barry has grown in that he’s stopped lying to Iris about things. Their relationship is a mature one and the show breaks the trope of the hero pushing his loved one away to protect her, which is refreshing.
Look at me, this is not gonna happen. Jay said that your death is just one possible future, ok? So that gives us four months to figure out how to stop Savitar. I swear on both my parents’ lives, I will protect you.”
Iris is obviously not fine, even though she says she is. How do you face the coming months knowing that your mortality is in a precarious position? What kind of emotions are running through Iris’ head? Will she take this information and run head-first into dangerous situations? Iris is a wonderful, well-rounded character and I’d like to see all of these questions answered and for her point of view to further be explored. Sure, her possible death will be driving the season, but she has never been one to sit on the sidelines and the show needs to step up in allowing her to further vocalize her emotions. She tends to bottle things up and, although I appreciate how emotionally strong she is, this is the best time to see the emotional toll this will take on her. Barry asking her whether she’s ok and supporting her is also a first step in changing the dynamic where he’s the one who will be more of the solid support system through this hard time. I’m certain this will open up rich emotional avenues to strengthen Iris even more as an individual character and will also go a long way in her and Barry’s relationship development.
Another highlight of the episode was the strengthening bond between Wally and Barry. As Wally is hitting the streets of Central City and shadowing Barry, the younger speedster is disheartened when Barry calls him out for not listening. But the two work well together and their dynamic is a nice one that flourishes after Barry explains the reasons he was hard on him about Plunder. Wally’s enthusiasm and charisma definitely bring an extra lift to the show and, even though the current plot is a bit grim, there was a good amount of humor and lightheartedness to the episode.
“The Flash” faces some interesting questions about time and the present’s effects on the future. I have absolutely no issue with Barry, Iris and the team working to alter events that haven’t even happened yet. H.R. has a meta discussion about how “fans” of his sci-fi romance novels argue that the future can be changed, while others say it’s cemented. “We often meet our destiny on the road we take to avoid it,” the doppelganger says. Regardless of the arguments about the consequences, it isn’t the same as changing the past, as I discussed in an article about time, death, and Iris’ connection to the speed force. The discussion is also pointless because to think that Barry would just sit around and not try and prevent the love of his life’s murder is ridiculous and also advocates for a favorite character’s death, which is not a good thing.
A home, more than bricks and mortar… it’s a feeling. It’s a feeling of belonging. Isn’t it? Of love, of course. Of hope for the future. I don’t know if I have ever met two people who are more suited to one another than you two. To Barry and Iris.
The villain-of-the-week continues to be unimpressive, but that isn’t particularly bothersome in this episode because we had such great character dynamics happening throughout. One of the flaws of this episode was giving H.R. far too much screen time. His subplot, about the opening of the S.T.A.R. Labs museum and needing to feel useful, could have been cut short to give extra time to more important characters like Iris. Elsewhere, Caitlin’s power dampener cuffs are malfunctioning and she seeks out Julian to help her make something more permanent. Julian joining the team doesn’t need to happen. This further takes him away from the CSI lab and gives more screen time to the lab, which is becoming more and more hindering.
Caitlin being afraid to wake up evil and the assumption that she and Killer Frost are two completely different people because of her powers continues to make no sense. Caitlin using a bit of emotional guilt to convince Barry and Cisco that Julian should join the team–really, she could have said that Julian is messed up because of Alchemy and she really needs some help with her powers and that would have been convincing enough–really cements, for me at least, that Killer Frost is simply the unfiltered version of her. This exploration would have been more interesting, but the writers unfortunately love to take shortcuts when they see fit. I appreciate that Caitlin has finally become interesting and that her story isn’t an extension of a male character any longer, but I just wish the show wouldn’t have made it so her powers equate to her being bad.
“Borrowing Problems From the Future” is a fairly solid episode with many great character scenes and, although darkness is hovering over Iris’ future, I appreciate the show can still maintain its lighter moments. H.R. can be fine and sometimes funny, but I need more screen time focused on Iris’ feelings and storyline and I’m confident that we’ll be getting this soon. The team scenes were great this time around and I’m glad Cisco’s getting to use his powers more as well. The episode strongly sets up the direction of the show moving forward and this direction has a purpose and lots of character development to look forward to. Quite frankly, this could be “The Flash’s” strongest season and it’ll be so because it’s finally turning its focus on one of its best characters.
- Caitlin and Cisco’s friendship is really cute and sweet. I think it would be more interesting for the writers to explore this potential between them than try and make her date Julian (because you know it’s coming).
- I need more Joe/Iris scenes in my life. That picture of Baby WestAllen that he gave her for their loft was downright adorable.
- What is the deal with the new cop? Is he going to be there just so he can complain?
- Iris and Barry’s loft is gorgeous.
- Iris and Barry together in bed. I need more of this. That is all I have to say on the matter.
- H.R. asked himself to give a toast. Sometimes I can’t handle Tom Cavanagh’s random humor. In a good way.
- Did I mention how much I love that they’re not having Barry push Iris away to protect her? Seriously, I am so over that storyline for every damn superhero and I’m glad “The Flash” didn’t do it this time around.
- A healthy relationship on a superhero show, you say? Yes! Something all other superhero shows and movies should take note of.
- Cisco referencing “Back to the Future” and actually vibing so that it felt a bit like “Back to the Future” is one of the things I enjoyed most.
- “I just… I just really love you.” I love these two so much.
- “I know something else that happened three nights in a row.” Cocky Barry Allen making sex jokes and giving Iris an Eskimo kiss is my new thing.
- McSnurtle the Turtle, Barry and Iris’ new pet. Bless H.R.
- I think I liked Julian better when he was biting Barry’s head off and they were being snarky toward each other. Is that weird?
- Iris calling Barry “Bartholomew” is cute. Barry not minding possibly being in trouble is also cute.
- “I’m living with someone now so I can’t have criminals interrupting our alone time.” Barry and his priorities.
- I love seeing Barry mentoring Wally.
- “Two suits, one mannequin. That is what you call a conundrum.”
- Joe thinks Wally will learn better if he’s thrown in the deep end. That’s how he taught Barry how to swim. Barry’s reaction to that is gold.
- The vault scene. Seriously, it broke my heart but I loved every moment of it.
- H.R. complimented Cisco’s outfit. I laughed.
The episode strongly sets up the direction of the show moving forward and this direction has a purpose and lots of character development to look forward to. Quite frankly, this could be The Flash’s strongest season and it’ll be so because it’s finally turning its focus on one of its best characters.