This review contains episode spoilers for “Flash Back.”
When you meddle with time, there are consequences. “The Flash” knows there are consequences, but as the characters themselves try and figure out time travel, the show is also figuring out the rules and boundaries with a superhero who can use such a device to help. That is to say, there aren’t many rules or boundaries when it comes to time travel on “The Flash.”
Barry is set on trying to make himself faster after finding out that Jay is Zoom. An idea sparks after talking with Wally about his latest project (how nice is it that the two are finally getting along?). The only person who’s ever been able to figure out how to increase his speed without the use of Velocity 9 is season one Harrison Wells, aka Eobard Thawne. So Cisco and Caitlin help Barry travel back to last year, when Wells was distracted by Hartley Rathaway, the Pied Piper, to get him to give up the equation to help with Barry’s speed.
Harry thinks it’s an “asinine” idea and doesn’t join in to help. Barry goes back, but not without hitching a ride from a Time Wraith, a dementor-like figure who isn’t happy that Barry is meddling with the timeline. Dr. Wells is suspicious and, with the help of the appearance of the Time Wraith, figures out that the Barry he’s been talking to is a future Barry. There’s a great scene between the speedster and Wells in the time vault that truly shows how much Barry has grown as a character and how he’s moved on and is able to outsmart Eobard, even without the use of his powers. Through the power of manipulation and words (it helps that knowing what will happen down the line), Barry gets Wells to let him go and give up the speed equation.
Elsewhere in the episode, Iris tells Barry that she kind of went on a date with Scott, but that she feels like she’s not ready to move on yet from Eddie. Barry gives her some sage advice about being open to the fact to move on and love again, but it’s what he does when he goes back to the past that solidifies Barry in my eyes as a different kind of superhero than we’ve seen portrayed to date. In the middle of all the time events and trying to get the speed equation, Barry gets Eddie, pre-death, to record a message for Iris, giving it to her when he comes back to the present. It’s with this video and this episode that we finally get to see Iris grieve Eddie onscreen and move on from him as well. It also proves how much Barry selflessly loves Iris. Candice Patton really sells the varying emotions Iris is feeling with that one scene at the end and the touching moments between them are some of what makes the episode memorable.
After getting back to the present, the only thing that has changed (because you know something was going to) is that Hartley has come back from the dark side and is the one who helps fight off the Time Wraith. That’ll be interesting moving forward, seeing as how this could be very useful now that Team Flash has extra help whenever they need it. “Flash Back” doesn’t particularly advance the season’s story arc, and the plot could have been far more layered than it was, particularly all the emotions it could have packed, but it still serves as a fun episode full of good callbacks and closure as one chapter is closed and another is opened.
It’s a bit of a breather before we head into the final six episodes of the season, although the writers could do with a bit more stability in terms of time travel, but “Flash Back” at least doesn’t confuse so much as it leaves me wondering about time, its effects, and what may have really happened to 2024 Barry, if anything. It was good to see Eddie and Hartley again, a trip down memory lane to see Dr. Wells/Eobard Thawne, and the two Barrys fighting each other in an alley was fairly well done.
“The Flash” is going on another hiatus (ugh!), but when it comes back April 19, there will be no more breaks and we can dive headfirst into the last string of episodes, which should be great!
- That scene in the time vault between Barry and Eobard Thawne. So good.
- Cisco trying to figure out which Barry is the “real” Barry by using “Wrath of Khan” as references is hilarious.
- “Holy Harry Potter.”
- The heart-to-heart scenes with Barry and Iris were really well done this episode.
- Although Zoom is really good this season, I’ll have to see more of him for his villainy to reach Eobard Thawne level badness.
- Cisco briefly vibed Zoom holding a woman in a beige coat over the edge of a roof. Who is this woman?
"Flash Back" doesn't further along the season's plot very much and the time travel stuff is questionable at times. But the episode provides some nice call backs to past events and characters, closure for Iris, sweet heart-to-heart moments, and a great standoff between Barry and Eobard Thawne.