Back in red.
Barry has hit a wall in his speed improvement, and takes drastic measures to get a leg up on Zoom. The team organizes what I can only describe as a time heist as they attempt to fit Barry in to a point in history where he can do the least amount of damage to the timeline, and talk to Harrison Wells, the only person in history who has been able to manipulate the speed force on the level that Barry needs. Unfortunately, in the middle of the run, Barry is attacked by a ghostlike figure that sends him back too early, forcing Barry to adapt to the sudden change, without disrupting the timeline.
“Flash Back” takes an important step forward by marking the show’s progress thus far. I was on board with the time heist as the team carefully plans Barry’s insertion point in line with a dead period for the team, before they had learned of Dr. Wells’ true identity. Of course I didn’t expect for the episode to go on according to plan for long, but I still don’t understand how Barry can so blatantly and irresponsibly change so much of the timeline. He actually goes so far as to out and out prevent Pied Piper’s escape. Maybe this is supposed to be a sign of Barry’s good to a fault personality, but it just comes off as Barry being foolish and irresponsible with his great power. He’s seen the consequences of changing history first hand, he’s even warned other people of the danger himself, but he might as well be a kid with a roman candle with how haphazard he is.
Despite this character slip, the episode does remind us of some of the best aspects of Flash’s last season, namely Tom Cavanaugh’s devious Harrison Wells/ Eobard Thawne. As much as a like Harry’s place in the show, nothing really compares to the subterfuge of Wells’ secret motivations of the last season. The scenes against the two characters have Barry acting just as devious as his foil, while uncharacteristic for him, it also shines a light on how jaded Wells’ actions have made Barry as time has gone on, with both Barrys coming across effectively by Grant Gustin. The primary antagonist of the Wraith is more flash than actual fire. Very little information is revealed about the appearance of the Wraith itself, preventing the audience from drawing the correlation between Barry’s abilities and the total autonomy of the speedforce itself. Yeah, a scary black speed ghost is effective so it’s not like there’s no menace at all, but I personally felt like it was a missed opportunity for the show to reveal even more of the Flash mythos.
Final Word: “Flash Back” recreates the events of “The Sound and the Fury” perfectly. It’s also recognizable for bringing back fan-favorite antagonist Pied Piper, played once again by Andy Mientus, with a twist that I won’t give away in this review. Barry’s blatant disruption of the timeline works against the supposedly forbidden nature of this act that has been established in past episodes. When the storyline forgives this action while still trying to make us forget its deus ex machina power, it’s easy to wonder why time travel is forbidden in the first place. Maybe there are a few problems with Barry’s run that won’t show up until a little bit later.
“Flash Back” gets a 7.8/10. Kind of odd in concept, but the execution both asks and answers thought provoking question; including showing just how far Barry has come in one year. It’s a reminder that the Flash’s journey, though young, is still very significant.