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THE FLASH Review: The Reverse Flash Returns

By on January 27, 2016
Pictured: Grant Gustin as The Flash -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW

Pictured: Grant Gustin as The Flash -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW

By Justin Carter

The surprise element to the Reverse Flash last season was that he wasn’t Harrison Wells, at least not entirely. Through some fancy future tech, Matt Lescher’s Eobard Thawne morphed into Tom Cavanaugh’s Wells so he could guide Barry and teach him how to use his speed before betraying him. If that sounds incredibly convoluted, that’s more or less because it is, and even more convoluted is how the show explains Reverse Flash’s return.

Instead of being an Earth-2 version as was popularly theorized, Thawne is pretty much just the Reverse Flash before he showed up to kill Barry’s mom. The show calls him a “timeline remnant” but the way Harry explains it was so weird that I had to rewind and play it back two more times to understand it. (That didn’t help.) While he’s able to move about and muck up the timeline freely, Harry points out that Barry’s mom dying is more or a less a fixed point, because of course it is. Unlike last season, this Reverse Flash is a bit of a thud; Letscher doesn’t have much to do, and even Cavanaugh having a few moments in the old Reverse suit has more of an impact here than OG Thawne, who mostly just spends his time sounding deranged.

Unfortunately for Team Flash, Reverse’s return unlocks a new ability for Cisco, enabling him to see the future. While this does get him a bit of a step closer to being Vibe (he gets goggles to help him focus his abilities), this backfires pretty much immediately when he goes off track and starts vanishing from the timeline. Before this, we go through a series of very weird moments where Barry, Cisco, and Harry basically provide him with everything Reverse needs in order to jump start season one. It’s one of those snake eating its own tail moments and more than a little frustrating to see Barry take Thawne back to his own time.

Part of this show’s fun is that it’s…well, fun and full of humor, and while not every episode demands laughs, this episode doesn’t really provide on that front. Jay and Caitlin do some searching for his Earth-1 doppelganger so he can avoid dying, Wally’s mom is about to die, and Patty is on the verge of leaving for her new job.

Of these three threads, the second works the best; while Wally and Francine are fairly new characters, the loss of a loved one is never easy, and Wally’s distancing himself from her is appropriate. Iris’ scene with her mother in the hospital is well acted, and it’s nice to see that the Wests are starting to become a family. As for Jay and Caitlin, I can’t really say I care about him because of how non-vital he’s seemed since his first appearance, so no more about that.

And then there’s Barry and Patty, which at this point has made me glad it’s been resolved. His entire reasoning behind keeping his identity a secret from her is bogus given their shared profession, and now he’s just making snide comments about everyone he loves eventually leaving him. It’d be sad if it weren’t for the fact that he’s had multiple opportunities to tell her the truth, including this episode where she deduces his secret and flat out says she’ll stick around if he just admits it. Even his excuse that his weirdness is all for her benefit rings hollow at this point.

The lack of a compelling villain of the week and that frustrating subplot aside, “Reverse Flash Returns” does enough to be a good hour of television, but I really hope this show gets back to the greatness that made it fun to watch last year. Here’s hoping that time split between three different shows a week doesn’t mean the CW/DC crew is slacking.

Additional Notes

  • This episode may have been mostly devoid of humor, but Cisco’s “Bye, Felicia” and Wells scaring the pants off of him in the Reverse Flash suit were legit gold. Ditto their back and forth about slurping.
  • Oh, so Wells did kill the Turtle. And Team Flash certainly cared for about two seconds.
  • Harry to Cisco: “You know, to me, this is Earth-2.”
  • Jay’s Earth-1 version is named Hunter Zolomon. It’s weird to think that the writers thought they could introduce that name into 2016 without anyone making a joke, but they somehow managed to play that straight.

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