By Josh Melo
‘The Flash’ Review – S2 Ep.11 (The Reverse-Flash Returns)
Eobard Thawne is back from the ether between timelines and is looking for Barry. Now contending with 2 evil speedsters, Barry must juggle wonky time travel issues and a crumbling relationship. Does the return of the Reverse-Flash tip the scales out of balance? Or can The Flash handle the added pressure?
For the most part The Reverse-Flash Returns is a (ahem) return to form for the show. The Flash has always been at its best when the focus is on the team’s super hero exploits and not on the mundaneness of their love lives. With Eobard Thawne crawling his way out of the timeline, Barry and friends have little time to spare for their various relationship problems (which is great). Right off the bat we’re treated to the classic Cisco/Wells dynamic fans have come to adore over the past season and a half. Cisco purposefully pissing Wells off in the middle of a crisis was a fun way of reminding us how great the show can be after the snooze fest that was Potential Energy.
It’s become routine for Barry to throw himself into his work as The Flash after he experiences some type of loss. His father left, he caught a bunch of bad guys. He saves the city and lost his friend, he caught a bunch of bad guys. So it isn’t surprising to see him start this episode in the middle of a high-speed chase. The effects work here was on point and the way he improvised to stop the out of control truck was pretty cool. But that was nothing compared to fight between Barry and Thawne. Using Cisco’s “vibe” powers (conveniently enhanced by Wells’ tech) the team learns of Reverse-Flash’s return to the present and chooses to cut him off at the pass. The ensuing battle is kinetic, intense and packed an emotional wallop. When RF first appeared on the show he outclassed Barry in every way. Here, Barry has the upper hand. Able to match RF’s speed, Barry uses his knowledge of the city to corner his evil twin and consequently knocks the crap out of him.
It was really cool to see how far Barry has come over the course of the series and to show it off against his biggest rival was satisfying for everyone. In an interesting twist, this isn’t technically the same Thawne. The show explains his appearance as a time remnant, because he came to Barry’s time from the future, his death in the past only killed that version of himself, not the eventual Thawne that will return to the past from the future to only go back to the past in order to kill Barry (confused yet?). Ultimately, it’s a lot of mumbo jumbo that doesn’t actually make sense when you think about it. But who cares!
All of that exposition was a round about way of saying that the events of this episode are the direct cause of Eobard’s quest for vengeance in the first season. Since the characters knew that this Thawne would eventually return to terrorize their lives, it was a little odd to hear them dropping hints about what he does in the future. Wouldn’t you want to try and hold back as much information as possible in the hopes that things will end up even a little easier for your past (or future, I don’t even know anymore) selves? The episode isn’t nearly as convoluted as this explanation is. Most of the time travel stuff is implied or quickly glossed over to avoid migraines (which is wise).
Getting to see all of these characters share their respective moments with Thawne was a nice touch. There wasn’t really any closure after the defeat of RF in the first season and Earth 2 Wells showing up only made it clear that all of these people are holding a grudge. For them to get it all out on the real villain was cathartic, for audiences and the team. Cisco especially had a rough go of things. Embracing his powers more than ever, his tampering with the timeline almost got him erased form existence (a development that Thawne foresaw). The only way to save Cisco would be to set Thawne free to return to his home. Once again showing his growth of character, Barry makes the right choice and let’s his nemesis free. Having witnessed the chaos that was the first season, we can understand how big of a decision that was and how difficult that choice must be (in letting Thawne go he has essentially let Thawne kill his mother twice now, poor guy.).
Before getting into the negatives of the episode, there is one more major plot point that came out of The Reverse-Flash Returns. In a side story involving Caitlin and Jay, we may have just uncovered the identity of Zoom. In a quest to find Jay’s doppelganger in order to cure him of his mysterious speed disease, the pair realizes why he was so difficult to track down. Jay’s Earth 1 double goes by a different name; Hunter Zolomon. To most fans, the name drop will come and go with little fan fare. To the astute comic book nerd, Zolomon is the secret identity of Professor Zoom. There is no proof as to whether or not Jay’s Earth 1 counterpart is indeed Zoom but it would fall in line with how they handled Reverse-Flash’s identity in season 1. In any case, you don’t drop a name like that and don’t follow up.
Now, on to Patty Spivot. When Patty was first introduced I instantly fell in love. She was quirky, adorable and a perfect fir for Barry. Over the last few episodes, what was once a fun and cute dynamic turned into a ceaseless back and forth with little forward momentum. Last week saw Patty end the relationship with her decision to follow her dreams. This week she is wholeheartedly prepared to stay with Barry as long as he asks. The change of heart felt against character to me and had me more annoyed at their current situation than anything else.
Having Patty uncover her secret identity in what seems to be her last episode also felt like writers trying to redeem themselves for previous failures. Many people have complained about the fact that such an esteemed detective would have surely figured out Barry’s secret, especially after spending so much time with him. She literally repeats this complaint verbatim during the episode. It just felt too clean and for a relationship that ultimately did nothing for either character, was meaningless. Why have her stick around for so long if she wasn’t going to play into any larger story? Her leaving the show with absolutely no collateral damage has me thinking back to previous episodes wondering why we she lasted so long.
Anyway, she’s gone and I don’t have to worry about it anymore.
And here I was almost forgetting about Francine and Wally. I wanted to like Lonsdale as Wally, I really did. Looking back, I was probably too forgiving last week. Wally’s character is extremely wishy washy when it comes to his emotions. Last week he was hating on his dad. This week he has a grudge against his mom. Next week he will probably get mad at Iris. It just isn’t interesting and the performance is bland to the point that I really don’t like the character. Hopefully this is just a case of poor usage of the character.
Aside from that slight stumble and the (at times) overly complicated nature of the episode, I really liked it. The Reverse-Flash Returns marked, hopefully, the main narrative coming back into play. With little else to distract from Zoom and the infinite Earth’s, this should be a sign of better things to come.
Overall. The Reverse-Flash Returns gets a 7.5/10.