For The Flash, the CW’s Dare to Defy isn’t just some catchy slogan, but a guideline for keeping the show the preeminent comic book series on TV.
This week was another outstanding effort featuring time travel, an unexpected Flash/Reverse Flash confrontation and a genuinely touching return of one of last season’s favorite characters.
Frustrated at his inability to match Zoom or Reverse Flash’s speed frequencies — illustrated in a very cool simulation by Caitlin — Barry decides to travel in time to get advice from the one man who knows more about the Speed Force than anyone: Eobard Thawne. I’m glad Wells tried to talk Barry out of this plan by outlining all the possible ways it could turn disastrous to Barry and the timeline.
Of course, Thawne is masquerading in a wheelchair as Harrison Wells so Barry has to knock out his past self and ‘infiltrate’ Team Flash to gain Thawne’s insight on enhancing his speed. First, Barry has to stop Wells’ former apprentice Hartley Rathaway aka The Pied Piper (Andy Mientus). Already familiar with Harley’s tactics, Barry is able to beat him much … faster this time — but subduing his past self proves more difficult. Pitting two Flashes against one another was an inspired moment, even if the racing scramble scene CGI was a little rough.
The Flash is pretty much the only show on TV that can take a clip show format and make it exciting. Seeing Eddie (Rick Cosnett) was great as I’d missed his cheery, always wanting to do right demeanor. It was also a reminder that Joe needs a new partner so he can have someone to bounce off with while he’s on the field.
I love that the writers make time travel a risky decision full of unforeseen repercussions. It eliminates the temptation to turn it into a deus ex machina whenever Flash needs a cheat because he can’t stop a Rogue. And once again those rules of no time travel trip going smoothly continues. Thawne quickly figures out Barry is from the future and cuffs him in his secret room. Once Thawne was outed last season we didn’t get this kind of face-off and it was so, so good.
Tom Cavanagh was his usual brilliant self as Thawne was actually rattled that Barry came to the past. Thawne’s paranoia got the better of him as Barry tricked him into believing he had a contingency plan if he was killed. Grant Gustin gets well-deserved raves for playing such an easy to like superhero, but as Barry faced his hated arch-rival, Gustin showed he’s more than capable tapping into baser emotions like hate and loathing.
Barry gained an unexpected hitchhiker in his travels — a Time Wraith that hunts speedsters who too cavalierly travel through time. Again, the show runners set up more safeguards to prevent Barry randomly traveling through time for kicks. The Wraith gets halted in its run through STAR Labs thanks to Harley’s tech, which prompts Caitlin and Cisco to suggest maybe they should release him. This would prove to be a nice bit of foreshadowing.
Ultimately, it takes two Flashes to stop the Time Wraith. Past Barry wakes up and confronts Present Barry, forcing a very limited account of the truth. Wells/Thawne gives Barry a flash drive with the secrets to the tachyon device. And since he’s been breaking all kinds of timeline rules, Barry tells Cisco that Hartley knows about Ronnie before heading back to his present.
Back in the re-adjusted timeline, Team Flash still isn’t able to stop the Time Wraith until the timely rescue from Hartley — now a trusted Team Flash ally. This was a great nod to the comic where Pied Piper started as a Rogue before becoming a staunch ally to Wally West’s Flash.
Barry having Eddie record a video message for Iris was an amazingly great guy move. It’s funny how in a lot of ways Barry embodies more Superman characteristics than we’ve seen from the post Christopher Reeve movie incarnations. Even while juggling time travel dynamics, he still has time to think of others. I’m not gonna lie, Eddie’s speech to Iris had me a little choked up. And give Iris credit for waiting a believable amount of time to grieve before considering a new relationship (looking at you Caitlin).
Now equipped with Thawne’s theory of speed, Barry might finally be able to beat Zoom. Annoyingly we’re going to have to wait until April 19 for the next new episode. These two weeks on, two weeks off are killers to the show’s momentum especially in the final stretch of episodes this season. These mini hiatuses are about my biggest gripe in what’s otherwise been a fantastic season.
Rating: 9.8 out of 10