Turn off the Lights

The Flash – The Reverse-Flash Returns Review

"Overcrowded and unnecessary"

I feel like I’ve said all I need to say about The Flash at this point. Just when I thought we were past one of the most frustrating storylines of Season 2, this week’s episode provided a completely unnecessary epilogue to Patty being left out of the loop, with dialogue that ignored how close Barry came to telling her his secret in “Potential Energy.” As if it wasn’t clear already, the show is really struggling to fill its 23-episode season with meaningful material, which is somewhat surprising given how much time was allocated for Legends of Tomorrow tie-ins.

Patty Spivot, Barry Allen - The Flash
Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

In any case, let’s get down to it. There is no good reason why the show awkwardly avoided telling Patty Barry’s secret for so long, only for her to figure it out herself. The way the show treats the Flash’s identity with so many other characters already makes it hard to justify him taking a stand with someone he supposedly loves, but saving this realization so that Patty and Barry could share the smallest bittersweet moment was a huge letdown. The episode’s saving grace was that it was so busy with Francine dying, Jay dying, Cisco “dying,” and the Reverse-Flash returning that it didn’t emphasize the Patty-Barry drama too much, but the episode’s overcrowding meant that every storyline felt unimportant and trivial.

Patty Spivot, Joe West - The Flash
Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

To expand on how busy the episode was, the Reverse-Flash’s return was almost a foot note – even to the characters. It would have been annoying for Team Flash to have the same reactions they did when Harry arrived on Earth-1 earlier in the season, but their muted responses to the actual Reverse-Flash served as a reminder that those scenes pushed drama at the expense of characterization (#JoeShootingHarry). Meanwhile, the idea of Team Flash giving Reverse-Flash his destiny was pretty cool, but I was disappointed that they didn’t go further with the concept. Instead of Barry planting the idea to kill his mother (ugh) or Cisco giving Eobard information on how he got his powers and who built the pipeline (ugh…), why didn’t the showrunners have a wet-behind-the-ears Eobard come to the present (one who eventually gains his hatred for the Flash)? Perhaps too much territory to cover in one episode (all they could afford because of Zoom being their focus this season), but their unwillingness to give Eobard time to have a lasting impact on the series took away from the threat he posed in Season 1.

Reverse-Flash, The Flash, Dr. Christina McGee - The Flash
Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

However, that’s not to say that I think Barry should have had a hard time defeating his former foe. I was really pleased that Barry was able to dispatch the Reverse-Flash with ease, but I was disappointed they didn’t relate this victory to Zoom in some way. The Flash has been preoccupied with a very nebulous goal of making Barry faster for much of Season 2, but it’s done a poor job of demonstrating each time this happens. Either through a comment Cisco makes or through Eobard’s disbelief that he could be defeated so easily, the Reverse-Flash’s return would have been a great way of showing us (and Barry) just how far the Flash has come.

The Flash (Barry Allen) - The Flash
Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Barry was almost the dumbest person in this episode by literally giving Reverse-Flash the idea to kill his mom (I can’t with this show), but Cisco telling Reverse-Flash his name, in addition to revealing his face, was just so frustratingly stupid. It would have been a different situation if they realized they had to send him back to the future to save Cisco, forcing them to stifle their emotions and tell him all these details about his history. But having the characters ignore Harry’s warning about messing with the timeline continues the show’s problem with advancing plot ahead of character.

The fact that Cisco didn’t get a limitation on his ability to vibe speaks to another of the show’s issues: presenting convenient plot devices and then forgetting about their existence. The Flash has already failed to re-use the algorithm Harry pulled out of thin air to find Grodd, but Cisco’s power to locate a villain is something we wouldn’t so easily overlook. When he wiped his nose with a tissue as Harry looked on, I thought they were trying to say that using his goggles had side-effects. But it seems unlikely (and silly) for the show to say that him being erased from history wasn’t the only cause of his problems in “The Reverse-Flash Returns.” Also, I thought we already knew his vibes were visions of the future?

Barry Allen, Iris West - The Flash
Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

With its competing plotlines preventing much from going wrong, “The Reverse-Flash Returns” was a marginal improvement over last week’s abysmal episode. But the further we get in the season, the fewer excuses I have for the way the story continues to be mishandled. Hunter Zolomon’s introduction is the only thing the episode actually needed to achieve, and though I’m not quite as hopeful in the show’s ability to turn itself around as I was a few months ago, I really want them to use the character as a way of re-focusing us on Season 2’s real villain: Zoom.

Dr. Christina McGee, Reverse-Flash (Eobard Thawne) - The Flash
Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Slowpokes:

  • Perhaps the episode’s smartest moment was when they paired Cisco saying “It’s not gonna work” with Harry failing to figure out how to use Turtle’s biological matter to stop Zoom.
  • It was a little weird that Reverse-Flash was able to land an exaggerated slow-mo punch on the Flash. I know Barry might have been in shock, but he’s gotten a lot faster since Season 1. Plus, the slow-mo in this series always looks awful, especially when the action being highlighted doesn’t look cool. (Case in point, Barry shoving Reverse-Flash into a fence like a playground bully.)
  • I like how Joe was once again used as an exposition tool when Harry explained how the Reverse-Flash survived.
  • I enjoyed how Iris spent zero time with nice formalities before going all big sister on Wally West: “Nice nitrous kit. You’re gonna get caught one of these days. You know that, right?”
  •  “I don’t want another person that Zoom or Reverse-Flash…can use against me” – Barry Allen, 2016. This is an actual line Barry says in this episode, despite him saying he was going to tell Patty his secret in “Potential Energy.”
  • After Eobard said, “You really think you’re fast enough to stop me,” Barry should have said, “I was before.” What a missed opportunity to see the hatred Reverse-Flash has for Barry (or create it, as I proposed earlier).
  • Jay didn’t really need to show Caitlin anything to explain why finding his doppelganger wasn’t going to help him, but the introduction of Hunter Zolomon (the man who becomes Zoom in the comics) was a reference that feels too big to be irrelevant to the season’s plot.
  • I’m not sure how Barry didn’t know that Patty’s phone call was a ruse, but I admit, it was kind of touching.
  • I thought the show had moved past its awful characterization of Barry from last episode, but him saying, “I don’t know what to tell you, Patty, everyone in my life that I love leaves at some point,” was so frustratingly “pity me.” In addition, he indirectly pulled the mom card again. Schmuck.
  • I feel like the only valid reason anyone has for saying “My life is complicated” is because they’re a superhero or a spy.
  • If Reverse-Flash couldn’t defeat Barry now, what makes him think he’ll be able to in the future?

All images via ComicBook.com. Episode transcripts double-checked using transcripts.foreverdreaming.org.

  • So busy that problems weren't as frustrating, but...
  • Interested in what Hunter Zolomon's introduction could mean
  • So busy that every storyline felt unimportant
  • Patty-Barry post-script
  • Missed opportunities with the Reverse-Flash
  • Character stupidity which the show refuses to acknowledge

Liked this article? Try These!


News from Around the Web

Meet the Author

Follow Us

Our Sponsors

Featured Poll

What is Your Favorite Game Franchise?
Yop Poll Widget
Which Upcoming Game Are You Most Excited For?