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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Flash S2E17: Flash Back

The Flash
Series 2, Episode 17
Flash Back.

So it turns out the guy I thought might be Tim Hunter, on account of the dark hair, glasses, Harry Potter reference and relentless pursuit by a shadowy figure, was actually Hartley Rathaway. Remember Rathaway? I didn't until the 'previously on' segment of the episode, because with the exception of one or two I'd be hard pressed to remember any of the episodic villains from the first series. I do recall now that Rathaway was the vibrations guy and that the episode he was in saw Cisco break out some wrestling moves against him for reasons which were never clearly explained.

The more you know.

In this week's episode, Barry struggles with figuring out how to increase his speed, as Zoom's abuse of Velocity 9 gives him an edge over Barry that he can't seem to make up. After a conversation with Wally, he decides to travel back in time to when Eobard Thawne was still alive, reasoning that Thawne knew the science of manipulating the Speed Force to make himself faster. When he does so, however, he finds himself pursued by the Time Wraith, a guardian of the timelines who would like nothing more than to kill Barry. To make things worse, Barry's presence in the past quickly derails established events involving the capture of the Pied Piper, Hartley Rathaway, and before long Thawne has figured out that he's from the future.

Delicate cinnamon roll Eddie Thawne.

All told, this is a slightly odd episode - not a bad one, not at all, but we'll get to that in a moment - primarily because of its premise. Traveling back in time has always been treated as a huge deal on The Flash (even if the writers can never quite get a handle on what their rules are for it), and traveling back in time intentionally even moreso - here, however, the premise of 'going to hop back in time quickly to get some information' and the consequences only being 'Hartley's now a good guy' makes it seem almost throwaway, and it's difficult to imagine the writers doing that unless there was some specific point that they wanted to hammer in.

Which, if I'm being honest, immediately made me think that this episode exists to remind us of Eddie's existence. We know that Jay (or Not-Jay) has a man in an iron mask with blond hair in his prison, and that could very easily be Eddie, who was dragged into the singularity at the end of the first series, but if Eddie just showed up out of the blue in, I dunno, episode twenty, it would feel like it came totally out of the left field.

Cisco, and gloves.

The other thing the episode seems to want to hammer in is the existence of the Time Wraith who, despite the name, is fairly clearly actually the Black Flash of the comics, a 'death of speedsters' of sorts. I mean, it's wearing a Flash mask, for god's sake, and it can move fast enough to keep up with Barry. While I have no idea whether it'll tie into future series or if it will be some element of Zoom's backstory, part of the function of this episode was clearly to set it up as a part of this universe.

The problem is that it feels like there were maybe better ways to do that than with a time travel episode (if that's even why the writers penned this episode - I mean, they might have just decided they wanted to do a time travel episode), which just feels like it kind of cheapens the whole thing. It sits especially poorly with me that apparently the only change to the timeline is that Hartley's now a good guy.

But I did like this episode, not least because seeing Thawne!Wells back was a joy and a delight, and the immediate contrast between him and Earth-2!Wells really hammered in just how brilliant an actor Tom Cavanaugh is. The scene with Thawne and Barry in the time vault was some of the most tense, well written, and well acted television I've seen in a while.

Ya-a-ay, gloves.

There was a nice emotional core to the episode as well, not just in terms of seeing Eddie back and him getting to record a final message for Iris, but also in terms of Barry coming face to face with his mentor and father figure, and Wells essentially providing him with one final lesson. It also hammers in one of the key differences between Wells and Jay (or Not-Jay) in an episode very much about their similarities: That Wells knew Barry well, and in his own odd way did actually care about him, and had his own particular moral and ethical code - whereas Jay is, in essence, a mob boss with superspeed.

All in all, a very strange episode, but not a bad one, as such. Judging by the promo for the next episode, we're going to find out that 'Jay' never existed at all (it was always Hunter Zolomon), and that he's a serial killer! And also that something's possessing him, maybe.

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