This week’s episode of The Flash is called ‘Flash Back’ but it should have the title smart character makes stupid decisions… again. Throughout this show’s history, the Flash/Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) has made some very stupid decisions but it is in this episode that he makes a decision so foolish, so terrible, so asinine, that Barry could become the villain.
So, what is Barry’s dunderheaded decision? He decides that to get faster, he must travel back in time to learn how to beat Zoom from Reverse-Flash Wells (Tom Cavanagh). He must do this without disrupting the timeline and changing the future. It’s safe to say, Barry meddles, because he has clearly never listened to Dr Emmett Brown — which is surprising because as the show’s nice reference suggests, Barry has watched The Frighteners, meaning he’s probably seen Back to the Future a dozen times.
Apart from Barry’s stupidity, the Time Wraith is the main threat this week and beyond looking like a rejected Dementor design, it isn’t menacing. It floats through the air and wails, but it feels like the filler it is, giving the writers something to throw into the mix when the character dynamics begin to stall. The writers know it is a terrible decision to send Barry back in time, and from watching, it is obvious they were just trying to do something interesting until the Zoom story reaches the homecoming stretch. The reluctance to go time-travel crazy makes the episode seem like a lost opportunity, with the writers giving the audience what they want, not what they need.
Some of the fan-baiting moments are awesome. Watching the Flash-versus-Flash fight is joyous and the return of Rick Cosnett as Eddie fulfils a moment fans have been wishing for since Earth-2’s existence became apparent. Cosnett plays Eddie so earnestly that in his brief return, the audience will wonder why he had to leave in the first place.
The whole concept of the episode allows for fan favourites to return. Yes, Cavanagh returns to the skin of the Reverse-Flash and he makes it look too easy. That man wears devil horns well. His interpretation of the Reverse-Flash is one fans love and it is interesting to watch him bring new shades to the character. This version has to come to terms with the fact he may lose to Barry, and watching Cavanagh tell this pain through his facial expressions and body language reminds the audience why they so desperately wanted him to return.
Another returning villain is Hartley Rathaway (Andy Mientus). Mientus made one of the more memorable first-season villains and it is a pleasure to see him back. However, he is also where the show makes one of the worst writing decisions of its entire life span. After all of Barry’s meddling, the timeline should have been altered, but the only thing that changed was that Rathaway was now a good guy who likes having dinner with his parents. That’s it, and as a result, Barry learns nothing.
Bad things happen to people who mess with time, unless you’re Barry Allen. The return to the past may have sounded like a good idea at first, but in the end is was pretty stupid. The show doesn’t do anything interesting with it and it just reveals how much The Flash has moved on from its first season.