The Flash: “Flash Back” Season 2 Episode 17 Review

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Time travel hasn’t always been kind to The Flash. A notoriously difficult plot point to work with, its a device that almost single-handedly destroyed Heroes. So far though, The Flash has handled it with care, making sure that when it rewrites history it doesn’t rewrite character. “Flash Back” does rewrite one character, but in a way that probably won’t end up mattering much in the long run.

In need of speed coaching from the old Dr. Wells, Barry returns to just over a year ago, during and slightly after season one’s “The Sound and the Fury,” which starred the Pied Piper as the villain. Only with time travel does a show get to essentially redo and rewrite one of its older episodes. Honestly though, they picked a relatively mediocre episode to rewrite. Still, it’s frustrating to have scenes blatantly recreated just to set up the scene. What does prove to be different, however, is the time wraith (it’s just easiest not to ask) that followed Barry and is now hunting him back in 2015.

After a nonsensical but very fun fight between the two Flashes, Barry knocks out his younger self and starts coercing Wells, still hiding as Reverse-Flash at this point, to make him faster. But Barry continues to suck at time travel and not disturbing the timeline, so Thawne figures it out and confronts him. It’s fun to see Tom Cavanagh play last season’s big bad once more, even if Barry’s methods to convincing him to help were weak. But after some barely convincing hoola-hoops, Wells agrees. The process ends up being a little too quick, but the fight against the time wraith pulls some more interesting narrative strings.

First, it puts Pied Piper on the good side, as he’s able to subdue the creature with his frequency glove things. Second, it was cool once Barry returned to 2016 that Cisco and Caitlin were prepared, but also immediately failed. These final moments had some fun tension before Pied Piper came in and saved the day. Now Barry has a speed equation to become faster and we can move on in the fight against Zoom.

However, the episode’s time travel elements allowed for Eddie to come back for an episode. A few months before his death, Barry convinces him to leave a video message for Iris for her upcoming birthday. It’s a cute thought, but the message is so clearly tailored to be perfect for Iris to move on in 2016, not to be wished happy birthday in 2015. It’s just plain clunky and forced. Also, so little time has been spent on Iris’ dating life in season two that I didn’t buy that she was suddenly still very sad about Eddie’s death. More narrative hoola-hoops.

So for all its fun moments, “Flash Back” may have been a little more trouble than it was worth. But at least the season’s main plot is still moving forward. Still, I hope the future of The Flash doesn’t involve a lot of time travel to previous episodes. Grade: B-

By Matt Dougherty

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