The Flash 217 Review: “Flash Back” is Full of Time Travel Trouble

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This week’s episode of The Flash featured time travel antics, characters who’ve been sorely missed, and good intentions going wrong (and then kind of going right). Barry, after getting the wild idea to travel back in time and trick Eobard Thawne into telling him how to get faster, meets up with old friends and foes alike. But he also has new problems: a time wraith and a Thawne who’s too smart for his own good. Let’s get started with . . .

Double Your Flash, Double Your Trouble

Barry blasts back to the past–despite Harry’s serious warning to not mess with the timeline–like it’s no big deal and meets up with his past self in the midst of fighting Hartley Rathaway (AKA Pied Piper). Barry’s plan seems solid on the surface, but not when he didn’t do enough planning. Oh sure, he managed to knock his past self out and successfully infiltrate S.T.A.R. Labs, but he messed up on two important things: his past self metabolizes stuff super fast and Eobard Thawne’s genius brain works super fast.

The Flash 217 Review

After studying Barry for fifteen years, Eobard knows him a little too well. [Source: The CW Network, LLC.]

Eobard knows immediately that something is up with Barry (it’s not like Barry was all that subtle about his sudden interest in speed equations) and isn’t falling for his hastily thrown together explanations. Because of this, Eobard gets Barry alone and demands to know the truth. As much as I love Tom Cavanagh in any iteration of Wells/Thawne, I couldn’t help but notice the return of the “evil guy whisper.” It seemed like every line was an intense whisper that, ironically, screamed, “Hey, I’m a bad guy!” His acting was still well done, but I couldn’t help getting distracted from it by the volume of his words.

And as for “Past Tense” Barry, he woke up early because of poor timing issues and zipped back to S.T.A.R. Labs, making everyone on Team Flash feel dizzy from seeing double. The exchange between both Barrys and Cisco was particularly hilarious. Despite the confusion, his past self ended up being a great asset to Barry in defeating the time wraith and getting him back to his present time. It was quite fun to see two Barrys implement a slingshot maneuver for getting present-day Barry back to the future.

The Flash 217 Review

“Kids today with their time travel and multiplicity.” – Joe West, probably [Source: The CW Network, LLC.]

The Ghost, The Wraith, and The Piper

This episode wasn’t particularly scary, but it did have a dead man walking and a dementor wanna-be. Eddie Thawne was back, a sight for my sore and still-heartbroken eyes. His involvement in this episode was brief, and it was wonderful to see him again. My only complaint is that Eddie wasn’t more involved in the conflict with the time wraith. His main purpose for being in the episode was to deliver a heartfelt message to Iris, but we’ll get to that later.

The time wraith, drawn by Barry’s meddling, looked incredible on screen and made for some compelling scenes. However, it was less of a threat than I expected and acted more like a pest than a true villain. But it did give Caitlin, Cisco, and Hartley a good excuse to team up and make some great Harry Potter jokes about the obvious similarities between the wraith and the soul-sucking monsters of the wizarding world.

The Flash 217 Review

Harry Potter spoilers? Noooo! [Source: The CW Network, LLC.]

Hartley’s involvement in this episode was enjoyable, especially the scene that Cisco essentially “Rick Rolls” him into revealing how is high tech gloves work. I also appreciated the way they tied sound frequencies (a key component in Hartley’s abilities and personal backstory) to defeating the wraith. Watching these three awkwardly team up like the Three Amigos was great, as was the ending where Hartley became an ally of Team Flash in present day. I have to wonder, though, how this may affect things going forward. Hartley is an obvious change to the present that Barry caused, but I’m sure there will be others. Which leads me to Eobard Thawne.

Eobard and the Potential Timeline Problem

Based on Harry’s warning and Barry’s time travel encounters with Eobard (twice now), there seems to be a strong chance that he will somehow find a way to interfere with the present timeline. By extension, Eobard could become a complication in the Barry Versus Zoom showdown. While this may end up amounting to nothing, I do think it would be a great way to raise the stakes for Barry in this season’s last few episodes. Imagine Barry having to take out both of the mentors who turned evil on him at the same time and being so overwhelmed he’s ready to give up. That would make for some quality Flash drama.

The Flash 217 Review

So you take a right, a left, go two blocks into the future, then three years into the past, and there’s your high-quality drama. [Source: The CW Network, LLC.]

As for Eobard in this episode, Barry managed to talk him into cooperating and not outright kill our beloved speedster. Barry was smart enough to tell a mostly true story about Eobard winning and creating the singularity. And then Barry reveals his ace in the hole: a tell-all letter that past Barry will find if Eobard kills present-day Barry. Whether it’s true or not, it’s convincing enough to save Barry because Eobard can’t risk losing.

Iris, Eddie, and Barry

Even though he messed up a lot in this episode, Barry did manage to get the equation he needs to go faster. On top of that, he did an incredibly selfless and meaningful thing for Iris: he got Eddie to record one final message of love and support to her. Eddie’s message to Iris was incredibly touching and exactly what she needed to hear at this point in her life. It says a lot about Iris and Barry’s relationship that he would take time out of his hectic mission to do something special for her. He knew she was struggling, and he came through for her in a way no one else could. It wasn’t for any agenda, either.

Iris, despite not showing it on screen, is still grieving Eddie and it’s making her question if she should pursue a new romance with her boss. But Eddie telling her how amazing and capable she is helped her move forward by looking into the past. Barry had to do the same, and it became this episode’s theme in a really nice way. This episode handled the emotional material well and paved the way for future relationship developments.

The Flash 217 Review

Eddie “Dead Man Walking” Thawne delivered a final love letter (err, recording) to Iris. [Source: The CW Network, LLC.]

The Verdict

I give this episode 9 out of 10. It had a few flaws, but overall it was really enjoyable and contained the proper mix of standalone and season-arc-advancing material. By that I mean it helped move things closer to the inevitable fight with Zoom while still being its own entity exploring time wraiths and further repercussions of time travel. As most episodes do, this one had healthy doses of drama, humor, and emotional content. Bad guy whispers and under-utilization of Eddie aside, this was a solid episode that sets up well for what’s to come as we speed toward the end of Season Two.

What did you think of the episode? Share your thoughts in the comments and enjoy some quotes from “Flash Back.”

Caitlin: “I found something interesting.”
Cisco: “Good interesting or bad interesting because that could go either way.”

Barry: “What could go wrong?”

Hartley: “I suddenly realized. Low frequency, high intensity.”

Cisco: “It’s like you think I have ESP or something. I can’t just magically sense where things are.”

Eddie: “What does Iris mean to me? Wow. You know, a lot of times I have a hard time figuring out what to say to people, but when it comes to you, Iris, I don’t. Because with you, everything that used to feel tough just doesn’t anymore. It’s one of the things I love about you. You don’t need me. You can handle anything on your own because you’re fearless and independent… loving, kind. You are without question the best decision I ever made, Iris West.”

Cisco: “Wait a second. How do we know which one’s the real Barry?”
Barry(past self): “Dude, I’ve watched Wrath of Khan with you like five times.”
Cisco: *to Barry(present self)* “IMPOSTER!”
Barry(present): “And every time at the end you turn to me and say, ‘I have been and always shall be your friend.'”
Cisco: *to Barry(past self)* “Ha, YOU IMPOSTER! . . . What is going on here?”

Barry to Iris: “Sometimes the only way to move forward is to revisit the things in your past that were holding you back. You have to deal with them head on, no matter how scary they may be. Because once you do, you’ll see that you can go further than you ever imagined.”

Hartley: “Holy Harry Potter!”

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Alisha Bjorklund