You can count on a bittersweet experience in this week’s Flash episode. From the beginning to the end, ‘Flash Back’ was undoubtedly a wild ride and it played with the ins and outs of time travel in a very smooth and effective way. However, it is quite frustrating to find out that the show has gone on a three-week hiatus so quickly after the last one. The show is not benefiting from the scheduling habits of the CW, but there is no denying that The Flash doesn’t need anything to help in keeping its momentum. This was not the first episode that has dealt with the issue of time travel.
But, ‘Flash Back’ was indeed the first episode to deal with the whole issue in such detail. Barry has gone back in time before and dealt with his experiences in a new perspective, but this one was undoubtedly one of the most ambitious and focused time-travel experience we have seen in the show so far. The primary difference between Barry’s other time-traveling experiences and this one was that this time it was purely intentional. He didn’t go back in time to appease Eobard Thawne and neither did he travel back a day accidentally. Our Barry had a specific goal in mind for this trip and had to deal with the consequences when things didn’t go as planned. (Honestly, when do they?)
Nonetheless, it was a great and interesting experience to see Barry go back a year and revisit the events of Season 1. Back then, there were a lot of things that were different about the show like the fact that Eddie Thawne wasn’t dead, Barry’s power levels were different as was his relationship with Wells. While Eddie didn’t play a very important role in this week’s conflict, the episode was able to give a fitting farewell to the character in the form of a video message for Iris. The scene was done well by Rick Cosnett as he conveyed the charm and sweetness that reminds us why Iris fell for her dad’s partner in the first place.
It was a possibility for the writers to enable Future Barry to manipulate the events of The Sound and the Fury quietly and go through the familiar moments from new viewpoints. Sure, this was the easy route and would have been a decent story, but they decided to give some more ambition to the episode. It became instantly clear that Barry doesn’t have the discipline and training needed for using his time-travel powers in a responsible way. He caused a major scene before he managed to eliminate his younger self successfully.
He also failed to telegraph his actions to the very-perceptive Dr. Wells. It was undoubtedly interesting to see that Barry was actually wholly responsible for his misery this time around as he was the villain of this week’s story. Even though Wells warned him against it, he insisted on traveling back into time and he attracted the attention of a Time Wraith due to his arrogance. The Wraith made up for an unexpected and unique antagonist for this episode. For an instant, it seemed that the Black Flash had appeared.
The ghostly figures do have some element of Black Flash as they are specifically designed to claim the soul of speedsters who abuse the time stream. But, the entire concept didn’t come off very strong. Firstly, it had a very Dementor-like appearance as in Harry Potter, which Cisco immediately mentioned. Secondly, it seemed strange to introduce a time cop when there is no shortage of characters who can do this job. Where do these Time Wraiths fit in and why don’t other time travelers encounter them like Rip Hunter? They could have created a strong link between Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash by introducing this element in both shows and could have avoided the extra baggage. Regardless, ultimately, the concept of Time Wraiths ended up supporting the whole point of the episode; Barry’s reunion with the original Dr. Wells or Eobard Thawne.
The Time Closet scene where Thawne/Wells interrogates Barry is easily one of the best of the season. The two characters assessed each other before Wells revealed himself whereas Barry had to think on his feet and manipulate into helping him without revealing too much about the former’s doomed future. Most importantly, we saw the exceptional acting skills of Tom Cavanagh in this episode. It showed how he plays the two different Wells; Earth-1 Wells is charming and pleasant on the outside and devious within whereas the Earth-2 Wells is constantly agitated and abrupt, but a decent and well-meaning guy on the inside. It seemed as if Cavanagh was playing completely different characters.
Another good scene in the episode was when Cisco and Catlin find out about the two Barrys and the new Barry’s mission. It showed that The Flash can be downright hilarious and entertaining even in the darkest of periods. Cisco struggling to identify the impostor was absolutely priceless. Also, while the two versions of Barry are not very different like Wells, Grant Gustin also did a good job at highlighting the differences between the two.
Some may argue that the fallout from this time travel jaunt of Barry didn’t have the right consequences, considering how much of the past had been mucked up by Barry. In fact, the most tangible change that could be seen after his return to the present was Hartley’s enrollment as a sidekick in Team Flash. However, this was not the point of this episode. It created a feeling of unease as we come to realize that Barry exploited his power without worrying about the consequences. He may later on realize what his actions have done before the season comes to an end.
Even if Barry has managed not to disrupt the timeline through this time-traveling experience, what guarantee is there that there will not be a drastic fallout from the next one because it is a given that he will time-travel again. The question is when.