‘The Flash’ Post-Show Analysis Season 2 Episode 11: ‘The Return Of The Reverse Flash’
Welcome back to Up To Speed, in which Flash TV show veteran Dylan Todd and newbie Ziah Grace break down the latest episode of The Flash, dispense some Flash Facts, and talk about what works, what doesn’t, and where the series might be headed.
This week, time travel confuses us, Patty finally calls out some gaslighting chumps, and The Flash crew take a creative page out of Clockstoppers for a truly wonderful pair of protective eyewear in “The Reverse Flash Returns”, directed by Michael A. Allowitz, and written by Aaron Helbing & Todd Helbing
Ziah: And we’re back with another round of Up To Speed, this one focusing on a blast from the past, er, future in the (p)reappearance of the Reverse-Flash. A lot of call-backs to S1 of The Flash here, and as such, a lot of flashbacks to Up To Speed Volume 1, which some commenters might remember as the Golden Age. Dylan, how’d you feel about the nods and callbacks?
Dylan: I really liked it. I mean, when you have a show that’s dabbling with time-travel, you’re gonna have to address that at some point, and this is that point, and boy do the knuckleheads on this show run headlong into it. I think my favorite part of the episode is when Twells was like, “Don’t talk to Zoom. Anything you say can warp the time stream!” and then everybody proceeds to take turns talking to him, giving him ideas, setting up all the tragedy that befell them in season one/will befall them in Reverse Flash’s future. Good job, team.
Ziah: Oh man, I’m glad we agree on this, because I got so excited when Reverse Flash was talking to Twells and set up the body switching. That was a fun bit. This whole series of events was a fun bit, and a nice showing of some emotional stuff that felt like it got dropped by the wayside at the beginning of Season 2.
I’m glad Iris brought up the fact that it sucked that her boyfriend had to kill himself to erase a serial-killing descendent from the future, and using it to bond with Wally was a nice touch. Bringing in Reverse Flash really could’ve felt like it was just treading on old ground, but it actually led to some real character growth and changes for the cast, which was a good time.
Dylan: Yeah, it added a whole other wrinkle to the whole megaplot of Season 1 that felt necessary instead of just another thing to delay the inevitable final fight with Zoomy-Zoom-Zoom.
I will say that the see-through whiteboard explanation of how RevFlash is still alive was a big old pile of bull-stuff, but again, I’m not watching this stuff for science or facts. If Twells needs to draw circles and connect them with lines to hand-wave why a guy who should never have been born at this point is running around Central City circa now --- and set up a possible recurring villain to boot --- well, draw away, bro. Circles, lines, squiggles; whatever you need, Harry.
Speaking of big old piles of bull-stuff, our girl Patty Spivot has officially left Central City for the even-more-generically-named Midway City. How are you taking the news, man? Are you all doing a thing, listening to the Cure and whatnot? Or do you think she went out on a decent note?
Ziah: I hated that whiteboard thing when I read it in one Flash comic or another, and I hate it now. Just dumb. Dumb dumb dumb, even for a show with lots of fake science. But man, on the Patty end, she went out like a champ.
I’m actually super happy with her scenes this episode; it showed exactly why she’s a great romantic lead for Barry, and someone finally called Joe and Barry out on their season-long bullcrap. Both the scenes where she knows exactly when they’re telling the truth, and she’s standing her ground, were great. I wish she was still around every episode, but I don’t think she’s off the show completely, do you? Also, much as we’ve complained that Barry will tell everyone but Patty, it was almost worth it for her to figure it out on her own and call Joe and Barry out. Good stuff there.
Dylan: Okay, so Patty has Barry dead to rights and the dude can’t help but continue to gaslight her. It’s amazing. Same with Joe. Dudes commit to their schtick and their schtick is lying to women.
Ziah: My note for that scene is just, “Barry, you dick”.
Dylan: Barry was King Butt to Patty like all episode. I feel like the episode was trying to say something about duty and sacrifice for superheroes and yadda-yadda-yadda, but my takeaway from that is that it is a dumb idea. If you can figure out how to keep supervillains in your secret subterranean lair, you can figure out a way to keep your girlfriend safe. Especially when you’ve told literally everybody else in your life about your secret. This idea that being a superhero is a heavy burden that must be carried alone is a holdover from that first Raimi Spider-Man movie (though it originates a lot earlier than that) and it needs to die. The end.
Ziah: Definitely agree. The older I get, the less I really respond to the secret identity trope in these superhero stories, because it’s such an intrinsically childish thing, I feel like, “Oh, I can’t tell you about this part of my life because it’s a secret” is such a teen-response to honesty and intimacy that it gets a little strange when it’s these adult men and women in supposedly healthy relationships.
On the other hand, the theme of duty and sacrifice was handled way better by Flash sending RF to the future to save Cisco. Grant Gustin did a really good job showing how much he just loathed Thawne, and the latter was such a wonderfully smug villain that it really felt like a sacrifice for Barry to send him home.
Dylan: I feel like they could have hammered that just a little bit more during the lead-up to setting him free, after Barry ran him down and beat the turds out of him in an empty Home Depot, that is. I know it was supposed to carry some emotional weight, but I’m not sure I ever thought Barry wasn’t going to do it, if that makes sense?
Ziah: I mean, it makes narrative sense for him not to kill him, but to be fair, he’s killed like four villains this season alone, so it’s not like it’s entirely out of character.
Dylan: Oh, I didn’t think he was gonna kill him, just not let him go. CW-willin’, we’re past the villain killin’ and on to the chillin’, or my name’s not Dylan. Ya feelin’?
Ziah: At least you’re killing this review this week, Dylan.
Dylan: Aw shucks. But Barry’s essentially killing off his mom, Harrison Wells, and his innocence when he lets RevFlash go. I feel like there should have been more to it than Twells going, “We got to save Cisco! I know you can do it, Barry!” like he does every week and Barry protesting because “I just captured him!” Right?
Ziah: Yeah, it definitely did kind of… speed by. Speaking of that scene though, I really liked Twells stuttering exposition when Cisco starts to pull a Marty McFly. See Dylan, he does care. I’m glad that the older mentor figure and the mouthy young protege can stay friends for another episode.
Dylan: Oh man, their initial scene with the coffee was A++.
And how about Barry’s boinkers plan to stop the runaway semi truck?
Ziah: That was so great! The Flash team has really done great work this season throwing cool new set pieces out, and this was raaaaaaad. Such a great attention grabber for the rest of the episode. On the negative side of things, I’m still not loving Jay and Caitlin’s romance; I dunno, Jay’s not really wowing me lately. How was he for you this episode?
Dylan: He was his usual drippy self. The Caitlin/Jay plot mostly revolved around trying to find a donor for Jay to combat his Earth-2mor, but it turns out his Earth-1 doppelganger is some guy who likes to read books in the park --- and whose name put up all kinds of red flags --- but Jay’s genes are all messed up from being a fast-guy, so he’s not a candidate or whatever. Are you familiar with the name “Hunter Zolomon,” Ziah?
Ziah: I was 99% sure they were going to do something where the Earths weren’t quite properly synced in time, and Jay’s name was going to be on some WWII memorial plaque, but thinking back, that wouldn’t really have worked anyway. As to Hunter Zolomon, I can say definitively that that is a guy who’s getting called to things last in this miserable, alphabetical-based world. Maybe the fact he was always let out last into recess is why he became (in the comics) Professor Zoom?
Dylan: Ziah, is… is Jay Garrick… is Earth-2 Jay Garrick… Zoom? Have we ever really seen them together?
Ziah: Well, the opening fight scene between them did happen with narration from Jay, so it definitely could’ve been “faked”. Barring that, I don’t think we have? It would explain why he’s such a jerk to Twells all the time, and why he doesn’t want him to give Barry speed steroids. On the the other hand, why fake his speed getting turned off and help out the STARios for this long?
Dylan: Has he really helped, though? And him not using his speed puts eyes off of him. And there’s that bit at the beginning of the episode where he says that with Wells, one minute you think he’s on your side and the next minute you’re not sure, can easily be taken either way.
I’m sure somebody in the comments will point out why this is impossible, but I thought the Zolomon name was a pretty good clue, though it could also be misdirection like Eddie Thawne was, but maybe they want us to think it’s misdirection, and this is what these shows do to you, kids. Just say “no.”
Ziah: He helped against Sand Demon, even teaching Barry how to throw lightning. Then again… Zoom was totally ready for that, and had a counter ready. I don’t know! How exciting.
Dylan: Wake up, sheeple!
Ziah: Other quick notes on this episode, I like that Iris is bonding with Wally, since I think she needs some storylines away from the Flash crew a bit, so this should be a fun way to focus attention on a new character and a previously underdeveloped character.
Dylan: Wow, they sure did kill off Francine quick, huh? Like, the minute they properly introduced Wally, she’s all laying in bed, coughing, saying goodbye. I mean, dang. When they are done with parents on this show, they are done with parents on this show. It’s Henry West all over again.
Ziah: Such is the fate of an absentee TV-parent guest star, I guess.
Dylan: Let’s talk about Vibe and his vibing powers, as they played a big part in this week’s episode. Did you also start laughing uncontrollably when Twells tried to scare the vibe out of Cisco in RevFlash’s Secret Future Closet?
Ziah: Yes! I laughed even harder when to convey “Flashiness” he just waved his arms around and then choked Cisco. God, I love Twells and Cisco on this show. Let’s talk about Cisco’s amazing Vibe Goggles from the Cyberpunk future. These are amazing.
Dylan: By “cyberpunk future,” do you mean “The Oakley Outlet Store”? Yeah, Vibe’s stunner shades were definitely a highlight. I’m looking forward to his powers being used more in the back half of the season in a more targeted way, as opposed to whenever the plot calls for a “Cisco ex machina.”
Ziah: I want every single Best Cosplay Ever (This Week) to be showcasing those incredible shades. I genuinely, with no irony, hope he wears them every episode from now on. And yeah, definitely agree on his powers use, but we don’t want another Firestorm situation, so I’m fine with them taking it slow and using it for Ciscposition.
Dylan: That sounds… intense.
Ziah: Aaaaand on that note, we’ll see you next week for “Fast Lane”. An adaptation of the Spider-Man anti-weed storyline, or just a title coincidence? We’ll find out next week!