‘The Flash’ Post-Show Analysis Season 2 Episode 17: ‘Flash Back’
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, double the Barry, double the fun, as the Flash time-travels back to a season one episode and tries not to mess up the timestream. Guess what happens? Did you guess that he messes up the timestream? Of course he does! "Flash Back" was directed by Alice Troughton and written by Aaron Helbing and Todd Helbing
Ziah: Dylan, this was comic booky as hellllllllll. Voiceover narration to catch up new viewers, a hero-vs-hero fight until they team up at the end, dumb-smart science, and a redemption arc for a longtime villain?! Dylan, was it just me or was this episode pretty fantastic?
Dylan: It wasn’t just you. It was a real fun, smart episode that took the last (almost) two seasons of mythology and turned them on their ear. Again. Time travel. Evil past version of a character who are now alternate reality versions of the same character. Closing old wounds and opening up a new future. It was pretty much perfect!
So I guess we’re all done here, right? Nothing else to discuss?
Ziah: Yep! Easiest money the Up To Speed squad has ever made.
Or… Just one more thing. How great was Barry once again being terrible at disguising himself? When Cisco said he deserved an Oscar, I assumed he meant the Sesame Street character, because Barry has always been the Worst Liar.
Dylan: I just figured he was being sarcastic because Our Barry on Earth-2 was the most hilariously inept bit of subterfuge in the history of everything. And he doesn’t fare much better this time around. But let’s back up for a second: Barry is traveling back to the past to figure out something to do with not having his feet touch the ground so much when he runs, right? And he wants The Reverse Flash, AKA Earth-1 Harrison Wells, AKA Future Eobard Thawne in the body of Harrison Wells. This is the set-up.
Did I miss anything?
Ziah: Maybe just how wonderful it is that on this show, right now, the problem of, “I want to go fast but how” is solved by literal time travel to trick a body-stealing serial killer into giving future advice while fighting a time demon with soundwaves. That’s pretty fantastic.
But let’s start from the top: like you said, Barry goes back in time, and immediately screws up by getting there too early and fighting himself. This was one of my favorite scenes of the episode, personally. How’d the Barry V. Barry: Dawn of Just Us work for you?
Dylan: Oh my goooosh Ziah I hate myself for laughing at that as hard as I did. You’re a monster and I love you for it. But yeah, Barry immediately messing up the plan was pretty much par for the course for Ol’ Bare-Bear. That, and him hiding in an alley, geeking out about Past Him’s snappy banter with The Pied Piper, AKA The Boy Who Lived.
Ziah: A+ joke, bud. And oh man, I loved that. Of course he would’ve remembered exactly what he said and gotten psyched at his past self just ripping one.
Dylan: So he knocks his past self out, stops Pied Piper and then, despite warnings from every one of the STARriors in the future, immediately starts mucking up the time stream, pointing out that Pied Piper’s ear thingies can be used as explosives and tipping off Faux Wells that maybe something about this Barry Allen is different. Good work, dude.
Ziah: For a brilliant forensic scientist that spends a lot of time reading books and hanging out with other brilliant scientists, Barry is just bone stupid. Every chance he got, he changed the timeline to the point I was genuinely shocked that Eddie didn’t show up completely alive at the end of the episode.
Dylan: Yeah, I mean, I am into the changes his mucking around caused, but the dude is just a disaster and it’s great.
So yeah, before long, Barry finds himself pistol whipped by Faux Wells and handcuffed to a wheelchair while Mr. The Reverse Flash points out that his plan sucks and now he must die. That scene in the Chamber of Secrets was so great, man. Tom Cavanagh is actually menacing as he works through Barry’s story, pointing out the plot holes and trying to figure out how to use this new info to his advantage. As much as I love him as the arrogant Twells in season 2, it’s great to see him stretch his legs (sorry) as the diabolical Eobard Thawne. Part of me was horrified and excited by the idea that Now Times Twells would turn out to be Past Times Wells, but seriously, Barry is not ready for that jelly.
I also loved that Barry basically got out of it by appealing to his vanity, telling him his plan worked and that’s why he traveled back in time. Good, good stuff.
Ziah: Man, that Cavanagh is a heck of an actor, is all I can really say to that. He absolutely sold Thawnells as a monster, even after all those hours of being Up To Speed Favorite Harrison Twells. His interactions with Barry as both characters in the same episode was a real treat, even as Barry falls into yet another dad trap. Will Barry ever have a father figure he can trust, Dylan?
Dylan: Joe West, Ziah. Joe West is a dad we can believe in.
It was really nice to see Hartley Rathaway, AKA The Pied Piper again, as he was one of the more interesting villains in the first season. It also gave us a chance to see a kid who looks like Harry Potter in an episode where Barry’ being hunted by a Time Dementor. This being the first time you’d seen him, what did you think, Ziah?
Ziah: He was great! His smarm, his interactions with Caitlin and Cisco, and his time-travel face turn were all a real good time. In the comics, PP is the first of the Flash’s rogues to turn good, and openly gay to boot, so is the TV show version as true to the comics as it implied? I assumed the exit line about his parents could have something to do with that.
Dylan: Yeah, he’s in line with his comics characterization. His parents originally threw him out and cut him off when he came out, so it’s good to see him mending fences with them in Present Times. And now that he’s (spoiler) a good guy, we get to see more of him.
I definitely like that in this new timeline he’s been around and helping out often enough that he and Barry are friendly by the time the latter returns to the present. That was a nice touch.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate that The Flash’s idea of torturing a supervillain is just playing Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” on loop? Daredevil and Arrow are stabbing people and throwing people off of roofs, and Cisco’s just Rick Rolling villains. Amazing.
Dylan: Well, let’s not forget what Twells did to the Turtle. It’s not all 80s pop. Sometimes you get a Total Recall thing shoved up your nose.
Ziah: The 80s man. Sometimes they give, sometimes they take.
Dylan: They always take.
We also got to see poor old dead Eddie, AKA Deadie, and boy, I am glad he’s dead.
Ziah: Hahahaha, oh man, I know we’re fans of Portmanteaus here, but oh Jesus, Dylan, that is amazing. That dude has one of the worst American accents I’ve ever heard, though. He sounded so Australian at the beginning of every scene that I had to google search the actor to make sure I wasn’t just going crazy. I was not, he is as Australian as Hugh Jackman and Violet Crumble.
Dylan: Is that mean to say? He was just such a drip, but at least Iris can stop moping about him and get with J. Jonah Jerkison in the utility closet of the Central City Picture News.
Ziah: I love you, Dylan.
What else do we need to discuss? How every single Central City cop decided to shoot at the Time Wraith after seeing Eddie and Joe manage to shoot and miss it at point blank range?
Ziah: Do you think the CCPD even have to file reports for weapon discharge anymore or do they just have a stamp that says “metahuman”, because this happens a lot. That Time Wraith was pretty cool, even if it just existed to be spooky and drive the plot. I loved that Barry told Cisco and Caitlin they had a year to prep for it showing up, which is my favorite Bill and Ted-style trope of time travel stories.
Dylan: The record will show that I am very much pro-Anything Bill & Ted-related. I wish their solution was to trigger some garbage cans with “Wyld Stallyns” painted on the outsides. I also thought it was great that Cisco’s gun sucked big time.
Ziah: What a great series finale that would’ve been. “Aw, I thought that would work.”
So, going forward, do you think Barry’s ill-timed hijinx are limited to the Pied Piper playing the Theremin for the side of justice, or did he mess something else up?
Dylan: We’ll see! Like I said, I was terrified that Our Wells was gonna be Eobard Thawne, that Barry’s mucking around in the time stream meant that Eddie never sacrificed himself, but thankfully, Cisco and Caitlin immediately asked if he got the equation from Wells, so I was relieved and also kind of bummed. Time will tell how much he Flashpoint-ed things up during his little jaunt, but even if Pied Piper joining Team Flash is the only outcome, I think it’s worth it.
Ziah: I’m pretty excited for Team Smarmy Science to get a new member, yeah. Anything else we should talk about? Barry’s face when Iris says she went on a date? Wally dropping clues for Barry like he’s got a hole in his jeans pocket?
Dylan: That was waaay too neat. “I wish I could just go back in time and ask Guy Ferrari questions, but I guess just reading his journals, which are a thing you can buy and read, will have to do.” Maybe also Wally going, “That dude gets weirder every time I see him.” And Joe just sort of exhaling and going, “Yeah.”?
Ziah: The West family were in top form this episode, brief though it might have been. Speaking of brief looks at top forms, I thought this episode would lead into the previous day’s fantastic Supergirl episode, but it doesn’t look like it did. Do you think the show will draw a tighter connection between that, or just leave it open?
Dylan: I kept wondering the same thing! It’s kind of driving me nuts, but I’m hoping they can stitch it in somehow.
Ziah: I agree, mostly, but I also kind of want Barry to just drop it into dialogue with Cisco one day and have it be that a thing he does is just hop dimensions sometimes.
Dylan: Dimension-hopping. Time travel. Chasm-jumping. This dude does it all!
Ziah: He does everything but lie convincingly.