It’s taken more than three seasons, but The Flash is finally giving us the Iris West we’ve always wanted. It just took getting Barry Allen off the board to bring her to life.
Spoilers ahead for The Flash Episode 4.01, aka “The Flash Reborn,” which aired Tuesday, Oct. 10, on The CW!
From the opening lines of the episode’s introduction, the Season 4 premiere “The Flash Reborn” made it clear that this is Iris’ story — regardless of which A-list hero might be getting the spotlight on the lightning-bolt title card. The episode picks up almost in real time, with Barry having spent a full six months in the Speed Force prison he entered in the Season 3 finale. During that time, a lot has changed in Central City.
Team Kid Flash (or is that Team Vibe?) is continuing to fight the good fight, and Wally is doing his best to keep the rogue meta humans at bay as Central City’s sole speedster on duty. Cisco has also fully embraced his role as a costumed hero in the offseason, fighting side by side with Wally in Barry’s absence. Looking to the comics, Vibe was a founding member of the Justice League (well, one of them, we are talking about comic canon here), and the small-screen version of the character is quickly starting to reach that potential. Even Caitlin makes a return to Team Flash (or whatever we’re calling it now) after getting her meta human alternate personality Killer Frost under some semblance of control.
But the real crux of “The Flash Reborn” is Iris’ story. The series spent far too long leaving her on the bench in its early days, and even after she learned of Barry’s super-heroics, the writers seemed to struggle when it came time to integrate her into the well-established rhythms of Team Flash. Even last season, despite giving her some agency in trying to accept her fate, she was literally set up as the sacrificial damsel in distress in the battle with Savitar, with her death literally the turning point that creates the super-fast baddie in the first place. Sure, the story was compelling at times, but Iris’ role at the center of it was basically to be killed (or saved). Not exactly a hero’s journey that Joseph Campbell would be proud to see.
All that changes in “The Flash Reborn,” though. In the vacuum left by Barry’s absence, Iris stepped in as the de facto leader of the team. She’s calling the shots, running things from the command center, and keeping everyone on point. She’s more drill sergeant than Winston Churchill, but the team is still together because of her. With his final message last season, Barry asked Iris to keep running while he's gone. And that she does. She runs the team. She runs her emotions and sadness and loneliness deep below the surface. She turns the photos of Barry in their apartment face down, and can’t bear to sleep in their bed the entire time he’s been missing. And she runs any hope of Barry’s potential return out of her mind because it’s too hard to process the fact that he’ll probably never return. Iris is scared to hope, and as she grieves a lover she can’t truly grieve because she’ll never know if he’s truly gone, the show finds poignancy in that heartbreak. And it finds a story finally worth telling for Iris.
When she finally realizes she has one last shot at getting Barry back, Iris purposefully puts herself in harm's way to snap him back to reality. Sure, her grand gesture was to make herself a damsel in distress, but in this case it was a tactical move made of her own agency. She’s come through her crucible, and by the time it’s over, she actually survived and regained the love of her life. That’s a story fans have been wanting to see for three years.
Of course, this show is still called The Flash, and by the time the screen turns black the scarlet speedster is officially back in action. Cisco name-drops all his science pals while coming up with a MacGuffin to bust Barry out. Barry goes all A Beautiful Mind for a while, but his love for Iris snaps him back to reality. He also seems to have left behind all his whiny, post-Flashpoint baggage that made Season 3 such a downer. So that’s also good.
The team battles a cyborg samurai as the Meta Human of the Week, and we learn in the final moments he was sent by Season 4’s mysterious new baddie DeVoe/The Thinker (though we don’t actually know that yet). It seems the samurai was sent to draw The Flash back by challenging him, though we still don’t know why. Regardless, DeVoe is supposed to be one of The Flash’s most challenging foes, thanks to his brain power, so the pressure is on for the writers to give him a foolproof plan worthy of his namesake.
The banter over what to call the team without Barry is cute, and Cisco’s line, "It’s like, too many syllables,” while shooting down "Team Kid Flash" was great.
Wally’s line after speaking Japanese: “I can do things!”
It was a bit silly, but yeah, the jetpack-wearing ninja robot Samuroid was actually pretty cool.
Though Caitlin seems to have made a clean return, there’s clearly still a whole lot going on with her internal struggle to keep control over Killer Frost. That story might’ve been backburnered, but it looks to be far from over. Also: How cool is bartender Caitlin? Also also: Who is the shady guy she argues with, and who was she working for?
Nice nod to Season 1 by setting Barry’s attempted rescue at the test track from the pilot. This episode served almost as a repiloting for the show, bringing back a refreshed Barry and revamped team. Bringing back that familiar locale was a nice touch.
Julian's off-screen exit was explained with one line: He moved back to London. Considering how much time and energy went into bringing him into the fold of Team Flash last year, it's odd to just shuffle him off with barely a mention between seasons. It's obviously part of the retooling for Season 4, but yeah, that felt a little strange and rushed.
Bearded Barry looks great. We couldn’t keep that scruff around for another week or two?
Caitlin’s line -- “Expecting someone else?” -- when she busts out the ice gun was great. And yeah, for a second there you really did expect Killer Frost to turn the corner.
Wally gave it his best shot with The Flash costume, but alas, Kid Flash still has a thing or two to learn from the OG speedster.
What on Earth does “This house is bitchin’” mean? Here’s hoping that one comes back into play, because it seems just too strange to leave dangling out there.
Seeing Joe and Cecile happy following the six-month time jump, and moving in together, was a great move. Joe deserves happiness, and their relationship is quickly becoming the heart of the show.
Next week: It seems Barry’s new suit doesn’t have all the kinks worked out, and fresh off the season premiere, it looks like The Flash will be bringing the zany fun in Week 2.