Spoilers ahead for “Flash Back,” the latest episode of The CW’s Flash!
The short version: Barry puts on his big boy britches in regard to time travel, but quickly realizes he doesn’t know nearly as much as he thought. Barry gets the bright idea to travel a year or so into the past and enlist the help of Eobard Thawne (who was still undercover as Harrison Wells at the time) to ramp up his speed. Cool idea, terrible execution.
Wells picks up on the fact that something is wrong rather quickly, and when a Time Wraith shows up, he puts the pieces together and gets the drop on The Flash. Barry bluffs his way out of it, though, and gets the equation to (hopefully) catch up with Zoom. Put simply: A trip back in time goes awry, but it all works out for The Flash.
Barry embraces time travel, and learns of the consequences
It’s got to be tempting, right? Figuring out you literally have the ability to travel through time? Yeah, Barry decides to leverage that particular skill to head back in time and use Eobard Thawne’s big future brain to solve his Speed Force problems this week. It’s actually a fairly brilliant ruse, and when you put the cards on the table, Barry really did have the ear of the guy who probably understands the Speed Force better than just about anyone. So, why not take advantage?
Aside from the fact that Wells is way too smart to actually fall for that trick, Barry’s trip through the Speed Force reveals a consequence he never actually imagined — Time Wraiths. What are those, exactly? Well, they look like those creatures from The Frighteners (thanks, Cisco). But, really, these creatures apparently live in the time stream and target people who mess with it (which begs the question, what do Rip Hunter and the Time Masters think of these things?). The worst offenders in regards to time shenanigans, apparently? Speedsters.
Interestingly enough, these creatures don’t have any real basis in the comics, but it’s a brilliant invention for the television series. Sure, we’ve seen Barry Allen have some negative side effects from time travel in the comics, but this truly gives the TV universe a legitimate reason not to pull this McGuffin out every other episode. There are consequences for time travel, and now we have a reason for Barry not to start zipping around the time stream willy-nilly.
Oh, Eobard, you have been missed
Can someone just go ahead and give Tom Cavanagh an Emmy for his work on The Flash? Seriously, this guy just gets better every week. In the present timeline, Cavanagh is playing the Earth-2 version of Harrison Wells — a man with a daughter who is motivated to protect her by any means possible. But, in the past, Cavanagh is playing Eobard Thawne/Harrison Wells, aka classic Flash baddie the Reverse-Flash. He was the antagonist for all of Season 1, and a completely different character than the one he’s playing now.
Much like Tatiana Maslany has to pull out a few different hats for completely different characters on Orphan Black, Cavanagh had to play two completely different characters here — and it worked to perfection. Having Thawne figure out Barry’s time travel trip was true to the character (Thawne is a genius, after all), and having Barry bluff his way out of the mind games was also great (“No, really, uhh, you totally win, Eobard!”). These two are extremely powerful characters, and giving them a chance to go toe-to-toe was just amazing. It makes you forget just how much you actually miss Thawne. It’s a testament to how much Barry has grown since Season 1, and we can’t wait for the writers to figure out a way to bring Thawne back as a baddie again in the future. He’s so deliciously brilliant and evil, and Cavanagh is just amazing in the role. I don’t care what contrivances they have to come up with to keep Cavanagh on the cast list forever. Just do it.
Eddie comes back to break our hearts
If you needed to be absolutely gutted this week, Rick Cosnett’s return as Eddie Thawne has you covered. Eddie was one of the most genuine, likable characters in the history of television — which made his sacrifice at the end of Season 1 to stop the Reverse-Flash all the more heartbreaking. Bringing him back was a sweet send off to the character, and a reminder (once again) of just how fantastic that first season was.
Having Barry get a video of him sending a message to Iris was a touching moment, and considering how his death still lingers for her, it might be just the thing to finally get her to start moving on with her life. But, c’mon? Dating her boss? Please. Let’s just start working towards Iris West-Allen, guys.
But man, Barry sucks at time travel. For real.
Seriously, dude? Telling everyone in the room that you’ve travelled through time, potentially tossing a grenade into the timeline? Risky and foolhardy, despite the fact that it actually manages to work. Barry might’ve figure out how to travel through time, but it’s obvious he still has a lot to learn in the coming seasons. But, tasking the past version of Team Flash with figuring out a way to stop the Time Wraith? Brilliant. Positively brilliant. Oh, and Barry’s time meddling apparently turned out really good for Hartley, so nice to see messing with time isn’t all bad.
This episode, much like the Earth-2 adventure, is a testament to just how great this show can be when it’s firing on all cylinders. The writers have tapped into what makes this character great, and they use these McGuffins to tell the best possible stories within the framework. Bringing Thawne back, the Eddie cameo? Just fantastic. This is easily one of the best episodes the show has produced this season.
What’s next: Next week is all about Zoom, and the Jay Garrick under the mask. Oh, and his Earth-1 doppelgänger Hunter Zolomon apparently returns to the mix!