Barry is still getting back into the swing of things following his stint in the Speed Force, and though Iris is obviously glad to have him back, it doesn’t mean things haven’t changed while he was gone — and that it might take some adjustments to get everyone on the same page. Well, this week is all about those mixed signals.
Spoilers ahead for “Mixed Signals,” the latest episode of The CW’s Flash, which aired October 17!
“You are not the Flash, Barry. We are.” - Iris
The Season 3 finale that found Barry abruptly walking off into the sunset that was the Speed Force Prison came fast and hard, with a melancholy but understanding Flash accepting what could’ve been a lifelong sentence with a shrug. It was a strange note, especially after all the time and focus spent on getting Barry and Iris together, engaged, and preparing for their happily ever after free of Savitar’s looming death threats. Barry essentially made the decision to (potentially) sacrifice his future with Iris, and it happened with pretty much no meditation or consultation. Sure, it was to save the world (of course), but it still felt rushed and raw.
This week we finally get the emotional fallout, served (effectively) with a whole lot of laughs. During the six months Barry was missing, Iris filled the leadership void on Team Flash and kept the team together. Once the euphoria of Barry’s return starts to wear off this week, a power struggle begins to manifest. It’s just, you know, Barry doesn’t actually realize it. Iris has come a long way proving her worth and earning her place on Team Flash, and unlike most relationships, Barry and Iris (or “Barry and Iris” as they prefer to be called in this one) also have to balance the fact that the fate of the world could hang in the balance the next time they have a spat about leaving the toilet seat up.
The two take a humorous stab at couples therapy, and though it’s set-up for a laugh, the session finally exposes the raw nerve that’s been haunting Iris ever since a bearded Barry came babbling out of the Speed Force: He left, and made that decision that tore their lives apart without even talking to her about it. Barry says he avoided the conversation because he was afraid Iris might ask him to stay, but she fires back that he doesn’t know what she was going to say because he didn’t bother to ask. Which, yeah, is a good point. Iris didn’t just become a member of Team Flash during his absence, she became a leader. And she juggled all that while her personal life fell apart, trying to explain why the love of her life suddenly vanished and their wedding was called off.
It’s a fascinating study of how superhero-ing affects a relationship, especially when looked at in parallel to the wonky relationship between Oliver and Felicity (don’t come hating Olicity fans) on Arrow. Barry and Iris are trying to forge a path together, sharing the weight of the world in a way that will hopefully prevent it from pushing either of them to the ground. There’s no doubt Oliver could learn a thing or two (or three) from that. By the time the post-credit scene rolls around, they seem to have finally gotten their signals aligned, and it’s encouraging to see the writers avoid the easy trope of pulling them apart for the sake of filling story. They’re “Barry and Iris,” right? Let’s watch them make it work, and stick with them through those struggles, because that relationship has always been the heart of this show going all the way back to the pilot (not to mention the decades of comic lore).
All relationships take work, even "perfect" ones. Hell, those probably more than most. This might be a superhero show, but it’s a love story at its heart.
*Kilg%re was always going to be a fairly cheesy comic villain to bring to life on the small screen, but they did a solid job of pulling it off here. Relegating him to B-story status was a wise move. The power set was a bit silly to see brought to life here, but giving him some motivations (even if it was a bare bones revenge tale) was enough to carry it across the finish line.
*Barry speed-watching TV was genius. How else does a speedster keep up (and catch up) to make sure his pop culture references are still up to date. But, c’mon — careful with those Game of Thrones spoilers, Barry.
*Nice nod to reference the fact that Barry has already seen this fancy new suit, and checked it out during his quick trip to the future last season. Also, visually, it’s a massive improvement over the original design. It’s been a slow evolution, but the Flash is finally starting to look like a legit superhero.
*Jumping ahead six months was also a great move for Cisco and Gypsy’s burgeoning relationship. We get to skip ahead to the point where their relationship is still fresh, but we don’t half to spend half a season watching Cisco wear her down. Hey, that’s what he gets for falling for the girl in head-to-toe leather, right?
*Assuming you saw last week’s episode of Arrow, that timely glance at a tabloid proclaiming “Mayor Queen in the Green Arrow” made a lot of sense. It was an organic, quick little way to keep these worlds connected.
*The line: “Well my dad died, too. Just for your notes,” along with Barry and Iris casually listing the laundry list of people they know who have died. Team Flash really has lost a whole lot of friends over the past few seasons (R.I.P. Snart).
*The Silicon Valley conversation. Assuming Barry has all caught up with the latest season he might’ve missed, thanks to his 1000X binge watch, of course.
*The little tidbits about these other realities, like 1-1-1- Day on Earth 19. It’s basically Valentine’s Day, just more binary-style?
*That sly Batman nod: Cisco named the fail safe self-destruct mode in Barry’s new suit the “Babel Protocol.” That’s almost certainly a nod to the “Tower of Babel” storyline from the 2000 Justice League of America comics, where Batman developed files on how to neutralize all of his fellow heroes in the event they turn evil. Turns out an exploding, unescapable suit is Cisco’s way of taking out Barry if he ever turns to the dark side.
*Though he was played as a C-list baddie, Kilg%re does serve to introduce a whole new sub-set of metahumans: A slate of new ones who acquired their powers in a way unrelated to the particle accelerator explosion at STAR Labs. The final scene teases that The Thinker is looking to apparently assemble these rogue, mystery metahumans.
Up next: Bad luck is coming ‘round the corner.