The Flash ‘The Reverse-Flash Returns’

The original review featured on Culture Fly as part of a running review segment.


Okay, a warning because it’s about to get complicated in that good ol’ fashioned timey-wimey way. This week’s villain of the week is the Reverse-Flash (Matt Letscher). He was the guy who killed Barry’s (Grant Gustin) mother, killed and pretended to be Harrison Wells, and was erased from the timeline because his ancestor’s sacrifice meant he never existed. But, like the spoilt child at a birthday party, he is here and he is being a nuisance.

The show explains his arrival in the present-day timeline and how he actually exists by mixing a clever plot twist with easy, eloquent exposition courtesy of Earth-2 Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). Essentially, Reverse-Flash is alive because he has a superpower and the episode is the Reverse-Flash origin story — an earlier version has travelled back from the future to scout out information on the Flash. This move allowed the episode to focus on multiple story threads and encouraged the audience to focus on the relationships between the characters and not time-travel mechanics.

However, the ins-and-outs of The Flash’s version of time-travel did change this week. Last season’s version of time-travel was logical and never boiled over into WTF-mode. The mechanics were thought out, contextualized with movie references and played into great cause-and-effect storytelling. It’s a shame the show changed its protocol to explain what was going on to focus on some angsty melodrama.

Preparing to do the whole vibrating hand of death schtick again//©BerlantiProductions //source: Culture Fly
Preparing to do the whole vibrating hand of death schtick again//©BerlantiProductions //source: Culture Fly

Understandably, Barry isn’t over the whole Reverse-Flash-killing-his-mother thing and Gustin delivers a performance that shows the pain The Flash goes through when facing his archenemy. All the pre-season two traumatic moments of Barry’s life were caused by the Reverse-Flash and even if they are never mentioned, they visible haunt Barry. But, the storyline fails at grasping its full potential.

Towards the end of the episode, the Reverse-Flash gives a speech about how Barry will never be able to outrun him, how they will be doomed to do this until one of them dies and how they’re similar to an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. The show wants a hero-villain relationship similar to a Batman-Joker one, but, on the evidence of this episode, it’s just not ready.

Letscher’s performance is okay, but he doesn’t get the nuances or the menace that made Cavanagh a fan favourite. They are playing slight variations of the same character but Letscher was missing the Machiavellian charm present in his predecessor. It doesn’t help that Cavanagh is still on the show and just being awesome. Harry’s scenes with Cisco (Carlos Valdes) delivered comic snark similar to Office Space and helped ground the show in some sort of reality. The Flash is at its best when it is relatable and it is the small moments, like a couple getting a cup of coffee, a daughter preparing to mourn her mother, or some office-based banter that really let the show sing.

Having a talk //©BerlantiProductions //source: Culture Fly
Having a talk //©BerlantiProductions //source: Culture Fly

These small moments are nice but the episode refuses to let them breath. The pace rockets through three major subplots – West family drama, Jay (Teddy Sears) and Caitlyn’s (Danielle Panabaker) relationship, and Patty’s (Shantel VanSanten) send off – leaving them underdeveloped.

After last week toyed with the idea of Barry telling Patty his secret identity and ultimately didn’t, this week Patty worked it out by herself. In a touching final scene, he did let her know, but it was too late. She had boarded the train to CSI school and, like Barry, the show is going to miss her.

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