The Flash S02E11 “The Reverse-Flash Returns” REVIEW

The Flash S02E11 “The Reverse-Flash Returns” REVIEW

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stars 3.5

Airing in the UK on: Sky 1, Tuesdays, 8pm
Writers: Aaron Helbing, Todd Helbing
Director: Michael A Allowitz

 

Essential Plot Points:

  • The Reverse-Flash – Eobard Thawne – kidnaps Dr Tina McGee and forces her to work on some gizmo that’ll send him back to his own time.
  • But while he’s here he might as well do some research on this era’s the Flash because…
  • …This is an earlier version of Reverse-Flash who hasn’t yet travelled back to this period to kill Barry’s mum…
  • …And who wasn’t wiped from the timeline after the events at the end of season one because… well… um… er… Oh look! Wells’s handy diagram explains everything…

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  • Glad that’s all clear now. (We think it’s called Reverse-Plot-Engineering.)
  • Anyway, Team Flash knows that Reverse-Flash is here because Wells has got Cisco’s vibe power to work by scaring the bejeezus out of him. He then invents some technoshades that give Cisco waking nightmares (or sommat) to trigger his powers when needed. Hence, Cisco leads the Flash to Reverse-Flash’s secret lair where…
  • … the Flash rescues Tina then beats the crap out of Reverse-Flash.
  • Reverse-Flash is imprisoned at STAR Labs until Cisco stars having a seriously bad reaction to the time line being messed with.
  • Unless Reverse-Flash is sent back to his own time Cisco will die. So Barry reluctantly gives Eobard a push start back to the future. Team Flash has been careful not to let Eobard learn too many secrets while he’s here but Wells surmises that he now knows enough to set him on the path that leads to the events of season one.
  • Meanwhile, in other plotlines, Iris and Wally’s mum dies and this helps bond her siblings (yawn).
  • Patty leaves Central City to train for CSI Midway but before she goes she tricks Barry into confirming what she suspects: that he’s the Flash.

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Review:

Zoom has to sit this episode out because if Reverse-Flash had learned of his existence the resulting battle of egos may well have caused the multiverse to implode. Although, to be fair, Barry should be flattered; all these speedsters obsessing over him and determined to prove they can run faster. Maybe it’s the red leather ass that’s gets them all excited?

“The Reverse-Flash Returns” certainly doesn’t pan out as you might expect, and the unexpected is always good in a TV show. Eobard is defeated halfway through, not by the usual use of magic-science-plus-super-speed but by Barry hitting him lots. At super speed. Then he’s imprisoned before being reluctantly set free in order to restore the timeline and save Cisco from a fate worse than retconning. The real story here is how all these events irrevocably lead to Reverse-Flash murdering Barry’s mum and instigating the whole series. While the “soft” fate for Reverse-Flash in this episode would suggest a return for the character at some point, there’s no real need for it. Unless there’s a huge paradigm shift in the series’ status quo, he’s actually totally fulfilled his dramatic purpose in this reality now. Then agains, huge paradigm shifts are pretty much what this show’s all about.

As a villain of the week, Matt Letscher’s Eobard Thawne (who never really got a chance to make an impression last season with Tom Cavanagh playing the part most of the time) is far more interesting than the vast majority of the show’s a-power-and-a-grudge baddies, but he does have the weight of on arc plot on his side. There may not be many “best-of-enemies” fireworks in the episode but there are some sparky, edgy dialogues for the actors to savour. The “man of no consequence” scene between Wells and Thawne is wonderfully strained, while Cisco’s conversation with Thawne is funny, sweet and sad. You can tell Cisco wants to say more – because there must be so many confusing emotions boiling away inside Cisco about this guy who killed him and yet also (re)created him – but has the good sense to keep his mouth shut. Thawne, meanwhile, is clearly just intrigued, mentally making notes to check up on this guy when he gets back to his own time.

Only Barry’s scene with Thawne falls flat. There’s chat and exposition but none of it very enlightening. But Barry’s having an off week. His ex is leaving, but still showing every sign of being exactly the kind of intelligent, quick-thinking, brave woman he needs to keep by his side, Instead all he does is wallow in self-pity. It may be consistent with the character we know but it’s fairly dull to watch. As is Francine’s death. This should be an emotional storyline, but is so clearly reduced to a mere device to bring her children together that it’s difficult to care. Iris has one good line that nearly makes your lip tremble but that’s not really enough.

So, an odd episode in many ways, but still thoroughly watchable. However, if the CW needs another Arrowverse spin-off, we’d happily watch the Dr Wells & Vibe Comedy Show. Every scene they’re in together is passive aggressive genius.

 

The Good:

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  • The lorry sequence was a great action opening to the episode, with some ingenious lateral thinking from Barry.
  • Matt Letscher had much more of a chance to show us what his Reverse-Flash would have been like if he hadn’t looked like Wells for most of season one, and mostly he impresses (though it all goes a bit wrong with his ranty “origin” speech).
  • Great to see Patty is using her intelligence right up to her very sweet final scene (though we presume we haven’t seen the last of her; that would be too much of a waste).

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  • Cisco and Wells continue to make a wonderfully prickly double act. We loved the “Don’t slurp!” exchange (Cisco needs to get a “DON’T SLURP!” T-shirt just to annoy Wells). It was also notable that when Cisco started fading away, Wells was the loudest advocate for saving him. It seemed genuine, and recalled all those moments when Wells (either version) admits (or denies too loudly) that he considers Cisco to be the son he never had.

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  • “Who are you?” “No one of consequence.” “Oh I doubt that.” Two great minds sussing each other out, and the antagonistic energy between them fair crackles.

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  • This move from Reverse-Flash is something Barry needs to learn. Although having said that, Barry impresses later on with his brutal use of Reverse-Flash as a punch bag. That has to be the most down-and-dirty fight on the show so far… and Barry wins! Sometimes a good old punch-up to defeat a supervillain is all you need.

 

The Bad:

  • Why did have Jay have to show Caitlin his double, Hunter Zolomon, rather than just tell her about him? Sure, it was fun for the viewer to see this alternate version of Jay, but the excuse to do some was terribly lame.
  • Reverse-Flash’s, “This is why I am EVIL!!! Bwaaaaaahahahah!” speech was embarrassingly cheesy and not particularly well-delivered.
  • Barry was just nauseating with his self-pitying, “Everyone I love leaves me…” spiel. Good job Joe wasn’t around to hear that, the ungracious little tyke. And his mum didn’t exactly have much choice in the matter.
  • This is very picky but Reverse-Flash’s costume did have the look of something that has been hastily dug out of the props cupboard and given a quick wipe with a cloth.
  • Francine’s death bringing together her children was all rather boringly predictable.

 

And The Random:

  • 52 Spotting: aside from the usual culprit (the sign outside the containment cells at STAR Labs), there are two more time-based 52 references this week. One is obvious: the digital clock saying “9.52pm” in Cisco’s vibe. The other is a bit more subtle: the clock in Francine’s hospital room is showing 8.52 (or thereabouts).

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  • Nice work if you can get it: Aaron Douglas (last week’s The Turtle) gets a guest star credit despite only playing a dead guy.
  • Jay says that his Earth-1 counterpart is known as Hunter Zoloman. This is a reference to a DC comic character but we’d be surprised if it were a mere Easter egg or in-joke. Because in the DC Universe Hunter Solomon was the real identity of the third supervillain known as Reverse-Flash, who made a life a pain for the Wally West version of the Flash in the early 2000s. Time to stroke you chin and go, “Hmmmmmmm…?” (And can anybody work out what he’s reading?)

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  • Tina didn’t seem to know much about Reverse-Flash, so when he raised his hand and started vibrating it, we were surprised he didn’t go, “Oh, a massage! Lovely!”

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Review by Dave Golder


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