The Flash – Season 8 Episode 6
“Impulsive Excessive Disorder”
The Flash focuses on Bart and Nora as they scramble to fix alterations to the timeline that they had a hand in causing.
Bart and Nora were good additions to a story arc that had numerous issues. They stood out as characters and were strongly performed by the actors playing them so having them return was a welcome prospect. The lack of any logic being applied to the time travel rules on this show has to be ignored for the purposes of continued sanity but as characters they work well when on screen.
This episode is a rarity in the context of The Flash as it focuses on characters outwith the main cast with very little input from the usual regulars. Altering the perspective away from the norm has made for some of the best episode of other shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Lower Decks” or Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s “The Zeppo”. Such shifts allow the world the show inhabits to be seen through a different pair of eyes and when done well it enriches the universe by viewing it from a non-standard angle. Characters like Jesse Quick presented the perfect opportunity to do off format episodes but that potential wasn’t utilised so seeing it finally done is notable.
The episode picks up shortly after the events of the season 7 finale. Bart and Nora are enjoying some final moments with their parents before returning to their own time hoping that it’s just as they left it. Bizarrely the events of “Armageddon” are entirely ignored despite that story dealing with alterations to the timeline but consistency and logic are far beyond what can be expected from The Flash at this point. Upon arriving back in their own time some energy washes over them and significant changes begin to become apparent; specifically Jay Garrick being very much alive when he wasn’t before. Somehow their involvement in the Godspeed War altered the timeline so that Bart was able to save Jay.
It would seem that there are no downsides to this change as Jay Garrick is alive and well so they get to enjoy having him in their lives. There is a drawback when they learn that Jay is married to someone named Rose instead of Joan as he was before so this prompts an investigation into what changed so that it can be changed back. It doesn’t take long to learn that the change spiralled out of Joe being non fatally shot during a robbery that happened during the period of time that Barry was in a coma so they head back in time to fix.
Even with the altered perspective there’s no disguising the familiarity of this plot. I routinely point out that this show suffers from characters learning the same lessons over and over again only to continually make the same mistakes. It’s new in the sense that Bart and -this version of- Nora haven’t been shown to have learned that lesson but it’s the same high level “time travel is a bad idea” type story. Bart and Nora’s perspective isn’t fresh enough for this to be a radically different take on this well trodden ground.
Events play out as you might expect. They break every rule they’re supposed to follow, make things worse, pledge to fix it and manage to do so with little or no consequences. It’s a familiar structure and the episode doesn’t stray too far from what is expected which makes it feel more than a little formulaic. The plot developments are neither interesting or surprising and the threats are unconvincing.
Fortunately it is carried by Bart and Nora who are engaging throughout and have a fun dynamic. They slot into clear roles with Bart as the inexperienced reckless Speedster and Nora acting as a mentor of sorts. Not enough is know about these characters for that dynamic to have much grounding but it does follow on from their last appearance where Nora was far more experienced and slightly more measured in her approach. She isn’t exactly convincing as the ideal example considering her own reckless decisions but the divide in experience is clear and their back and forth sets up Bart learning the lesson that he will hopefully -but probably not- internalise.
One interesting aspect of this episode is that Bart and Nora travel back to around the time of season 1 when the show was far less crowded than it currently is. Barry being in a coma at the time they travel to takes him off the board completely meaning that Bart and Nora have to solve this problem themselves. This allows for plenty of doubt as they are dealing with a high stakes problem without an experienced hand to guide them which automatically increases the tension. Even though Nora is aware that they have to do everything they can to avoid interactions she still discovers that the reality of accomplishing that is far more difficult than the theory behind it suggests.
An early failure is coming into contact with Eddie Thawne. They are aware of who he is because they have been told about him and he is remembered for his sacrifice that did away with Eobard Thawne. His inclusion in the episode is a welcome callback to simpler times even if he isn’t used extensively. He exists to be the example of unintended interaction and acts as an obstacle to footage that they need to look at. There is no threat associated with him and at no point is he presented as a significant obstacle but he’s a participant in the plot. Instantly opening up to two strangers about Joe barely speaking to him stands out as being a bizarre choice. It’s a clumsy way of reconfirming the time period and providing context as to the state of relationships at the time.
A far better moment for Eddie was his interaction with Iris where she learns his name and takes a liking to him. Back in season 1 their relationship was engaging even though Eddie was the third corner of a love triangle so seeing the beginnings of Iris taking notice of him was a really sweet moment. It’s a brief reminder of how much Iris has changed over the years while also highlighting the decency that defined Eddie when he was a regular on the show. This episode is a worthy tribute to his character.
The introduction of Avery (Piper Curda) by way of a meet cute while Bart and Nora are getting coffee works really well. It’s an obvious contrivance to have them casually bump into the very person that will prove the most useful but the chemistry between Bart and Avery is so strong that it works. It’s a very well written flirtatious exchange and the two actors do an excellent job selling the instant attraction between them. Hopefully this introduction will lead to her reappearing in the show’s present in some capacity though there is a possibility of her failing to stand out among the other eccentric nerdy scientist types that grace the cast of this show.
She proves useful when Bart and Nora need information on how to solve the problem they created by inspiring the Royal Flush Gang to start their Metahuman criminal career a little early. It’s a bizarre scene that moves from a focus on her understanding of time travel being theoretical to having working knowledge of what makes a fixed point and how best to get around it. That knowledge doesn’t come from anywhere and only exists to outline the upcoming objective. It is common for characters in this show to have unearned knowledge and deliver reams of exposition around it. This is a particularly glaring example with no justification for Avery having that knowledge though the scene itself is frenetic and fun enough for that to almost not matter.
The Royal Flush Gang are fairly standard underdeveloped antagonists who exist to enable an action sequence at a key part of the episode. Bart pretending to be the manager to distract them was good and his focused thinking to not betray the fact he is from the future while having his mind read was a really creative touch. Outside of that it was competently handled yet uninteresting.
Bart learning an important lesson about interfering with the timeline plays into his final scene with Jay where he owns up to his reckless decision making and accepting the possibility of being banned from heroics following this. Jay advises him that everyone makes mistakes and some of them can’t be undone. His take is that it doesn’t make him any less of a hero and he talks about getting stuck in the Second World War before winding them up about President Luthor. This advice is unconventional in that it highlights that Jay isn’t the example of perfect heroism that Bart believes him to be. It’s possible that he has an unrealistic perception of what is expected of him and that feeds into his reckless behaviour. His overconfidence actually hides a lack of confidence and recognising his mistakes before owning up to them allows him to grow by not placing too much pressure on himself.
A serviceable episode carried by the engaging Bart/Nora dynamic that stands out by virtue of following their perspective. The plot and structure of this episode is fairly standard in the context of this show and amounts to a lesson constantly learned by those who mess with the timeline but following Bart and Nora is refreshing to an extent. Focusing on them isn’t quite enough to allow the episode to stand out as heavily as it needs to but their dynamic carries it nicely. They slot into clear roles with Nora being the more experienced and Bart being reckless. Nora isn’t the ideal example but the divide in experience is clear and their back and forth sets up the lesson Bart learns. Travelling back to around the time of season 1 was interesting as it was a far simpler time with less characters. Eddie’s inclusion was a strong touch and his moment with Iris was endearing though there was a clumsy reminder of the time period through bizarre dialogue choices earlier in the episode. Despite that this was a worthy tribute to the character.
Avery’s introduction was good if contrived. Bart and Nora casually running into the character that will prove instrumental in helping them later in the episode stands out as being convenient but Bart and Avery’s chemistry is so strong that it works. It’s a well written flirtatious exchange and the actors do a great job selling the attraction between them. Her knowledge of time travel going from being theoretical to practical expertise is baffling to see play out and an obvious display of clunky exposition. The Royal Flush Gang are standard underdeveloped antagonists designed to enable a competent yet unexciting action sequence. A couple of details stand out as clever and creative such as Bart pretending to be the manager and focusing his thinking so as not to betray him being from the future. Bart owning up to his mistakes to Jay and being ready to accept the consequences leads to engaging advice from Jay who admits his own mistakes and that everyone makes them. This highlights that Bart’s overconfidence hides a lack of confidence and recognising his mistakes before owning up to them allows him to grow by not placing too much pressure on himself.
- the engaging Bart/Nora dynamic
- following a different perspective to the norm
- going back to the simpler days of season 1
- a worthy tribute to Eddie
- Eddie’s moment with Iris
- Avery’s introduction
- the well written flirtatious Bart/Avery meet cute
- a strong lesson for Bart
- Jay giving him advice that allows Bart to put less pressure on himself
- the standard perils of time travel lesson
- Eddie’s expositional dialogue in his first scene
- Avery going from time travel theorist to practical expert with no justification
- the Royal Flush Gang as standard underdeveloped antagonists
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