The Flash – Season 2 Episode 11
“The Reverse-Flash Returns”
The Flash brings back Eobard Thawne at an earlier part in his timeline than Barry faced last season and his arrival brings complications for Team Flash.
It’s confirmed that every theory I had last week was wrong. That’s not a problem as it’s good to have things turn out differently than predicted when the result is an engaging one and this episode mostly provided that but had some issues that prevented it from being as good as it could be.
Apparently Eddie’s death didn’t actually erase Eobard Thawne from existence. Well it did but only from that point on so the events leading up to that erasure still happened. That doesn’t really make sense to me as erasing Eobard Thawne caused a paradox that resulted in a singularity that almost tore reality apart. Barry fixed it and the timeline was stablised so that the events caused by Thawne’s interference could still happen. If the entirety of Eobard Thawne’s timeline wasn’t erased then the singularity should never have happened. No amount of Harry Wells drawing circles on a board will convince me that they haven’t just changed how time travel happens to work for the purposes of this single story. Interestingly the characters always talk about having to be careful with time travel but it doesn’t seem like the writers have paid attention to this.
Putting that aside, I really liked how Eobard Thawne was handled here. I watch Doctor Who and that show often plays around with nonlinear continuity. By that I mean things can happen outside of the traditional order that we expect. This is a good example of that as Eobard Thawne shows up in Barry’s present and reveals that this is how he learns about Barry’s native time period. This is basically the start of their antagonistic relationship from his perspective though it’s unclear if Thawne has actually encountered the Flash before. He mentions that he was obsessed with becoming the Flash and when that proved impossible he dedicated his life to becoming the opposite. Whether that was inspired by encountering Barry directly or simply being aware of his exploits is unclear but it’s a solid reason for Thawne being the way he is.
I like the idea that he has a massive inferiority complex that fuels his rivalry with Barry. It has been established that Thawne is a genius even in his own time so it’s really twisted that this isn’t enough for him. His obsession with the Flash is something I would really like to see more of and I dare say we will as he makes more appearances. There are lots of opportunities for this to develop as we are at a very early point. Thawne doesn’t even know that Barry Allen is the Flash at this point. I am really confused as to why Barry decides to talk to him while standing in shadow rather than wearing his suit. Again, he is being reckless with his identity and it’s going to continue to cause problems for him.
Matt Letscher has his first real opportunity to play Eobard Thawne in this episode. He had small appearances last season but they probably didn’t add up to more than a few minutes. His portrayal of the character is massively different to Tom Cavenagh’s which makes sense as Cavenagh’s version was at a much later point in Thawne’s life. Letscher’s version has a really playful edge to him and comes across as almost childish in a lot of ways. The hatred he feels for Barry isn’t as strong as it was last season but since this is at an earlier point in their antagonistic relationship then that really works.
The relationship between the Flash and the Reverse-Flash has me wondering if Barry doesn’t age normally and is still active in Thawne’s time or if time travel will become more routine as Barry’s career as the Flash progresses. Either explanation is possible so I’m interested to see how that question is answered.
As a villain in this episode he wasn’t really all that threatening. He was brought down pretty easily and spent most of his time in his cell waiting for people to interact with him. Some of the foreshadowing was interesting such as his encounter with Harry that apparently inspires him to bear Wells in mind when he gets stuck in the past. Harry’s line about being “no-one of consequence” proves to be more false than he could have imagined.
Barry’s fight with Thawne was really well done as it brought back some buried anger and resentment that he thought had been put behind him. Being faced with the man who killed his mother once again causes Barry to lose control and almost kill him as a result. It’s good that the pain Barry feels hasn’t been entirely dealt with as it is more real if he relapses every now and again.
Cisco’s abilities are continuing to develop with the help of Harry who builds the sunglasses that Vibe wears in the comics. The trigger for his powers has been found so he is able to focus them a little more. I hope that the show doesn’t lean on this as a crutch and have Cisco solve every problem that way. Hopefully some limitations for his powers can start to be established after this point.
The whole paradox idea was really well done as it presented a tangible threat for Team Flash with Cisco fading out of existence because of his help in capturing Reverse Flash. This counts as a really tangible consequence of meddling with the timeline rather than simply warning people that something bad would happen as has been done before. Having this problem presented to them really dials up the urgency and makes it all the more meaningful that Barry would make the hard choice to let Thawne go. He would rather keep his friend than stop that threat at this point. He does know how it all ends so there’s less jeopardy there but I wonder if Cisco being erased would have changed the timeline further and prevented Barry’s mother from being killed. Harry mentions that it is a fixed point and cannot be changed but since he’s not a time travel expert then there’s no reason to believe that he’s right.
Caitlin is actively trying to find a way to cure Jay of whatever illness he is dying of and comes up with the idea of finding his Earth-1 counterpart and using him to replace his damaged cells with healthy ones. It turns out that this won’t work as Jay has already explored that idea. More interestingly is that Jay’s Earth-1 counterpart is called Hunter Zolomon. I’m pretty sure that he will be nothing like his comic book counterpart but the namedrop was fun nonetheless.
It turns out that Barry and Patty have one more episode together before she leaves and the results are fairly mixed. I’m still irritated at the angst caused by Barry’s desire to protect Patty even though being in the dark about his identity doesn’t keep her out of danger at all. Having him justify his acting distant so that she can follow her dreams doesn’t paint Barry in the best light either. I can accept that he doesn’t want her to stay on his account as that would mean her potentially regretting making the decision to not pursue something she wants to do but the whole idea of being long distance isn’t even brought up which wouldn’t be an issue given Barry’s powers.
On that, I like that Patty figured out that Barry was the Flash on her own. She’s an intelligent person and was bound to figure it out sooner or later so that really works. I also like that Barry was sloppy in hiding his identity by putting details in case files that he could never have known. It’s all there for someone to stumble onto which is consistent with how reckless he has been in keeping his secret. I didn’t like that he continues to lie to Patty even after she confronts him with it and pretends to be a damsel in distress to get the proof for herself. She could be a solid ally to Barry and Team Flash and, as I said, a long distance relationship shouldn’t be an issue for them.
The strongest emotional beats in the episode came from the West family as they dealt with Francine’s death. Iris has been a background player through most of the season probably because the writers couldn’t think of anything for her to do but dealing with having a brother should bring plenty of dramatic opportunities.
Francine’s death was handled really well with a really strong performance from Candice Patton who seemed sincere when revealing that Iris wasn’t angry any more. Her interactions with Wally where she convinced him that he would regret not saying goodbye to his mother were really good as well. There is a bond developing between the two of them that I am interested to see explored. Wally so far seems to be a complex character that needs more development.
The biggest problem with this aspect of the episode is that it was one element in a sea of other narratives that had the whole thing feeling a little overcrowded. Everything about the episode was a juggling act to keep all the narratives going but it doesn’t quite succeed. Some of this could definitely have been left to a later episode.
An enjoyable yet problematic episode that reintroduces Reverse-Flash at a much earlier point in his antagonistic relationship with Barry.
One thing I took issue with is that the rules of time travel seem to have been changed for the purposes of this episode. The way that it is explained in this episode is inconsistent with how it was handled last season. The characters often talk about having to be careful with time travel but the writers also need to pay attention to this.
Putting that aside, I really liked how Eobard Thawne was handled here. Introducing him at the start of their antagonistic relationship is a nice idea and offers plenty of opportunity for this to develop. I always enjoy the concept of nonlinear continuity and this was a good example of that. Matt Letscher plays Thawne as being almost childish with a playful edge which is a nice difference from the portrayal of the character last season.
I like that Thawne basically has a massive inferiority complex that fuels his rivalry with Barry. It is established that Thawne is a genius even in his own time but that isn’t enough for him. Wanting to be the Flash but being unable to live up to that is what causes him to want to be the opposite.
As a villain he wasn’t all that threatening and brought down fairly easily. Some of the foreshadowing was interesting such as Harry bringing Harrison Wells to his attention.
Barry’s fight with Thawne was well done as it shows that he hasn’t put all of the pain behind him like he had initially thought. Seeing him lose control and almost kill him was really effective.
Cisco’s abilities are continuing to develop with the help of Harry but now that the trigger has been found there’s a risk of the show leaning on these powers. Some limitations now need to be established.
The whole paradox idea was well done as the possibility of Cisco being erased was a tangible consequence of altering the timeline. This is better than warning people that bad things will happen without that actually being true. It makes it all the more meaningful that Barry would let Thawne go. He does know how it all turns out but the possibility of changing that was appealing to him.
Caitlin is actively trying to cure Jay by using his Earth-1 counterpart but as Jay already found out that won’t be possible. The namedrop of Hunter Zolomon was pretty fun.
The end of Barry’s relationship with patty plays out in this episode. I’m really fed up of the angst caused by Barry wanting to protect Patty by lying to her despite the fact that she isn’t kept out of danger be being left in the dark. I can accept that he doesn’t want her to stay on his account and pass up an opportunity but the idea of long distance isn’t even suggested.
Patty figuring out Barry’s secret on her own makes sense given that she’s intelligent but I didn’t like that Barry continued to lie to her causing her to pretend to be a damsel in distress to get proof. She could be a solid ally to Barry and Team Flash but that potential is gone now.
The strongest emotional beats came from the West family dealing with Francine’s death. Iris has been in the background all season but having a brother to create a relationship with will bring plenty of dramatic opportunities.
Francine’s death was handled really well with a strong performance from Candice Patton who seemed sincere when revealing that Iris wasn’t angry any more. Her interactions with Wally to convince him not to miss out on the chance to say goodbye were also very strong.
The biggest problem with this aspect of the episode is that it was a single element in a sea of other narratives leaving the whole thing feeling overcrowded. It doesn’t quite succeed in the juggling act to keep all of the narratives going.