Ok, so…I’m going to be hated again, cause once again, a classic Flash trope has been used in a fashion that makes me very frustrated. First, was when Barry went to Earth-2, and got more involved than he should have been. And now in “Flashback” the idea to time travel back in time to when Eobard Wells (just go with name melding) was still around and get him to help Barry get faster was turned into a mind-numbing experience where the end result honestly didn’t justify the things we saw.
To be fair, the beginning of “Flashback” was great, as Barry and team began their quest to stop “Jay” once and for all, which meant Barry getting faster. I really liked how Caitlin broke down that there’s a simple reason why Zoom and Reverse Flash were faster, it was in their running technique. Add that to a speed formula they seem to have cracked, and there’s the golden ticket.
Barry’s idea to see Eobard Wells was also kind of brilliant, if done right. And it seemed like it would be that, as the team even went super detailed to remind Barry of what was going on during the time period he was going to be sent back to. A great plan, one that made me relieved…until he got there.
Now again, I’ll be fair, the Wraith throwing him off course, and forcing him to adapt the plan on the fly was great. But, in now typical Barry fashion, despite promising to keep things streamlined and do what only needs to be done…he altered the timeline. Multiple times. First with Hartley, then with everyone else.
There was good moments here of course. Seeing Eobard Wells (Tom Cavanaugh is a true acting genius) again was great. Especially when he found out about Future Barry. The exchange between those two was the highlight of the episode for me. As Thawne got to be evil, and Barry got to show up his nemesis.
Then for, Present Barry, Caitlin and Cisco to find out about Future Barry was hilarious. That Star Trek thing was beautiful! As was the taking down of the Wraith…until we find out that Hartley is somehow a good guy.
You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? He changed Hartley’s ear trick, how does that affect anything?” Well…allow me to break it down for you.
Hartley was supposed to escape, and reveal one of Eobard Well’s “secrets” to the team. Which caused Wells to “reveal” the truth to the press in an attempt to stop Hartley. This press conference had a huge impact on Iris and her then media partner. It was that press conference that led Iris’ partner to look deeper into Harrison Wells. He would then (twice technically) talk to Barry about how Wells “wasn’t who he thought he was”. Wells would then kill said reporter, which was the tipping point for Barry to realize that Wells was Reverse Flash.
BUT, because Hartley somehow became a good guy in this episode, all that vanished. Now yes, I’m happy he’s a good guy, and that his parents have somehow “forgiven” him. Doesn’t change what that affected.
That’s also not including Barry’s interactions with Joe and Eddie, which would’ve had some impact. And of course Eobard Wells, and himself!. Time travel is messy for a reason. Thus why in past episode they were either only a day or so back, or they weren’t fully altered. Yes, Barry met his mother, but no one else saw that. So there was no impact. Here though was the opposite, EVERYTHING was affected by Barry. And yet there was little impact at the end.
Finally, I was happy that Eobard Wells did live up to his end of the bargain, and Flash now has a way to get faster. That did give this episode some impact, but it came at a cost.
“Flashback” was a good premise that went sideways quickly. Instead of a surgical approach, it became a shotgun blast that apparently only nicked things when it should’ve been a devastating wound. Hopefully this the last time travel episode for a while. I don’t think our minds can take another shift like this.