The Flash: 4.01 The Flash Reborn
The Flash is running back onto our screens, after an uneven and diverse third series. There’s a lot to live up to and lots of questions to answer. The episode title alone The Flash Reborn doesn’t just suggest the inevitable return of our hero, but what promises to be a change in tone, going back to the light hearted charm that first pulled audiences in.
The finale of last season left Barry Allen sacrificing himself to the speed force prison to once again save the city. And this left the remaining crew (Joe, Cisco, Wally & Iris) in charge of ‘Team Flash’ in his absence, while he faces the costs of his actions. Although a decent finale, we all knew a fourth series was in the works and everything would be ok in the end; it may have been better to have ended the series there overall, as the Flash made the ultimate sacrifice.
The new episode beings six months later and we’re introduced by the voice of Iris, who’s taken a more lead role in the team, aiding Wally (Kid Flash) and Cisco (Vibe) in chasing down the forgetful villain Peek-a-boo. After a few witty jokes and one liners she’s caught and our heroes prevail. The dynamic between Wally and Cisco is excellent, something I hope is delved into more as the season progresses; additionally it’s nice to see Iris have more of a prominent up front role.
Then the show hits a brick wall at light speed, clearly feeling enough time has passed without Barry, as it focused too much on putting the pieces back together rather than expanding on the dynamic that’s been prevalent for the past six months. Enter ‘Samuroid’, a decent foe that’s used to force the cast to think of a way to get Barry back. This is all because Cisco and Wally just aren’t strong or fast enough to defeat it (which seems bizarre considering how Wally was actually faster than Barry last season). This causes Cisco to have a miraculous epiphany and think of the very thing to get Barry out of the speed force without consequence, not however before acquiring the help of Caitlin to complete the task. This was another aspect that felt forced, as once tracked down she is more than happy to help regardless of the “I want to find myself” rubbish of last series finale.
After some deliberation, little explanation and lots of cliche, the Flash returns (hurrah!), and despite looking different with the prepubescent fluff on his face, seems the same. We quickly discover he’s suffered from some sort of memory loss and delusion which the team endeavour to rectify. After more deliberating, thinking and monologuing, Iris choses to be the damsel in distress which amazingly causes Barry’s memory to return and leads to a horribly CGI anticlimactic battle with the ‘Samuroid’ to save her (double hurrah!). We then get a tease for the shows central villain ‘The Thinker’ who although isn’t a speedster (a welcome change to previous villains) seems to still be able to see into the future.
I appreciated this sounds very negative but overall The Flash Reborn is a decent starter which introduces new villains, creates new character arcs and sparks curiosity enough to anticipate episodes to come (this is of course being one of potentially 23 episodes). The disappointment factor however is larger than it should have been; for the past two seasons this show has failed to capitalise on the dynamic change from previous climaxes.
Rather than expand on the relationships created over the past six months it was a rush to get Barry back ASAP which only succeeds in diminishing the efforts of the remaining team; Wally becomes nothing more than a pointless sidekick, Cisco loses the playful dynamic he has with Wally, Iris delivers a strong and powerful lead female who is then subjected to becoming the damsel in distress, and Joe, well he was just pushed aside.
Although ridiculous to expect the show to go without its titular character for too long, there was no need to push forward quite so quickly. His return could have been spread across two or maybe three episodes, allowing time to show character progressions and changing in responsibility. On top of this there could, and perhaps will in future episodes, be more consequences and explanation; Barry’s return specifically felt contradictory from what was established last season (there's no way to free Barry from the Speed Force without risking Central City's destruction). This would have us believe the speed force is stupid, when it’s been made clear its not.
There is still plenty to enjoy, the all-round performances are excellent. Candice Patton (Iris) portrays the emotion of somebody losing the person they love; coming to terms with it only for that person to return must have been difficult to convey, though she did a fantastic job. Carlos Valdes (Cisco) is fantastic, more reminiscent of series one and two which is extremely welcome while Jesse L. Martin (Joe) brings the fatherly figure that’s much needed. Finally Grant Gustin (Barry Allen, Flash) was excellent portraying someone who’s lost their mind very well. The chemistry between all is, not surprisingly, outstanding and the general feel is more like the much loved first season, even with the streamlined cast.
The villain seems interesting and there is genuine excitement to see what happens. Also the side villains (the Samuroid’s) are a welcome change, presumably these will play a more pivotal role leaving behind the necessity for complicated backstory of why the “metas” have their power after the particle accelerator exploded.
I look forward to the stories ahead.