Since its first season, The Flash has thrived on its lighthearted tone where family is the focus. Barry Allen has always been the lighthearted hero of the DCTV universe, along with Supergirl, and that was something that we were severely lacking last season as things got a little too dark.
Not that there’s anything wrong with darkness on The Flash. But The Flash was embracing Arrow levels of darkness in Season 3, where The Flash kind of lost a little bit of what made it The Flash.
There’s been a part of me that, since its impressive freshman season, has felt let down by The Flash. Nothing has been able to top that first season. Season 2 was solid, but wasn’t Season 1. And Season 3 had its moments, but it was ultimately a letdown.
In The Flash’s Season 4 premiere, appropriately titled “The Flash Reborn,” it felt like the start of a new chapter in Barry Allen’s journey. Not just storywise, but perhaps series wise. Given the breathtaking nature of its debut season, it’s easy to compare everything that comes after it.
But call me crazy, but I got a good feeling from The Flash’s premiere. I don’t know what’s going to come out of it, but I feel like The Flash is in the perfect position to really capitalize on this season and really explore the many characters, personalities, and storylines that will define the season.
Most of last season, I was disappointed. Mostly because Barry never paid for his selfishness. But given Barry owning up to it, being affected by it, and knowing that consequences are surely coming, this should be the beginning of his redemption arc. Much like The Flash’s.
Let’s break this season premiere down!
In many ways, Barry’s entering the Speed Force at the end of Season 3 felt like the close of a chapter. In many ways, Barry’s reemergence from the Speed Force — stronger, faster, and hopefully wiser — feels like the beginning of a new chapter.
Hence, The Flash Reborn.
While it was never a secret that Barry Allen would make his way onto our screens by hour’s end, it was more about the journey to that result. We saw Team Kid Flash Vibe Flash, led by Iris West, continue to hold down the fort in Barry’s absence. You always got the sense that the team felt that, even though it had been six months, that it was a temporary situation. Well, except Iris.
Iris was trying to do what she felt was right by Barry — staying true to his word to keep on running, moving forward. It got to the point where she’d suppressed her emotions so much, a common theme this week in DCTV, that when Cisco had an idea to bring Barry back to them, she was against it. But that due more to fear of grief and emotion than not wanting him back.
While initially it appeared as if Cisco — and Caitlin — ‘s idea failed, we saw that it worked. Just several hundred miles away. We found a scraggly looking Barry Allen speeding through a farm town only to pass out and be brought back to Central City. Only this happy ending wasn’t happy just yet.
Barry Allen appeared to be anything but Barry Allen. He recognized his name, he looked like him, he sounded like him, but there was something very, very wrong inside of his mind. Whatever had happened inside the Speed Force must have done a serious number on him.
No, but seriously, what the hell happened to Barry inside the Speed Force? Is that supposed to be one of the big mysteries this season? Given that Barry doesn’t remember anything about his time in the Speed Force, you have to wonder if it’s going to come back to bite him in the ass.
Team Kid Flash Vibe Flash spent the majority of the hour trying to get through to Barry, but nothing seemed to work. Just when it would appear that they might’ve gotten through, Barry would go off about incomprehensible nonsense like diapers making us fear that there was some serious internal damage that might not be fixed. Until the next episode.
With nothing seeming to work, with Barry getting seemingly worse, and with Central City at stake, how were they going to get Barry back? Well, Iris got some inspiration from her father about strength and faith, which prompted her to take matters into her own hands.
Which brings us to…
The Power of Love
When Barry Allen is lost, there’s always one way for him to be found: Iris West.
Given the circumstances of the season premiere — and the past six months — we saw the effect of Barry’s absence on those that he loved and that loved him. And of course Barry’s absence affected his fiancee Iris West the most. She held tight to his final words to her — to keep running, to keep living — by putting all of herself into Team Flash and doing best by Barry.
But in the process, Iris never allowed herself to really grieve. Whether it was because she didn’t want to feel the pain or she didn’t give herself the time to actually grieve, those kind of pent up emotions never go away. They explode.
When Barry returned, he wasn’t himself, a clear effect of the Speed Force. It was as if Barry was stuck inside his own mind. There wasn’t any way to wake him up, no matter how many tests they tried. But it was Iris, whose love and belief in Barry, prompted her to do something that, by experience, has typically worked in getting through to Barry.
Iris put herself in danger in order to wake Barry up. All it took was Joe’s words — Iris is going to die — and in the blink of an eye, Barry was back. And he was going after his love.
We’ve seen Iris get through to Barry before. Not like this, but pretty close. In times where he wanted to give up, in times where he didn’t believe he had the strength, it was Iris guiding him, inspiring him to do what he needed to do. When she needed Barry back, she did what she had to do to get him back. And it worked.
And their reunion was the stuff of magic. Barry saving Iris, Barry holding Iris, that passionate kiss. It was as if everything was suddenly right with the world again. That was worth everything.
Now that Barry and Iris are reunited, does this spell happily ever after for the couple? Because based on a teaser that they’re heading to couples counseling, perhaps Barry’s issues within the Speed Force and the possible PTSD, as well as Iris’s reaction to Barry’s absence might be at the center.
But, hey, love isn’t perfect. Love is about the highs and the lows. It’s about sticking by each other through not just the good, but especially the bad. And we all know that Barry and Iris are true love.
As Oliver Queen once said, “Love is the most powerful emotion.” And I’ll be damned if that wasn’t one of the smartest things he’s ever said.
Jekyll & Frost
While Caitlin Snow has always been a character I’ve loved for her strength, intelligence, and fortitude, she hasn’t necessarily been my favorite character on The Flash. Until now.
It’s not easy to bring a sense of humanity to a storyline that features a person struggling internally with being a metahuman. But Danielle Panabaker and The Flash have managed to bring a sense of humanity to the storyline.
In the Season 3 finale, Caitlin said that she wasn’t Killer Frost anymore but she also wasn’t Caitlin Snow. Who was she? That’s what she had to go figure out. So when Cisco tracks her down — serving as a bartender outside of town — we find that Caitlin, while she looks like Caitlin, isn’t the same woman she used to be. It left you wondering what happened and what’s going to happen.
Caitlin rejoined Team Flash to help find Barry, as well as rejoin her family that have given her so much. It was almost like she never left. There were no threats of Killer Frost, just Caitlin. But a different Caitlin.
But by episode’s end, we found out that Caitlin has been involved in some shady stuff. More than that, it appears as if she’s been successfully — and not — been holding back Killer Frost. We saw her anger ignite Killer Frost, and we saw that Killer Frost was almost free, in a sense. Like she hadn’t been able to escape. And we saw that Caitlin had to struggle to regain herself. “Not again,” she says.
We’ve got ourselves a Jekyll and Hyde kind of thing, where it appears as if Caitlin’s going to have to deal with balancing Caitlin Snow and Killer Frost and find a comfortable medium where Killer Frost isn’t merely her angry self. But there’s so much that we don’t know about this whole thing, which is the point. The more we see Caitlin deal with this, the more things will start to make a little more sense.
But this storyline has already become one of my most anticipated storylines this season. Caitlin, while she’s evolved, still maintains those qualities that have defined her as a strong and empowering female character. And it’ll be amazing to get a glimpse of that strong and empowering woman tackle a challenge like this.
5 Things About “The Flash Reborn”
- The Flash is back! Well, the lighter, brighter tone that we know and love and that has forever defined the show except for last season. This is what The Flash does best: it deals with serious matters while also managing to deliver a lighter tone in the midst of it all. Let’s hope it continues.
- WestAllen = True Love. Iris knew it. Barry knew it. We all knew it. If there’s one way that’s proven to get through to Barry Allen in any circumstance, it’s Iris West. Her life being in danger was an immediate revival of the Barry we knew, to an extent, after he spent most of the hour trapped in A Beautiful Mind.
- Caitlin Snow is my favorite character. Easily. Not only am I a huge fan of this new version of her — the one that’s not Caitlin Snow nor Killer Frost — but the nice twist at the end was enough to easily make this my most anticipated storyline this season.
- Grant Gustin was sensational in this episode. Not that that’s any surprise. But his portrayal of this broken, out of mind Barry Allen was a thing of beauty. It’d be easy to come of cheesy. It’d be easy to come off as foolish. But he made it mean something.
- Thanks, The Flash, for confirming what we already knew: Arrow’s Felicity Smoak certainly isn’t dead. Always love hearing about how she’s working to help save all the superheroes.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.