This week’s episode of The Flash was all about learning to let go when it’s difficult and seems impossible. But it’s very possible. Barry had to let Patty go (why, God, why?!) and he also had to let his nemesis go as a means of saving his friend. Both were difficult situations for Barry, but a hero has to make sacrifices. That’s part of what makes them a hero.
In “Reverse Flash Returns,” we saw the return of Reverse Flash and the beginning of his origin story as he arrived from the future — a future where he hadn’t been wiped from existence (confusing, but less confusing below) — set on gathering intel on The Flash, including who he is. It proved to be better than advertised as it set up a really great scene between Flash and Reverse Flash teasing the future possibilities of these two enemies clashing once more. As they’re always fated to.
Here’s the rundown…
Reverse Flash Returns
The return of Reverse Flash was about more than just the return of an infamous and familiar enemy. It was also about illustrating the effects of altering the time line, as evidenced by what happened to Cisco. But before we get into that…
It didn’t take long for the incredibly important question — How is it possible for Reverse Flash to be alive? — to be answered. Once again Harrison “Harry” Wells explains it an uber confusing way that even when simplified made absolutely no sense but yet it did. Turns out that since the Eobard Thawne that came to this time is alive because the events of his future self haven’t happened or something like that (see, still don’t really know how to explain it). Technically when he died in their timeline that future version of himself — the one that just arrived — hadn’t gone back in time yet. Confusing, I know. Literally anything is possible with time travel.
One would think that the big showdown between The Flash and Reverse Flash would be the culminating point for these two enemies, but it wasn’t. The show took this storyline to an entirely different place that was able to set up Reverse Flash for future seasons. After Barry beats the Reverse Flash — and manages to not kill him after everything that thing has done to him and his happiness — they bring him back to STAR Labs where he won’t hurt anyone again.
Barry, hidden by darkness as to not reveal his identity — clever considering what happens later, confronts Reverse Flash asking him why he hates him so much. It’s something that’s been a mystery that we’d yet to uncover, but it turns out to be a very simple one. Simply, yet ridiculous. Reverse Flash wanted to be The Flash. But he couldn’t. That’s why he ruined The Flash’s life. He became the reverse of everything that The Flash represented and despised the praise he got.
While things seemed to finally be going right for Barry, they quickly changed. Only there’s a slight problem. Actually a huge problem. One of the life and death sorts. One that involves Cisco.
Cisco is experiencing an overwhelming amount of electric energy that has caused him to seize uncontrollably. That seizing eventually turns to transparency and it’s clear that something has gone seriously wrong. Turns out that capturing Reverse Flash messed with time so the only way to save Cisco is to send Thawne back to his time. “But I just caught him!” Barry quakes with an overwhelming amount of emotion that shows you just how deeply Reverse Flash has affected Barry. But Cisco’s life proves too valuable — obviously! — and Barry is not about to lose someone else he cares about. So they send Reverse Flash back to his time, using both of their speeds combined.
But interesting enough we heard Reverse Flash mention not once, but twice, that he now knows what timeline The Flash is from and how he’ll soon know his name. Dark things are coming for The Flash. Maybe not right away — maybe not season but perhaps the season after that, but dark times are ahead now that the Reverse Flash is out there and plotting his next move.
A New Kind of Vibe
This season we’ve seen Cisco developing his metahuman ability to “vibe” and see certain visions. They’re powers that continue to evolve as time goes on, and this episode saw another big step in that evolution. Harrison “Harry” Wells determined that the trigger of Cisco’s vibes is adrenaline coursing through his veins — better yet the fear that instigates it. Wells uses that to create these goggles that help Cisco control his “vibes,” so to speak. This allows Cisco to move between vibes in time. And wouldn’t you know it, Cisco gets a vibe of Christina McGee being murdered by Eobard Thawne. But when all hope seems lost, Wells determines that the events that Cisco witnessed won’t happen for another three hours. That means Cisco can see the future. How’s that for evolving powers?
Cisco eventually confronted Reverse Flash about him being the one that stopped him. But he made the mistake of revealing that Thawne was the one that gave him his powers. Remember what they say about altering the time line… (Spoiler alert: Everything turned out okay, see above)
Repairing the West Family
A storyline that has been overlooked this season but has been really intriguing is the West family dynamic. In this episode we learned that Francine is in pretty bad shape. She doesn’t have much time left. While Iris has managed to keep her space, feeling betrayed by her mother’s abandoning her, she goes to her mother as she nears her end. Iris has a very grown-up conversation with her mother where she tells her that she forgives her. She’s not angry at her anymore. Iris tells her mother about all of the wonderful memories she has growing up — with her father and even Barry. But she can’t help but wonder how those great memories would’ve been even better had Francine and Wally been a part of her life. For Iris this isn’t about saying goodbye to a woman she has no ties to; this is about saying goodbye to a woman that represented what could’ve been in her life. It’s why it’s so hard even though she barely knows her.
After Iris has had a moment of clarity and acceptance when it came to visiting her mother on her death bed, Iris seeks out Wally and encourages him to do the same. But Wally, who has been avoiding his mother, tells Iris that it’s hard for him to forgive his mother for lying to him for 20 years about his father and having a sister. But Iris counters him by saying that it’s exactly what happened to her, too. When that doesn’t do the trick, Iris reaches down deep emotionally and talks about Eddie’s death for the first time since it happened in the season finale. She tells Wally that she lost her fiance suddenly and she never got to tell him what he meant to her. But Wally has a chance to do what she never got to do with Eddie: tell his mother goodbye and how much he loves her.
While it takes a good while, Wally finally comes around and shows up at Iris’ house thanking her for the advice. He’s going to go see his mother. But he wants Iris to come with him. It was a brief glimpse at what’s to come for the West siblings as they move forward. Their relationship will evolve, but it’s not going to happen overnight. But they’ve been bonded by their mother, and that’s a beautiful start.
Saving Jay Garrick
Caitlin Snow finds herself once again faced with the possibility of losing someone else she deeply cares about. First it was her father (which we learned passed away from Multiple Sclerosis) then it Ronnie, then it was Ronnie again, and now it’s Jay. At this point it’s a miracle that Caitlin is able to maintain the pure, innocence that she has following all of these tragedies. But then again The Flash has showed us that great darkness cannot dim the light of its heroes.
So Caitlin is determined as hell to find a way to save Jay, who is dying, that doesn’t involve getting his speed back from Zoom — you know, just in case they can’t manage that. Caitlin had an idea that involved replacing Jay’s dying cells with the living cells of his Earth-1 doppleganger, which is actually pretty genius and quite frankly terrifying.
But it turns out there’s a problem. Jay doesn’t have an Earth-1 doppleganger. But doesn’t he? Jay explains himself when he takes Caitlin to the park and shows her that he had trouble finding his doppleganger but he exists. Only he technically isn’t his doppleganger because Jay’s DNA has been altered and is therefore different from his Earth-1 counterpart. Thus, those living cells won’t help. So the only way to save Jay remains defeating Zoom and getting his speed back.
A Secret Revealed
Following Barry and Patty’s break-up last week, the tension was apparent and fresh during the pair’s worker-friendly interaction. Patty is trying to keep things professional before she leaves for Midway University in two days to begin the CSI program.
After Barry actively chose not once, not twice, but three times not to come clean to Patty that he was The Flash last week, this episode showed what happens when you don’t tell the truth: the truth comes out. After Patty spies Caitlin, who she knows to be a STAR Labs employee, working with Barry, and Barry tells Patty that he occasionally helps STAR Labs out, Patty does what she does best and starts searching for answers. Patty examines the evidence — all of the cases that Barry worked on — and they all involved The Flash. Patty is a very intelligent woman. While her being smitten with Barry might’ve been a distraction — when she honestly should’ve realized this earlier — everything has become clear now, as she tells Joe: Barry is The Flash. Joe of course denies it, but Patty knows when someone is lying. And Joe is a terrible liar.
Joe warns Barry that Patty knows that he is The Flash and encourages him to tell her the truth. But Barry insists on continuing to lie — even when the truth and accusation are staring him straight in the face — because he doesn’t want Zoom or Reverse Flash to use Patty as a means to get to him. But once again Barry fails to see the point; the point being that lying has never helped him in matters.
Patty confronts Barry at work and tells him that she knows he’s The Flash. Of course Barry turns on the insta-lie voice box as he continues to deny the truth staring him down. Patty knows but she wants Barry to be honest with her and tell him herself; admit it. If he’d just admit it to her then she’d stay in Central City. But he can’t, of course he can’t. So he lies, and she knows and he knows that she knows. Suddenly the potential of fighting crime in the day together and spending nights together dims and Patty turns her back on him as she officially moves on breaking my heart into a thousand pieces.
But thankfully that’s not how we leave things. Patty calls Barry saying that someone has a gun on the train and that she needs help. He says he’ll send someone over, and Barry quickly races over to find that the train is perfectly fine. “False alarm,” Patty says. She wanted one last chance to see Barry, but also to see Barry as The Flash; as the hero that has saved her on several occasions and represents hope for this city. She couldn’t leave things the way they were. So Barry lets his guard down — lets her see his eyes behind The Flash mask — and that was the closest we’ll get to Barry telling Patty he’s the Flash.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.