‘The Flash’ 2×17 Review: ‘Flash Back’ (aka What Not To Do When You Time Travel)

When it comes to moving on it’s often easier said than done. There’s a certain weight and pain that comes with leaving behind a part of yourself in order to embrace what’s next in your life. Most of the time the refusal to let go is because you don’t want to fully let go. But moving forward isn’t forgetting your past; it’s embracing your future to honor your past. You can’t spend your life living in the past or you’ll never be able to live your future.

Moving forward was the defining theme of this week’s episode of The Flash, which ironically featured Barry going back in time in order to achieve as much. We saw how Barry couldn’t let go the betrayals that he’s felt at the hands of the men that he once called “mentor” and “friend,” and we saw Iris struggling to open herself up nearly a year after Eddie’s death.

“Flash Back” was an exhilarating episode that proved that The Flash really thrives with the whole emotional aspect of time travel. When Barry travels through time it has an emotional significance, whether it’s Barry going back to save his mother (and then having to watch her die) or this episode where familiar very-much-alive faces greeted Barry at every turn.

The thing with time travel on The Flash is that despite my awareness of it, it never ceases to amaze me how the show continues to shock me with little twists that for a split second have you wondering if maybe things really will go to shit because a certain somebody didn’t listen to the sound advice of time travel (I love you, Barry, but you need to listen.)

But when all is said and done, The Flash once again proved that it knows how to emotionally gut us when we’re at our most vulnerable. And that pain can be described in two words: Eddie. Thawne.


Oh, and that’s not even mentioning that we have ANOTHER 3-week hiatus awaiting us in the depths of hell. WHY?

How Not To Time Travel: A Guide by Barry Allen

When it comes to time travel the first rule you need to abide by is to listen to the person instructing you on how not to mess with time itself. As much as I love Barry Allen, he’s not so good at doing what he’s told. So he didn’t abide by rule no. 1 and ultimately altered the future.


Time travel is a touchy subject. It’s something that’s so sensitive that even the slightest alteration can set into motion unforeseeable effects that ultimately can change something slightly or significantly. So basically, steer clear unless absolutely necessary.

Barry’s plan centered on his ability to pose as his past self, get the formula for running faster from Eobard Thawne – all without being found out. So basically Barry’s plan rested on his ability to lie. So this plan was doomed from the start.

From the start when Barry confronted his past self and struggled to knock him out cold, we saw just how challenging this was going to be – and that was before Barry ran into Wells/Thawne/Reverse Flash. But when Barry did eventually run into his past mentor/nemesis, you could see the realization set it on Barry. This played in significantly with the theme of moving forward that was prominent throughout this episode.

But from the start, Eobard Thawne knew something wasn’t right. This is a man that has spent 15 years in the past, plotting, and planning how to get home. He’s a man of significant intelligence that knows how things should be. And Barry, while he looked and even acted like his past self, stuck out like a sore thumb. So it didn’t take long before Thawne put the pieces together and knew that Barry wasn’t who he said he was. Didn’t help that there was a time demon set loose in their world, which Thawne is well aware of.

Perhaps the most intense scene of the night came when Wells rose from his wheelchair, like we knew he could do, knocked Barry unconscious and locked him up inside his secret room all the while teasing and interrogating him. Wells is no idiot, and he also soon realized that as long as his Barry was still alive he didn’t need this Barry. So he planned to kill him – until Barry actually lied successfully when he told Wells that if he died that this past Barry would learn the truth about Wells and how to defeat him and he’d never return to his home. On second thought, maybe Barry wasn’t completely lying because that was just too convincing.

sorry not sorry

Ultimately Barry convinced Wells to help him get faster in order to ensure Wells’ return back home – okay, that was a nice, convincing lie by Barry – and Wells gave him a flash drive (hehe) that contained the formula for getting faster, something that would fulfill his goal of becoming faster than Zoom. So this mess wasn’t all for naught.

But Barry’s little foray into the past didn’t go without consequences. Because there were consequences, some known and others not known. While this mission proved to be success even with Barry’s not-so-smart time-traveling ways, we definitely learned an important lesson here: Just say no to time travel. Or do what Barry wouldn’t do.

Now that Barry has altered the timeline – to which we’re still not fully aware of the extent – the question becomes what has Barry changed? While certain events remained set in stone – Eddie sacrificing himself and dying to kill Eobard Thawne – other aspects, like a friendly, helpfully Hartley Rathaway have been altered unbeknownst to everyone but Barry.

Fast and Furious Flash

With the threat of Zoom ever the more pressing – especially with the season finale some five episodes away – “Flash Back” focused on Barry’s determination to run faster in order to defeat the villainous speedster that was disguised as his mentor. So Barry – fresh off his run-in with Supergirl in an alternate universe – got the bright idea from his future protégé Wally that in order to find the answer to his question – how to run faster – he needed to ask someone who was able to achieve it: Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash.

So as we know this was Barry’s motivating factor behind his decision to travel back in time – to ultimately risk altering said timeline – in order to find the formula that would help him run faster than Zoom in order to defeat him. Following an eventful trip in the past, Barry was able to get the formula from his nemesis and brought it back to the present where he, Cisco, and Caitlin got their first glance at what might prove key to defeating Zoom.

No, but seriously at this point I’m wondering if the speedster that is the slowest and more focused of the two will be the one to prevail? Sure, being faster than Zoom would be the ideal result, but there are other ways to defeat someone that is faster than you. We saw Barry do it last season with Reverse Flash – with some help from the Arrow and Firestorm and then Eddie Thawne – so who’s to say that he couldn’t do it again?


Barry still has a lot to learn when it comes to outsmarting the villains. It’s not always physical superiority or being the fastest speedster alive that’s most important rather the skill and intelligence that goes into the plan that ultimately spells victory. For some reason I feel like that’s a lesson that Barry might learn this season. But we’ve still got five episodes to go until the season finale so it’s an ongoing lesson for the Scarlett Speedster.

Quit Playing Games With My Eddie-Thawne-Loving Heart

When it comes to a show like The Flash where time travel and alternate universes no one is truly ever gone. So while The Flash ripped out my heart in last season’s finale when Eddie Thawne sacrificed his life to be the hero that we always knew he was, it’s nice to know that Eddie could always come back in some capacity.

And we got that in tonight’s episode that found Barry travel back in time – to the previous year – where Eddie Thawne was alive and well – and it made my heart swell as much as it absolutely gutted me.


Eddie was one of those characters that was gone too soon especially considering his comic book destiny. This was the man destined to be Barry’s nemesis, but that just goes to show you how the producers of these DC Comics-inspired shows use the comics merely as an inspiration and not a Bible.

But it was nice to live in this Flash world where Eddie was alive and being the amazing detective and even more perfect boyfriend to Iris – even if it were only for an hour.

What made this storyline so significant was that Iris was struggling to move forward in her love life because she was still holding onto Eddie. It’s been nearly a year since he was taken from her – and us – and we’ve watched as Iris was never truly able to open herself up romantically since. She needed a sense of closure that she never got.

Barry, knowing this, pulled past Eddie aside and had him record a special message for Iris (for her birthday – two months from now) where he professed his undying gratitude, love, and desire for Iris to live the happiest of lives – how that’s what he wants for her, whatever she chooses or what happens. It was a scene that I knew was coming from the moment Barry asked Eddie to record that message so I was not surprised when the waterworks started and continued before, during, and after that scene.

While ultimately I’m a WestAllen shipper – in it for the long haul – there’s no denying how special Iris and Eddie’s relationship was. I shipped them – just not in the OTP way like WestAllen. But they were good for each other, and most importantly they were both good people. And they both didn’t deserve this kind of pain. All they ever deserved was happiness – be it together or apart.


The Flash returns Tuesday, April 19 with new episodes.

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