The Flash 3×16 Review: 'Into the Speed Force'

This is the episode of The Flash that I have been waiting for. This was the episode where for the first time in a long while that I felt like the writers were acknowledging that their hero had gone by the wayside and that it was time to get him back on his rightful path of heroism.
Basically, this is about as close as it gets to a television show admitting that it was wrong.
One of the things that I really admired about The Flash in season one was its commitment to Barry being this selfless hero that, while he made mistakes, would always be looking out for others before himself. It’s the hallmark of any great hero. But Barry Allen almost took it upon himself to take that self-sacrifice to a new level. To maintain that sense of honor even in the toughest of situations.
And then somewhere along the way in season two, he began to lose sense of the hero that he was. I’m talking long before the mess of Flashpoint in the season finale and the episodes that followed. I’m talking about earlier in season two when he was letting himself get lost in his emotions and seeking vengeance in what felt like a personal vendetta.





Honestly, I can’t remember the last time we saw The Flash actually save someone from a villain. And I’m not talking about the members of Team Flash. I’m talking about The Flash actively seeking out a villain and that being his central focus because he was a legitimate threat to the city as a whole and not just Team Flash. Somewhere along the way, he’s forgotten what comes with wearing the badge of “hero.”
Barry Allen used to be my favorite character on The Flash. Not only was his warm, charismatic personality a treat to behold, but I always admired his sense of duty and honor when it came to being that symbol of hope for Central City. But Barry seemed to lose that part of himself along the way in season two, which has only escalated this season.
But dare I say it, it appears as if Barry Allen might be on his way to redemption.
In an episode where Barry not only heard but saw some potential ramifications of his decisions, it was a moment – or hour, rather – of clarity. As far as I’m concerned, “Into the Speed Force” served as a message from the segment of fans that have held Barry accountable for his mistakes that have seemingly gone unpunished.
I have been waiting all season for this episode.
The Barry that we’ve been dealing with has been one that has put his own selfish desires before others. But given the events of last week, Barry has finally realized that everything that’s happened, everyone that has suffered to this point is because of the choice he made when it came to Flashpoint. Wally West getting trapped in the Speed Force was the wake-up call that Barry needed.
Barry took responsibility for his actions; Barry actively sought out the consequence of his decision when he went into the Speed Force. This was a Barry that I haven’t seen for quite a long time.
But perhaps the most important part of this episode was what happened after Barry had ultimately righted things. When Barry returned and had the opportunity to reunite with Iris in a romantic sense, Barry made the difficult but right decision to be honest about where he was.
He ultimately sacrificed his relationship with Iris – for right now – because he recognized that he wasn’t worth it yet. In his mind, Barry needs to redeem himself as a hero before he can be worthy of Iris’ love and that aspect of bliss that awaits him.
Honestly, this was my favorite episode of The Flash in the past two seasons. It really goes to show you that a comic book show, such as The Flash, isn’t always about the comic book aspect. It’s about these characters. It’s about how they respond to situations; it’s about how they sink to their lowest; it’s about how that’s ultimately worth it when they rise from the ashes reborn as the person they knew they could be.
This is what television is all about.
For the first time in a long time, I feel like The Flash, much like Barry Allen, is on its path to redemption and regaining that sense of familiarity that audience members like myself have known from the start.
(Now, if only Arrow can deliver a similar episode that begins the rebirth of Oliver Queen’s character…)
Let’s break this down even further, shall we:

Choices Have Consequences

I keep saying it, but it’s never not going to be true. This was the episode of The Flash that I have been waiting for. This was the episode where I finally felt like there was some validation for my anger towards Barry for his selfishness and the hero that he has become.
For Barry, it was never about: Could he even be the hero he once was? It was more about: When would Barry become a better version of the hero he once was?
You see, for all of the reasons and the period of time that I’ve disliked Barry for his selfishness in what is ultimately a selfless job, I never once doubted that Barry could redeem himself. He’s human, after all. I’m not here to tell you that I hold Barry to a higher standard because he’s a hero. In fact, I’m here to tell you that I’ve always believed that Barry would be that hero I knew and loved once again.
It was always a question of: WHEN?
Given Barry’s repeated mistakes when it comes to being more selfish than selfless, I was wondering if The Flash writers were even aware of what Barry had become. That Barry himself, while yes he made mistakes, had never truly learned his lesson. And that’s the important part. It’s not about the mistakes he made. It’s about acknowledging his mistakes, learning his lesson, and choosing to do something about it.
I believe that I’ll look back on this episode – “Into the Speed Force” – as the episode where everything changed. The episode where Barry Allen was set right on his course for redemption.
You see, there’s a difference between saying that you’re sorry or that you’ve learned your lesson and actually showing that you understand that. There was something that the Speed Force told Barry that really got me (and trust me, they said a lot of truth that had me nodding vigorously):

“You’re not learning your lesson, Barry. You keep saying one thing and doing another.”

Basically, Barry keeps saying that he’s wrong, but his actions have proved otherwise. You see, actions really do speak louder than words. You can say all you want, but the only real way to measure that is through actions.
For the longest time, Barry has been all talk. He’s apologized; he’s admitted that he f***ed up, which is good and all, but he’s never actually shown that he’s going to do something about it.
The Speed Force set out to teach Barry a very important lesson. And actually the lesson that Barry took from the Speed Force isn’t the one I’m talking about. Sure, the Speed Force wanted Barry to understand that it’s his and his responsibility alone when it comes to saving Iris.
But I’m talking about learning the lesson that every choice has a consequence.
It’s the most important lesson we can all learn in life. Every decision we make – even if we have the best intentions in mind – has a consequence. It can be a good consequence or a bad one. Consequences don’t always have to be bad.
But when it comes to someone like Barry – who is held almost to higher standards than others because he is a hero – he has to understand that lesson to a tee. There is no – “Just this once…” or “But it’ll save the woman I love’s life…” – there is only what is right and what is wrong.
Now, I’m not saying that Barry shouldn’t try to save those he loves. He should. Lord knows I would if in a similar situation. But given that Barry has been at this for three years now, he should know better when it comes to acting on selfish impulses. This would be something we’d expect in season 1, not season 3.
I want to end this section with an emphasis on this quote from Jay Garrick:

“Do what you do best: Be The Flash.”

You know damn well that there’s more meaning in those words than what’s on the surface. Garrick isn’t talking about Barry just going out in the suit. He’s talking about action.
Barry needs to start acting like The Flash again.
That’s going to come in his actions; that’s going to come in his revived sense of honor and sacrifice; that’s going to come in the difficult decisions he has to make; that’s going to come from embracing that inner instinct that has defined him as The Flash.

We Could’ve Had It All…But Then Barry Ruined It

As much as this was an episode about Barry learning that his decisions have consequences, it was also a reminder of all of the good things we could’ve had. With Barry forced to confront his past in the Speed Force (and we all know how the Speed Force uses your experiences against you), he came face-to-face with some familiar faces from his past: Eddie Thawne, Ronnie Raymond, and Leonard Snart.
All three of them presented a different nugget of wisdom that the Speed Force conveyed to Barry, but all three of them were also reminders of what could’ve been with these dearly departed characters.
Let’s start with…

EDDIE THAWNE.

The first stop on Barry’s walk through his troubled past of grief and consequence was the first death that killed us: Eddie Thawne. This was a character that I never thought I’d like yet alone love as much as I did. He was the personification of innocence in a comic book world that told him he’d be evil.
The only reason that the show gave us to dislike Eddie was that he was in a serious relationship with Eddie, which wasn’t even a legitimate reason in the first place. It’s not Eddie’s fault that Barry never confessed his feelings for Iris; it’s not Eddie’s fault that Iris fell head over heels for him much like this writer did. I always felt like Eddie got an unfair shake in that regard. But then again, there wasn’t too much hate surrounding him and Iris, so bless that.
There was this chilling sense when Barry was confronted by Eddie. Immediately I was hit by feels and brought back to that tragic moment where Eddie made the sacrifice to kill himself to destroy Reverse Flash and save Central City. In a way, Eddie was inspired by Barry and The Flash and what he represented. That’s the thing with heroes, they inspire you. Whether that’s inspiration to be a better person or inspiration to protect those you love or inspiration to be a hero in your own right.
When Barry met with Eddie (aka Speed Force Round 1), this is where the Speed Force chose to stress the importance of learning that your decisions have consequences. I just ranted for 1,000 words or so about it above (so you can check that out.) Obviously the lesson here had to do with Barry’s selfishness in creating Flashpoint.
The funny thing is that the Speed Force didn’t really tell him that he was wrong when it came to his decision. They thought Barry had come to terms with his mother’s death. But they understood that it was incredibly painful for Barry to lose his father and ultimately the reaction that followed. But they made it damn clear that there was always going to be a consequence.
Then the Speed Force (as Eddie) told Barry that Eddie’s life was almost different. How he was almost married to Iris. How he was almost Joe’s son-in-law. How that’s the legacy that he could’ve had. They basically shone a light on Barry’s selfishness: “Why are you doing this?” Are you doing this to save Wally? Is that the only reason? Basically, they knew that Barry had selfish desires when it came to doing anything to save Iris. And I’m damn relieved the show acknowledged that.

RONNIE RAYMOND.

Next on Barry’s stop was Ronnie Raymond, aka the first Firestorm, who met an untimely death when he sacrificed himself to save Central City from the black hole that was descending upon the city. Once again it forced Caitlin to have to deal with losing her fiancé, and once again it represented everything that could’ve been but never would be.
As Barry walks into STAR Labs, he comes across Caitlin holding a crying baby and singing him to sleep. “Another life that could’ve been but never was,” says the Speed Force now disguised as Ronnie Raymond.
This time around, the Speed Force chose to focus on the people – like Ronnie and Eddie before him – that had sacrificed themselves not for the greater good, but for Barry.
It breaks my heart to think about what could’ve been with Caitlin and Ronnie. The happiness they could’ve had; the family they could’ve had. But ultimately, it never was because of Barry. Now, I recognize that it wasn’t only Barry that influenced this, but Barry did play a big role in inspiring these people to sacrifice themselves because they believed in him. They believed in the hero that Barry was. The hero that no longer exists because he’s become someone else.

LEONARD SNART.

Concluding this train of pain and suffering was Leonard Snart, whose reappearance hurt me in my heart. While his end didn’t come on The Flash – it came on Legends of Tomorrow, where Snart ultimately sacrificed himself to save his team and went out the way we knew he would, swinging – it was ultimately connected to Barry’s story.
Out of these three there was a reason why Snart came last. He’s a character that proved that redemption is possible if you want to be redeemed. And the Speed Force let us know – in a moment that had me sobbing – that Barry Allen was the inspiration behind Snart getting up the courage to sacrifice himself for the greater good.
That hit me hard. Reliving Snart’s path to redemption – from the sinister villain to the tortured hero – was the perfect way to wrap this tour up. Snart is proof that you can be motivated to redeem yourself; that even the darkest can make their way toward the light.
And looking back at this, I feel like this was the Speed Force’s way of attempting to reawaken Barry Allen, The Hero, with reminding him of three people that he impacted greatly while also reminding him that decisions have consequences. Basically, life isn’t fair.

It Takes More Than Love For A Relationship To Work

Here’s the thing: I absolutely love Barry and Iris. They are endgame for me. Their dynamic and their chemistry are the stuff of magic. But I haven’t been a fan of the rushed pace this season. They might’ve known each other since they were kids, but knowing each other as romantic partners is something else entirely. It’s just felt like The Flash is rushing them this season.
I was okay with them moving in together, that made sense. But the proposal just a few episodes ago was way too much way too soon. Especially when we learned the real reason why Barry proposed: because he thought it would save Iris.
On the one hand, I’m glad that The Flash gave us a reason that made sense. Barry wasn’t fully ready, but he felt like he had to propose because he was trying to change the future. But on the other hand, Barry wasn’t interested in marrying Iris (yet), and it made the proposal come off as cheap and unimportant, which pissed me and Iris off to a degree.
While Barry and Iris love each other very much (that I know for a fact), the thing is that it takes more than love for a relationship to work. There are many things like compromise, sacrifice, and trust that come into play. And given Barry’s recent actions in regards to the proposal it, in a way, “tainted” their relationship much like Iris had told Barry last episode. So I was curious to see how long this separation would last.
I had a feeling that Iris was going to be open to reconciliation in this episode after just half an episode of needing to take a break. And I was right. After she almost lost Barry, Iris was willing to forgive him for everything. Now, I don’t know if she was admitting that she was ready to reaccept his proposal, but I do admit that I understood where she was coming from. Almost losing Barry made her realize that life is short. That you have be willing to forgive in a world where bad things happen. But that didn’t necessarily make this engagement “right” for this current moment.
So after Iris forgave and told Barry that she understood why he did what he did and understood that she never should’ve doubted his love for her, I expected for them to get back together and for no lesson or no sacrifice to be had.
And then Barry surprised me…Barry actually did something selfless.
Barry told Iris that she was right about him proposing. That he proposed because he thought it would save her.

“I was wrong.”

CAN SOMEONE FRAME THESE WORDS BECAUSE BARRY ALLEN JUST ADMITTED HE WAS WRONG?

“I think we need some space for awhile. I don’t know how we can move forward like this.”

Look, as much as it breaks my heart for Barry and Iris to be separated, I recognize that it’s something that needs to happen (much like it needed to happen with Oliver and Felicity on Arrow after what he did – although the reconciliation is taking far too long.)
Barry needs some time to live with his decision – that he was being selfish. Barry and Iris both need time to figure out who they are as individuals before they can figure out who they are in their relationship. Both need some clarity before they eventually reunite.
Cause here’s the thing: I don’t care about the ultimate endgame and “they ended up together” as much as I care about the journey. The journey is the important part. And I don’t want Barry and Iris’ journey to be sacrificed. I want to see it thrive. I want to see it survive. I want to see the good, the bad, the ugly. I want to see the road to endgame.

Seven Things…

  1. This was easily my favorite episode of The Flash of the past two seasons. There was so much confidence that this hour wielded in how it reinforced the lesson that “choices have consequences” and bringing back people and issues from the past. It showed that The Flash actually remembers
  2. I have to applaud Barry for being selfless when choosing to take a break with Iris. While I was disappointed that Iris was so easily willing to forgive Barry, I was impressed with Barry and how he admitted he proposed for the wrong reasons and decided they needed some time apart.
  3. Quit playing games with my heart regarding Jesse Quick! Just when I think that perhaps Jesse is becoming a more permanent mainstay on this show, they go and ship her off again. But it was bound to happen. We can’t have too many Flashes! BUT…Jesse is headed to Earth-3, which has me clamoring for Jesse to appear on Supergirl with Kara and co.
  4. I felt personally attacked with the returning faces in this episode. Like it says a lot of good things that in seeing Eddie Thawne, Ronnie Raymond, and Leonard Snart that it elicited such strong emotions from me. That shows me that these characters mattered because the writers and the actors made them matter. And in a way – even though they’re gone – I’m thankful for that.
  5. The Speed Force was us, the audience, in this episode. Well, the segment of the fandom that has held Barry accountable for his selfish actions dating back to last season. Everything the Speed Force told Barry, I was nodding vigorously in agreement; everything the Speed Force told Barry, I was slow clapping; everything that the Speed Force told Barry were the writers acknowledging the fact that Barry lost himself along the way. It was nice validation.
  6. I’m going to need a similar episode of Arrow. I need Arrow, like The Flash has done, to acknowledge that Oliver Queen has fallen a long way from the hero that he used to be. I need real consequences. I need validation that we, the fans, know and understand this show and the hero that leads it. This would be the way to save Arrow.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

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