Season 2, Episode 11 - "The Reverse-Flash Returns"
Grant Gustin, Shantel VanSanten, Candice Patton, Keiynan Lonsdale, Danielle Panabaker, Teddy Sears, Tom Cavanagh, Carlos Valdes, Matt Letscher, Tom Cavanagh
Regular airtime: Tuesdays, 8 pm
US: 26 Jan 2016
CW’s The Flash is all about speed. It’s a program whose pacing matches the nature of its superhero star’s powers. The Flash, after all, is the “Fastest Man Alive”. The pacing also matches the DC comic books in which the character originated. The standard for speed was set early on with the incomparable artwork of the great Carmine Infantino, whose figures looked more natural in motion than when standing still, and whose comic books pages forced the reader’s eye to keep moving moving moving. When Infantino teamed up in the early 1960s with writer Gardner Fox, who had written adventures about the original Golden Age Flash 20 years earlier, it was fast and furious fun. Other comic creators have been running to catch up ever since. Some, like writer Geoff Johns, who plays a large role in the CW program, have done a pretty good job of keeping up the record pace.
The Flash has been running, in one form or another, for 75 years. He’s been running, as he did so iconically in Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez back in 1985, to save the world, to save the universe, to save the multi-verse, to save us all.
He’s still running on CW’s The Flash. And the supporting characters, villains, and viewers alike have to move pretty fast to keep up.
In the episode titled “The Reverse-Flash Returns” things move so fast that you’re forced to put your other screens down and give the program your full attention.
Last season’s main bad guy, The Reverse-Flash, a.k.a. Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher), returns—or makes his first appearance, depending on how you look at it. Last season Thawne, who’s from the future, was erased from existence when his present day ancestor was killed. This episode’s Thawne is a younger version of that character, however. His first visit to our time occurs in this episode; later he’ll come back from the future to an earlier date, which played out last season. It’s all a bit confusing, as time travel often is, but Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) draws a diagram to explain how it works. The chart doesn’t make much sense, but that doesn’t matter; just knowing that Wells thinks it makes sense makes it all go down a little easier. Oh, and by the way, this Harrison Wells is from Earth-2 and is not the Harrison Wells from last season who was actually Thawne in disguise.
Barry (Grant Gustin) would like to kill this season two version of the Reverse-Flash. Doing so, after all, would theoretically stop the speedster from killing his mother in the past. Instead, he refrains and simply captures the speed fiend and locks him away. Doing this disturbs the current timeline, however, and puts Cisco (Carlos Valdes) in great danger. This means that Barry has to do the unthinkable and help Reverse-Flash get back home to the future, knowing that doing so guarantees that the villain will then travel to the past and murder his mother.
Flash and the Reverse-Flash manage to time travel feat by running really fast; apparently their combined speed is required to send Reverse-Flash home. They run—one in red, the other in yellow—around and around, while bolts of lightning surge behind them. It’s all about the speed.
In addition to all the sci-fi superheroics, Iris (Candice Patton) and Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) struggle to come to terms with the illness that threatens to kill their mother (Vanessa Williams), and with understanding how two strangers can come to be family. Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) works with Jay (Teddy Sears) to try and find a way to save his live and restore his super-speed. (He’s the Flash from Earth-2, after all). In doing so, Caitlin, and the audience, learns that Jay’s Earth-1 doppelganger is named Hunter Zolomon. Fans of the comic book Flash will recognize this name as the alter-ego of the villain Zoom. Does this mean he is the mysterious Zoom that has been trying to steal Barry’s speed this season, or is he going to play a different role altogether? Finally, Patty (Shantel VanSanten) has finally figured out that Barry is really the Flash, but he’s afraid to tell her the truth for fear that being too close to him will put her in danger.
The episode begins with Barry chasing down an out-of-control truck and using his speed in an ingenious way to bring it to a screeching halt. It ends with Barry racing a train to help Patty when he thinks she’s in need and to say goodbye to her as she leaves town for good. (It can’t be for good because Patty’s too great a character; she and Barry need to figure this out.)
All of that, a season’s worth of story beats, in one episode. And all of it works. The quiet moments are as effective as the big special effects scenes.
But you’d better not look away. You had better put down all of your other screens and really focus on this.
The Flash, after all, is all about the speed.