The Flash: Season 2, Episode 17 - "Flash Back"

Gregory L. Reece

"Flash Back" is a reminder of just how good The Flash was and continues to be.

The Flash

Airtime: Tuesdays, 8 pm
Cast: Tom Cavanagh, Rick Cosnett, Grant Gustin, Jesse L. Martin, Candice Patton, Andy Mientus
Subtitle: The Flash: Season 2, Episode 17 – "Flash Back"
Network: CW
Air date: 2016-03-29

If, like me, you're a fan of last season's status quo on CW's The Flash, then "Flash Back" should be quite a treat. Tom Cavanagh’s always spectacular as Harrison Wells, but it was especially fun to watch him play man-from-the-future Eobard Thawne (a.k.a., The Man in Yellow, a.k.a.. The Reverse Flash) pretending to be Harrison Wells. In that role, in which he was both father figure and nemesis to Barry Allen/The Flash (Grant Gustin), Cavanagh was the character that we all loved to hate.

Last season was also before Eddie (Rick Cosnett), Reverse Flash's present-day ancestor, sacrificed himself to ensure that his evil descendant would never be born. Cosnett's Eddie was not as central a character as Cavanagh's Wells, but he made a fine partner to Joe (Jesse L. Martin), and an even better romantic interest for Iris (Candice Patton).

In "Flash Back", the Flash decides that it’s necessary for him to travel back to the time before Eobard Thawne was defeated. From the point of view of viewers, this means that the Flash travels back to season one. This comes on the heels of the Flash's journey from CW to CBS for a visit with Supergirl, indicating that comic book crossover storytelling has found a home on this comic book-inspired television show. (For those interested in keeping the continuity in order, the visit with Supergirl isn’t mentioned in this episode of The Flash, but there are signs that it must have happened after the events of "Flash Back".)

Traveling back in time is never easy (something Michael J. Fox taught us a long time ago), and something that the Flash learned the hard way when he went back in time to try to save his mother from death. In this case, he finds that he has arrived earlier than he’d planned and must immediately engage in a battle with his past self.

Luckily, season two Flash has a white circle around the lightning bolt on his chest, while season one Flash has a red circle, otherwise we wouldn't be able to tell them apart. After taking his past self out of commission, Barry then proceeds to finish what past-Flash was working on and arrests the Pied Piper (Andy Mientus).

It doesn’t take long for Wells to figure out that something’s wrong with Barry, and that’s when the fun really begins. Cavanagh's return to last season's menacing version of Dr. Wells is a lot of fun, especially since he and Barry have to keep the secret of Wells' true identity from the rest of the team. It's also fun to see the old dynamics at play, with the evil Wells being forced to play along and join forces with Team Flash to defeat another villain.

In this case, the villain is a time wraith, a spectral being reminiscent of a dementor from the Harry Potter films. Time wraiths react to disturbances in time, especially those caused by incautious speedsters like Barry. This one even looks like Barry, complete with a Flash-like cowl covering his emaciated form. Of course, Reverse Flash also wore the Flash's cowl, so the time wraith might just as easily be a ghostly version of Eobard Thawn, chasing Barry through time to get revenge for his death. Either way, I don’t think this will be the last time Flash encounters such a creature.

"Flash Back" is typical for an episode of The Flash in that it moves at a near breakneck pace, is filled with character doppelgangers and duplicates, isn’t afraid to shake things up and rewrite the past, and doesn't mind asking the audience to let go and just have fun. It’s also a typical episode of the series, because it manages to do all of that while slowing down long enough to make a joke or showcase the human side of its characters. In this case, it slows down long enough to give Eddie a poignant moment to say goodbye to Iris.

"Flash Back" manages to do two things: remind us just how good season one of The Flash was, while simultaneously serving as an example of just how good is season two.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.