However, when plans were unveiled to revisit the last season via time travel for the second or third time this season (while not directly the Thawne origin and the crossover had time travel had elements of season one plot points) I was skeptical, because while time travel is a staple of both sci-fi and Flash history it is also the biggest indicator of an upcoming retcon there is. It is a trope often contrived of convenience for the sake of bailing out writers who have written themselves into a corner only UNDOING it can fix it. But while skepticism is admirable, the trust that the creatives at the Flash have cultivated is as strong as any show has ever been. The equity of their courage is that as viewers we inherently expect them to deliver every week and without fail so far they have not let us down in major arc plot points. So while doing my work this week, I took extra care to see if the themes, tropes, tone and pacing were consistent with the rest of the season and how – if at all – the time travel episode was geared to right a wobbly rudder.
So let’s get this monkey smoking…
************************SPOILERS LIKE JR EWING AT A COCKTAIL PARTY***************
The SYNOPSIS from TVGUIDE.com
March 29, 2016
Barry becomes determined to get back to Earth-2 to stop Zoom, but he realizes he needs to increase his speed. He travels back in time and masquerades as his earlier self to get his arch-nemesis Dr. Harrison Wells (who is the reverse Flash – Eobard Thawne) to teach him how to run faster. But while there, Barry faces familiar foe Hartley Rathaway and old friend Eddie Thawne.
What They Didn’t Tell You
Iris is falling to pieces all over again over Eddie. In fact, since he died she has been adrift and drowning in the larger arc of superheroes and dimension hopping.
Barry is stumped and determined. When he is at the end of his rope for ideas to get faster an off-hand remark at dinner from Wally about learning from the master’s journals inspires Barry to travel back in time to get the Reverse Flash to teach him to get faster. This involves knocking out his younger self, tricking his friends and returning to the exact same point in time without breaking the entire time stream. It is risky, cocksure and reckless/ The Earth-2 Wells is wholly against this plan. In a telling gesture let’s Barry ignore him. He is more interested in finding Jesse Quick – his daughter – who has abandoned Central City her father and the team for Opal City.
When Barry arrives in the past he is met by a time wraith – an enforcer of sorts for speedsters who violate the timelines with their travels. He also arrives too early and has to knock Barry out and deal with the Pied Piper for the younger speedster. His ruse does not fool Thawne who captures Barry from the future and finds out the truth to his arrival and that the wraith has found him. Thawne is outwardly shaken to see the wraith who he has been avoiding since his time breach. Barry from the past shows up just as Thawne reluctantly agrees to help future Barry with the speed equation (after a bold and hate filled confrontation in the time room) to send him home and erase the wraith from the past. When confronted with two Barrys the team then launches Barry and has a year to work on the wraith problem. That solution is the Pied Piper- Hartley who is now an ally and friend of the team who knows Barry’s secret. The timeline is altered in at least this way.
While in the past Barry taped a message to Iris from Eddie. She watches it and gains closure, making her the last one to gain the needed restoration and healing from the season prior. Wells and Barry have a great conversation about Jesse. In the quiet night Barry looks at Jay’s hat with a promise to come for Zoom.
In season two we have watched every member (through their own example) show parallel theming of forgiveness, trust and restoration in the process of making Barry the confident capable hero from the unsure rookie. With great care the creatives have made it clear that this is the season we see the end of the questioning of what he can do and into the realm of just a little too cocky on several occasions. Rather than shoehorn in a time travel episode just to get their intended result (the return of Pied Piper to viable continuity and the necessary information to increase Barry’s speed were the obvious goals of this retcon) the team once again showed how fearless and special their approach is.
Without missing any of the important beats of the season and staying in perfect tone to the second season, the writers, actors and director worked in concert to make the time travel episode an integral part of the messages they have conveyed all season. For instance, when Barry are together on screen the creatives use the opportunity to openly demonstrate how far Barry has come in a year by cleverly demonstrating all that Barry had learned. While past tense Barry questioned, future Barry acted. While Thawne intimidated, future Barry responded with courage and resistance not fear and heartbreak.
But we also saw how far the rest had evolved from the untrusting Joe West to the newly embraced Piper we see just why the show hooked us and why we stay aboard all in what could have been the worst episodic cluster of events in recent memory. But by focusing the entire results of the time travel on the wraith and the Piper they simplified and kept the loose ends from spiraling out of control. Which is no easy feat. This was a clinic on how to make time travel work FOR you instead of against.
The Flash’s second season is about to once again open an entire wing of lore in its next episode. The creatives were smart to demonstrate the progress and milestone the characters with what seemed a final exam to the lessons they learned in a year. We also find out (to my surprise) that we miss Eddie. A lot. With sentiment and real emotive deftness, the cast have made a time travel episode a joy and not a chore.
Tell the monkey to crush his butt…