Friday, April 1, 2016

The Flash Season 2, Episode 17: Flash Back

Recaps are a little late this week, because I spent a couple days writing my Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice review (which is more time than the screenwriters spent on the script ZING!). Thanks, Obama, er, I mean Batman and Superman!

This week on The Flash, Barry decides to travel back in time again and risk screwing up his own timeline, and possibly the world. So what's so important that he has to risk altering all of reality? Is he going back in time to stop a madman from detonating a nuclear bomb in Central City? Is he undoing the death of a fallen comrade? Warning himself not to go see Batman V Superman? 

Nope, none of those. He's going back in time to get advice from his late enemy, Eobard Thawne. Yep, that's right, advice. Well, that's certainly worth the risk of tearing the space/time continuum a new asshole.

If the thought of a Millennial who can casually travel backward in time for pointers doesn't chill you to the bone, you're already dead.

Barry's traveled back in time before— specifically in the Season 1 finale Fast Enough. But there he was deliberately trying to alter the past and save his mother's life. That was an acceptable (if selfish) reason to risk changing reality though. Going back for advice from your insane mentor doesn't seem like the best use of time travel.

The MVP this week was actor Tom Cavanagh, who pulls double make that triple duty, as the Season 1 Harrison Wells, Eobard Thawne and the Earth-2 Harrison Wells. His performance is masterfully subtle, as he really makes you believe he's three different people. Well, two people, one of whom is pretending to be a third. Confusing!

It was also nice to see Rick Cosnett return as the late Eddie Thawne, although it's too bad he and Iris didn't have any scenes together.

Welp, this was the last new Flash until May 24th! Thanks a lot, Sweeps Week. Remember when TV shows used to air an episode once a week until they'd shown them all? I do, and it was glorious. Nowadays the networks jealously guard their episodes like precious jewels, resentfully doling them out only on the most special of occasions. Feh!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Barry is desperate to find a way to increase his speed. That night at dinner, Iris admits to Barry that she went on a date with her boss, but says she still misses Eddie. Wally makes an appearance and boasts about a new engine he designed. He says he figured out how to increase its speed by learning from the journals of past engineers. This gives Barry a terrible, terrible idea.

Barry goes to STAR Labs and tells the gang he wants to learn how to run faster by going back in time and asking Harrison Wells, aka Eobard Thawne, for help. Harry says it's a ridiculous and dangerous plan, and he'll just end up changing the past and destroying the present. Plus he says Wells will see through Barry and realize he's from the future. These all sound like sound arguments to me, but Cisco and Caitlin are all for it. Apparently Harry's not too awfully opposed to Barry messing with time though, because he doesn't try to stop him (or kill him, as he did the Turtle).

The Gang decides their best bet is to go back to the Season 1 episode The Sound And The Fury, in which they first meet Harley Rathaway, aka the Pied Piper. Barry enters the particle accelerator and begins running around it. Don't ask me how he controls how far back in time he goes. Eventually he generates a wormhole (I think) and leaps through it into the time stream. Inside he sees a strange wraith-like creature zoom past his head.

He exits the time stream into Season 1, but realizes he's come back a few hours too early, and see his past self battling the Pied Piper. Past Barry sees Present Barry and chases him. Barry apologizes to his past self, knocks him out and takes his place. He disarms the Piper and puts him in the STAR Labs Super Jail. He tells Cisco to check Hartley for hidden weapons. He does so, detects a hidden EMP bomb and disarms Hartley, something that didn't happen originally. Barry tries to nonchalantly ask Wells about his speed equation. Wells seems suspicious.

Meanwhile at the CCPD, a ghostly figure appears. The police begin shooting at it, which seems like a wonderful idea. Lucky no one was behind the "ghost!" The Flash arrives just after it disappears. Joe asks Barry if he knows anything about the ghost, and he says no. Barry sees Eddie Thawne, who's still alive at this point in time. He's visibly disturbed by seeing Eddie alive and well again.

Back at STAR Labs, Barry tells the gang he's seen the ghostly figure before, leaving out the part about time travel. Wells asks to speak to Barry privately. Once they're alone, he knocks Barry out. He wakes up in Wells' Time Vault, chained to his wheelchair. Wells is standing over him, and asks Barry who he really is.

Barry tries to play dumb, but Wells knows he's from the future. He says the "ghost" is really a Time Wraith creatures that live in the time stream and kill intruders who enter it. Wells says he thought it was after him, but now knows it's chasing Barry. Barry drops the innocent act and says he knows Wells is really Eobard Thawne. He says he needs to find a way to go faster, and Eobard is the only one who can help him.

Eobard freaks out, since the fact that Barry's still alive in the future means his plan to kill the Flash failed. He says he'll simply kill Barry now, while he has him captured. Barry thinks fast and says he only came back in time to stop the singularity from destroying Central City. He lies and says he left a letter with his past self that explains who Wells really is, and how to stop him.

Luckily Eobard buys his bluff. Suddenly the Time Wraith attacks STAR Labs. It chases Cisco and Caitlin, who were studying Pied Piper's gauntlets. They hide in Hartley's cell with him. The Wraith begins trying to break through the cell's glass door. Hartley convinces Cisco to let him use his gauntlets again to attack the Wraith. Cisco reluctantly does so, and Hartley manages to use sound waves to scare it off.

Barry goes back to the CCPD for some reason. He sees Eddie, and says he's making a video for Iris' birthday, and asks him to record a personal message to her. Eddie does so.

Meanwhile the past Flash wakes up and goes back to STAR Labs. Present Flash arrives a few seconds later. Barry has no choice but to explain himself, and tells the Gang he's from the future. Wells realizes the only way to get rid of the Wraith is for Barry to go back to his own time. He takes Barry back to the Time Vault and gives him a flash drive containing equations for tachyon enhancements, which he says is the only way to increase his speed. 

Barry prepares to go back to the future. He tells Cisco that Hartley knows how to find Ronnie Raymond, and that they have a year to figure out how to kill a Time Wraith, which will be chasing him all the way back to his own time. Barry runs through the particle accelerator again. The Wraith follows and actually catches him. Past Barry then interferes, slowing down the Wraith long enough for Barry to jump through the wormhole.

Barry appears in the present, and Cisco's ready and waiting with an Anti-Time Wraith gun. He fires it at the Wraith, but it has no effect. Hartley then arrives and blasts it with his gauntlets. He asks Barry how his trip went. Apparently Barry's altered the timeline, and Hartley is no longer a villain. Barry enters the Time Vault and plugs in the drive he got from Wells. It's full of equations that can somehow increase his speed.

Barry goes home and sees Iris sadly flipping through a photo album of her and Eddie. He gives her the video Eddie made for her.

Back at STAR Labs, Barry picks up Jay's metal helmet and tells it, "I'm coming for you."

Thoughts:
 In an effort to help Barry increase his speed, Caitlin says she's been studying the Reverse Flash and Zoom (just how she recorded their strides is unknown). Anyway, she's determined that they movie their legs at the same speed as Barry's, but their feet are in contact with the ground for less time, making them much faster.

That... that doesn't make any sense. How are their feet contacting the ground less if their legs are moving the same speed as Barry's? Do they fly a bit when they run? Levitate? Hover? Comic book science!

• Once it's decided that Barry will go back in time, the STAR Labs Gang picks a specific date the day he captured the Pied Piper. 

It looks like he time travels by running really fast inside the particle accelerator and then jumping through the wormhole he creates. So how is Barry able to use that method to travel to an exact point in time? Does he control it by the number of laps around the accelerator? Does one lap make him go back one day? Or does it depend on how long he spends inside the time stream? It must be none of our concern, as it's never explained.

 Apparently STAR Labs has a satellite in orbit. Impressive! I'm pretty sure this is the first time that's been mentioned.

I'm still kind of fuzzy as to exactly what it is that STAR Labs does, and how they stay open. How are they paying the utility bills and the property tax? I assume Cisco and Caitlin are also being paid some sort of salary and benefits. Where's that money come from?

Eobard Thawne built the place while pretending to be Harrison Wells. Since Thawne was from the future, maybe he used that knowledge to invest in certain stocks in our time, became a billionaire and set up some sort of foundation or trust fund.

Once again, I feel I'm spending more time thinking about this than the writers.

 RETCON ALERT! In this episode we find out there are Time Wraiths that live in the time stream, and protect it from intruders.

Note that we've never saw these creatures when Barry time-traveled last year. And I don't recall seeing them over on Legends Of Tomorrow either, where they travel through time every week.

Do the Wraiths only attack speedsters who enter the time stream?

 Speaking of Legends Of Tomorrow, wouldn't it have made more sense if instead of the time stream being guarded by the Wraiths, it was guarded by Chronos or the Time Masters?

Legends Of Tomorrow has already established that the Time Masters monitor the stream and protect it. Having them show up would have made for a nice little cross promotion between the two series.

Of course if they'd gone that route, then Cisco and the rest of the gang wouldn't have been able to use all those "Dementor" jokes they'd been saving up.

• Man, who was responsible for animating those Time Wraiths? They looked like they were realized through the magic of 1995 era CGI technology. Compare them to other CGI characters on the show like Gorilla Grodd and King Shark. Those two characters were movie quality! So what the heck happened with the poor Wraiths? 

Either they had to farm out the Wraiths to some woefully inadequate effects house, or the series blew its budget on those other characters and had nothing left over for these.

• In the past, Cisco's metahuman alarm sounds. Barry asks where the intruder is. An annoyed Cisco says, “It’s not like I have ESP or something. I can’t just magically sense where things are.” Foreshadowing!

• At one point Barry has his mask down around his neck, and then starts to pull it over his head. The camera cuts away for a couple seconds, and when it cuts back to Barry, his mask is perfectly in place. 

This has happened many, many times over the course of the series. I'm convinced that they never actually show Barry putting on his mask because it's no doubt so tight and form-fitting that it probably takes a team of wranglers twenty minutes to pull it down over his head.

• Before going back to the future, Barry tells Cisco and Caitlin that they have a year to figure out how to kill the Time Wraith. That way when he arrives in the present day with the Wraith on his tail, they'll be standing by with a weapon to kill it.

How the hell was Cisco supposed to develop an Anti-Time Wraith gun without being able to test it on one? Anything he came up with would be little more than a thought experiment. You need test subjects to develop a weapon against something. No wonder his weapon didn't work!

• So it appears that Barry's time meddling somehow changed the Pied Piper from a villain into an ally. Is he going to be hanging around STAR Labs from now on?

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