5 Point Discussions – The Flash 4.1: “The Flash Reborn”

by Sage Ashford

Hi guys, and welcome to 5 Point Discussions for The Flash, Season 4! If you haven’t read these because I typically only do weird anime shows and The Orville, this is where I run down the events of a single episode of a series, giving context and adding personal theories–some solid, occasionally crackpot. If you enjoy this, please share it on Facebook and Twitter, and if you have any questions or comments, give me a shout @SageShinigami on Twitter.

1. We open this season of The Flash and somehow Iris is not a complete mess. With Barry gone and no version of Wells in sight, she’s taken on leadership of Team Vibe–to great effect too. The role of commander suits Candice Patton surprisingly well, as she coordinates Cisco and Wally perfectly in order to take down one of the metas that’s managed to escape their grasp before–Peekaboo. Iris figures out her pattern and with the help of her father they manage to put her down and get her back behind bars. Not everything is perfect though, as we learn they’ve only had a thirty-three percent success rate without the help of Barry which is pretty embarrassing, but it’s true that Cisco has very little experience using his powers and the team has been dwindled down to half its usual size…at least at the start.

What stands out the most about this episode though, is that with the episode airing only a day after Supergirl, you realize they’re both running a variation of the same plot: a woman trying to close herself off emotionally because she lost her boyfriend/fiance. There’s nothing wrong with it, and they both handle it fairly well–though arguably I’d say that Iris comes out a better character for her experience. Unlike Kara, she’s not refusing to live her life–she’s just trying to carry on in her lost love’s name.

2. Of course, even though they’ve done an admirable job protecting the city, it’s only a matter of time before something arrives that causes them to need the show’s titular character back in action. A being dressed in ancient samurai garb appears, boasting rocket-powered flight and swords that can cause shockwaves throughout the city just by stabbing them into the ground. It’s a cool enough design for a villain, but it really doesn’t really feel like a thing that should threaten Kid Flash after a year of dealing with Savitar.

Still, that’s exactly what happens, as Wally attempts to fight Samuroid only to wind up getting beaten down and stabbed through the leg. Even though Wally had no problem giving out super-speed hands. And the samurai had seemingly no super-speed at all. Ugh. It’s not even like he was shut down by a force he couldn’t see or notice–he just slowed down and was immediately taken out. Y’know, it’s okay if the characters just say they want Barry back–you shouldn’t have to nerf your characters like this.

Since the samurai is seeking the Flash or he’ll destroy the city, near the end of the episode Iris rushes to the samurai and says if she’s kidnapped then the Flash would surely arrive to save her. In broad day light. In front of an army of cops. It’s like they want to give away Barry’s supposedly hidden identity–who wouldn’t be able to guess if Iris is yelling “he’ll come save me for sure”, even though he hasn’t been seen in six months.

3. In order to bring back Barry, the team has to figure out a way to bring him back without the Speed Force trying to rip the city in half. Cisco reveals he was working on it the entire time between seasons, working with all the super-genius of the DC CW-verse to come up with a way to replace the energy in the Speed Force prison and keep everything balanced. It’s good that they took time to figure out exactly what the team was doing in those off months, and even better that they don’t pretend like this show can keep running without Barry in it. Just an episode without him and already the show felt kind of rudderless.

At any rate, to help him crack the Speed Force open Cisco tracks Caitlin down, finding her in a cheap dive bar. Unfortunately, she’s gone completely back to normal, and we’re dealing with the meek, apologetic version of Caitlin from the first three seasons. It’s a bit disappointing, as I liked the idea of her being Killer Frost but not quite, maintaining control of her powers while being someone completely new that we could get to know over Flash’s fourth season and beyond.

Worse still, they’ve regressed a bit. Near the end, Caitlin quits her job at the dive bar and working for some mysterious new player in Central City, but she gets threatened before she can fully leave. At this point, she changes completely into Killer Frost, then nearly freezes the guy threatening her before leaving to have some “fun” of her own…just before Caitlin regains control and shuts her out. So instead of the two sides of her merging they seem to have completely separated, with Killer Frost coming out seemingly in times of extreme duress. That’s not the most interesting way they could’ve dealt with this, but at least they didn’t ignore it entirely.

4. Mid-way through the episode Cisco and the rest of Team Vibe manage to break Barry out of the Speed Force. The only trouble is, he finds himself incapable of communicating with the rest of the team. His powers appear to “reset” him twice throughout the episode, but it’s not until Joe makes an impassioned plea to him to save Iris that Barry manages to snap out of it. The only bad part about this is that it ties things in too neat of a bow. When Barry comes back he’s writing an incomprehensible language and speaking gibberish and in a pretty bad way, then he just wakes up randomly just because the plot says its time now. It’s the same issue with Caitlin–she goes from “I need to figure out who I am” to “Of course I’m back”, just because the season’s started and we no longer need the cliffhanger plot points when we’ve got a whole season of stuff to set up.

Hopefully at least eventually we’ll learn exactly what happened to Barry inside the Speed Force. My current theory is that while inside, he got to see Past, Present, and Future all happening at once, and eventually learned how to perceive time non-linearly. I think he was having conversations that hadn’t happened yet and will play out later in the series–it’s no coincidence he brings up having to buy a lot of diapers. Perhaps a pregnancy is in the future? Well, I hope that’s what’s happening at least.

5. The end of the episode reveals the Thinker, a cyborg that appears to be stuck in an upgraded version of Professor Xavier’s chair from the 90’s X-Men cartoon. Oh well. At least he’s not a speedster–after three seasons of Barry getting stomped out by speedsters despite supposedly being “the fastest man alive” it’s gotten old. I have to say, every year CW seems to step it up with the CGI, and I believe they could truly blow us away if they didn’t have to budget for 20+ episodes every season. Still, Barry defeats the Thinker’s Samurai robot and we learn that this was his plan all along, bringing Barry back.

I have to assume that this is some kind of weird revenge plot and not a villainous attempt to make a ton of money or destroy the world. That would literally make zero sense, since it would mean you brought back the biggest threat to your schemes because…? Did you just always want to fight a superhero as a kid? No, his disfigured body means he’s a reference to some prior event of the Flash–hopefully one we’ve seen, but quite possibly one they made up out of nowhere. Time will tell…

The Flash airs on The CW on Tuesday nights.