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"Sometimes the only way to move forward is to revisit the things in your past that were holding you back."
Barry puts his theory to the test this week by traveling back in time to get a speed formula from Earth-1/Season One's Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne, who shall hereafter simply be called "Harrison" to keep him separate from Earth-2/Season Two's Harry. Jeez, they do not make it easy to write about this show.
Let's get this out of the way: Barry is straight-up dumb in "Flash Back." He ignores Harry's sound advice and muddles with the time continuum for half-baked reasons, and once he's back in time he's incredibly careless, changing the past and interfering with the planned futures for his past self and the past selves of just about everyone he knows. And that's not even taking into account that this ill-conceived and abominably executed plan resulted in a time wraith exiting the Speed Force and wreaking havoc on Team Past Flash. It would be maddening, if it weren't such good TV.
The most entertaining result of Barry's inanity is that it offers the chance to revisit both Harrison Wells and Eobard Thawne, giving us three distinct performances from the great Tom Cavanagh in one episode. He's played Harry so convincingly this season that it would be easy to forget how beautifully he portrayed Harrison last year, even knowing now, as we do, that this character was always a sham. Even though we know he's faking it, I couldn't help but get a few goosebumps when Harrison said, "Run, Barry" in that rousing way of his. And Eobard Thawne is so deliciously evil, so scene-chompingly villainous, that it was a true pleasure to see him face off against Barry again.
It was also a blast to visit the Season One versions of Caitlin, Joe, Iris and Cisco ("I can't just magically sense where things are!"), but the other most rewarding aspect of "Flash Back" came in the form of Eddie Thawne. It's great that Rick Cosnett returned for the role, and though Eddie isn't really given anything thrilling or heroic to do in this episode, he doesn't need to. We all know that Eddie will soon give his life to save the woman he loves, and so it was nice to have Eddie back merely so Iris could have a chance to say goodbye, to hear what she meant to him so she can move on - maybe with Scott Evans, maybe with someone else entirely, or maybe just on her own.
Barry also experiences some healing through this trip back in time, because he gains the opportunity to confront one of the mentors that have betrayed him, a trend that is slowly destroying Barry's confidence in his own instincts and in the people he allows into his life. It's likely there's more to the story than that Barry's Jay Garrick is Zoom, but for now, it's easy to understand why Barry begins the episode angry and mistrustful. A visit back to face the first mentor who misled him seems to give Barry the resolution he needs to "train harder, get stronger and run faster than anyone's ever run before... and stop Zoom."
So yes, it's great fun seeing The Flash's cast revisit their previous performances (as Cisco says of Barry and what could also be said of Grant Gustin, "Barry's pretty good at impersonating himself. You should've seen him over there on Earth-2. I was like 'Somebody get this man an Oscar.'"), but "Flash Back" is even more fun in the way it revisits the tone of Season One. There's a goofiness and a levity that's been understandably absent this season, as we've seen Barry face some very dark conflicts and respond in justifiable ways. Although Barry's Flash back in time will certainly have some negative consequences on the current timeline - and what on Earth-1 does it mean that Hartley Rathaway is now on Team Flash? - it seems that "Flash Back" has had a positive influence on The Flash's tone, at least for the time being.
Coolest moments this week:
Double the Flashes means double the speed, and the special effects sequences this episode are doubly cool. When Barry's chasing himself, or when both Barrys are chasing the time wraith, The Flash has never looked more thrillingly comic booky.
Cisco was even more MVP this week than usual. His Wrath of Khan bit had me in stitches, and I love that his method of torture was to Rick-roll the Pied Piper.
As always, Barry's journey through the Speed Force was very revealing.