As a personal gift to me, The Flash returned last night with a back-to-basics episode. It managed to dabble with big story points while keeping everything else based on a “Criminal of the Week” episode format, where a big dumb dude shoots a cool futuristic, gun.
It feels good to be home again.
When we left Team Flash, Barry had accidentally been beat up so badly he got punched into the future. There he witnesses the death of Iris at the hands of Savitar, the robot god who can run really fast. Now, Barry is back in the present, being such a “Nice Guy” that Iris basically assumes he's seen her death. Heads up dudes: if you're living on a forensic scientist's salary and you buy a penthouse on credit cards, she knows that this probably ends in her violent demise.
Barry and Kid Flash (who should really go by The Flashpoint Kid) have teamed up to take on problems that Flash used to be able to handle faster and easier by himself. It's "training," but really it's a chance to explain more things while also performing super fast high fives between very fast men.
Meanwhile, Harrison Wells has completed his refurbishment of S.T.A.R. labs and started a Segway tour — complete with a haunted hologram of Cisco who shouts about science in a manner that would fit better into an episode of Venture Brothers. Now, I just want the spin-off where Carlos Valdez and Tom Cavanagh refurbish haunted science museums across the country. Listen to me, CW. I've been right about everything else.
The team adds a person named Olga who doesn't speak English (and will therefore turn out to be a villain by the end of the season) who helped Wells finish his museum of nothing. He opens it for the public to little response and ends up fighting with Cisco instead of admitting that maybe the city didn't need another coffee-addicted hipster. This wraps up in a cute scene featuring more of hologram Cisco and I have no complaints.
There’s also some development on the Caitlin front, for those interested. Caitlin visits Julian to seek help with the cold she's catching. Caitlin and her erstwhile nemesis discuss survivor's guilt and it turns into an invitation to have him join Team Flash.
Please note, Flash Team: Bad guys can’t help you.
Maybe this is fine. Honestly, it provides another body for the inevitable bloodbath when they go up against Optimus Primer, and we can't just let everyone know all these secret identities and then let them loose in the world. Cisco and Julian build Frost — Caitlin. Caitlin gets a cool necklace to keep her powers under control, but it's also designed to look like her evil persona.
The Flash is mostly occupied with chasing Metal Gear Stupid, a pirate-looking dude with a heat-seeking gun who the team nicknames Plunder because we’re out of other names. Capturing this cat burglar becomes more complicated when Flash realizes a news headline in the future spoils his eventual capture and trial. As a result, Barry decides to try changing the future by changing all of the news stories he can remember.
It's really upsetting to see a TV show let you in on all of the plot lines for an entire half-season by spoiling their outcome. The city is recovering from a gorilla attack? Boy, I hope we don't set that one right three weeks from now.
This is, as always, a bad plan — demonstrated with a literal set of dominoes — and now we know what we're doing for the next dozen weeks. But outside of the episode, we at least know that we're staying in-universe, in this specific point in time, and dealing with character issues one-by-one. If Barry used his words he might've explained that this is what should've happened with Flashpoint earlier. Maybe, he's even learned from his mistakes then about how true responsibility ... wait, he’s used his Flash powers to set all the dominoes up again. Yeah, he hasn't learned anything.
So we have a darkness to be avoided, or maybe the team will have to deal with the inevitability of Iris' death and actually grow as people? Who knows. But the show has promised the raised stakes of the S.T.A.R. Labs museum shutting down, and honestly that's the biggest downer on the docket.
This episode was a great chance to dip a toe into casualty and reset some rules for the universe, but honestly that's what the first half of the season should have been doing. Instead, Team Flash keeps growing and the universe keeps getting easier to fix. We've also gotten a glimpse at what happens when everyone involved turns rogue on the team and those individual betrayals are so much more interesting. If Savitar is a weapon, now he's the Sword of Damocles, but in a reality where it is easier to cheat fate than to stop a weapon. There's so much possibility for what season three can do, but it feels terribly like we're in for a last minute deus ex speedster again.
In the words of Wells, a man finds his fate when he's trying to escape it. And in that way, it is fixed.