NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
Barry’s first trip into the Speed Force last season in, “The Runaway Dinosaur”, an excellent episode all around, is certainly a tough act to follow, now that he has to rush back in to save Wally. Thus, this week’s episode of The Flash, the aptly-titled, “Into the Speed Force”, has to find another surreal challenge for Barry to conquer, as he must try to bring Wally back to the real world.
The Flash took lots of great, healthy steps toward making Savitar a better big bad for the season in last week’s episode, with Wally being trapped serving as a nicely harrowing twist for this week. Unfortunately though, a weak subplot and a continued sense of feet-dragging with Savitar’s true identity make this trip into the Speed Force noticeably inferior to the last one. This is still a pretty good episode, especially with so many familiar faces from the show’s past making re-appearances, but it unfortunately has Savitar hitting yet another noticeable speed bump as the season’s central antagonist.
After some debate at S.T.A.R. Labs, which inevitably has Barry suiting up to jump into the Speed Force and search for Wally, with some help from Cisco, the episode’s proper events begin, as Barry returns to an illusion-fueled rendition of Central City. Here, Barry has to face the people who have sacrificed themselves in his name, as visions of Eddie Thawne, Ronnie Raymond and even Leonard Snart begin to torment Barry, giving Rick Cosnett and Robbie Amell a welcome chance to pop back up on the show for a bit, and Wentworth Miller his latest chance to use his widespread CW contract for the whole of the network’s DC Television Universe.
Since the idea of Barry facing visions of people from his past and learning some grand lesson has been done already last season, and done better, it’s easy to get a sense of diminishing returns with these otherwise cool character re-appearances. The Speed Force directly calling out Barry for his failure to acknowledge those who sacrificed themselves as a result of his example was at least a decent highlight of the storyline though, especially when we get confirmation that Snart was indeed inspired by Barry when he sacrificed his life to save his companions on sister series, Legends of Tomorrow. I imagine that this detail is probably going to be erased when Snart returns to that show as a member of the Legion of Doom soon, but it’s still cool to see that Barry is such an inspiring hero that even his enemies take notice!
Barry deliberately un-tethering himself to the real world to prove his commitment to rescuing Wally was also a solid way to up the stakes for the climax, where we see that Wally is being forced to re-live the moment his mother died in a time loop. After the Snart apparition eventually prevents Barry from taking Wally back, Jay then rushes in, having been contacted off-screen by Cisco, to help Barry reclaim his friend. As the rule of the Speed Force apparently dictates though, a speedster must still occupy the place of Savitar within its world, meaning that Jay has to stay behind in Wally’s place. This was a surprising bit of sacrifice that added a cool new dimension to the upcoming final battle against Savitar, especially when Barry is entrusted with Jay’s helmet as a means of getting home with Wally, vowing to rescue Jay after Savitar is defeated in the future.
Whenever we weren’t in the Speed Force this week, we were instead subject to a subplot with Jesse, who grows impatient with S.T.A.R. Labs being unable to draw many solid conclusions from the blade that Barry chopped off of Savitar’s armour in the previous episode. After Cisco, Caitlin and Julian seemingly come up with a way to track Savitar, Jesse decides that enough is enough, and goes to rush after Savitar on her own, against the protests of the team. H.R. even goes the extra mile to try and keep her safe at S.T.A.R. Labs, feeling a sense of duty to, “Hard Hat Harry”, his doppelganger from Earth-2.
The idea of H.R. falling into the role of an undesirable surrogate father for Jesse isn’t bad, but it’s annoying that not very much is done with it for now. Jesse wanting to rush after Savitar is very forced and objectively stupid, and considering that she’s supposed to be an intelligent character, surely she realizes that her friends are right, and that this is simply a suicide mission that won’t solve anything. The only reason that this subplot exists is so Jesse could accidentally prove that Savitar is a man, not a true god, and he can be hurt, something that the show kind of already spoiled at length, due to his repeated references to Barry imprisoning him in the future. Beyond that, the final result of Jesse managing to get away, only to have to go patrol Earth-3 while Jay is stuck in the Speed Force, is kind of fitting, but also frustrating at the same time, since the big deal of Jesse moving to Wally’s universe is now swept under the rug for probably the rest of the season. It’s like the show just suddenly didn’t have enough room for Jesse, and had to find an excuse to temporarily get rid of her.
Another really infuriating final result in this episode is Barry inexplicably deciding that he and Iris need to go on a break and take space from each other, simply because he has to solve the problem of saving her from Savitar himself. What? What kind of sense does that make?! This also feels very forced, since there’s no believable reason for Barry to be apart from Iris, especially since there’s still the fairly sizable chance that he may fail, and be unable to save Iris. If Barry is, “Embracing the future” now, doesn’t he need to embrace the strong possibility that Iris can’t be saved? Why in the world would he push her away and waste that precious time then?!
These fumbles in the conclusion do hurt, “Into the Speed Force” a fair bit, though at least Barry finally fully putting together the implications of meddling with time, and deciding to embrace Iris’ life being in his hands and his alone, was a fair enough final result from the second jump into the Speed Force. Jay’s sacrifice and the reunion with several classic guest stars is definitely the height of the episode, even if Jesse having to be punted over to Earth-3 right as her relationship with Wally starts truly blossoming feels like a really frustrating casualty of Season Three’s current direction, even if it does keep her effectively tied up for next week’s musical crossover with Supergirl. Most annoying of all though is the fact that we’re back to dragging out the Savitar mystery, and worse, dragging it out on twists that viewers would have already put together. Next time Barry meets the so-called ‘God of Speed’, he should just fill in the rest of the blanks so that the show’s pacing can start logically moving toward the impending season climax.
- Good chance to revisit fallen characters of the past
- Barry finally fully learning to embrace the integrity of time
- Jay's big sacrifice to save Wally
- Jesse's idiotic mission to fight Savitar by herself
- Savitar being vulnerable isn't much of a surprise
- Barry distancing himself from Iris for no credible reason