NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
The Flash is returning after a month off the air this week, to finally move the last pieces into place for the final battle against Savitar. Much like yesterday’s episode of Supergirl, this week’s episode of The Flash is also a particularly strong one, as, “The Once and Future Flash” sets up an intriguing scenario of Barry running to the future to discover life after his confrontation with the so-called God of Speed, and as you can imagine, things don’t look too good in Central City circa 2024.
With Barry doing what he can to comfort Iris amidst the seemingly inevitable future continuing to close in on them, The Flash is soon after called into S.T.A.R. Labs, where Cisco, H.R. and Julian are attempting to escape the onslaught of icy wrath from Caitlin, now fully transformed into Killer Frost! Barry arrives in time to save everyone, but Killer Frost gets away clean, which is when Barry decides that he must run to the future as a last ditch means of learning Savitar’s true identity, and potential weakness.
With some help from Wally, Barry manages to get to the future, and naturally, it’s pretty bleak. After barely managing to escape an attack from Top and Mirror Master, who are still very much active villains in the future, Barry goes to his former apartment, and meets with an older Cisco. Cisco, overjoyed to see Barry, has to be the one to tell him that Team Flash split up not long after Iris’ death, and the Barry of that future has gone into hiding. After Cisco deposits Barry at the ruined S.T.A.R. Labs, the present-day Barry then has to piece together how Team Flash came apart, and what he can do to try and stop this dark future.
Once again, Barry finds himself fighting against the threat of time itself in this latest conflict, but this was an especially clever way to pit him against a seemingly unchangeable future. Grant Gustin delivered a highlight performance as two very different sides of Barry in this episode, playing both a still-hopeful present-day Barry, as well as a broken, brooding future Barry that has given up his duties as The Flash. Barry confronting his future self was a particularly great dramatic scene, as the two get into a heated argument about the death of the woman they love, that neither of them can seemingly change, and how the present-day Barry has no idea what kind of agony he’s in for when it comes to pass.
Fortunately, the despair never became laid on too thick, even as Barry finds himself trapped in the future for a bit, due to the technical intervention of Cisco. Seeing the past Barry start gradually pulling the team back together, uniting Julian, Joe and H.R. with Cisco again (Barry and Cisco visit Wally, but he is paralyzed and mute due to a shattered spine), was effective and inspiring, giving Barry a means of saving his future, even when the worst case scenario already appears to have transpired. Even then however, the conflict is smartly not completely fixed, as Caitlin is still very much out of reach, having been imprisoned by Julian, who has devoted his life to curing her and returning her to normal. Naturally, Killer Frost also ended up aligning herself with Savitar, and has become truly lost to Team Flash, even as Barry works to inspire them to take back Central City again. Even if Barry does save Iris, it would certainly be very interesting to see Caitlin nonetheless slip away from him past this point on the series. Despite Barry being so devoted to changing Iris’ fate, is he going to sacrifice Caitlin in the process?
Of course, as great as this episode was, there were some small sticking points in an otherwise standout storyline. Mirror Master and Top still don’t feel like effectively developed villains, especially with how easily they’re taken out in the end, once Barry is bailed out by his future self, sporting a slick future Flash suit! It’s also a bit frustrating that the show is still dragging out the mystery of Savitar’s identity, frustratingly having the mastermind behind Savitar come out of the armour in the episode’s epilogue, to fulfill the prophecy of recruiting Killer Frost to his side, only the camera doesn’t pan around to show who the real Savitar is. Ugh, seriously?! There’s only a few episodes left in the season, just tell us who the bastard is already! On the bright side, it looks like the show is finally going to spill the beans on who Savitar is next week, but given how much this reveal is built up, it really better not disappoint!
Despite the continued frustrations with the villains though, The Flash resumed in mostly top form in its latest episode, with Barry’s trip to the future not yielding fruit regarding Savitar’s identity, but nonetheless giving him a fantastic way to find his resolve, even in the worst case scenario. It’s also interesting to get a peek at the potential climax of The Flash’s run as a whole, seeing as H.R., Joe, Cisco and Julian are all alive and well in 2024 (which also eliminates them as Savitar suspects), and at least some of the beloved Flash antagonists of DC Comics lore are still reliably menacing Central City. Hopefully by a potential tenth season though, we get a little more worthwhile development on Top and Mirror Master, since the show still has plenty of better Rogues in its arsenal than them for now!
- Barry inspiring hope, even in the worst possible outcome
- Standout dramatic performance from Grant Gustin
- Caitlin being effectively re-positioned as a villain
- Top and Mirror Master are still weak recurring villains
- The Savitar mysteries are still overstaying their welcome