NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
The Flash definitely hit several stumbling blocks during last season, but it did at least manage to right itself enough for the final confrontation and defeat of Savitar. Still, it’s difficult to argue that the previous season of The Flash tried to go too dark, and ultimately didn’t succeed. Disappointingly, this flaw noticeably carries over into this week’s fourth season premiere for The Flash as well, which feels like it has to suffer through more dreariness and gloom before it can actually get to the more light-hearted direction that the series wants to go for this season.
Compounding the issues with, “The Flash Reborn” is the fact that the show quickly throws up its hands in terms of an attempt at shaking things up, and immediately speeds back to mostly forcing everything back to normal. Rather than give at least a couple of episodes to Wally trying to succeed Barry as the new hero of Central City for example, The Flash quickly pushes that arc aside in favour of another contrived story arc that gives Cisco all of the justification he needs to yank Barry right back out of the Speed Force, conveniently tricking the dimension beyond time and space itself with a dummy energy that makes it think Barry is still in there. Because DC, and who cares anyway, because we just need Grant Gustin back.
I get that Barry is the cornerstone of this show, and Gustin’s Barry Allen is one of the main reasons that I enjoy the series, and I imagine the same is true for most regular viewers. Even so however, the missed opportunities with Wally’s character here are numerous, making one wonder why The Flash even bothered to make Wally into Kid Flash, if it wasn’t going to make him anything more than a needless sidekick and a rank amateur. Iris kicks up a stink at Cisco about the implication that they should just toss Wally into the Speed Force and grab Barry again, but to be blunt, why don’t they do that? Sure, Wally is a beloved member of the West family, but The Flash hasn’t been able to make him feel truly indispensable up to this point. He still feels too much like a tag-along, and that’s really disappointing, since Wally served as the one and only Flash in DC Comics lore for decades, after Barry’s demise in the printed panels during the Crisis on Infinite Earths event in the 80’s.
So, fine, Barry is back. Cisco’s latest plot-convenient device pulls Barry out of the Speed Force, with just one minor glitch, and the team reunites with Barry at CCPD, where he writes and speaks in gibberish. This is potentially interesting, since Cisco brings up having to decode Barry’s writing and garbled speech. Even if the show did insist on bringing Barry back to Earth right from the season premiere, Barry’s scrambled mind would have been a great excuse to keep him benched for a few episodes, forcing Wally to try and stand on his own without him. Alas, no. Instead, Iris stupidly gets herself kidnapped in the mother of all bad plans, which conveniently shocks Barry back to his senses, and immediately restores him to full lucidity and power. What?! I’m sorry, but that just feels like lazy writing. Why even bother tossing Barry into the Speed Force in the end, if he was just going to bail everyone out before the following season premiere even ended?
As you can see, there’s a lot to be frustrated about in this season premiere for The Flash, though fortunately, not all of it was a bust. The return of Caitlin Snow actually did work fairly well, as Caitlin works in a dive bar, and seems to be under the thumb of some mysterious criminal. The enforcer harassing her at the end of the episode even temporarily brings out Caitlin’s deadly Killer Frost side again, suggesting that, even though she’s once again a proud member of Team Flash, Caitlin is still struggling with her Killer Frost identity. This story arc has a lot of potential, and if it’s done right, it could be the well-developed and robust Killer Frost arc that Caitlin’s character deserves, and didn’t totally get last season.
Another better element to this season premiere is Cisco and Iris disagreeing on whether or not to bring back Barry. Having Iris be the one to try and aggressively move on, while Cisco finds himself unable to, made for a few moments of genuinely effective drama, which also nicely played against expectations. Iris confessing to the mentally scrambled Barry that she couldn’t look back because she didn’t want to be reminded of what she lost was a particularly heart-wrenching moment, especially when this was complemented by Cisco’s translation program failing to translate Barry’s writing as anything but more nonsense. Unfortunately though, this further begs the question of why the show was in such a rush to bring Barry back to top form. Surely, more drama and character development could have been mined from Barry being temporarily incapacitated, not to mention completely bonkers.
This brings me to the villain-of-the-week, a mysterious samurai android known as the ‘Samuroid’, and while these robotic henchmen do exist in DC Comics lore, the random placement of one in this episode feels kind of bizarre. The Samuroid declares that it will destroy Central City if it doesn’t fight The Flash, mostly serving as a convenient catalyst to motivate Cisco bringing Barry back from the Speed Force. The final reveal that the Samuroid was designed and commanded by Clifford DeVoe, a.k.a. The Thinker, the big bad of this season, whom we glimpse briefly in the episode’s final seconds, is kind of intriguing, though it’s still a bit weird as to why The Thinker randomly built a Samuroid. Yes, it’s something to do with respecting 12th Century Japan, but that still feels random. Nonetheless, The Thinker’s design is pretty cool, and his hi-tech lair is definitely pretty stylish. It certainly seems like this villain already has a pretty well-developed racket going on, and I look forward to seeing what’s next with him.
“The Flash Reborn” definitely felt weighed down by having to waste an episode completely cleaning up the less effective ideas of last season, a problem that also noticeably hurt yesterday’s season premiere of Supergirl. Barry’s hasty and contrived return makes one wonder why the series even bothered to imprison him in the Speed Force at all, especially when it criminally cheats Wally and Cisco out of a more independent superhero career. The character drama with Cisco, Joe, Iris and Caitlin at least worked well, with Caitlin’s revised Killer Frost storyline also carrying some solid promise, but I just wish that The Flash had not yet again squandered a big season cliffhanger’s fallout so early on. Hopefully, this flawed season premiere is an isolated incident though, and, much like Supergirl, The Flash can start moving on to better storylines, with the molting of the previous season’s issues hopefully fully cast off from here.
- Cisco and Iris butting heads over Barry's imprisonment
- Promising new Killer Frost arc for Caitlin
- Exciting first look at The Thinker and his operation
- Barry's Speed Force imprisonment might as well have not happened
- Samuroid appearance feels inexplicable
- Wally short-changed as a hero yet again