[Spoilers ahead in this review]
This week we are treated to the return of the CW’s hit show The Flash. The episode picks up 6 months after the events of the season 3 finale. The audience is introduced to the newest iteration of Team Flash which is made up of Wally, Cisco, Iris, and Joe. The team is going up against Peek-a-boo who is taken down by Iris recognizing her teleportation pattern and directing the boys on how to defeat her. After the battle, we get a glimpse at how the characters have changed since Barry’s imprisonment in the Speed Force. Its back at Star Labs that it becomes most apparent that Iris has been most affected by Barry’s absence. She seems to have become much sterner and much tougher on not just Wally, but also Cisco.
Later at a family dinner at Joe’s place that we learn that he and Cecile are in the process of moving in together. However, the most important thing that we learn during this scene is that the Central City Police Department is looking to hire someone to fill Barry’s position due to his extended absence. Joe explained Barry’s absence to the CCPD as him being on an extended sabbatical in South America. Upon hearing the news Iris seems slightly supportive while still a bit apprehensive and clearly upset about it. Iris leaves Joe and Cecile’s place clearly upset.
Upon returning to the loft that Iris and Barry shared Iris discovers the episodes villain a powerful samurai character that enters Central City through a breach. The character is searching for the Flash more specifically Barry. The character displays just how powerful he is by slamming his sword to the ground and releasing a powerful wave of energy that tears through the street destroying cars and knocking our heroes out. The effects during this scene were some of the best the show has had in a long time.
We meet the heroes back at Star Labs where we learn that Cisco has essentially consulted with every corner of the DCTV trying to develop a way to bring Barry out of the Speed Force much to the protests of Iris. Later we see Cisco visit Caitlin at a dive bar where the two momentarily converse. We cut to Iris at Star Labs clearly upset when she realizes that Cisco is about to attempt to bring Barry back. The scene then cuts Cisco, Joe, and Wally on the same runway that we’ve seen in previous seasons, the same runway that Wells/Thawne trained Barry to use his speed on. Cisco and the crew carry out his plan to bring Barry back from the Speed Force while also stabilizing it and at first it seems the plan didn’t work until the scene cuts to a different part of Central City where a large orangish breach opens. We see a mysterious figure burst from the portal in a flurry of lightning. The figure races through the city and then to the countryside where he stops in front of a pickup truck and in this moment it is revealed that the figure is a bearded Barry fresh from the speed force.
Barry returning in the first episode was extremely disappointed to me because it didn’t truly give Wally the opportunity to truly shine like I’d love to have seen him do. He carried the mantle of the Flash for six months and we didn’t get to see any of that which honestly is a disservice to the character and the near 20 years that Wally West spent in the comics as the Flash. It would have been great to see Wally take up the mantle of the Flash as a way of paying homage to Barry and honestly because…..he earned it.
Back in Star Labs Iris is expressing her anger with Cisco and Caitlin when Joe receives a call from Cecile. The team arrives at the CCPD headquarters where Cecile takes them to a room and the team is reunited with Barry. It is in this scene that Grant Gustin proves himself to be a fantastic actor. In the scene, the team learns that the Barry who returned to them was suffering from some mental confusion due to his time in the speed force. Grant Gustin displays a fantastic array of emotions and he perfectly expresses Barry’s confusion and the business within his mind. Barry is seen scribbling weird symbols on the walls of the room he’s being held in and the situation leaves everyone close to him worried, sad, and confused. Caitlyn sedates Barry and they get him back to Star Labs in the hope that they can fix him.
Of the next scenes, the most important one comes when Barry is awoken to the musical stylings of Pokerface by Lady Gaga. Barry still seems to be confused which prompts Iris to ask for everyone in the room to give her and Barry some alone time. It’s during this scene that I think Candice Patton has finally gotten to shine on the Flash. It is during this scene that we finally get to know how Iris feels and how all of this has truly affected her. She expresses how she tried to do what Barry asked her to do and how she tried to be strong and keep moving forward. Candice does a fantastic job at conveying the absolute pain that Iris has been in since having to give Barry up to the Speed Force and for the first time in this scene, Iris felt like more of a character than a prop. Iris felt like a character with true feelings and motivations and like the actions of the world actually affected her.
The Samurai character returns and Wally and the team try to fool him by having Wally go after him in Barry’s old suit, but the samurai quickly dispatches Wally, stabbing him through the leg with his sword. The samurai proclaims that Wally isn’t the real Flash before he offers up a 24hr time limit for the real Flash to appear before the city “crumbles”.
In an attempt to return Barry back to himself Iris gives herself over to the Samurai stating that “If you want the Flash to take me, he will come for me”. This was the one aspect of the episode that I was not a fan of because after all of this growth and character development that Iris has gone through this episode this reduced her to a damsel in a way. Iris’s survival was dependent upon Barry’s ability to come back to himself and rescue her. Joe races back to Barry’s holding cell and tells him about Iris which causes a reaction that in fact causes Barry to regain his mental state.
It is in the scene where Barry truly returns that we learn that he has become the fastest speedster ever. Not only does he take the new suit that Cisco creates for him but he has gone after the samurai in an attempt to save Iris. The team is astonished by just how fast Barry has become, even Wally who was originally the fastest is surprised by how fast Barry is running. Upon reaching Iris and the Samurai Barry quickly dispatches the samurai and saves Iris. After saving Iris the duo learns that the samurai wasn’t a human in a suit, but it was a robot created by someone.
Before the episode ends the audience is treated to the first appearance of the 4th season’s main villain “The Tinkerer” who is sporting a rather interesting high-tech design. I greatly look forward to the seasons’ villain as it is a departure from the Flash’s history of using speedsters as villains. It should be interesting seeing Barry have to us his other skills and his brain to defeat a villain.
One of the best parts of this first episode is the character interactions that we as fans are treated to. We are treated to heartfelt interactions and deep looks into the main characters feelings, their hopes, their fears, and their desires as it relates to losing and regaining Barry from the speed force. I was most pleased with the character development that Iris was given during this episode and the fact that the Flash writers are finally paying attention to her. I genuinely hope that the 4th season continues this tone and continues to develop and advance the characters.