Fall Season means it’s time to drink pumpkin spice lattes and to see the DCTV shows come back from their long slumbers. Last night, The Flash premiered its fourth season with “The Flash Reborn” and promises of lighter times ahead after dark happenings with Savitar last year.
We pick up six months after Barry left the We Beat Savitar Party early to trap himself inside the speedforce so Central City wouldn’t blow up. Iris’s narration tells us that she has been doing what she promised Barry: running forward. We see that right away with her being the somewhat leader of Team Kid Flash as she coordinates a successful mission to capture Peek-a-Boo, whom you might remember from earlier seasons.
Joe, Cecille, and Iris have a nice family dinner. Joe interrupts to tell her daughter that the CCPD wants to hire someone to replace Barry who, publicly, is on sabbatical. Iris agrees because she is of the mind that Barry will never come back. Joe starts to discuss dealing with their grief, but Iris shuts this down. She believes she is being stronger by moving forward instead of crying all day. Personally, I hate the way this was scripted because grief and depression hit people differently, so sometimes, crying all day is being your stronger self when you’re trying to shut down even worse thoughts. The implication that only people who can put themselves together right away are strong is not very thoughtful, or helpful.
That same night, Central City is attacked by a flying samurai who threatens to explode the city with his super-sword if he doesn’t get The Flash back. Using the opportunity, Cisco lights up the “Let’s Bring Barry Back” train which he has been working on for the last six months in secret. It’s a classic case of the “I want to erase this plot point from last season now that it has planted the seed of drama” type of cancer that affects writers everywhere!
Iris starts asking the right logistical questions, but the narrative somehow paints her in a bad light. She tasks the team with finding another way of dealing with the samurai to which they all agree, but Cisco decides to make a visit to Caitlin. He finds her—for the first time in the six months, apparently—bartending at a sleazy venue without her Killer Frosty murderous antics and wild blonde hair. Caitlin keeps coy about how she is back to herself again (did the writers know?) and why she didn’t go back to her friends (again, did the writers know?). Thankfully, Cisco manages to convince Caitlin to help him pull Barry out of the speedforce.
The next day, Cisco, Caitlin, Joe, and Wally find themselves at a landing strip from season one where they will use a modified Speedforce Bazooka to do some Weird Science ™ and bring our boy home. To the gang’s sadness, the attempt doesn’t yield results, but that’s only because some extra drama was necessary. Immediately in the next scene, a portal opens *somewhere in Central City* and Barry makes him running return.
Team Flash starts arguing about the events of the day when Joe receives a call from Cecille telling him that Barry is at the CCPD. When we see them back together, Barry is writing some odd pictorial language on the walls and not speaking coherent thoughts. Oh, he’s also sporting Grant Gustin’s hiatus beard, which gets chopped before the episode ends because the CW won’t let him have nice things.
According to Caitlin, Barry could either be assigning wrong definitions to words OR be suffering from dementia from potentially years spent alone in the speedforce. “The Flash Reborn” makes yet another season 1 reference by reenacting a pilot episode where Barry wakes up at STAR Labs. The team finds Barry still drawing when Iris asks for a moment alone with him. She tells the audience him about how she has been handling the past months and rationalizes not wanting Cisco to try to bring him back because she felt that, if it went wrong, it would be like losing him all over again. Her emotional speech elicits a response from Barry who starts running around the lab all Flashy before Caitlin hits him with an ice gun.
As the Samurai returns for some casually scheduled mayhem, Wally tries impersonating The Flash to trick him which, you know, would work if the show kept some modicum of consistency with Wally’s character and speed. In a few episodes last season, he was the only one fast enough to potentially save Iris, but now, he can’t hit three punches without being stabbed in the leg. Like… make up your damn mind, show, jeez. Oh, you know what? I take what I said back; The Flash does keep consistency when it comes to the speedsters’ speeds as they are only as fast as the plot needs them to be.
Caitlin gives Cisco an idea to how to decrypt Barry’s writing, but the translation comes out as “This house is bitchin’”, so, not good or very useful. The two then discuss how, apparently, Cisco’s main goal was to bring back Barry (and Caitlin) together instead of saving the city.
After an inspiring conversation with her dad, Iris decides to turn herself in to the Samurai, telling him that The Flash will come to her. Joe tells Barry that Iris is going to die and that triggers him to escape his confinement cell (which he was put in so that he wouldn’t run around), get his new suit, and go after the samurai at never-seen-before speed.
Barry reaches the Samurai at a field of wind turbines that some very talented folk probably spent the last three months working hard at with well-rendered CGI…all so that the samurai could take down several of them. Quite obviously, Barry saves Iris and defeats that samurai who, when unmasked, ta da da daaaaaaa, it’s an android saying “Welcome home!”.
Team Flash rejoices at STAR Labs even if, very conveniently, Barry has no memory of anything since he stepped into the speedforce. Caitlin affirms she will be back the next day before going back to the bar to quit (her boss’s name is Amunet, which could be important eventually) and transforming into Killer Frost to attack some lackey. Thankfully, she manages to turn back into Caitlin, who is not too thrilled by Killer Frost’s 30 seconds of freedom. Iris and Barry have a sweet reunion moment at their apartment, then we are treated to a reveal of the party responsible for the samurai: the Mechanic and her leader, the Thinker.
So… that was definitely an episode, wasn’t it? I most definitely appreciated the effort put into it, but it felt like a story I had already seen at least three times before. Once again, Candice Patton, my love, was the absolute MVP, being the best Iris even if for a second there I felt uncomfortable with the scripting surround grief. In my opinion, I wish the show had the guts to remain Barry-free for more time, you know? Like, the season finale definitely made it seem like once Barry was inside the speedforce, there was no way out. This could be a chance for the show to reboot itself using Kid Flash…but no. Barry is back. The emotional punch I felt last May feels unnecessary now. And they came up with a really uncreative way of backtracking their own writing so… yikes.
As for what the future holds, I definitely have hope. This is going to be the first year where we won’t deal with a main villain who is a speedster, so that will surely feel and look different. Hopefully not like a knockoff of some other straight white male villain who is always ten steps ahead, you know? Because those eventually get boring.
Next week, Barry and Iris go to couples’ counseling, and I’m genuinely excited for that, so pleeeease be good!