Given the way the fourth season of The Flash has played out so far, it is nice when the show gives you the reminder that it still has what it takes to recapture the audience’s attention and bring back the old magic. For a series that has been perpetually troubled, Enter Flashtime served as much-needed return to form. The epsidoe was able to accomplish this not by focusing on the major conflict between Barry and Clifford DeVoe. Instead, it involved a completely different and excellent premise that was aimed at pushing Barry Allen to his physical and mental limits.
One of the biggest challenges we have seen in this season is of coming up with ways to test Barry because his new speed powers have now become limitless, which doesn’t leave room for much. When you have the ability to freeze time itself, it is no longer fun to bring in another speedster villain to chase over and over again. For all of the problems we have seen so far in the fourth installment of the series, it has done well in this regard. After all, Clifford DeVoe is proof that speed can only get you so far when your enemy can outthink you.
With ‘Enter Flashtime’, the series set an excellent example of how the turbo-charged hero can be challenged in new and unique ways. In this episode, Barry had to deal with a problem that seemed to have no solution; how do you stop nuclear bomb from detonating when it is in the midst of the process of going off? Sure, you can freeze time, but it is only a way to delay it and nothing can stop the inevitable. Despite his powers, Barry has to be just an observer who is helpless and is faced with the prospect of having his home and the people he loves being destroyed in hot fire.
The stakes were clearly high in this episode, which came off quite good even though it was divorced from the primary conflict this season. Showrunners definitely need to give this approach another look. Grant Gustin did really well in this episode. The entire thing was depending on his ability to convey the physical toll and increasing desperation of the situation on Barry and he succeeded magnificently. The fact that for most of the episode, the rest of Team Flash was frozen in time, only ended up highlighting his performance even more.
The use of lighting in this episode was another appealing factor. The heavy purples, oranges and reds gave the frozen Central City a beautiful yet eerie quality. It was also interesting because it gave the viewers an idea of what the world looks like to the Flash when he is running at top speed. As far as the climax is concerned, it was also a visual showcase in itself. There was a slow-motion nuclear explosion and the lightning effects were eye-popping. Dramatically and visually, the episode did really well with the premise and the results were really great and something we have all missed.
The appearance of Jay Garrick and Jesse Quick was another aspect that helped the episode. It is a fact that neither of these characters were vital to the overall plot. They only served as someone Barry could interact with while staying at hyper-speed for a couple of minutes. But, it is always fun to see how these younger heroes interact with each other as well as the way they respond to the elder speedster that is Jay. It also seems highly likely that the writers are gearing up to sacrifice Jay Garrick and bring in a new speedster in the form of Mystery Girl (Jessica Parker Kennedy). It will definitely be disappointing to see John Wesley Shipp go, but it might be the right time for him to take his final bow.
It wasn’t Jesse’s speedster antics that added much to the episode. Rather, it was the tension with her father that added onto the plot of the episode. Granted, the sudden emphasis on the dysfunctional relationship between the two and Harry’s grief over the death of his wife was not of much interest. As a matter of fact, in the initial moments, it seemed as if the writers were just trying to add more drama to an episode that was already full to the brim. However, this subplot actually turned out to be a good one.
The bomb threat lent a greater sense of urgency to the entire rift between father and daughter. Even better was the bay the conflict was resolved. It was very touching and sweet to see Harry literally open up his mind to his daughter so he would be able to express things that he couldn’t put into words. This scene packed a powerful punch even though it just showed two people starting at each other while wearing some silly headgear.
The combination of these moments made ‘Enter Flashtime’ one of the best episode of the fourth season. This indicates that perhaps what the series needs is a sense of simplicity whereas the writers are only making things too complicated. Maybe it is time to put season-long conflicts behind and keep it fresh for every episode which would require lesser characters. This seems very promising because the episode was able to have such a great impact even though it ignored characters like Ralph and DeVoe and just focused on Barry for a change.
This is something the writers and showrunners need to consider as they start planning the fifth season. Nonetheless, it is good to know that The Flash still has its mojo. In a nutshell, this episode was able to succeed because it opted to downplay the newer characters that have been added this season and used a cleaver and simple premise that ensured Barry remained in the spotlight. As the speedster was tested in new ways, it led to strong character drama. The only downside is that there is no reason to indicate this will continue for the remaining episodes.