Season 3 was the most uneven season of The Flash to date, even if it did pick up quite a lot at the end. The show still has a lot to prove as The Flash season 4 goes underway. There were two core tasks that the premiere of the new season had to fulfill; first, it needed to explore the status-quo of Team Flash without Barry Allen, thanks to the dramatic cliffhanger left behind in the finale of season 3. Secondly, it had to make this season a considerably lighter version of the show as it had been before the third season forayed into relative darkness. However, ‘The Flash Reborn’ was only able to fulfill just one of these tasks.
This is the second time that the show has not capitalized on what could have been a status-quo shifting and shattering twist. In the season 2 finale, the stage had been set for a full-blown adaptation of the Flashpoint storyline from the comics, but season 3 had managed to restore the old timeline rather painlessly in only one episode. Likewise, season 3 ended with Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen walking into the Speed Force in leaving Cisco in charge and Wally the task to carry on team Flash in his absence.
But, again, instead of digging into the dramatic upheaval that could have been caused by Barry’s departure, the show focused on bringing him back and wiped off the possible consequences as quickly as possible. Moreover, Wally seemed to be cast aside really quickly in the episode, which doesn’t really sit well. Yes, since the show is about The Flash, it wouldn’t be realistic to believe that he could ever replace Barry, but it would have been better for the writers to let him get some time in the spotlight and let him try to take on the impossible challenge of living up to Barry’s example.
However, the writers opted to drag Barry into the mix again and the only thing we got from Wally’s tenure is that he is not as good as the real thing. He didn’t prove to be fast enough to stop the Samuroid robot of Clifford De Voe so Cisco and gang had no choice but to bring back the ‘real’ Flash. At some point, we are going to wonder the purpose Wally serves in the show and was it a good idea to fast-track his transformation into Kid Flash when he really is not adding much.
One of the frustrating things about the sudden return of Barry Allen is that it felt rather unearned and cheap. It was established in the finale that it was impossible to free Barry from the Speed Force without destroying Central City, but Cisco had some vague epiphany, which he did not care to explain, and suddenly he had some machine that could bring Barry back without any consequences. Yes, Barry did suffer from a bout of insanity, but that was only temporary and it seemed as if the cliffhanger of the previous season was just a waste of time.
Instead of being a dramatic new development, the storyline was only a minor inconvenience in Barry’s life and they managed to overcome it quite easily. There is a possibility that there is more to the storyline than meets the eye, as it happened with Flashpoint, and there will be consequences later on. It was clear that De Voe was only manipulating Team Flash to get them to bring back his nemesis, which means he could have a better understanding of the Speed Force than they do. While the cliffhanger may not have been fully explored, the show came through on the second promise; it is heading in an enjoyable and pleasant direction.
The playful dynamic and banter of Wally and Cisco early on in the episode set a nice tone and it continued as Gustin did a good job of playing an addled-Barry Allen. It is a disappointment that we won’t get to see Cisco and Wally work together to save Central City a couple more times. Other than that, watching Iris take the lead and be in control was also a great change. She is now heading Team Flash since Barry left and she always comes off good when she is being assertive and proactive rather than being a damsel in distress.
Even though she was kidnapped by the villain, this time it was by choice as she wanted to shock Barry in order to bring him back to reality. The discussion between Iris and Joe about having faith was one of the best scenes of the episode. As a whole, the dynamic of the entire Team Flash seems to be on very strong footing this time around. Clearly, the showrunners intend to trim the cast a bit, which is exactly what was needed as STAR Labs had gotten quite crowded.
Julian’s departure seemed a bit abrupt, but there wasn’t any reason to keep him around. Also, there is no denying that we love the character of Harrison Wells, but there was no need to bring about another variation of him so soon. In addition, it was also good to see Caitlin being inducted into Team Flash once again, even though it seemed a bit sudden after she disappeared in the season 3 finale. This year, the cast seems a bit more manageable than before and the only really addition is Wally, who still remains questionable.
The writers didn’t waste any time and immediately dived right into the overarching conflict of the season with The Thinker. After having three speedsters as villains, it is nice to see a different breed of criminal mastermind. We didn’t get to see the actor himself much but DeVoe’s theatrics in the form of the goofy Samuroid were a good addition. It seems as if he will be creating the villains for Team Flash this time rather than blaming the particle accelerator explosion and introducing a complicated backstory. In a nutshell, the season 4 premiere remains a bit divided and future episodes will indicate where it goes.