Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Flash Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 11 - The Reverse Flash Returns

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.


The return of Eobard Thawne was the last thing Team Flash thought they had to worry about following Eddie's noble sacrifice. So when Cisco announces that he had a vibe of The Reverse Flash returning in his original body, nobody takes it seriously... until Dr. Tina McGee is kidnapped by a familiar figure in a yellow suit and her tachyon device is stolen again! Meanwhile, Iris tries to make peace with her mother and tries to build a bridge to her estranged brother Wally, as Caitlin struggles to find a cure for the ailing Jay Garrick.


Mark Waid's The Return of Barry Allen  (established Eobard Thawne as a Flash fanboy from a future where the 21st century superheroes were forgotten and went mad when he discovered he was destined to become his hero's greatest enemy) and Back To The Future (Cisco's fading out of existence is visually similar to what happens to Marty after he nearly causes his parents to never fall in love and the phrase 'back to the future" is dropped several times.)


Barry's sudden fears about Zoom or the Reverse Flash being able to use Patty against him seem rather nonsensical. Ignoring that ignorance is a poor shield and that Patty's life as a cop is dangerous enough as-is, The Turtle nearly killed Patty last week in spite of her knowing nothing about Barry's life as The Flash! And ignorance of Barry's secret didn't help Iris at all during Season One!

For that matter, there's no good reason why her leaving to become finish her degree CSI means they have to end their romance other than giving Barry more "I am destined to give up everything to be a hero" angst. Heck, given Barry's powers, he would have an easier time than most coping with a long-distance relationship.

Really, apart from building the drama, there's no good reason why Jay should tell Caitlin to wait a day and to meet him at a park in order to explain why her plan to replace his genetic material with that of his Earth One counterpart won't work.


One of the biggest problems with the first season of The Flash was that Candice Patton was so rarely given any action of consequence beyond being a love interest or a hostage. Here, she gets two great scenes - one in which Irish confronts and forgives the mother who abandoned her and one where she confronts her estranged brother about his need to find peace with their mother as well. Both are powerful scenes and she sells both beautifully.

As stupid as Barry and Patty's respective decisions as characters are, Grant Gustin and Shantel VanSanten sell the hell out of them. Their chemistry is amazing and it is heart breaking watching Barry and Patty break-up because Barry is too noble to ask Patty to stay with him and give up her dream and she wants nothing more than to hear him say he wants her to share his life, come what may.

It's a subtle thing, but Harry's attitude toward Cisco changes slowly over the course of this episode and Tom Cavanagh does a masterful job of playing it up. From his annoyance to Cisco's slurping his coffee to his newfound enthusiasm for helping Cisco take control of his powers to the tense scenes in which Harry is the first person to start screaming at Barry about doing whatever it takes to save Cisco's life.  This final scene is particularly stunning and reminds us of the conflict from last season where - despite knowing Eobard Thawne's status as a villain - we still weren't exactly what to make of him. This season, we know that Harry is working to betray the team but he still feels something for the people who are helping him to save his daughter.


The opening sequence - in which Barry has to stop a speeding, out-of-control chemical truck - is a nice bit of ironic comedy and a display of Barry's intelligence and creativity saving the day in a situation where just running fast isn't enough.  The entire sequence is also well directed.

The whole scene in which Barry races to save Dr. McGee from The Reverse Flash.  Effects. Direction. Performances. Everything.

Flash Facts

Einstein's Riddle is a famous logic puzzle apocryphally attributed to the famous physicist. It is also attributed to Lewis Carroll. Whoever created it, it's good at proving the point that anything can be solved through a long consideration of known facts and the process of elimination.

The goggles which Harry modifies for Cisco to wear in order to stimulate his powers resemble the goggles worn by Cisco's comic-book counterpart as part of his Vibe costume.

Another nod to the importance of the number 52 - Christina McGee dies at 9:52 pm in Cisco's vision.

The revelation that Eobard Thawne was a Flash fanboy from a future where the superheroes of the 21st century were legends whose identities were lost to history is taken from a Mark Waid Flash comic called The Return of Barry Allen. This comic revealed that Eobard Thawne duplicated the accident that created The Flash and traveled back in time in order to meet his hero.  He wound up arriving in a museum devoted to The Flash several centuries after Barry Allen's death and discovered that a man named Eobard Thawne from his time period traveled back in time and become The Flash's greatest enemy. This knowledge drove Thawne mad and made him determined to destroy the legacy he'd once sought to emulate.

Jay Garrick reveals that his Earth One counterpart is a man named Hunter Zolomon. In the comics, Hunter Zolomon is the name of the man who became the second Reverse Flash a.k.a. Zoom.


Harry determines that Cisco's Vibe powers depend upon an adrenaline rush to function and for dopamine to flood his brain. He confronts Cisco in the Reverse Flash costume, triggering a vision of The Reverse Flash kidnapping Tina McGee.

Harry theorizes that The Speed Force may have protected Eobard Thawne from the consequences of a time paradox, keeping his personal timeline intact in order to prevent the greater problems caused by his never existing at all. This turned Eobard Thawne's personal time-line into a time-line remnant.

This means that while Eddie Thawne killing himself did kill off his future descendant, it would not stop versions of Eobard Thawne who were outside of normal time and space from existing at moments prior to that moment on his personal timeline, where his presence was needed to bring about a fixed point in time - such as Nora Allen's death. So  Barry can do nothing to this younger version of Eobard Thawne because the consequences of the younger Thawne not going on to become his older self - such as Cisco fading out of reality due to what the older version of Thawne did to him - could be disastrous.

Caitlin comes up with a plan to cure the condition that is causing Jay Garrick to break down on a cellular level by replacing his dying cells with fresh living cells from his Earth One counterpart. Jay later tells her this won't work because he tracked down his Earth One counterpart and due to his genetics having been mutated by the accident that gave him his speed powers, their DNA would not match.

Thawne tells Dr. McGee to isolate and accelerate the energetic properties of the tachyons so he can use them to power himself up to achieve the speed needed to travel through time.

Harry adds a wavelength trigger to Cisco's goggles. This stimulates the fear receptors in Cisco's brain. Harry also took what Cisco had in the goggles to induce slow-wave sleep (aka Stage 3 sleep) and upgraded it to immediately send Cisco into Stage 4 Sleep (aka delta sleep). This gives them greater control over Cisco's vibes and allows them to focus his visions as well as dictate how long they last. This leads to the discovery that Cisco can see not only what has happened but also what might happen - not just in alternate timelines but in the immediate future of Earth One - as he sees Christina McGee's death some four hours before it is due to occur.

Harry says that superluminal energy is needed to send someone through time. Superluminal is the technical term for faster-than-light.

Thawne's imprisonment leads to Cisco entering a prolonged state of chronic seizing as an uncontrollable amount of electrical energy overwhelms his brain. This is due to the side-effects of the paradox caused by Barry's intention to lock up Eobard Thawne forever, thus preventing him from going on to give Cisco his powers.

Caitlin uses Benzodiazepine to sedate Cisco. This is the name of a class of drugs routinely used for treating anxiety conditions, sleep disorders and seizures.

Dialogue Triumphs

Barry (opening narration) There are many reasons why we run but usually it's to avoid what's right in front of us. A decision to be made or a dilemma we have to face. Lately, for me, it feels like running is all I've been doing.

Patty: Look Barry, I get that you're upset but I was hoping it wouldn't be like this between us.
Barry: Uh...  what did you think it was going to be like?
Patty: I... just thought we could at least talk before I left.
Barry: You're moving. I don't know, I mean... it just doesn't feel like there's much to talk about now. Right?
Patty: I guess not.

The Reverse Flash: Flash?
The Flash: Eobard Thawne?
The Reverse Flash: You know who I am?!
The Flash: You died!
The Reverse Flash: (pause) Good to know. And guess what Flash? I know what time period you're from. So that means very soon...YOU will die.

Iris: I have so many great memories from when I grew up. Now, when I think about those memories, I can only wonder what it would have been like if you and Wally had been there. (sobbing) I'm not angry at you anymore for what happened. I just wish you would have come back to us a lot sooner. Because I would have forgiven you then. Just like I'm forgiving you now.

Patty: You're just rolling with the whole "me leaving" thing?
Barry: Yeah, well I don't know what to tell you, Patty. Everyone in my life that I love leaves at some point. I'm kind of getting used to it.
Patty: You never told me that you love me...
Barry: Yeah, I guess I don't get that chance now.
Patty: I don't understand... what is it? What's going on with you? Why are you being like this?
Barry: My life is complicated and I don't want you to have regrets. Alright? I don't want you to miss out on something that you've always wanted to do and... I wish that things were different for both of us, you know, but they're not. Sorry.
Patty: Me too.

Cisco: Are you telling me I can see the future?!
Harry: That is exactly what I am telling you.
Cisco: Those goggles are getting named. Immediately.

Iris: I saw Mom today. She says you haven't been by in a while.
Wally: Yeah. She knows why.
Iris: She thinks it's because you're angry with her.
Wally: I have every right to be angry. Nothing for 20 years, then out of nowhere she tells me I have a sister? I have a father?
Iris: Yeah, the same thing happened to me too, remember? But that shouldn't keep you from seeing her before you can't anymore.
Wally: No,look...That's not what it is.
Iris: Then what is it, Wally?
Wally: I've got to go.
Iris: Last year my fiance died. Unexpectedly. One moment he was here and then the next - gone. I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to him. To tell him everything that he meant to me. That he was my world. That he was loved. But today, I got to say goodbye to your mom - my mom  - and it helped us both to find peace with what happened to our family. Wally, don't make a mistake you're going to regret the rest of your life. Go see your mom... while you still can.

Patty: I know you're The Flash, Barry!
Barry: Patty, c'mon...
Patty: Please don't make me feel any more stupid than I already do. Look, I'm a detective and I should have known. I was just... I was so smitten with you.
Barry: Okay, look... what... what you're saying?  It's... insane...
Patty: Look, you don't have to lie to me anymore, okay? I understand! I understand why you didn't want to tell me! I understand why you've been distant. Look, I understand everything! But just tell me the truth now. Just be honest with me!  Just... admit to me you're The Flash and I'll stay.
Barry: I can't do that. I'm not him.
Patty: That's too bad.  It would have been nice to stay. (starting to cry) Fight crime during the day. Be with you at night, but... I was wrong.  Take care Barry.

Barry: Why do you hate me so much?
Thawne: I didn't always. I was obsessed with you. For so long, I wanted to be The Flash. I spent years figuring out how you came to be. Duplicated the reaction... and it worked. (laughs) I became like you.
Barry: So what happened?
Thawne: This ability to travel through time revealed a truth - my fate was to become your greatest enemy. I was never going to be The Flash. So I became the reverse of everything that you were. The more people you saved...the more you were loved, the more I had to take from you.
Barry: That is why you killed my mother? That's why you ruined my life? Because you couldn't be me?
Thawne: (angrily) I became better than you! I am the one thing you cannot stop, Flash!
Barry: No. No, no, no. Not anymore.  Our race is over. And you lost.
Thawne: I've learned what time period you're from, Flash. And one day soon, I'll learn your name.

Harry: Thawne knows about you. Right here. Right now. This is where he learns about you, all of you. It's how he knows about STAR Labs, how he knows about me  (correcting himself) - the Harrison Wells of this Earth. There's nothing you can do about it. This is his origin story. And it's going to happen no matter what you do. But right here? Right now? You can send him back to his time. You can save your friend. You can save Cisco. And then move on your life..
Joe: This could be a good thing. You could finally let go of him.
Barry: I could throw him three centuries from now and he'll always be a part of me.

(learning that Barry helped Thawne return to his own time to save him)
Cisco: You let him go?
Barry: I couldn't let him take another person I cared about.

(Barry's phone vibrates. He sees that it's from Patty)
That's weird. (answering it) Hello?
Patty: Barry? I'm on the train!  There's a - there's a man with a gun.
Barry: All right, uh - hold on. I - I - I'll get you help.
(Barry changes into his costume, runs out of Central City, catches up with her train and boards it in a rush of wind.)
The Flash: Is everyone okay?
Patty: Everyone's fine.
(Patty stands up in the aisle and looks at him.)
Patty:  It was a false alarm. Thanks for coming so fast, Flash.
(The Flash nods and stops vibrating his face)
The Flash: Just want to make sure everything's okay before I go.
Patty: Don't worry. Everything's good.
(The Flash nods and runs off. Patty sits back down and watches the lighting streak off in the distance.)
Goodbye Barry.


It is confirmed that The Turtle is dead following what Harry did to take a genetic sample from him last week.  Harry was able, however, to make the death look like a natural aneurysm.

The version of Eobard Thawne we see in this episode comes from before he made his fateful attempt to kill Barry Allen's mother, became trapped in the past and replaced the Earth One version of Harrison Wells.

As he arrives in the year 2016, this version of Thawne (addressed as Professor by Gideon), is ignorant as to what time period The Flash is originally from, let alone what his real name is and what he looks like without a mask.

Cisco and Harry's actions while Thawne is captured, however, do set the stage for actions that Thawne will take in the future - i.e. killing and replacing Earth One Harrison Wells, building STAR Labs and giving Cisco his Vibe powers.

Barry suggests they should focus on closing the breaches rather than how to slow Zoom down. Cisco insists this is as impossible as solving Einstein's Riddle.

Albert Einsten was apparently also a famous physicist on Earth Two and Harry is familiar with his work and Einstein's Riddle, claiming to have solved it when he was ten.

Cisco refers to his attempts to vibe Dr. Light (205) and Harry (206) in trying to figure out what causes his powers to trigger, noting that it occurred seemingly at random and when he touched someone from another Earth.

The secret room where Eobard Thawne kept Gideon and his costume has been dubbed The Time Vault by Team Flash.

Harry determines that Cisco's Vibe powers are dependent on an adrenaline rush to function.

Dr. Tina McGee is seen for the first time since 204.

Dr. McGee refers to the events of 109 and The Reverse Flash stealing her tachyon device one year earlier.

Patty figures out that Barry is The Flash based on information in his case files that only The Flash could have known.

Patty refers to how Joe told her she had to become a good liar as part of their job in 204, while noting that Joe sucks at lying.

Caitlin's father died of Multiple Sclerosis.

Jay reveals to Caitlin that his Earth One counterpart is a man named Hunter Zolomon, whose mother died in childbirth. He was bounced from foster home to foster home before being adopted by The Zolomons.

Jay says that Caitlin's plan to fix his degenerating cells wouldn't work because his DNA mutated in the accident that gave him super speed. He insists the only way to save him is to capture Zoom and find a way to take back Jay's power from him.

The Fridge Factor

Patty finally figures out that Barry Allen is The Flash on her own... after examining case files which contain information Barry couldn't have possibly known unless he was The Flash. While it is nice to see that Patty figured it out on her own, one wonders why she didn't figure it out sooner. Especially after last week when The Turtle kidnapped her thinking The Flash was in love with her, based on his reaction to seeing her endangered and he specifically told her his reasoning!

The Boomerang Factor

The fact that Barry is leaving enough evidence in his case files for the GCPD for someone to independently figure out that he is The Flash is a little disheartening.

The Bottom Line

The reverse of last week's episode, where all the subplots felt like a distraction from the main story involving The Turtle. This week, The Reverse Flash's return feels like a distraction from the infinitely more interesting drama involving Cisco mastering his powers, Iris rebuilding her family, Caitlin trying to save Jay, Patty dealing with Barry being an idiot and whatever the heck Harry is up to at the moment.  Still, it's a solid episode and there's a lot of forward momentum on all the plots. You just wish Barry and Patty - always a smart, young couple before now - weren't being made into total idiots in order to give Barry some more angst.

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