‘The Flash Reborn’ is a step in the right direction

The Flash — “The Flash Reborn” — Image Number: FLA401a_0208b.jpg — Pictured: Keiynan Lonsdale as Kid Flash, Jesse L. Martin as Detective Joe West and Carlos Valdes as Vibe — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

When last we left our heroes, things were a mess. And not in the “Townsville is under attack” kind of mess. Relatively speaking, Central City was in a pretty good spot. All of it’s main tormentors were in jail, dead, or stuck in an alternate dimension and there was a new, faster Flash that was ready to take the old one’s place.

The show itself was a mess.

All of our favorite characters did nothing but mope. The fight scenes started to all look the same. No one’s actions made any sense. The rules of the universe were constantly rewritten, usually without any explanation.

So has The Flash improved?

Yeah. It’s on the right track.

By the end of the episode, the status quo is restored. Everyone has forgiven each other for the dumb things they did last season. There is a particular moment where two characters seem like they’re going to start a pointless feud, similar to Cisco and Barry last season, but instead their disagreement is quickly resolved with a hug.

Besides Barry’s Speed-force hangover, there really isn’t anything that impedes the action of the plot. Characters aren’t saying “no”. They’re active. Trying things. Attempting to solve problems. It doesn’t always work, but the The Flash seems to have broken last season’s bad habit of having characters consciously chose not to do the thing we know they are going to do, especially for some pretty flimsy reasons that were clearly an excuse to lengthen an episode.

It was also surprisingly satisfying to watch a Flash episode with almost no Flash.  Since Barry was KO’d for 90% of the plot, we got to hang out with Cisco, Joe, Iris, Wally, and eventually Caitlin as they did their best to keep the Flash train chugging along. Wally and Cisco are a great pair, maybe better than Barry and Cisco. It probably has something to do with their understandable inexperience. Watching Barry get beaten by a swarm of robotic bees was irritating in a way that watching Wally and Cisco get beaten probably wouldn’t be. They don’t know any better and it’s always fun to watch characters figure things out for the first time.

The Flash — “The Flash Reborn” — Image Number: FLA401b_0026b.jpg — Pictured: Jesse L. Martin as Detective Joe West — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

And the Samuroid was a good villain to pit against our rookie heroes. Team Flash has, in it’s three years, never had to deal with robots. I know, right? That’s pretty strange. I guess it has something to do with all of the Flash villains being speedsters, bank robbers, or gorillas. Robots wouldn’t fit in. It takes a super-genius villain like The Thinker to introduce androids into this world. It didn’t hurt either that the Samuroid’s comic accurate costume design stood out from that of any other robot in sci-fi. And The Flash always gets bonus points for recreating a comic cover, which they did when Samuroid lifted Wally with his sword.

Barry’s “arc” this episode was particularly strange, and not because of all the rhyming. I mean, that was pretty weird but the reason I didn’t quite love it probably has to do with my skepticism that The Flash can create a season long mystery that doesn’t fall apart after episode six or seven. Those circles aren’t nothing. They’re probably a weird Speed-force code that  has something to do with a certain hovering villain’s desire to bring Barry home. And there is a world where “This house is bitchin” is an attempt to demonstrate that the hieroglyphics were a red herring, but the Flash writers have yet to find a mystery they can’t exploit and I doubt this will be any different.

All in all, this episode was okay. Barry Allen is reborn. The team is back to 100%, save for Caitlin’s strange new Mark Ruffalo impression. All is right with the world. And yet something is… missing.

Besides a fleeting glance at The Thinker, there wasn’t anything new that The Flash Reborn brought to the table. The Big Bad is one thing, but there is usually another character that adds a little chaos to the mix; Patty and Harry in season two and Julian and HR in season three. It is likely that characters like Elongated Man will fill that void in the episodes to come but the lack of any new characters made this feel less like the start of a new season.

Matthew Nando Kelly is the cool and tough Managing Editor of Pop Break who was allowed to write his own bio. Besides weekly Flash recaps, he has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he makes pop culture brackets with fellow writer DJ Chapman.

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