Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Generic Return: "The Flash Reborn" Lives Up To Its Name Too Quickly.

The Good: Good performances, Decent special effects, One or two moments of character
The Bad: Incredibly basic and predictable plot, Undermines the good moments of character for a plot-centric focus, Utterly generic and uninspired villain.
The Basics: The Flash returns with "The Flash Reborn," which implicitly proves how right Joss Whedon was to leave Buffy dead for a full episode all those years ago . . .

One of the big differences between the television incarnation of The Flash and its source material is that actor's contracts make it hard to make leaps the way the books do. Barry Allen, in the DC Comics comic books, makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the universe from the collapse of the multiverse and the Anti-Monitor. But shortly after Barry Allen was lost in time and space, Wally West picked up the mantle of The Flash and he spent almost twenty years as the sole Flash. As the fourth season of The Flash begins, Barry Allen has appeared to have made a similar level of sacrifice, but it is impossible for viewers to believe that Grant Gustin's Barry Allen would not show up, especially given that the fourth season premiere is entitled "The Flash Reborn."

"The Flash Reborn" picks up six months after "Finish Line" (reviewed here!). It is impossible to discuss "The Flash Reborn" without references to where the prior season's finale left off. After all, "Finish Line" found Dr. Snow/Killer Frost going off on her own after Barry Allen thwarted his temporal remnant, Savitar. But after defeating Savitar, Barry Allen had to save the world from a temporal lightning storm by entering the Speed Force and becoming a prisoner there. Barry Allen's return is an intellectual anticlimax as the leap that Barry Allen would leave the series before stopping the Red Sky (assumedly the multiverse Crisis) is far beyond the reasonable suspension of disbelief.

Six months after Barry Allen entered the Speed Force, Kid Flash, Vibe and Joe West are chasing Peek-a-Boo through Central City with Iris coordinating from S.T.A.R. Labs. Iris tries to keep the team focused. While Joe and Iris deal with Cecile moving in, the team is called back in when a teched up samurai flies into Central City and threatens everyone. Unwilling to fight Kid Flash and Vibe, the samurai demands to fight The Flash. Cisco informs Iris and the rest of the team that he has been working on a way to free Barry from the Speed Force prison, but Iris rejects his idea.

Cisco approaches Caitlin Snow at the bar at which she is working. Ramon and Snow alter the Speed Force Bazooka to find Barry in the Speed Force and try to release him. The experiment appears to fail, but soon a naked Barry Allen runs out of the Speed Force. When his friends recover Barry Allen, they discover that he is not at all connected to our world any longer. Dr. Snow has two theories as to what is wrong with Barry, but there are no easy solutions to his disorder.

"The Flash Reborn" does a decent job of redefining Iris West. Iris was frequently defined in the third season by her relationship with Barry. In "The Flash Reborn," she is a strong character doing her best to move on in the wake of tragedy. Iris is efficient, smart and far more tactical in her new role than she was as a reporter. "The Flash Reborn" opens well with its focus on her.

In addition to the positive focus on Iris, "The Flash Reborn" works when Cisco Ramon's obsession with rescuing Barry Allen is explored. Ramon has been Barry's best friend outside Iris and he and Iris seem to be working very well together as the episode begins. Ramon's various attempts to rescue Barry Allen are compelling and Carlos Valdes does good at making Ramon's pain both reasonable and realistic without it being melodramatic.

As "The Flash Reborn" refocuses on Barry Allen and his physical and psychological return, the episode becomes mired in a plot device that is focused on the single conceit. The threat of the amped up samurai is not presented as imminent enough to realistically threaten Central City. How he takes on a speedster multiple times is not made clear in "The Flash Reborn."

After the threat of himself, in an evil and tragically traumatized form, Barry Allen has little that seems like it would be compelling to fight. The samurai in "The Flash Reborn" is a painfully generic enemy. How the samurai holds its own against Vibe, the police, and a speedster is not presented in a satisfying way.

When Buffy Summers made a massive sacrifice, Joss Whedon did not return her immediately to the narrative the next year and he did almost no press for the sixth season that showed Sarah Michelle Gellar on the set, out of respect for the character's death. When Spike made a sacrifice, he was out of play for a while as well. The Flash restores Barry Allen to the story so quickly his sacrifice is undermined and the magnitude of his prison is made feeble. Instead of offering a truly reflective period, The Flash is obsessed with returning the show to a familiar homeostasis in "The Flash Reborn."

For other season premieres from The Flash, please check out my reviews of:
"City Of Heroes" - Season 1
"The Man Who Saved Central City"- Season 2
"Flashpoint" - Season 3


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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