“My name is Barry Allen.”
And with that everyone erupted into laughter and applause. That was the scene at The Flash’s Paleyfest LA panel appearance last weekend. They had reached the section of the evening where they take questions from the audience, which is mostly a time for “Are you ever going to do that one thing from the comics?” questions the producers have to carefully answer. It was very surprising when a little kid stepped to the mic, admirably undeterred by the instantaneous applause greeting his “My name is Barry Allen” declaration and continued to recite the show’s opening monologue word for word. Grant Gustin, joined on stage by the show’s entire cast as well as producers, seemed especially delighted and intrigued. The little kid ended his triumphant moment by assuring Grant he’d always be his Flash (sorry Ezra Miller), and because he has charm to spare Gustin deadpanned not even he has the “My name is Barry Allen” monologue memorized.
That wasn’t the only time little kids made their presence felt at Paleyfest. One kid got too nervous to say anything, his father stepping up to admit that his son just wanted a signed picture of Gustin. Those are just the ones who made it to the mic. A quick scan of the gathered audience revealed there were more kids there than you’d expect, speaking to The Flash’s cross-generational appeal.
I had those little kids in the back of my mind as I watched “Out of Time,” our first new episode of The Flash in a month. The producers had been touting this as a game-changer, insiders promised the last 10 minutes would blow our minds, and the trailer seemed to support those lofty expectations. Holy crap, Harrison Wells leaves his glasses and wheelchair behind at the café to get away from Caitlin for some reason! And how were there two versions of Harrison appearing in front of Cisco!?! I was so excited to see those questions answered in “Out of Time” that I was actually mad at myself for not loving the actual episode as it unfolded in front of me last night. I started cracking jokes, usually during the scenes with Iris and Barry.
Iris & Barry | When Eddie assumed control and was giving his big speech to the police precinct about finding Joe after he’d been taken hostage I imagined him stopping mid-speech once he saw Barry cupping Iris’ face with both of his hands and yelling, “Allen – Do not hold my fiance’s face like that! If you want to comfort her as a friend, take her hand. You went full-on romantic embrace with it, you bastard!” Or, in that same scene, when Iris was told by the kidnapper not to tell the cops about her dad’s location, and then immediately turned around to tell Barry all about it I imagined her joking, “You don’t really count as a cop, right?”
I was maybe reacting the same way a little kid would which is to yawn during all of the icky romance stuff and beg the show to get to all the cool stuff with the Weather Wizard and Reverse Flash already. It just seemed a bit much to be pushing so hard on Barry/Iris when two episodes ago Barry told her he didn’t feel the same way about her anymore and begged her to back off and let him find happiness with Linda, a girl he ate hot peppers for in a grand romantic gesture. It was as if they wanted us to forget every part of that in the month and a half since that episode aired, like what if in the show’s time off the air the characters kept living their lives and Iris increasingly flirted with Barry, giving him the idea she might be into him. If you think of it that way Iris wiping that ketchup from Barry’s mouth in front of both his girlfriend and her fiancé at the bowling alley, and Barry still being completely hung up on her makes sense. Of course, the true point of all this was to skip ahead a couple of steps (Why waste time on having Iris be jealous from the sidelines since anyone’s who ever watched a TV show knows where this is ultimately going?) and have Iris admit her feelings for Barry as well as find out he’s The Flash only for all of it to be erased via time travel.
Weather Wizard | But what about the Reverse Flash? Can we please just get to the Reverse Flash already? No, we have to talk about the Weather Wizard first. Mostly, Joe killed the guy’s little brother. Now, he wants revenge, meaning Iris is in danger. Of course, no one bothers to tell her that because that’s just how most men treat female characters in the Arrow/Flash universe. Either way, Cisco builds a cool lightsaber/sonic screwdriver hybrid that can neutralize the Weather Wizard because, you know, science, and then somewhat hilariously puts it on a pedestal in the police lobby next to the elevators, perfectly out of reach for anyone who should need to use it to subdue anyone entering through the elevator. So, of course, the Wizard almost kills the Chief of Police, who took the lightning bullet for Joe, ultimately chased away by The Flash who is obviously fast enough to use Cisco’s fancy gadget. Clearly, they need to keep that gadget on them at all times and chase the Wizard down, right? Yeah, that gadget’s never seen again, and the Wizard breaks Joe’s leg and promises to kill him as well as Iris.
Fine. Whatever. Can we please just get to the Reverse Flash already? Actually, the answer is finally yes.
Reverse Flash | Since the moment the mid-season finale concluded with Harrison Wells staring at the yellow suit thus implying he’s the Reverse Flash, many have been crying, “But who is he really?” Even when Tom Cavanagh himself identified his character as being the Reverse Flash in a panel appearance there were still those cooking up theories about Dr. Wells’ true identity, pointing to his physical resemblance to Barry as evidence in some kind of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey “He’s actually Barry from the future!” conclusion. Some weren’t buying what the show was selling because Wells turning out to always have been a new version of The Flash’s arch-nemesis from the comics is the least satisfying conclusion to what had been the central mysteries of the show, i.e., we now know both who Dr. Wells really is and who killed Barry’s mom. In a geek world in which Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who and now SyFy’s 12 Monkeys are finding new, increasingly inventive ways of telling time travel stories on TV, The Flash’s mystery turns out to have been far more straight forward than some would have liked (at least for now).
My main problem with all of this goes back to that mid-season finale. We watched Dr. Wells interact with the Reverse Flash to the point that the Reverse Flash appeared to beat him nearly to death, yet by the end Dr. Wells had the yellow suit. That either meant he was but one of multiple people going by that villainous identity, or that in the effort to throw us off the scent the show had written itself into a corner. The only explanation they could possibly offer would undoubtedly be pretty silly. Now, they’re telling us that Dr. Wells created some sort of hologram to appear as the Reverse Flash in the containment chamber, and that he can vibrate so fast as to cause a temporary shadow of himself thus making it momentarily appear as if there are two of him. These are the same general people who “killed” Oliver Queen off in the mid-season finale of Arrow only to then come back and pretend the sword they shoved through his chest was a mere flesh wound. They at least tried harder to explain away the Dr. Wells plot holes.
And that’s when I remember those little kids at Paleyfest. Why am I being so hard on something that’s meant to be enjoyed by people of all ages? This is the most thoroughly comic book film franchise or TV show we have going at the moment meaning that it is going to routinely do stuff that seems kind of silly. Before long, there is going to be a literal talking gorilla. It’s supposed to just be a fun show filled with pretty young people delivering likable performances, anchored by older veterans like Jesse L. Martin and Tom Cavanagh who offer the material an extra layer of dramatic weight. Even if the explanation may be a bit dodgy, Tom Cavanagh completely owned that final scene with Cisco, clearly adhering to the tried-and-trued method of playing the villain which is to play him as someone who thinks he’s right (i.e., the best villains don’t think of themselves as villains). It was a scene filled to the brim with exposition. Cavanagh actually had to say an inherently goofy name like Eobard Thawne out loud (do his friends just call him Eo for short?), but he nailed it, helped immensely by Carlos Valdes’ gut-wrenchingly horrified reactions as Cisco, fighting back tears in the face of the creeping realization he was about to die.
Time Travel | Did any of it matter? Almost everything we saw has been erased now because the episode ended with Barry traveling back in time to the moment he was on his way to the morgue after his double date with Linda and Iris and Eddie. That means the only harm the Weather Wizard has caused is killing a morgue attendant, Caitlin and Cisco haven’t forced Dr. Wells into the open, and Iris hasn’t done anything other than be completely oblivious to the well-earned dirty looks Linda and Eddie were throwing her way. Clearly, Barry is going to use what he learned to immediately stop the Weather Wizard, and then he’s probably going to promptly break up with Linda and make a move on Iris, who probably won’t reciprocate because Barry will have forgotten that it took a life-or-death situation to get her to admit her feelings for him. However, before he went back in time Barry hadn’t learned anything about Dr. Wells other than the stuff about the big cover story about to hit the newspaper. Barry’s presumably just going to use his knowledge to try and improve his love life. They gave us a hypothetical, “This is what would happen if the team figured out Dr. Wells’ secret” and then took it all away.
What else were they going to do? Clearly Cisco wasn’t going to stay dead, and it’s too early in the season for Dr. Wells to go completely rogue on us. Ever since the surprise reveal at the end of the pilot, we have always known more about Dr. Wells than anyone on the show does, and that power differential just grew exponentially. We’re now fully aware that Dr. Wells will straight up murder anyone on the team if he has to, even if it’s Cisco, who he thinks of as a son. We can also stop speculating about his identity, and trust our more comic book-inclined friends to tells us all about Eobard Thawne. The status quo as it relates to what the other characters think of Dr. Wells may not have actually been radically changed by this episode, although Barry’s suspicious now, but Wells has an extra menace to him going forward, adding a considerable new charge to his every interaction. For example, Iris is clearly going to keep investigating him, perhaps after her mentor mysteriously turns up dead or something, and we now know how much danger she’ll be unwittingly walking into.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It was a far longer walk to get to those last 10 minutes than I had anticipated, but that kind of game-changing scene with Dr. Wells and Cisco was worth the wait even if a time travel mechanism erased it from history. This will be remembered as the episode where Dr. Wells revealed his true name (Eobard Thawne), the fact that he only accidentally killed Barry’s mom while actually attempting to kill Barry, and that time travel is totally possibly if you run fast enough because, you know, science. I was frankly so looking forward to the final 10 minutes with all of those reveals that I was probably impatient with everything leading up to it, particularly everything Iris/Barry, which mostly just made me feel bad for Linda and Eddie.
1. Caitlyn is clearly the wrong person to ask to try and stall anyone.
2. I have no idea exactly how Dr. Wells and Eddie will end up being related, but it is nice to see that Eddie Thawne was not just a red herring and will in fact be connected to the Reverse Flash.
3. Some have predicted Cisco may morph into a villain at some point, seemingly supported by him offering to help Dr. Wells even after discovering that he killed Barry’s mother. However, I read that offer as a desperate effort to stall for time, and Dr. Wells apparently did as well what with deciding to kill him and everything.
4. And the gold star goes to everyone on the internet who noticed months ago that “Harrison Wells” was probably a fake name picked as homage to H.G. Wells, the guy who wrote The Time Machine.
This is the Paleyfest trailer showcasing what to expect the rest of the season on The Flash [Huge SPOILERS]:
AVClub – Loved it: “The last 10 minutes or so of this week’s Flash were filled with so many toppers that if I were covering this show like an old-timey sportswriter, I’d have ripped the paper out of my typewriter a half-dozen times so I could type up a new lede. What’s the headline here? Barry reveals his secret identity to Iris? Cisco figures out that Wells is Reverse-Flash? Wells scrambles Cisco’s internal organs? Barry runs so fast while trying to save Central City that he goes back in time? “Out Of Time” ends with multiple juicy moments, stacked on top of each other.”
TV.com – Loved everything other than Iris/Barry: “I love that it wasn’t a season finale, though. Sure, there’s the lack of having to wait, but there’s also the fact that in the old days, the season premieres that tended to follow such cliffhangers were often driven to return to the status quo.
THR.com – The producers and Tom Cavanagh dished about the big twists in “Out of Time” and what to expect from Dr. Wells the rest of the season.