TV REVIEW: The Flash S4E15, ‘Enter Flashtime’ (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

The Flash slows its pace down a little in “Enter Flashtime,” and in doing so delivers perhaps the best episode of the season. Despite returning from the Speedforce in the fourth season premiere with enhanced abilities and getting an arc in jail, it’s felt at times like Barry (Grant Gustin) has been lost a little in the shuffle of training new metahumans while simultaneously sending away all the speedsters. Thankfully, this week hands him back the spotlight as he races against time to stop a bomb from taking out all of Central City and enlists the help of fellow speedsters Jesse Quick (guest star Violett Beane) and Jay Garrick (guest star John Wesley Shipp) to do it.

We open in media res with Barry sweating profusely and in the middle of some nervous breakdown, bringing Iris into super speed (“Enter Flashtime,” see?) to let her know he can’t save the day. Then we cut back 8 minutes before, where Barry is torturing Cisco (Carlos Valdes) with the same exercise over and over again to ensure that he’ll be fast enough to catch Devoe coming in or out of a pocket dimension. Iris (Candice Patton) suggests taking a breather and letting the answer come to them, and Barry agrees to make a romantic reservation for date night in a cute moment that underscores how well The Flash mingles their work and domestic life. Meanwhile, Harry (Tom Cavanagh) is presenting an algorithm to track Devoe when Jesse appears to work things out with her dad. We quickly learn their biggest issues stem from Harry’s inability to talk about the death of Jesse’s mother, whose name we still don’t know but whose importance it’s finally time to acknowledge. Jesse wants him to deal with her death and move on, but his anger management problem rears its ugly head once more and cuts off any real conversation between them.

Of course, all of this is merely a cover for the real plot of “Enter Flashtime,” which has nothing to do with Devoe but which does delve into the dynamics of the Wells family and the West-Allen marriage. The episode cuts to Joe (Jesse L. Martin) and ARGUS battling a terrorist cell called Eco Core with guns, but by the time Flash and his sidekicks arrive it’s too late. The mysterious villain of the week detonates a nuclear bomb with a press of a button, meaning that Barry and Jesse must move fast enough to slow everything to a stop before it explodes. Instead of showing the two speedsters vibrating hard enough to make out heads spin, or surrounding every scene with lightning like the courtroom in “Trial of the Flash,” the show trusts us to understand what is going on. Though it may seem underwhelming, as Cisco points out when Barry pulls him in for assistance, it helps ground “Enter Flashtime” and keep the focus on stopping the threat to everyone’s lives.

Before the episode aired, viewers had already come up with several ways the bomb might be dispensed of or the threat avoided – and the interesting thing is that the episode deals with pretty much all of them while raising the stakes with each attempt. Everything from bringing in Jay to help to Vibing a breach to throwing the bomb in the Speedforce to Frosting the nuclear reaction to throwing three speedsters’ lightning at it simultaneously is attempted, yet the threat remains omnipresent. The only thing that would have made the episode better is a failed call to Wally on the Waverider, but that’s nitpicking. The vast majority of the episode revolves around Gustin, Beane and Shipp’s strong performances, which elevate the already taut material and make the tension feel very real. In the midst of the high stakes, however, we do get some important moments of character development: such as when Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker) expresses her worry for “Caity” or when Harry and Jesse each show how much they love each other while the other isn’t aware. Even Jay’s weariness after decades as a speedster comes into play, both making the solution to the bomb more difficult to obtain and setting him on a new path for the future.

But it is Gustin who carries the largest burden in “Enter Flashtime,” and his fear and despair increase in every scene without ever becoming ‘too much.’ It’s a tough line to walk as an actor, but he manages masterfully. In fact, the first scene of the episode is also the best one when it returns in real time – allowing Barry to lay all his burdens at Iris’ feet and fall apart in her arms. It’s both heartbreaking and uplifting, not to mention that it also gives the sensation of Gustin finally setting the weight of the episode down for Patton to pick up. But as sweet as the moment is, it wouldn’t be very useful if it didn’t guide him to the right answer and prove once more why Iris is the best choice for team leader. Which other Flash characters have the presence of mind to offer logical and practical solutions when everyone they love is seconds away from death?

They’re not the only ones who get a standout scene, as Cavanagh gives his best performance of the season in a powerful moment between Harry and his daughter that allows for real closure and might actually change the man’s attitude in upcoming episodes. Even the final teaser scene manages to give us a new and chilling look at the season’s Mystery Girl while also dealing with Caitlin and Killer Frost’s dual natures. In this way, “Enter Flashtime” takes a unique premise and uses it to push characters and relationships forward even if the season arc doesn’t move with it.

Rating: 5/5

Reviewer: Tatiana Hullender (@myrcellasear)

The Flash airs Tuesdays on the CW at 8/7c in the US.

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