TV REVIEW: The Flash S4E1 ‘The Flash Reborn’

Given how dark last season of The Flash got, it was hard to know how the show runners would turn things around for season four. After all, they promised a lighter and more hopeful story, yet their protagonist was stuck in the Speed Force as part of a heroic sacrifice. How could the two be reconciled? Turns out that the key was which characters had to process their grief. Losing Barry (Grant Gustin) is a huge blow, but neither Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) nor Iris West (Candice Patton) are the types to give into despair – and thank goodness for that.

The episode opened with a voiceover from Iris that emphasizing the pain of saying goodbye to her fiancé, but it also showcases just how much of a fighter she is. She took Barry’s final “keep running” to heart and set up shop as the leader of Team Vibe – or is it Team Kid Flash? – without letting her mourning get in the way of protecting Central City. Having her at the command center frees up Cisco to play the field more as Vibe, and his interactions with Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) while taking down metahumans already bring back the levity of seasons past.

One thing The Flash has suffered from in the past is too many characters standing around STAR Labs instead of opening up the world more throughout Central City, and while “The Flash Reborn” doesn’t do the latter it at least assigns a clearer place to everyone. Joe acting as back-up for the heroes makes good use of his police credentials while Iris can utilize her Picture News research and observation skills to point out patterns from the controls, and of course it’s great to see Cisco and Wally test out their under-utilized powers. And despite all the focus on STAR Labs, the hour still left room for a West family dinner and some adorable banter between Joe and his now live-in girlfriend Cecile (guest star Danielle Nicolet). It’s little things like that which make a big difference in the enjoyment of an episode.

Meanwhile, the main struggle of the episode comes from the appearance of a Samuroid who demands to battle the real Flash or else he will destroy the city. Here is where the importance of hope in the show’s stories comes in. While Iris doesn’t led the mood fall into sorrow and despair because she’s a woman who pushes forward and thinks of the greater good no matter what, Cisco holds up his end of the lighter tone by never giving up on Barry’s return. Even when the two of them clash, it’s by making active choices that push the plot forward and never by passively wallowing like Barry has in the past. Furthermore, both of them had strong cases for their arguments: Cisco knows the team needs Barry and only he can take down the Samuroid so why not get him out, while Iris has pertinent questions about the stability of the Speed Force and how they can protect the city if the attempt goes awry.

Hope wins out, of course, so Cisco ropes Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) back into the team now that she’s supposedly cured of Killer Frost. Together the group manages to pull Barry out, and for once The Flash didn’t even try to explain how they succeeded, because who’s really paying attention to the pseudo-science anyway. Now there’s yet another hurdle, which is Barry’s mind being a total jumble. He’s spouting out Easter eggs (such as references to the Trial of the Flash and the Tornado Twins), but they don’t have any relevance to the present and he doesn’t acknowledge the people and situations in front of him. This leads to several touches scenes of his friends and family hoping to reach him, most notably Joe shaving his hideous Speed Force beard and Iris revealing that she was scared to lose him all over again, but of course it is blind faith that must save the day once more.

This time around, Iris takes her father’s advice to heart and puts everything on the line with the hope that Barry would rescue her when she’s in danger – no matter how scrambled he is. And, as anyone who’s ever picked up a DC comic knows, she bet on the right horse. Barry always knows when Iris needs him, and he will always come when she calls. This worked beautifully on an emotional level, and the scenery as the two lovers truly reunite for the first time complimented the tone of the new season perfectly. The only part where the episode stumbles a bit, though, is in making the Samuroid appear to be a large-scale threat.

In fact, it’s not until the chess pieces are put in place at the end of “The Flash Reborn” that the significance of the Samuroid becomes clear. While the mystery surrounding it didn’t appear very urgent during the episode, its connection to The Thinker (season 4’s Big Bad) definitely upped the ante and set up the stage for a battle of wills down the line. Too often The Flash‘s villains have just sat back and waited until around midseason to start wreaking havoc, so hopefully this is a sign that The Thinker has a more specific plan to execute over the course of the season.

Overall, “The Flash Reborn” delivered a strong opening for the season with some excellent performances. It introduced us to a very different kind of villain, and laid out some interesting character arcs for a lot of the team’s members. Is Barry ready to let Iris lead the team and is she ready to marry him with his constant disappearances hanging over their heads? If Caitlin is lying about her powers again, what else is she keeping from her friends? And, of course, just what does The Thinker want with Barry?

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Tatiana Hullender (@myrcellasear)

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

More from the world of Geek Syndicate

%d bloggers like this: