Titling an episode “The Reverse-Flash Returns” after literally wiping the character from all existence at the end of last season seems like it would be just another gimmicky excuse to shoe-horn in an old villain. Like Deathstroke’s appearance in Season 3 of Arrow, but instead it became a post-humous origin story for an amazing villain that summarily tells the tale of the never-ending war between The Flash and his Reverse. Well, never-ending in the original timeline at least.
The explanation is brilliant too. Time isn’t just a linear sequence of events, everyone has their own personal timeline. If Barry had died in 2014 prior to traveling back in time to the moment of his mothers murder, then the adult Barry wouldn’t have been able to exist in 199X. In the same manner, if Eobard Thawne were killed in 2016, then he would never be able to travel back to 199X, and all of time would rupture due to the paradox. Instead of a giant wormhole in the sky, this time Cisco turned into a ghost. Though this was in consequence of the timeline wumbo jumbo, it could potentially be a fantastic tease of some sort of Danny Phantom applications of Cisco’s powers.
The events of this episode shed an entirely new light on the entire rest of the show, not in a game-changing way, but in an effectively retroactive way. Both Barry and Cisco ensured that their past would remain unchanged, in Barry letting the Reverse-Flash know that in his future he kills Barry’s mother, and Cisco in revealing his name and his powers explains not only how Eobard knew of Cisco’s powers in the first place to tell him, but also that he would give people powers at all via the Particle Accelerator. He picked Cisco to work for STAR Labs purely because of what he said here. This explains the confidence seen in the flashback last season to when he hired Cisco in the first place, to Hartley Rathaway’s dismay.
Harry and Cisco’s dynamic was just one of the many on highlight here, but seeing them work together, finish each other’s sentences and work to creating Cisco’s Vibe-goggles (or whatever they eventually decide to call them) was easily a highlight in the change that the team has gone through since the original reveal of Earth-2’s Harrison Wells. Cisco’s capability to trigger his vibes whenever he’d like, and whatever the hell happened to him because of that ghost-seizure all seems to lead toward Cisco being well on his way to suiting up himself in the near future.
The end of Patty and Barry’s relationship came to a peak when she made the discovery that- wait how come there are people that DON’T know he’s The Flash at this point? If every single case that he’s worked on in over a year has ended with The Flash saving the day? Don’t those all get sent to the desk sergeant, you’d think someone would have noticed a pattern by now. Regardless, she got to the bottom of things and the dynamic between choosing whether or not to be open about his secret finally held some solid ground. He with-held the truth in the first place to protect her, and the only way to keep her from the harm that he feared so badly in Central City was to lie once more. As for why he didn’t see through the oh-so-obvious ruse and actually run to the train was pretty dumb on his part and just confirmed his lies but hey, love makes you do crazy things.
On the list of bummers, there’s also the impending passing of Francine West. Understandably a big deal, it seemed to have the most impact on Joe and Iris. Seeing her at the hospital, Joe even kissing her on the cheek to wake her up as if they’re some old married couple and Iris breaking down when she realized the life that she missed out on. This was slightly subverted in her wailing “I barely even know her!” Wally’s coming to terms with seeing his mother was nice, though it would have had more impact to actually see him go to the hospital. They instead chose to focus on the forming of this relationship between Wally and Iris, serving to tie Wally in more with the cast as opposed to the potentially more emotionally gratifying payoff.
Last but not least: Hunter Zolomon. Many people have been wondering, who is Zoom going to end up being? Many people think it’s Earth-2 Barry Allen, or even that world’s Henry Allen, or Eobard Thawne, there are many theories. Here presents another, that it could potentially be Earth 1’s Jay Garrick. Hunter Zolomon, the man who in the comics put on a yellow suit and became a new Reverse-Flash: dubbed Zoom. Though Zoom in this show seems to be more of a Black Flash figure, this does seem to be one of the missing links needed to eventually get to the bottom of this year’s mystery.
The Flash had a lot going on this week, as it tends to do. The relationship drama was actually rather good, but now its over. Caitlin and Jay followed a lead to cure him, but it was more of a wink and nod to the viewer. The Reverse-Flash’s fate has been sealed, and the STAR Labs team effectively got closure in starting his story, in yet another fitting twist of irony. With that closure, it’s all about moving forward now: toward Zoom.