Barry: Sometimes the only way to move forward is revisit the things in your past that were holding you back.
Beware: Spoilers may follow
In season 1 Barry had traveled through time twice: once inadvertently while attempting to repel a tidal wave from Central City and in the finale to go back in time and save his mother. Both of these proved to noteworthy episodes in the Flash’s integration of time travel. This episode also proves to be a noteworthy one as it was his first real intentional attempt of traveling in time and in doing so Barry is faced with the consequences of his plans resulting in some engaging hijinks.
The story is that Barry (Grant Gustin) upon learning Zoom’s true identity is determined to get faster by any means possible. Thus he travels back in time and masquerade as his earlier self to see if Eobard Thawne (Tom Cavanagh) has some answers. However the plan goes wrong almost immediately and Barry once again encounters his old foe Hartley Rathaway (Andy Mientus) a.k.a the Pied Piper and the late Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) in the process.
The story makes it clear that Barry is in over his head from the get-go. Not only does he get the time wraiths on his back but also he is unable to discreetly execute his plans to Thawne. This results in quite a bone-chilling scene between Barry and Thawne where the powerless Barry has to avoid Thawne’s wrath on wit alone. Cavanagh brilliantly brings a balance of sinister through the way he threateningly interrogates Barry as well as humor in realizing that the Barry he has captured is from the future and when he informs him that assuming he’s telling the truth, Thawne does not need him to stop the singularity. Seeing Barry bluff Thawne into letting him live truly shows just how far Barry has come.
The scene where past Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) see both versions of Barry is incredibly entertaining and funny particularly with Cisco trying to figure out who the “real Barry” is.
While the scene with Eddie is rather short and doesn’t tie into Barry’s main objective, it did give his character a true and heart wrenching farewell. The recording of his birthday message to Iris (Candice Patton), the way Cosnett delivers it, is conveyed through such sweetness and charm that helps the viewer remember what made him such an enjoyable character and why him and Iris fell in love.
The time wraith concept on its own isn’t as engaging as it should be. But it does ultimately frame the good the aforementioned good aspects of this episode.
While the journey back in time is engaging, this time travel doesn’t really do anything extreme. The only real change is that Hartley Rathaway in the present is now an ally to Team Flash. This is a change entirely unintentional and it establishes the fact that Barry is unaware of the consequences of time travel. He may have screwed up for the better this time around but there’s nothing to say that will continue if he time travels again.
Flash back combines both drama and hilarity into one heck of a journey in traveling back to the titular hero’s early days. It takes an episode and gives it an entirely new meaning (in addition to also closing up Rathaway’s arc). This may be a flashback but it gave a whole new flash-forward.