Barry Allen’s first stumble through time turns into a colossal sequence of errors which results in not one but three killer criminals on the loose in Central City. This sequel to last week’s cliffhanger is a stomach-wrencher in the best of all possible ways, and the show's time-reset rocks in a well-structured way with a few surprises.
The show begins with a quick recap of the previous episode, then we retread the last few minutes of the last episode, then the pace just smoothlessly slides into this episode. Barry figures out right away that he’s gone back through time. Our hero’s disoriented, but he gets serious quickly. Even if he’s been here before, he has to keep moving; events are continuing despite his disorientation. It becomes clear he has to be careful: Dr. Wells warns him he might make catastrophic changes in the timeline. Boy, is he right. Barry wants to save lives, however, and while investigating the Mardon attack and talking with Joe, Barry flashes back (in his head, I mean) to the previous timeline, when Singh is hurt by Mardon. Barry’s overpowered by concern for Commander Singh, completely ignores Wells’ warnings, goes after Mardon (remember, he already had found the apartment) and imprisons Mardon before Mardon can even plan to cause trouble. The subsequent exchanges between Wells and Barry reveal a lot to me about how each perceive time, and I was left wondering what experiences left Wells with his warnings about time. Barry can’t weigh huge consequences like that against the importance of a single life in front of him. Or not yet.
Without the Weather Wizard intervening and creating chaos in the city, other nefarious plans hatch. Captain Cold and Heat Wave are unmasked in front of the Santini family (no relation to this author!) The Santinis are the crime family in charge of Central City, and are angry at having their territory cut into. The two Rogues unleash a coordinated attack, kill everyone there except one underling left to tell the tale, and start a crime wave that plans to have consequences as great as Mardon’s tsunami. They team up with Snart’s sister Lisa to capture Cisco and his brother and threaten/torture both to find ways to prevent being stopped by the cops as well as the police; their guns get repaired and Cisco, under threat of torture, invents a weapon for Lisa. Instead of Joe hostage while the city’s threatened by one wave, Cisco’s hostage to another. Wells is right: the timeline manages to repair itself in bewildering ways.
During all this, Barry’s working on his relationship issues. He still remembers the kiss he had with Iris which ended the previous episode. He has the behavior, the attitude, of a man who has had that kiss after going through stressful situations with someone and getting much closer. He can’t connect or be honest with Linda; although he doesn’t tell her about the kiss, she recognizes his change in feelings and, in a beautiful moment, forgives him and they let each other go. But Iris has had none of this development. She might have had her jealousy awakened by Linda, but Iris is still at this point in time very much in love with Eddie. When Barry arranges a coffee shop meet-up, his embarrassed school-boy excitement strikes the wrong note which leads to a great scene with Eddie finally letting loose. I think the time travel has actually made this romance more interesting, or at least more fun trying to figure out.
Cisco’s story takes even more of a central role here, and this was an intelligent decision for the show. His character has proven more and more interesting lately, but without knowing something about his background and motivations in life felt a bit superficial. The torture scene is one of the best done in the episode, and really confirms the choice of actor for this role; I was terrified when Snart gave Dante frostbite and I could feel Cisco’s empathy for his brother. Cisco gives up Barry. Cisco’s concern with faithfulness - to his brother, to the team - just might become his defining characteristic, too. Luckily, Cisco’s resignation from the team is temporary, but lets us see another way the new timeline echoes the previous one. In the last episode we saw Wells reveal himself to be Eobard Thawne and kill Cisco; in the new present Wells says much the same words but with the goal of keeping him on the team. Nicely done.
The new Golden Glider sports a gun which apparently turns people into gold. I was a little disappointed - I kind of liked the idea of a heroine on skates, though I’ve never read the comics, and I thought Cisco would take the first thing in the old house, which would be a beautiful pair of skates - but no. Instead we get the Golden Goo Gun. Despite this new threat the team manages to suss out Snart's true plan: to force the casino to, due to the emergency, transfer its funds to a safer location and attack while the funds are en route; I'm guessing whatever the Glider's gun does, it doesn't turn people to saleable gold. This leads to a confrontation which stops when Barry picks up Snart and takes him to woods for a private chat. I’m not totally sure how I feel about the scene at the end. I’m not sure how Joe would feel, either, as a cop. What does it mean that Barry’s negotiated this new truce with the Rogues? Not just for the future, but for his own soul? You can’t do a deal with the devil and not get tarnished.
The final scenes shows us that even though Wells seems kinder and gentler in the new timeline, and Cisco is still alive (thank Goddess), Wells is still willing to go to great lengths to protect his identity. As the Reverse Flash, Wells shuts down power at the Picture, attacks reporter Mason Bridge and destroys information he has on Wells. Then, echoing the last episode, he vibrates his fist through Mason's chest - and cleans up. Two minutes later he’s back in the Labs, and talking to Barry and helping him resolve his moral conflict about letting Snart go. Barry’s just about to ask him if Mason Bridge was right - if Wells is a killer - when suddenly the news that Mason Bridge is dead shows up on the monitors. Barry’s intuition shuts his mouth, Wells for once doesn’t notice something, and the end of the episode shows us Barry and Joe united in suspicion and concern, where at the end of the previous episode these were the only two who trusted Wells.
Bits and Pieces
I think the show is going to have more about the Mardons. Mark repeated the same line Clyde did in the first episode - “I didn’t know there was anyone else like me.” Something’s up there! Also, because of the changes, the Weather Wand was never invented.
Talking about time - this show seems to be going for the historical imperative view of time travel. No matter what you do, the timeline tries to heal itself. Does this make the saving of Nora Allen’s life impossible? No, but it will result in serious repercussions that can’t be predicted.
Wells’ identity is still a secret and Cisco is alive, but Wells is under serious suspicion by Joe and Barry - and the life of Nora Allen seems to be an important linchpin for the future.
Wells: “I think you did what was best in the moment. And really, that’s the most any of us can ask for."
Except for the Golden Glider’s “power” this ep was awesome from start to finish. We are left with some permanent changes and some non-permanent ones. Barry’s time-travel abilities will need to be explored. The Rogues have formed and will be an interesting wrinkle. The romance aspect of this series hasn’t been too awesome for me, but I think this episode did some very cool things with the time-reset that ups the interest, even though I wind up liking Iris far less at the end of it.
Four out of four Golden Goo Guns.