It’s time to get the gang back together to save Central City
And we back *insert Chance the Rapper bark*…
The Flash returns for its fourth season with a premiere that does a pretty good job of wiping the slate clean and reminding us what we loved about the series in the first place (which was necessary after a disappointing and depressing third season). In many ways, “The Flash Reborn” reminded me of DC Comics’ massive one-shot Rebirth, which was concerned with restoring hope to the DC Universe. This episode seems mainly concerned with bringing hope and faith back into Team Flash’s lives. As we all know, most Flash episodes are built on three things: heart, humor, and spectacle. Thankfully, this hour wasn’t lacking in any of those.
“The Flash Reborn” gets off to a strong and reassuring start: Kid Flash, Cisco, and Joe are running, vibing, and driving, respectively, around the city in pursuit of escaped metahuman Peek-a-Boo (last seen in season 1’s “Rogue Air”), while Iris coordinates their efforts from back in S.T.A.R. Labs. Iris, who has taken on an Overwatch-esque role on Team Flash, figures out the pattern in the elusive meta’s teleporting, which is the key to stopping her.
Sure, the hour does feature some thrilling visual effects, but Iris becoming the team’s leader in the wake of Barry leaving is the most exciting development in the premiere. Removing Barry from the table has allowed Iris to finally step up and play an important and necessary role on the team. Does her technological know-how make that much sense? No, but who cares? It’s nice to see her being a hard-ass with Team Name-to-Be-Determined (it’s definitely not Team Kid Flash, which everyone, except for Wally, agrees has too many syllables). She reminds them of their bad track record over the past six months (one out of three metas they fight escapes) and assigns Wally four hours of training in lieu of joining her and Joe for dinner with Cecile, who is moving in with Joe.
It’s clear that everyone misses Barry — especially Iris, who is sleeping on the couch these days because she can’t be in that bed alone and is throwing herself into her new role in order to avoid thinking about Barry — but writers Todd Helbing and Eric Wallace don’t let that pain overload the episode. For every moment of sadness, there’s another punchline coming around the corner. For example, Cecile teasing Joe about his enormous record collection is a nice counterbalance to Joe having a serious talk with Iris about how she’s not dealing with Barry’s departure. Iris doesn’t want to talk about it, so she leaves rather abruptly.
Iris doesn’t have much time to brood because an explosion ripples through Central City. As she heads to S.T.A.R. Labs, Kid Flash, Cisco, and Joe head out to the scene and come face to face with a futuristic samurai who wants one thing: the Flash. Basically, Central City has 24 hours to deliver the real Flash or he’ll destroy the city with his earthquake-causing sword. (ASIDE: Why is Cisco surprised by the damage this samurai can do with a sword? He’s seen how vicious the Green Arrow is with a bow and arrow. END ASIDE)
Luckily, Cisco has spent the last six months working on a way to free Barry from the Speed Force without unleashing another storm, and he thinks he can solve that problem in the next 24 hours. This is news to Iris and the rest of the team, and Iris flips out because he’s been working on a secret project (fair!) and orders him to focus his attention on defeating the samurai because they aren’t sure this will even work. That’s the reasoning she gives him, but really, it’s obvious that she doesn’t want to let herself hope there’s a chance they can get him back because it’ll hurt too much if they fail. (Recap continues on next page)
Obviously, Cisco ignores Iris’ orders and gets to work on bringing the band back together. He recruits Caitlin, who now works in a dive bar and whose brunet hair signals that she’s back to normal, to help him figure out the problem with the device he’s building to free Barry. She agrees, because she just can’t say no to her bestie.
The next day, Cisco and Caitlin call Wally and Joe to the racetrack from the pilot in order to test out the device. (The other sign the show is moving past the angst? Joe immediately forgives Caitlin for everything she did last season.) Cisco and Caitlin modified the Speed Force Bazooka so that it’ll free Barry by putting a ball encoded with his DNA in his place to keep the Speed Force stable. They fire it up, but alas, it fails, and unfortunately, a pissed-off Iris arrives just in time to see it fail…
But it’s not a complete failure — moments later, a portal opens out in the country and a naked Barry comes speeding out. However, as we find out when the gang reunites with him at the CCPD station, Barry’s time in the Speed Force broke his mind. He’s talking in nonsensical sentences and obsessively drawing symbols on the walls of whatever room he’s in. They think knocking him out and waking him up to the sound of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” as they did in the pilot, will help reboot Barry’s brain, but it doesn’t. So they place in him pipeline as they try to figure out what’s wrong with him.
Barry’s not-great return bums everyone out and leads to some endearingly mushy heart-to-hearts that drill down on the episode’s concern with faith and hope. Cisco admits to Caitlin he really only brought Barry back because he missed his friend. Meanwhile, Joe and Iris plop down outside of Barry’s cell, and Joe reveals that he started going to church again in order to restore his faith. “Strength means nothing without faith,” he tells his daughter, who seems to have lost hers in the past few months. “You’ve got strength, baby girl. You just need a little faith.” (Joe is going to regret this pep talk in a minute.)
When the flying samurai makes his presence known again at the end of the 24 hours, Iris decides to turn herself over to him because she knows the one thing that might wake Barry up is her being in danger. So the samurai takes off with her — and it turns out she’s right! The words “Iris is going to die” shock Barry’s system, and in a blur, he breaks out of his cell, steals the new suit Cisco made for him, and speeds out to save the love of his life, which involves running up an obstacle course of tumbling windmills. Barry defeats the samurai and unmasks him to discover it’s just android — a samuroid, if you will — and its final words are simply “Flash, welcome home.”
Caitlin examines Barry and reports that he’s now faster and healthier than ever. Barry reveals that the last thing he remembers before saving Iris is entering the Speed Force with his mother. Iris thanks Cisco for believing when she couldn’t, and Caitlin promises Cisco that she’s back, too…well, almost. Caitlin returns to the bar, and that shady guy knows she’s done working for Amunet Black. He tries to stop her, and she goes Killer Frost on his ass, which apparently doesn’t last long too long. After fighting him off, she struts into an alley ready to have some fun, then suddenly stumbles, reverts back to old Caitlin, and says, “Not again.”
Meanwhile, Barry and Iris return home, and Barry thanks Iris for keeping everyone together in his absence. He also reveals how his time away has cleansed him. “It sounds funny, but maybe this was a blessing…I can’t tell you how I feel, Iris. It’s like everything that was wrong in my life — the pain of my past, my mistakes — it’s all just washed away, and all I see is you and us and our future together. Iris, it’s going to be great,” he says.
This wouldn’t be a Flash premiere without a dope stinger, and this episode doesn’t disappoint. The hour’s ending reveals who sent the samuroid after Team Flash: The Thinker, played by Neil Sandilands. His female associate asks what he wants to do next, and he ominously says, “I’m thinking.”
Wall of Weird:
- The premiere also revealed that Julian returned to London. I would say we’ll miss him, but then I’d be lying.
- “Peek-a-Booya!” — Cisco, when they finally apprehend the teleporting meta
- “Son, I love you, but ain’t nobody feeling Team Kid Flash” — Joe, to his son
- “I’m back and I’m never going anywhere ever again,” says Barry to Iris, clearly forgetting that he disappears in a crisis in the future.
- For more info on Amunet, the criminal Caitlin was working for during her time away from Team Flash.
- To be honest, I first thought The Thinker was Metron, because he’s sitting in a hovering, futuristic chair that looks like a scaled-down version of the Mobius Chair, but I was wrong.