Reviewed by John Hussey
Things have certainly been interesting on The Flash this past phase and it only shows to be getting even more interesting during this year’s mid-season opener. Having seen the devastating affects of Barry Allen’s selfish trip in time (thus creating “Flashpoint”) throughout the first half of this season it would seem that things have never been more complicated on The Flash. With a show about a man that’s fast enough to travel through the vortex, it’s a dead-given that his speed will surely cause certain problems.
The latest problem to add to the on-going list is Barry’s accidental travelling into the future (at the conclusion of “The Present”) in which he saw Savitar, the self-proclaimed God of Speed, hasn’t been defeated, before witnessing him murdering Iris West whilst his future-self is too slow to prevent this from happening. Come “Barrowing Problems from the Future” Barry is attempting to settle into his new home with Iris but she quickly picks up on the fact that something is wrong, due to Barry’s repetitive night terrors.
Thus begins my biggest gripe with Barry as a character, his inability to tell those around him what’s bothering him. On multiple occasions this trait has led him into bad situations, and caused many falling outs because of it. I mean for Christ-sake he lost Patty Spivot just because he wouldn’t admit the truth to her (one of the most annoying moments in The Flash to date). What is it with the heroes of the Arrowverse. They all seem to share the same arrogance and God-complex, all stemming back from the master of lies himself, Oliver Queen. Honestly, it gets a little annoying after a while, and Barry has become the worst hero to lie to those around him, ultimately causing more harm than good.
So naturally we have to endure Barry’s moody behaviour for the first half of the narrative because he (once again) feels it’s his God-given right to shape time to his own design. I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of thinking that got him into this mess in the first place. If it wasn’t for him going back in time and preventing the Reverse-Flash from killing his mother (thus creating “Flashpoint”) then none of this shit would’ve happened. Cisco Ramon’s brother, Dante, wouldn’t have died in a car accident, Caitlin Snow wouldn’t be turning into Killer Frost, John Diggle’s child wouldn’t have changed gender, and Savitar wouldn’t be a threat to them. Literally, Barry can be branded “the biggest fuck-up in superhero history”.
Barry decides it’s best not to tell his girlfriend the truth about his nightmares and instead leaves Iris in the dark, which is usually the path that leads him to further misery because everyone hates him for lying. Grow-up Barry! You’re not a God and you need to start taking responsibility for your actions and learn to live with them because I’ve had enough of watching the same old song and dance over and over again. It gets worse when the Plunder arrives in Central City, which resonates back to Barry’s trip into the future where he saw a news headline detailing the Plunder’s defeat at the hands of the Flash.
Now Barry is worried that the future is starting to take shape and fears to act in case he causes the events that leads up to Iris’ possible death. After all, it’s not like we fully know how time works on The Flash. Does it work like it does in Doctor Who in which certain points in time are fixed and can’t be changed? Is this one of those moments or is the future still in flux, meaning Iris’ death is but one possible future and can still be averted? But what am I kidding, The Flash has the worst track record of giving a protagonist a happy ending, so chances are Iris will sadly perish and Barry will once again sink to a new low point in depression.
This ultimately causes Barry to become a massive dick to Wally West. Give the kid a break, he recently lost his mother, has come a long way with his relationship with Joe West and Iris, and now gets the chance to help people (like he wanted). Heck, even Joe has now warmed up to his superpowers and wants him to succeed. And because Barry is all “Mr. Grumpy-Face” he decides to take his frustrations out on him. Dick move Barry! We then play a game of Barry trying to figure out the best way of taking out Plunder without causing the future he doesn’t want, leading to Barry getting pissy with Wally when he rescues him and stops Plunder.
It makes me wonder whether I fully love Grant Gustin‘s portrayal of the Flash because he’s usually either really cocky (to the point where he thinks he can take on the world) or really miserable (as he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders). But then again it’s also down to writing, so in that respect Gustin is only following the script. Most of the time it makes for good storytelling but then there are other times when it just becomes annoying to watch, like you want to reach into your television and slap some sense into Barry. Fuck it, I’d slap some sense into Oliver and Kara as well.
Also, I couldn’t help but feel I was experiencing Deja-vu, having already watched the mid-season opener of Supergirl and witnessing her being a whiny bitch for the first half of the narrative before thankfully turning herself around by the conclusion. The same pretty much happened here. Barry is a whiny bitch for the first half of the narrative before turning things around for the conclusion. Hurray! I was ready to jump up in the air when Barry finally began to learn from his mistakes. This isn’t the Patty situation all over again in which Barry failed to inform his girlfriend that he’s experiencing dreams of their unfortunate demise, thus leading to an annoying break-up because of his ridiculous habit of lying for the apparent greater good.
Barry, thanks to Caitlin’s speech about everyone needing one another during their most difficult emotional crisis, works up the courage to show Iris the newspaper article about his disappearance in the future. He already admitted to Oliver at the end of the “Invasion” crossover event that Iris’ name had been missing from the article every since he created “Flashpoint”, thus leading him to realise he’d changed the timelines more than original he thought. It was actually a really sad moment seeing Iris’ reaction, because let’s face it, it was a horrible revelation to be told.
But to give Barry credit it was really warming to see him promise to protect her. And things gradually got better from this point onwards as Barry and Iris inform the team of the new dilemma (minus Joe because they worried he wouldn’t take the news too well, but I guarantee this little white-lie will blow-up in their face sooner or later). Team Flash then takes it upon themselves to change the future. Cisco vibes him and Barry into the future and they note done crucial news headings which foreshadow upcoming events. Their idea is to change each of these events and hopefully save Iris from her fate.
I really liked this idea, and it was made even better by everyone on Team Flash (minus Joe) being in on this plan and working together as a team. There’s no secrets here (apart from Joe being left out the picture, with only Wally seeming to realise it’s a bad idea) and everyone feels equal in determination to save Iris. It’s a great U-turn from the annoying events prior to this, resulting in “Barrowing Problems from the Future” ending on a really high note.
The mid-season opener is also good for progressing characters HR and Julian Albert. HR seemed to be an okay character upon initial reaction (allowing Tom Cavanagh to once again re-invent the character of Harrison Wells) but quickly turned into an annoying reoccurrence. The fact that he simply bounces off other people’s ideas and lacks his own identity, and purpose, within Team Flash just makes him a real nuisance. Though I did feel slightly bad for him when his plans to re-launch Star Labs as a museum (acting as a logical cover-story for Team Flash’s activities) didn’t work out.
Cisco’s cruel words to him were completely justified as it was about time somebody told HR the truth behind his position within Team Flash. This ultimately pushed their relationship into better territories as Cisco finally decided to help out in order to make the Star Labs museum a success. It was a nice heart-felt moment and really helped to showcase the progression of the team as they moved forward within their darkest journey yet. Although I am really curious to see how the mystery girl is during the post-credit sequence and why she’s looking for HR.
Julian (played brilliantly by Harry Potter star Tom Felton) was a mixed-bag character for me because he was just a massive dick from the get-go, and we didn’t really understand why he hated Meta-Humans and Barry so much. But as the first half of the season progressed we learnt more and more about him, and honestly, he’s become one of the best characters within The Flash because of his interesting backstory, his political views on Meta-Humans, and of course his unique connection to the ongoing narrative. Learning he was Doctor Alchemy was a neat little twist (which I began to suspect before its reveal).
But it’s made more interesting because he’s unaware of what he’s doing. Julian is literally possessed by Savita during his time as Alchemy, leaving these events as mere black-outs within his memory. “The Present” was a really great mid-season finale in which it explored this complicated revelation and how Julian could possibly move forward. It was great to see his character progress in the best possible way and come closer to understanding Barry, and vice versa. Come “Borrowing Problems from the Future” Julian is suffering from survival guilt and sweetly requires the nudge of Caitlin to bring himself around.
Come the end of the mid-season finale we have a happy resolution (however long it lasts) where we have HR finally feeling apart of the team, Wally finally given his title Kid Flash by the people Central City, Barry isn’t lying to his loved ones anymore, and Julian is welcomed onto the team. What made this moment even more touching was Cisco working with Julian to create a new device to supress Caitlin’s abilities, moving the team one step closer to stopping another future event, i.e. Caitlin’s transformation into Killer Frost. A lot is riding on Team Flash at the minute, and honestly, The Flash has never been better and I’m hoping developers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Geoff Johns can keep the quality going strong for as long as they possibly can.