**Note: FULL SPOILERS of this episode included**
We’re back where we started–Barry is in another strange timeline where everything is the same but oh-so different in many little ways. Friends aren’t as warm to him as they used to be, and a new character has made his way into the CCPD. Paradox was sort of a homecoming for Barry–however it definitely was not the homecoming he wanted, but nevertheless, it’s the one he is stuck with for now (Although I still suspect we’ll eventually find our way back to the first timeline, surely!).
So after the premiere’s final twist in the reveal of Iris and Joe not speaking to each other, Barry makes his way to Star City to visit Felicity (EMILY BETT RICKARDS) and explain to her the mess that he has gotten himself into. Through this conversation we quickly find out that, on top of this, Cisco is not on speaking terms with Barry, Joe is some sort of failed alcoholic detective, Julian Albert (TOM FELTON) has joined the CCPD as a Metahuman CSI–and holds an enormous hatred for Barry Allen. Oh, and for some reason Diggles daughter Sarah is now a boy–I suppose to coincide with the Connor Hawke cameo in Legends of Tomorrow? A lot of these issues are resolved within this episode, giving us the feeling that this timeline is ‘just about the same’ as Barry’s prime timeline–so there is a lot to cover.
But first off: Tom Felton. Holy hell, that guy can act. It’s obvious from the get-go that he is making this character his own, and he quickly outshone the regular cast with his brutal, hate-filled deliveries towards Gustin. He seems to be everything that Barry is not, right now–he’s first on the scene, he outthinks him, he doesn’t cut corners, and, although we’ve only ever gotten the impression that Barry probably isn’t the best employee around–Julian confirms it, and simply doesn’t take any of his bull. He also seems to have a weird disdain for Metahumans–which I’m sure won’t arise later on in the season…
We also see a weird side of Cisco. This is one of the first times we have seen Valdes come off as brooding and angry, as we find out that his brother, Dante, was killed in a hit-and-run recently, and his hate for Barry has stemmed from him refusing to go back in time and save his brother. Despite this paper-thin excuse to cause friction between the two characters, it was well acted, and seeing a low Cisco in a grief counselling was a really nice nuance to his arc. After this issue was ‘fixed’ towards the later half of the episode, we even got an appearance from Cisco’s vibe powers, when they teamed up against The Rival and Alchemy. Barry said it himself–it was pretty cool having both The Flash and Vibe out on the field taking on bad guys. Hopefully we can get a bit more of that later on. Although, with Caitlin’s (DANIELLE PANABAKER) ice power rearing its ugly head again, we run the risk of ending up with an Arrow situation, where everyone becomes a superhero.
Similarly, Iris and Joe’s issues are worked out towards the end of the episode–diffused with a simple apology over Joe not telling Iris about her mother’s breathing status. Another paper-thin excuse to cause friction between already well-established character arcs, and one that had already been tackled last season. I found myself wondering why the issue was even brought to light when they quite obviously still work together in the Star Labs–other than an attempt to shock viewers. Less Iris/Joe friction, please.
The Rival also made his way back into Barry’s life, as Dr. Alchemy somehow returned his other-timeline powers to him, and set him loose upon The Flash. Returning to last episode’s battleground was a weird set up for The Rival, and one that didn’t last long considering at very final minute of the show we witness Clarris (presumably) get killed by Dr. Alchemy. Late viewers or binge-watchers are going to find this more confusing than I have, bearing in mind that we watched The Rival get killed in the first episode, to only be brought back in the second episode, to then get killed again. A strange way to deal with a brand new speedster, but maybe I’m overlooking the long game here: Dr. Alchemy can materialise powers over timelines, and will surely be launching foes at The Flash each week, much like Zoom did.
Jay Garrick (JOHN WESLEY SHIPP) also dropped by, dragging Barry out of his time portal. Shipp can do no wrong, and his gritty, film-noir diner setting was perfect for Jay Garrick’s Flash. Even more perfect was his ‘cut the shit’ lecture to Barry. A short stop in this episode, but a much appreciated one. I want him to be in this season as much as possible, Flash and Flash Vs. Bad Guys. That’s the dream.
Ultimately this episode set up a lot of obstacles for our protagonist, and then proceeded to knock them all down relatively quickly. Barry decided to just, sort of, live with his new timeline, and fixed his friends’ problems pretty quickly. Dr. Alchemy is maintaining his mystery for now, and looks to be the new monster-closet overlord for this season, but I’m not yet concerned about his presence. Plus, with only one new face this season (Felton), are we taking any bets that he is the mastermind behind all of the evil yet?
Let me know how you liked the episode in the comments, or hash out any issues you had with the episode with me on twitter!