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Any lingering hopes that The Flash might do something more with the fallout of Flashpoint were dashed for good this week. The series returned for its midseason premiere complete with a new opening sequence, one that shifts the focus from Flashpoint to the ongoing quest to prevent Iris’ murder. It’s not necessarily a bad status quo, but The Flash needed a bigger jolt coming into 2017 than this midseason premiere was able to offer.
While I was pretty positive on the state of the series after the midseason finale, it really started to sink in again with this episode just how much The Flash is spinning its wheels and retreading old ground in Season 3. Once again, there’s the looming threat posed by a speedster villain with an unknown identity and a mysterious connection to Team Flash. Once again, Barry is keeping secrets from his friends under the misguided belief that he needs to tackle his demons alone. And once again, there’s the prospect of Barry losing one of his loved ones in the season finale. The single most important goal right now should be proving to viewers how the remainder of Season 3 is going to be different, and “Borrowing Problems From the Future” didn’t do enough in that regard.
The one promising sign is that the writers chose not to dwell on Barry’s secrecy for very long. Rather than keep Iris in the dark for several episodes and then invite the inevitable emotional blowout when she finally learned the truth, Barry did the responsible thing and opened up. Sure, it took him a few weeks of hand-wringing and several sleepless nights, but at least he eventually did the right thing. It’s nice to be reminded every so often that Barry can learn from his mistakes and grow as a person, because he sure is good at ticking off his friends for hiding secrets.
One thing this episode made very clear is that the fateful night when Iris is killed is a moment that the show will be returning to many times over the course of the season. It’s basically the new “Barry’s mom’s death scene.” Maybe at some point all the time-traveling Flashes from that night and all the time-travelling Flashes from the park will get together for a Flash convention or something. But the idea here is that Barry and Cisco can keep revisiting that terrible moment and observe how it’s affected by the changes they make to the timeline.
Wherever this is going, I just hope the season is building to something bigger and more unpredictable than Barry racing Savitar for the fate of Iris. This Terminator 2-style “fate or free will” question needs to yield more interesting results.
While all this was unfolding, the episode also introduced a throwaway villain in the form of Plunder (Stephen Huszar). Plunder basically came across as Deadshot with a fancier gun. Said gun yielded a handful of neat, The Matrix-style bullet time scenes and a brief chase, but otherwise the character was completely unremarkable. Nor was Barry’s moral dilemma very compelling. The fact that he actually believed letting a serial robber run free would somehow prevent Iris’ life was downright asinine. Again, even after three years on the job, his judgment can be pretty spotty sometimes.
The nice thing about The Flash is that we can always count on the Team Flash dynamic to carry the day even when the show stumbles through storytelling missteps or lousy plot twists. This episode offered a pretty sluggish start to the new year, but there were plenty of small, strong scenes involving various Star Labs characters. Wally and Barry’s brotherly bond is growing stronger. It’s fun seeing Cisco (however reluctantly) form a closer bond with H.R. that recalls his friendship with Earth-2’s Harry. For his part, Harry showed a more vulnerable side as he struggled to get the STAR Labs Museum up and running and his latent inferiority complex bubbled to the surface. This is a character with a lot of layers yet to be revealed, though it looks as though next week’s episode will give it a serious go.
Caitlin’s growing connection with Julian was also a welcome addition to the mix. Both seem to be kindred spirits as they deal with the lingering trauma over being manipulated and used by Savitar. I was fairly disappointed with the obvious reveal that Julian was Alchemy, but the good news is that there seems to be a place on the show for Julian after Alchemy. Here’s hoping he doesn’t also turn out to be Savitar…