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The Flash Recap: The Present
By Chancellor Agard for ew.com
So, the first half of The Flash‘s third season was a mixed bag that often felt like it was sagging under the weight of too much angst. It seemed as though the show was having trouble finding the right balance between light and melodrama. Put another way, the show’s trademark hopefulness was missing. However, tonight’s winter premiere suggests the show might be close to getting its groove back.
When we last checked in with The Flash, Barry had accidentally run to the future, where he witnessed Savitar murdering Iris. It’s been a month (in the show) since that happened, and he still hasn’t told Iris what he saw, even though they’ve been living together. But Iris is intelligent and knows Barry is hiding something from her. Barry’s nightmares are her first clue. She asks him what’s up, but he says nothing and then runs off to stop a fire with Wally, whom he’s training.
After extinguishing the fire, Barry returns to S.T.A.R Labs, where H.R. is buzzing about with excitement because he’s putting the finishing touches on the museum. He takes Team Flash upstairs to check it out, but they are less than impressed because there are still some kinks to work out, like a malfunctioning Cisco hologram that’s meant to introduce visitors to the museum. This entire scene has a pep that’s been missing all season.
Meanwhile, Caitlin, who is still concerned about going full Killer Frost, asks Julian if he will help cure her. At first, Julian rejects her offer because he’s still struggling with the guilt he feels from being manipulated by Savitar. But he realizes he was being a dick, and Caitlin offers him a spot on Team Flash. She knows, having gone through something similar, that the best thing for him is to be around people. I really liked the idea of Caitlin extending a hand because it brings a warmth back to the show that’s been missing all season.
Barry’s fear about the future escalates when he rushes to a jewelry store robbery and discovers it’s being robbed by Jared Morillo, a.k.a. Plunder, a.k.a. the armed robber the news report in the future credited him with capturing. In that moment, he hesitates, which allows Plunder to escape.
Wally is eager to help Barry track down Plunder, but Barry benches him, using the excuse that they still need to gather more information. Then, Barry turns to H.R. for advice and asks him if it’s possible to change the future. Using the knowledge he has from writing a bestselling novel about a man trying to prevent his own murder, H.R. explains there are two schools of thought among fans: The future is fluid, or the future is fixed. H.R. believes the latter, which disappoints Barry. But their chat is interrupted by Plunder, who robs a hotel.
So Barry zooms out onto the scene to handle Plunder. It’s clear that he’s a bit hesitant in the situation, because part of him thinks he can change the future by letting Plunder escape; however, Wally takes the decision out of his hands when he arrives on the scene and saves Barry from being killed Plunder’s fancy gun, capturing Plunder in the process.
Team Flash is excited about Plunder’s capture, but Barry goes off on Wally for disobeying, which surprises everyone. Joe tells Barry to calm down, but Barry won’t listen. The situation in the Cortex is fairly tense when H.R. runs down and summons everyone upstairs for the museum’s grand opening, which turns out to be a failure because no one shows up — except for Julian, who accepts Caitlin’s offer, which comes as a surprise to the rest of the team since she didn’t tell them about it. In a meeting, they all express their concerns about inviting Julian onto the team. Caitlin convinces them to at least think about it by reminding them that they can’t do this alone and that Julian needs friends right now, too. I love the idea of Caitlin being the one to remind Team Flash of their better angels.
This chat also convinces Barry that it’s time to come clean about what he saw in the future. So, he takes Iris to Eobard Thawne’s chamber of secrets to tell her truth, and Iris breaks down. Candice Patton delivers her best performance on the show date, making this scene even more heart wrenching. Barry’s convinced he can change the future by not catching Morillo, but Iris refuses to let him stop saving people to save her. Once she collects herself, she tells Barry they can’t do this alone and they tell the rest of the team, minus Joe, about the future.
“The future isn’t set. There’s still hope,” says Barry. Yes, Barry’s newfound optimism comes from a place of desperation and fear, but at least it’s there, and it definitely brightens up the episode. And that hope gets vindicated when Cisco vibes Barry to the future so that they can read the headlines on the news report to figure out which events they need to change to stop Iris’ death. The headlines include Music Meister getting a six-figure book deal, Central City getting attacked by gorillas, and “Killer Frost is still at large.” While in the future, however, Barry sees something new: H.R. standing on a roof with a rifle, which means Barry telling him about the future did change it. There is indeed hope.
Wally comes downstairs and informs them that Plunder has escaped again. Using his knowledge of the future, Barry figures out that Plunder plans on robbing the Central City museum next. This time, he decides to take Kid Flash out into the field because he realizes he was being a dick. Furthermore, Barry thinks the key to changing this particular headline is to let Kid Flash capture Plunder. Kid Flash has a few hiccups, but he does save the day, and the onlookers start chanting his name.
The other highlight of tonight’s episode was Cisco and H.R.’s burgeoning friendship. Cisco has been hard on H.R. since he arrived on this Earth, but tonight, Cisco softened up a bit and decided to help H.R. realize his dream of opening the museum. It’s touching and feels like the show is saying that Harrison Wells and Cisco will always develop some kind of friendship, no matter which Earth or time Harrison Wells comes from. From there, they all head to Barry and Iris’ loft-warming party, where they welcome Julian to the team and H.R. gives a heartwarming speech.
This peace won’t last for long. The episode ends with the villain Gypsy landing on our Earth through a portal intent on finding H.R.
Overall, I think “Borrowing Problems from the Future” might be my favorite episode of the season so far. It was definitely a table-setting episode, establishing how Team Flash will deal with the future problem, but the mood was balanced and didn’t feel insipidly lighthearted or depressingly grim. However, the show has a way to go to get back to where it used to be. Furthermore, I don’t like that Iris decided not to tell Joe about what Barry saw in the future. Again, keeping secrets doesn’t keep people safe!
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