[Flash] Recap • 316 Into the Speed Force

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“Into the Speed Force” is an interesting episode. The stylish return to the Speed Force leads to the return of some familiar faces, which gives everything some poignancy. and the episode also presents an interesting critique of why Barry’s recent actions have been so messed up. But the hour never quite comes together because of how frustrating the season has been so far and because of a problematic ending.

Feeling responsible for Wally’s imprisonment in the Speed Force, Barry decides to run in after him. Odds are this sacrifice is probably slightly easier given the current state of his relationship with Iris, who really isn’t keen on speaking to him after what happened in last week’s episode. Before his trip into the breach, he asks her if his actions broke them, but she refuses to answer and just walks off. However, she does say, “I love you, too,” right before Cisco vibes him into the Speed Force.

Last time Barry ventured into the Speed Force in “The Runaway Dinosaur,” it was sort of like visiting Heaven, or, more accurately, a less severe version of Purgatory. But that’s far from the case on this latest visit, which finds the Speed Force dark and very upset with Barry’s presence. In a way, it kind of treats him like a virus, constantly trying to kill him or at least stall him from finding Wally. Part of this episode’s appeal, however, is the dark and dreary visual atmosphere, which does a great of job of establishing the mood.

After he enters the Speed Force, he immediately runs into several familiar faces, who mostly articulate that the Speed Force is still pissed about Flashpoint. First, the Speed Force takes the form of Eddie Thawne, who shows him visions of the life Eddie could’ve had if he hadn’t sacrificed himself to save the world — and fix one of Barry’s mistakes — in the season 1 finale. But Barry adamantly demands to know where Wally is, so the Speed Force sends a time wraith after him.

Back in the real world, Joe finds a worried Iris staring at the altered byline on the future newspaper in the Time Vault. She’s worried if she made the wrong decision by calling things off with Barry. It’s clear that she’s second guessing herself because she’s worried Barry might not make it back from the Speed Force alive and that he only went in there because of their breakup. However, Joe reminds her Barry would’ve tried to save Wally no matter what. It’s an incredibly tender father-daughter moment, which are often some of the show’s most poignant beats.

Meanwhile, back in the Speed Force, Barry heads to S.T.A.R. Labs for a conversation with the Speed Force as Ronnie Raymond, who, lest you forgot, sacrificed himself to save Central City after Barry’s actions caused a wormhole to open up above the city. It’s yet another reminder of all of the people who have been forced to pay the price for Barry’s mistakes. Barry finally admits that the real reason he came into the Speed Force was to take Wally’s place inside the prison since there must always be a speedster inside the Speed Force. Why? It’s not entirely clear yet.

The Speed Force is definitely not okay with Barry taking Wally’s place, so it sends the Black Flash after him. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting him to show up, and I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised when he did. Black Flash pins Barry to the ground, and ForceRonnie tells Barry he messed up by pawning the responsibility of saving Iris onto Wally. Basically, Barry is the reason Wally is trapped in the Speed Force. The only way for Barry stop Black Flash from killing him is to use the link to the real world Cisco planned on using to reel him back in. So, Barry wins, but loses his ticket back to the real world.

Meanwhile, Jesse is growing restless in the real world, and she decides to use the Savitar talon that stabbed Barry to find Savitar since Cisco, Caitlin, and Julian discovered that the talon is being drawn back to Savitar’s armor. H.R. tries to stop her, but she knocks him out and goes through with it anyway. Jesse is surprised to find out that Savitar’s been waiting for her to come; he knew she would. Cue fighting. By this point, H.R. has regained consciousness and jumps on the earpiece to help Jesse. He tells her that Savitar must be vulnerable underneath the armor, so she finds an opening and stabs him with the talon, thereby confirming that there’s just a man under that armor. Who? We don’t know yet! I’m glad the show gave Jesse one badass moment hero moment, since we haven’t gotten many for her since her return on the show.

After defeating Black Flash, Barry finds Wally trapped in a time loop in a hospital room, forced to relive his mother’s death over and over. Barry also comes face to face with the Speed Force as Leonard Snart. Wentworth Miller’s guest appearance was the best thing about this episode and was a further reminder of the weak villains we’ve had this season. ForceSnart tells Barry that the real Snart sacrificed himself (on Legends of Tomorrow) because Barry inspired him. Basically, the Speed Force wants Barry to realize that he’s responsible for defeating Savitar because his actions created him. The Speed Force is pissed because Barry’s recent actions — creating Flashpoint, tasking Wally with defeating Savitar — have also dishonored people like Eddie, Ronnie, and to a lesser extent Leonard Snart who sacrificed their lives so that Barry could continue to fight the good fight. However, instead, he’s been running away from his problems. (It kind of reminds me of the scolding Jor-El gives Clark in the Smallville season 10 premiere).

Anyway, Jay Garrick arrives just in time to save Barry from being killed by ForceSnart’s cold gun. After the team lost contact with Barry, Cisco jumped over to Earth-3 to ask for his help. Jay helps Barry defeat ForceSnart, and then Barry opens the door to the hospital room and snaps Wally out of his time loop. Barry’s still prepared to take his place, but at the last moment, Jay stops him and agrees to take Wally’s place in the prison. So, here we have yet another person ready to make a sacrifice so that Barry can save the world from another foe. Despite the redundancy, I did find Jay’s decision pretty moving, but I’m pretty sure that has less to do with the episode itself and more to do with how much I love John Wesley Shipp on this show.

So with that, Barry and Wally return to the real world. Wally is clearly traumatized by everything he went through in the prison since it felt like eternity, and Barry tells everyone that Kid Flash is taking a break until he recovers. I’m fairly interested in seeing the show dive into Wally’s trauma. Unfortunately, Wally will have to go through this alone because Jesse decides to move to Earth-3 to (a) get away from Savitar, who said he had plans for her, and (b) protect Earth-3 since Jay is stuck in the Speed Force. It’s a fairly abrupt departure, but I don’t think it’ll affect the show that much, which is a clear sign that the show has stumbled a bit with the handling of Jesse Quick in the past few episodes.

Barry heads home and finds Iris waiting for him. She’s had some time to think, and despite Barry’s questionable motives, she says she still wants to be his wife. It’s a shocking and problematic character development because it ignores that Barry definitely messed up; it feels like the show got scared and needed a character to give Barry some validation lest the audience lose faith in him as a hero. In another shocking twist, Barry, who’s realized he’s the only who can save her, rejects this and tells Iris that they need to spend some time apart until this is all over. It’s kind of absurd that Barry ends up being the one who actually breaks things off.

The best part about “Into the Speed Force” was definitely seeing all of those familiar faces. The affection we feel for those characters carried many of the important beats in the episode, despite the frustrating build-up to this hour. There were genuinely poignant moments throughout, but I don’t think they came anywhere close to the ones that we got in “The Runaway Dinosaur.” I’m interested in seeing where the show goes from here; however, I’m concerned that next week’s The Flash-Supergirl musical crossover — which I’m looking forward to — might take some momentum out of the season.

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