In the weeks of its hiatus, The CW was not coy about what was coming for The Flash. Throughout the month, it teased the revelation of Harrison Wells and his involvement in the death of Nora Allen. It led myself, and I’m sure numerous others, to believe that St. Patrick’s Day was going to bring more than just green beer and a river of whiskey, but a wealth of change for Barry and his S.T.A.R. Labs cohorts.
The first half of “Out of Time” left me feeling cheated. After weeks of anticipation, the episode unraveled in a surprisingly straightforward manner. Mark Mardon, brother of episode one’s baddie Clyde, surfaced with similar weather controlling powers, and an eye on avenging Clyde’s death. While there were small moments involving Caitlin and Cisco and their independent quest to find out what exactly Dr. Wells is up to, the first 30 minutes focused primarily on Mardon. While I felt a twinge of disappointment that the show wasn’t facing its Reverse-Flash storyline head on, it made sense they would move slower than the TV promos suggested, saving the true revelation for the end of the season. It didn’t hurt that the show delivered one of its better efforts in weeks with Mardon and his revenge story, giving it the proper attention needed, while also including several well-scripted action sequences, which the show has lacked of late. Particularly nice was the personal aspect given to Joe (Jesse L. Martin) this week. Having killed Clyde, he was the primary target of big brother Mark’s hatred, a feeling that was mutual considering the Mardon brothers killed Joe’s partner the night the particle accelerator exploded. This led to the detective, usually the one cautioning others (especially Barry) to remain level-headed, to go off the rails. Convinced that he could take down Mark the same way he did little brother, Joe pursued with reckless abandon, spurned on especially after Mardon severely injured Capt. Singh. Naturally, being less than a match for a metahuman, Joe finds himself in dire straits fairly quickly. At this point, I expected the episode to play out routinely, with Barry swooping in and doing something miraculous to save Joe and the city.
But then the second half began.
In all the ways that I felt cheated in the first 30 minutes of “Out of Time,” the last 30 remedied it all. The truly thrilling second act had everything a comic book, and The Flash, fan could have wanted. An epic tidal wave barreling toward Central City from the hands of Mardon that Barry hoped to stop by running back and forth across the beach fast enough to create a wall of air to diffuse wave. The realization that Harrison is in fact Eobard Thawne, a “distant relative” of Eddie (whatever that means), the Reverse-Flash, and a man stuck in a time not his own. The heartbreaking death of a major character. The confession of love and first kiss for Iris and Barry. It all came on so fast you could hardly breathe. And then, to top it off, Barry reached a speed he never had, and ran so fast he broke the time continuum and traveled back a few days, resetting the events of the episode.
It may seem like a gimmick, to reset with a jump back in time. But given that it wasn’t a dream scenario, or an “alternate universe” situation, instead something that came about organically within the world of the show, it worked. It could also have interesting ripple effects next week and in the weeks beyond, though we can’t say for sure at the moment. Primarily, though, the fact that the entire second half was so well delivered allowed much to be forgiven. The second act was an absolute whirlwind, a feeling the show hasn’t quite been able to capture since the spectacular Arrow crossover episode from earlier this season. “Out of Time” felt like a season finale, which is why it was in the end too good to be true. There is simply too much time left for all that was revealed tonight to not have been undone, and the writers used their unique situation to undo it in a way that wasn’t blasphemous.
What could be questioned are the actions of Dr. Wells before the time jump. Before Barry ripped a hole in the universe, many of Harrison’s decisions didn’t make sense. When Caitlin invites Wells for coffee, he begins to put the pieces together that Cisco and Caitlin have figured him out. In truth, it was primarily Cisco that had pieced it together, though he was far from the only one trying. Nearly everyone outside of Barry is targeting Wells. Cisco has been unsure for weeks thanks to his partnering with Joe, and he then passed along his concerns to Caitlin. Mason Bridge, the intrepid reporter for the Central City Picture News, has long been at odds with Wells, believing the doctor to be a sociopath and, now, a murderer. He enlisted Iris in the investigation last night, adding to the growing list of characters uncertain about Harrison and his intentions. Despite the heat around him, though, Wells’ situation never seemed desperate enough to warrant the reveal of his identity to Cisco, and partially Caitlin. With genius-level intellect, it seemed a given that Harrison would be able to find a way out of the bind. Instead, he simply began to improvise, ditching his elaborate and meticulous plan. It didn’t add up, unless, of course, it was known all along that the reveal wasn’t really a reveal. A small bone to pick when the quality of the episode was so high, but a bone nonetheless.
?After a middling stretch of episodes that, at best, were merely sufficient, it was nice to see The Flash return with a bang last night. It recaptured much of its early season magic, and boosted my hopes for the final stretch. If the writers can deliver whole episodes as exciting as the last half of “Out of Time,” we’ll all need the whole summer to simply catch our breath.
Eric Walters is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. For more of his TV musings, follow him on Twitter.