After a four-week mini hiatus following the conclusion of the Ronnie Raymond/Firestorm saga, The Flash returned with the Barry-centric “Out of Time” on Tuesday night. The episode fires on all cylinders as Central City is menaced by the Weather Wizard. While Barry and Joe try to stop the metahuman from enacting mass collateral damage on the innocents of the city in his quest for vengeance on Joe, Cisco uncovers secrets that Dr. Wells will do anything to protect. In the midst of the madness, an awkward double date leaves Eddie and Linda smarting as sparks fly between Barry and Iris.
As a whole, “Out of Time” was one of the best episodes of The Flash to have aired thus far. Striking a balance between advancing the mythology surrounding Nora Allen’s death and introducing the Metahuman Of The Week, the hour flew by so swiftly that it was a shock when the credits began to roll. Still, there were a few areas in which the episode could have been more successful. So, here is a look at what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to happen next after “Out of Time.”
What Worked: Despite the fact that the first fourteen episodes of the series have been rather blatantly leading toward time travel, “Out of Time” was executed so seamlessly that Barry’s unintentional jump into the past was a genuine surprise. By not telegraphing the twist, the stakes surrounding Captain Singh’s lightning strike and Joe’s injuries felt painfully high until that final delightfully disorienting crash back to the night before. That Barry made the time jump accidentally this week will go a long way in justifying the likely lengths to which he must go to course-correct next week. He won’t be playing God, ala the Mardon brothers; he’ll be trying to save his friends.
The friend most in need of saving at the moment is undoubtedly Cisco. Killed by Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne after discovering his identity as the Reverse Flash, it will take more than just a soft time-traveling touch to undo the death and bring Cisco back into play. It’s almost unfortunate that Cisco still has such a vital role to play in the series; awful as his death was, the entire sequence between the two men was so spellbinding that he would have gone out with dignity. He knew from the moment that Wells caught him in the act that he would be killed, and Carlos Valdes played Cisco’s heartbreak at the betrayal to perfection. Cisco Ramon was the hero of “Out of Time” even moreso than the Flash himself. Even if he won’t stay dead for long, he certainly died well.
Exceptional as Valdes was in this episode, however, the MVP of “Out of Time” was Tom Cavanagh as the preternaturally calm Harrison Wells. Wells has always straddled a thin line between scientific superiority and sociopathy, only showing his true creepy colors when pushed to the breaking point. Watching him first suss out Caitlin’s agenda and then manipulate her was unnerving, and Caitlin’s sudden apprehension when he simply yet sinisterly removes his glasses ratcheted up the tension and translated through the screen. All the same, his regret at being forced to kill Cisco felt genuine. Wells continues to put all other Flash villains to shame, and Cavanagh shines devilishly as the man in the yellow suit.
Also worth mentioning were the special effects used in “Out of Time.” The handling of the superspeed is still enough of a novelty to entertain, and this Weather Wizard’s precision with his powers was far more impressive to behold than his predecessor back in the pilot. The tsunami effect was breathtaking for this medium and allowed a real sense of danger to the climax that could have been rendered laughable by less believable CGI.
Despite the excellent effects, the tsunami may not be the most memorable moment of the climax for certain viewers. The climax also happened to see the very first kiss between Barry Allen and Iris West.
Ridiculous timing aside, it was a pretty good kiss, and the 360-degree sweep around them as they smooched indicates that the director at least seems to deem them endgame material. Barry was smiling and trying not to cry; Iris was crying and trying not to smile. Overall, it was very sweet, and the fact that there was some real heat between Grant Gustin and Candice Patton this week helped to sell the moment. One unfortunate effect of Barry’s backward time jump is that their interactions at the waterfront – with regard to the big kiss and the secret identity reveal – will have never happened, but their brief coupling in “Out of Time” proves that a romantic relationship between the two can be handled in a way that audiences can enjoy.
What Didn’t Work: Of course, the show might not need to work so hard to prove Barry and Iris capable of a healthy relationship if it stopped seizing every opportunity to remind viewers that they grew up as surrogate siblings. Iris apparently refers to Barry as her friend/brother to coworkers, and Barry doesn’t so much as cringe when Joe refers to himself as both Barry’s and Iris’s father in the same sentence. It’s fine that they have a history; just maybe don’t spell it out so…sibling-esque.
Sadly, the Love Quadrangle Of Doom suffers from more than slightly incestuous undertones. As much as Barry is the hero of the show and Iris is his designated lady love, the writing of this particular plot leaves both Eddie and Linda as the more sympathetic parties. There’s a certain degree of secondhand embarrassment as Iris wipes ketchup from Barry’s face and Barry gazes at Iris that Eddie and Linda feel like wronged parties rather than romantic antagonists to the big pairing of at least Season 1. It’s better than the Love Triangle Of Doom that dominated sister show Arrow in its first season, but the problems are easily avoidable. Audiences should want to root for Barry and Iris. So far, too many just cannot.
Also, making out for the first time as their father figure is in the clutches of a dangerous madman with a thirst for revenge on the West family is not a move that works in their favor. To quote the immortal words of Harry Potter, couldn’t they just…hold it in until the crisis passed?
On a slightly less petty note, there’s a certain disappointment that the solution to the problem was once again to just fix everything by running really fast. Granted, he’s the Flash, and running really fast is kind of his thing, but Barry would do well to heed the advice of Oliver Queen from last winter’s crossover extravaganza. It takes more than superpowers to make a superhero, and it should take more than running really fast to defeat every villain.
What Needs To Happen Next: What needs to happen immediately next is that Barry use his time skip backwards to stop Cisco from dying. Although that probably prevents Wells’ secret from coming to light until May sweeps, Cisco being alive to quip and solve for the foreseeable future is worth the sacrifice. Barry may not have meant to time travel in “Out of Time,” but he certainly needs to figure out how to use it to his advantage.
On the other hand, the show needs to exercise a great deal of caution with its handling of time travel as a device. The Flash cannot play as fast and loose for fun with time travel as it has with elements of Barry’s superspeed. Otherwise, the crutch of rescuing anybody who dies or suffers a major loss of any sort will cripple the show for seasons to come (as well as for any in-universe CW spinoffs). There need to be consequences of a more serious sort than The Flash generally deals with. Everything can’t always been bright and shiny in Central City, and some people need to stay dead.
Namely: Nora Allen.