Review: Reverse-Flash’s return raises lots of questions about time travel

A few thoughts on last night's “The Flash” coming up just as soon as a police officer makes a false report about a man with a gun…

While the ensemble nature of the Berlanti-verse superhero shows has mostly been to their benefit, there are times where the need to service lots of characters at once becomes an issue. This week's “Supergirl” would have been a lot more potent, for instance, if Kara didn't keep stepping away from the White Martian crisis to help Cat reconnect with her son, and “The Reverse-Flash Returns” would have benefited from focusing almost entirely on its title plot. Barry's reason for letting Patty go off to Midway City at least tied in thematically – it's because of Eobard Thawne that he's had to get used to the idea of his loved ones being perpetually in jeopardy – but given the importance of Reverse-Flash to Barry's overall story, and all the complicated temporal mechanics required to bring him back, the hour would have worked a lot better without that story, and especially without Iris encouraging Wally to say goodbye to their mother.

Now, about those temporal mechanics. Every time travel story gets to write its own rules, and then has to try to be consistent about them. Wells' explanation for how Thawne could still exist even though his ancestor killed himself before having kids was super technobabble-y, but also necessary to explain a bunch of unresolved issues from the season 1 finale. If Eddie's suicide had completely rewritten the timeline, after all, the real (Earth-1) Harrison Wells would still be around, Barry wouldn't be the Flash yet(*), Central City wouldn't be filled with metahuman criminals, and the new season would have to pause constantly for characters to meet again for the first time. It still doesn't entirely work if you think deeply about it for more than a second, but the show had to say something at some point, and I do like the idea of Thawne becoming River Song to Barry's the Doctor, and constantly encountering each other out of order(**). Maybe the other subplots were there because the creative team didn't want us spending too much time dwelling on how any of this was supposed to work, but the return of the Flash's arch-nemesis shouldn't have felt quite so, well, rushed.

(*) All that business about Thawne having to figure out what time period the Flash was from didn't make much sense, since A)We know Gideon has access to a whole ton of historical data, B)Wells explains in this very episode that he obsessed over that information in his quest to become like the Flash, and C)Thawne (as Wells) turns Barry into the Flash much earlier than he was originally supposed to be.

(**) The episode owed more than a small debt to Mark Waid's “The Return of Barry Allen,” one of the best Flash story arcs of all time, which also (23-year-old spoilers!) involved an earlier version of Reverse-Flash traveling back in time to meet a Flash (Wally West, in that case) who already knew him very well.

The other notable development involved the Caitlin/Jay subplot, and now I am about to get into some potentially much bigger comic book spoilers – though, as always, the series is drawing on so many stories from so many decades that anything could happen – so if you don't want to know, stop reading here (and stay out of the comments).

So Jay's Earth-1 counterpart was adopted and given the name Hunter Zolomon, which happens to be the alter ego of Zoom in the comics. This could all be a fake-out – a way to stir up the fanboys and fangirls while revealing Zoom to be someone else entirely here – but Zolomon is a Geoff Johns creation, and the Berlanti shows have tended to be more faithful to Johns' writing than when they're incorporating older characters and stories. So far, the show has used Tony Todd as Zoom's voice, but that seems more of a James Earl Jones as Vader thing, and when the mask comes off, it's meant to be someone we already know. Making him into the Earth-1 Jay Garrick, who secretly developed speed powers, crossed the dimensional barrier, and stole his counterpart's speed, could be an approach, and would make up for how little the show has used Jay so far this year. But we'll see. Already, giving that name to Jay's doppelganger is a big change from how Johns wrote Zolomon, so it could be a Felicity Smoak or Hank Henshaw thing, where the name is a nod to the comics, even though the character is something else entirely.

What did everybody else think? Did Thawne's return live up to your expectations? Do you like Cisco's new goggles? Will you miss Patty for however long she's gone? And would you put money on Zolomon being Zoom?