Season four of The Flash continues in its efforts to try and reassure audiences that it has returned to the lighter tone of the first season after being criticised for being too dark in season three (for the record, I had no problem with the shows third season’s tone). We get some genuinely touching character moments, some laugh out loud gags, all mixed with a villain of the week that feels very season one.
The episode picks up a number of the narrative threads left over from last week, and puts to bed most of the remaining issues of Barry (Grant Gustin) suddenly returning from the Speed Force. Barry returns to work at the CCPD (six months and five minutes late), fitting back into his old role like he was never gone, even getting moaned at by Captain Singh (Patrick Sabongui) in a way that shows he’s actually missed having Barry around.
It’s nice to get to see Barry visiting a crime scene again, as it feels like it’s been a long while since we got to see him solving a murder alongside Joe (Jesse L. Martin). The lack of Julian Albert (Tom Felton) working alongside Barry definitely makes the scene feel like one of the older seasons, but as someone who came to really like Julain by the end of season three I hope that we will get to see the character again at some point.
The main villain of the episode, Kilgore (Dominic Burgess) feels a lot like the early season one metahumans, someone with an axe to grind against people who have wronged them in the past and is using their new powers to do so.
Where Kilgore differs from past villains of the week, however, is the fact that he’s not one of the particle accelerator metahumans. How he gained his powers, who the others like him are, and why the Thinker (Neil Sandilands) wants them are sure to be questions that will play out over the course of the season.
The episode also manages to show off a lot of character development as well as setting up this season long mystery, with Barry and Iris (Candice Patton), as well as Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Gypsy (Jessica Camacho) getting the chance to have some relationship developments.
With Barry back from the Speed Force and trying to catch up on everything that he’s missed out on, he begins to push Iris too far with his cancellation of plans and cutting her out of the decision making for their wedding. Understandably this frustrates Iris, leading them to couples counselling.
The idea of putting the two of them into couples therapy, with Iris pretending everything is fine and Barry denying the need for counselling, plays to a lot of television tropes and is pretty unoriginal, however, it does lead to one of the best scenes in the episode. Getting to see Iris lash out at Barry for leaving her, for going into the Speed Force and leaving her to pick up the pieces is incredibly shocking.
These are things that we didn’t get to see because it happened between seasons, and the last episode she was happy to have Barry back, but he almost destroyed her life by leaving. Yes, he had to do it to save the city, possibly the world, but he left her shattered and alone, and it’s nice to see the episode acknowledge that this would have had a big effect on her. Whilst this could have been played out for a lot longer, across multiple episodes, it’s good that they’ve addressed it and will be moving on.
Getting to see the developments between Cisco and Gypsy play as a good counterpoint to Barry and Iris, we have a long time couple experiencing troubles whilst we get to see a new couple learn how much they mean to each other, and watch them figuring out their relationship. It’s also fun to learn a little more about Earth-19, such as the fact that they don’t have Christmas, but do have 1-1-1 Day and St Shaquille O’Neal Day, the latter of which had me coughing with laughter.
The show has definitely brought back the humour that fans loved, not just with moments like St Shaquille O’Neal Day, but with the ridiculousness of Barry’s new suit malfunctioning. Seeing him inflate whilst Cisco’s soothing voice talks to him is the kind of silly that works for The Flash, but could never be done on a show like Arrow.
With some great action sequences, such as Barry disassembling a speeding car, and some genuine character moments and ridiculous comedy, The Flash feels like it’s gotten back to its roots in a good way. If the fourth season maintains this kind of tone and quality throughout it may go on to be the best season yet.