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iReview :: THE FLASH – “The Flash Reborn”

Season 4 of The CW series The Flash returns and with it a new set of problems for Team Flash as they try to carry on without the Scarlet Speedster…but wait!

The Flash is back — literally! After stepping into the speed force at the calamitous climax of Season 3 and preventing his own future-self from carrying out a mad plan to steal time right from under him, our hero Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) returns to fight another day! By the end of the Season 4 opener entitled “The Flash Reborn” Barry is running headlong in defense of his one true love Iris West (Candice Patton), after she is abducted by a sword-swinging samurai that is threatening to destroy Central City!

It’s as if Barry had hardly been away! At least that’s what they’d like you to think, but after Barry makes the decision to step into the light — a decision that he looked to have accepted rather quickly in readily at the end of last season — he left the rest of “Team Flash” in a rather precarious position. The ceremonious defeat of the Speed God, Savitar left a vacancy in the Speed Force prison that through the world asunder! The villain had escaped before and forced speedster-in-training Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) to take his place.

When Barry entered the energy field to rescue his Kid Flash, he found himself confronted with his own inner demons, and questioned the decisions that he’d made — some of which altered the timeline and created a “Flashpoint” — significant consequences of which cost Barry the trust of some of his teammates and contemporaries. Before ultimately relenting to the Speed Force, Barry is assisted Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp) the Flash from Earth-3, who agrees to take Wally’s space in the Speed Force prison, while Barry returns to challenge his enemy.

With Great Power…

Though Barry made good on his promise to free Jay who is rescued by the timely intervention of tech-wizard Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), and the team is able to ultimately stop Savitar, without someone to inhabit the Speed Force prison the energy field begins to run amok and if left unchecked could destroy Central City, if not the entire planet. It’s clear to both speedsters Barry and Jay what has to be done! Barry decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and enters the Speed Force, especially after it appears to him as his deceased mother Nora (Michelle Harrison).

Leaving behind his friends, family and fiancee, Barry encourages them all to carry on without him and insists that Iris never look back and “keep running”! That’s exactly what Iris has been doing since Barry disappeared six months ago. When Season 4 of The Flash opens up, the episode entitled “The Flash Reborn” Iris has been keeping the team in gear and running the logistical heroics while her brother Wally as Kid Flash and Cisco as Vibe take on new threats attacking Central City. Even Iris’ father Joe (Jesse L. Martin) is in on the act!

Iris is doing such a good job running things in Barry’s absence that perhaps the group fears she is losing site of the bigger picture; not allowing herself to grieve the loss of her lover or perhaps come up with a way to get Barry back! Cisco is determined to achieve the latter and enlists Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) who left S.T.A.R. Labs in order to deal with her own emerging alter-ego “Killer Frost”. Cisco finds Caitlin bartending in a seedy dive, and encourages her to help him find Barry — Snow agrees, and without Iris’ consent put their plan in motion!

A Rebirth!

Given the attacking samurai’s threat to destroy Central City if The Flash doesn’t present himself to him, the group have precious time to put their plan into affect. With Caitlin’s ingenuity Cisco has come up with a plan to “fool” the Speed Force into relinquishing Barry, but when they launch their initiative, they are almost immediately met with a bombastic failure! All sparks and no fire, they are unable to produce Barry — and Iris is none too happy when she discovers what they’ve been up to, but unbeknown to them — their plan has worked!

The Flash — “The Flash Reborn” Pictured (L-R) Jesse L. Martin as Detective Joe West, Candice Patton as Iris West and Grant Gustin as Barry Allen — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

They indeed have freed Barry Allen but what has returned from his adventures in the Speed Force is not the same man that they remember. Barry is communicating in an incomprehensible gibberish and writing a series of glyphs across floors and walls that although appear to have a structure are at least for the moment undecipherable. Barry appears healthy, and according to Caitlin in the “best health of his life” but his mind appears unable to process the shock of the time he’s spent in the Speed Force. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking and the samurai is gearing up for a fight!

Wally decides to give him exactly what he wants and dons Barry’s Flash suit to apprehend the foe, but is immediately put in his place and meets the sharp end of the samurai’s sword through his leg. With little other alternatives left to them and Barry still in a state of shock, Iris decides to place herself in the villain’s crosshairs and turns herself over as its hostage, hopeful that it might trigger a reaction in Barry. Her gambit pays off and Barry springs into action, immediately sliding into hero mode and into his newly designed Flash suit courtesy of Cisco!

The Flash rescues Iris and makes short work of the samurai, which is in fact a “samuroid” — an android disguised as a Japanese warrior, but the real mystery is who is behind its sophisticated design and deployment? Team Flash on the other hand is happy to have Barry back and it appears he’s back to his old self, but Barry has no memory of his time in the Speed Force — he only remembers walking in and the next rescuing Iris from her captor. He also doesn’t have a clue about the gibberish he was speaking or the cryptic symbols he was writing.

Elsewhere in a very high-tech lair a pair of nefarious individuals discuss the reappearance of the hero and how The Flash will factor into their plans! From his dangerously styled throne The Thinker (Neil Sandilands) contemplates his next move!

Recharged!

As far as Season Openers go The Flash kicked things off rather brightly with “The Flash Reborn” which has many clear indications that this year the cast is shaking off some of the restraints and trappings of the previous years. The most obvious difference is the introduction of a “big bad” that isn’t a speedster — The Thinker, who has made numerous appearances throughout the history of the character in the comics and started out (in fact) as an arch-nemesis of Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick, is a serious departure from adversaries seen before.

It appears that this year Barry will be facing an enemy that is as quick on his feet as our own hero, but who is far more super-charged when it comes to brain power, which will undoubtedly play very interestingly as Barry attempts to put the pieces back together of his own missing time. You don’t really suspect that he’s forgotten everything about this time in the Speed Force? After all he’s built up a much faster velocity that helped him take down the samuroid, and he’s obviously still very much in love with Iris — so we can expect to see the pair get hitched this season, no doubt.

The group dynamic has also evolved greatly and it’s still good to see that the core cast chemistry is very much intact. Cisco and Caitlin are genius level best friends and with the pair getting a handle on their own metahuman powers it will be exciting to see how this dynamic duo translate those power levels when suiting up and taking on other metas. Iris and Joe are at the core the beating heart of the series, especially after the premature departure of Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp), and it’s exciting to see that their relationship is also on an interesting trajectory.

Iris has evolved into a very independent personality and is now even comfortable giving her own father advice; seeing them engage as adults, a loving father and daughter, has become an integral component of The Flash. The same can not be said about Wally West, who makes up the third part of the West family and who appears much more focused and acting recklessly even after facing the dangerous situations set before them. As Kid Flash, Wally is making many mistakes, and is perhaps is need of some serious mentoring, though not the kind that Barry might be able to make.

Missing from the season opener was another speedster, Jay Garrick who at the end of last season appeared to be sticking around especially after Barry took his place inside the Speed Force. With Barry putting it all together still, Wally should turn to someone with some genuine experience like Jay — an experience that hasn’t really been explored inside the narrative of the series, at least not yet. With Barry about to face a new enemy that might be capable of out-thinking him, Jay Garrick would prove an asset to the team, if only to get Wally up to speed!

All in all, “The Flash Reborn” lives up to igniting a fresh perspective on this now long-running series that has surpassed its predecessor Arrow and stands unique among its spin-offs Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. With a silver screen “Flash” about to join the league, The Flash on television is proving it has blockbuster potential, and can keep pace with its own competition all the while carving its own path. Hopeful that it remains true to its character development, The Flash Season 4 proves it is still able to strike lightning!

The Flash has indeed returned to The CW Tuesday nights, with new episodes airing @ 8/7c.

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