The Flash Season 4 premiere: Ep. 4.1 “The Flash Reborn” — a review

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Let’s all just admit it. We knew Barry Allen would be back in Central City after his moment of self-sacrifice at the end of Season 3, when he went into the Speed Force to save the universe, or somesuch thing. We even suspected that he would be back by the first episode of the next season, didn’t we? I mean, Grant Gustin has got to have screen time, right? This is the real Flash, not Wally West, and certainly not that guy in that Justice League movie. Flash couldn’t go forward without Barry Allen. Am I right? Can I get an “Amen”?

Only, in the real world, we did have to continue on without Barry Allen for 23 years, after he died in the Crisis on Infinite Earths saga. He was brought back in The Flash: Rebirth six-part series in 2009, a comic book written by none other than Geoff Johns, a name that you’ll find all over the DC properties from print and online, to television and the movies. I believe he is also an executive producer or co-creator of the Flash television show as well, but I’m not going to bother to verify that: be careful if you quote me.

It is not uncommon for superhero characters to die and come back. At this point, I think almost all of them have died at least once. A 23-year gap is uncommon, however. The Barry Allen Flash kicked off the Silver Age of comics (he wasn’t the first Flash), and he was my Flash when I started reading superhero comics as a kid (I was a DC kid long before I converted to Marvel). My personal gap in the continuity began before Barry Allen “died.” So, for me, he was never truly gone, even though, in the back of my brain, I was aware that Wally West had replaced him in the comics and I had heard about the “Crisis” even though I hadn’t read it. I still haven’t read it, but I think I will order the TPB this week. If the television series had featured anyone other than Barry Allen, I would have been disappointed.

We didn’t have to wait 23 years for Barry’s return this time. In “The Flash Reborn”—which looks an awful lot like “The Flash: Rebirth,” doesn’t it?—Barry is brought back to Earth-1 by Cisco Ramon and Team Flash six months after he disappeared. It’s only been one episode for us, so it seems a little sudden. But, it’s not the Barry we used to know. He’s spouting nonsense and writing little symbols all over the walls that remind me of when Agent Coulson was doing something similar in Agents of SHIELD. He’s going through some sort of autistic, idiot savant phase that is a result of his time in the Speed Force, which was only six months in show time, but could have seemed an eternity to him.

This is different, I said to myself. I wondered if this was going to be an extended arc while we got Barry back to the team mentally as well as physically. Nope. He was back fully during this premiere episode. Iris West made the logical leap that putting herself in dire peril would cause Barry to return to 100% Flash fighting form to save her, and—wouldn’t you know it?—she was correct. By the end of the episode, our Barry Allen is really back. Even better than the darker Allen of Season 3, in fact. This is the happier, more optimistic Barry Allen from before the “Iris is fated to die” arc. And, while I was pleased to have him back, I still thought that how quickly this situation was resolved sort of invalidated his sacrifice during last year’s finale. I guess I’m just hard to please.

Other things happened a little too quickly for me as well. Caitlin Snow returned to Team Flash with Killer Frost apparently exorcised from her personality entirely, even though we’ve seen that she still has her frosty powers. I’m sure this will be a subject of an entire episode later, and I like the more confident, assertive Caitlin, who seems to be an amalgam of Caitlin/Killer Frost. Also, Julian—Caitlin’s brief love interest from Season 3—has returned to London and is no longer on the show. Oh, and HR is dead and gone, of course, although we know some version of Harrison Wells will return to the series because we all like Tom Cavenaugh. But, these are all little matters that we will happily whistle past to get back to the show we love.

The killer robot samurai that Cisco dubbed “Samuroid” (which sounds too much like hemorrhoid to me) turns out to have been the weapon of a villain called The Thinker. This is a villain from the comics that I seriously don’t remember, even though I once owned his first appearance in 1978’s Firestorm #1 [editor’s note – the Clifford DeVoe version of The Thinker first appeared in All-Flash #12 (1943), and the author never owned that one]. He’s obviously this season’s Big Bad, and he has me intrigued.

In many ways, the first episode of this season seems like someone has hit the reset button to correct our course away from the frequently dark Season 3. I, for one, applaud this change in direction, and I hope I’m correct in my prediction. On my personal wish list for the DC shows on the CW, I want Arrow to retain at least some of its darkness, but I expect for Supergirl and The Flash to retain a lot of that lightness I remember from the DC comics of my childhood. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow can go either way as far as I’m concerned: I just want that show to discover its true voice before it’s too late.

I am optimistic for this season of The Flash.

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