‘The Flash’ Review: A Character Dies as Secrets Are Revealed in the Outstanding ‘Out of Time’
Recap and review of The Flash – Episode 15 – Out of Time:
Damn you, The Flash. I shouldn’t be this hyped up, this close to bed time. “Out of Time” is an absolutely outstanding hour of television, and one of the most exciting episodes of any major network show I’ve watched this season.
Much of what makes the episode spectacular (okay, pretty much all of it) is encapsulated in the awesome final 10 minutes, as we discover the true identity of Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), bid farewell to Cisco (Carlos Valdes), and bring Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candice Patton) together in a moment that is fourteen episodes in the making. It’s a tall order for any one episode, so it’s only natural that it’s spread out among two, as the show appears to be ditching the “Case of the Week” conceit for a more serialized story. If nothing else, the return of a villain from the pilot suggests that serialization has always been the show’s goal, as the reintroduction of Mark Mardon/Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre) provides us with a villain strong enough to carry over into multiple episodes. He’s every bit as dangerous as his late brother, but with the added ability of focusing the weather control ability into bursts. He can shoot hail, summon lightning bolts, and create tsunamis (he even paralyzes Joe’s captain!).
Basically, it’s a villain that actually creates a real sense of peril. Normally, it’s accepted that main characters, particularly early into a show’s run, have a certain amount of “plot armor” that protects them from being killed off. Even if a detective gets abducted on a police procedural, we know they’ll be fine by episode’s end, since it’s not like the show is going to kill off a series regular in the middle of the season. And while TV has generally gotten away from this “everybody is safe unless it’s the premiere/finale” mindset in recent years, it’s still relatively true on network TV. So I was surprised at how much I worried for Iris, Cisco, Joe (Jesse L. Martin), and even Eddie (Rick Cosnett), since it seemed not only plausible, but likely that one of them would die by the end of the episode.
And yet, I’m not sure how likely it is that Cisco’s death is actually going to stick. The cliffhanger of the episode features Iris revealing her true feelings to Barry after Joe is abducted by Mardon, who wants to make him suffer for having killed his brother in the pilot. Barry naturally reciprocates Iris’s feelings, and they share a passionate kiss before Barry reveals a secret of his own. “I didn’t want you to find out this way,” Barry tells Iris, before changing into The Flash and ordering her to run to safety. Mardon has summoned a tsunami and directed it towards Central City, and the only way to stop it is for Barry to run so fast that he creates a barrier protecting the city. Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) isn’t entirely sure Barry even can run that fast, but as with every other time someone wondered if Barry was fast enough to do something, Barry proves more than capable of doing it. But not without paying a price. He runs so fast that he breaks the time barrier and finds himself sent back to the previous day. On the one hand, Barry now has the ability to not only save Cisco, but prevent Mardon from getting as far into his revenge scheme as he does. On the other hand, he doesn’t even know Cisco has been killed in his original timeline, so if he does manage to prevent Cisco’s death, it’d probably be just a happy side effect of whatever he ends up doing in the past. However, another negative is that this effectively undoes all of Barry’s progress with Iris. I know that’s not really as big a deal when set against everything else that happens, but it seems Iris needed to go through the very specific set of circumstances she went through in this episode in order to come to the realization that she actually does have feelings for Barry. Otherwise, she’ll just keep telling herself it’s foolish, and that she shouldn’t ruin the good thing she’s got going with Eddie. So Barry stands to lose a lot by going into the past, just not as much as he stands to gain, considering he has the potential to essentially resurrect a friend while simultaneously rescuing his father figure.
All of that would have made for a satisfying episode in itself, but the Harrison Wells reveal was the cake-topper to end them all. We learn that his real name is Eobard Thawne, and he’s been stranded in the past for fifteen years. He used his speed to travel back in time to kill Barry, for reasons unknown (seriously, if his plan was to kill Barry in the past, why has his primary initiative ever since been to protect Barry at all costs? Hell, why even create The Flash in the first place?), although he unfortunately ended up killing Nora Allen, which he did not intend. Cisco is horrified to discover that his research, as well as Joe’s theory, has been proven true. Harrison Wells is a bad guy, and he’s been fooling them for all these years.
It’s a scene that is as heartbreaking as it is shocking. When Caitlin turns around at Jitters and realizes Wells’s wheelchair is empty, we know the jig is up, and that Wells is headed back to S.T.A.R. Labs, which can’t possibly end well for Cisco. And yet, even then, I’ve always retained this foolish hope that the show would continue this way forever, with Wells as the Oracle to Barry’s Batman, and Cisco cracking wise while Caitlin is simultaneously nerdy/cute/brilliant. It was a formula I loved, and while I knew it was going to change eventually, I was desperate to hold onto it just a little bit longer. But then, that’s what made this so shocking, that the show is essentially abandoning its formula a little more than halfway into its first season. It’s a bold move for such a young show, and it pays off immensely well, particularly as Wells and Cisco have their climactic face-to-face confrontation. “Do you know how hard it has been? To keep all of this from you?” Wells tells Cisco. “Especially from you. Because the truth is, I’ve grown quite fond of you. And in many ways, you have shown me what it’s like to have a son. Forgive me, but to me, you’ve been dead for centuries.”
Wells then uses his speed to blur his hand into Cisco’s chest, killing him instantly. And this, after a tearful Cisco even offered to help him get back to his own time. Wells (or Thawne, I guess. Cool moment: he acknowledges Eddie as a “distant relation”) is an out-and-out bad guy, and while that eliminates some of the complexity that made him interesting, I kind of like that this is a comic book show that isn’t afraid to be a comic book show. Sometimes villains are just that over-the-top and evil. So why not Wells? It’s the ultimate capper to what is essentially the ultimate Flash episode, as “Out of Time” stands as the best of the season by a wide margin. I have every expectation that the show can top it, but for right now, that seems like an outrageously tall order. Even for a show as good as The Flash.