The Flash: 115 “Out of Time” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
Previously on The Flash: on the night the Reverse Flash, murderer of Barry’s mother, reappeared to kick seven shades of the proverbial out of Barry, the trap set in STAR Labs mysteriously malfunctioned, allowing the Reverse Flash to escape. With Harrison Wells revealed as the Reverse Flash, how long would it be until someone in STAR Labs discovered the traitor lurking in their midst?
This week’s instalment, Out of Time, appeared to be a regular freak-of-the-week standalone episode, before taking a swerve into crazy territory with a final act packed to the gills with twists so stunning that it left this reviewer utterly gobsmacked. The aforementioned metahuman of the week was Mark Mardon, aka the Weather Wizard – the show’s first proper legacy villain and brother of Clyde Mardon from the pilot. The Flash’s first take on the Weather Wizard yielded a paper-thin and frankly boring bad guy who was lost under the reams of setup in the pilot, but this Weather Wizard, while not ranking as one of the show’s best villains, was a far better portrayal.
The season finale feel of Out of Time extended beyond the game-changing final act, as we circled back to Joe’s murder of Clyde in the pilot. One of the chief problems with Clyde Mardon was that his motivations never really stretched beyond a vague God complex, so it was a great improvement to not only have some actual character depth (the vague God complex was still present and correct, however), but to have a back-story we’ve actually seen on screen several episodes previously. Liam McIntyre made a nicely sinister Weather Wizard, and the depiction of his powers was another display of just how good The Flash’s effects can be on a TV budget, with an excellent action scene in the police station and an impressive depiction of the true scale of Mardon’s powers as he summoned up a tsunami. The Weather Wizard is hardly the highlight of Out of Time, but the show’s second pass at this villain was a notable improvement in almost every way.
The Weather Wizard’s personal vendetta with Joe also lead to a more active role for the cop – we’re used to seeing villains that are after Barry (or Wells, in the Pied Piper’s case) first and then his loved ones by extension, so to flip that and have a villain specifically have a vendetta against Joe was a nice inversion and prevented the first 45 minutes or so of the episode from slipping into an episode that ruggedly, if entertainingly, stuck to the show’s set formula. Jesse L Martin also continued to put in some strong work here – even in an ensemble that’s been improving rapidly, Joe has been a consistently likeable character, and this viewer investment in the character helped to emphasise the dire peril Joe found himself in soon enough.
The only real bum note that Out of Time struck was the execution of the sprawling love square (it is fairly depressing that a love square is now a thing) between Barry, Iris, Linda and Eddie. Linda and Eddie have been likeable characters so far, so Barry and Iris’ flirty actions ended up coming across as a little unpleasant and selfish, putting a slight blemish on the big concluding moment at the end of the episode. Thankfully, however, the scenes never truly felt like a momentum killer – if there’s a positive to be taken from these awkwardly handled scenes, it’s that they never quite manage to slow the propulsive pace of the episode to a halt, given the quality of the surrounding material, and therefore make very little mark on the episode’s quality.
And then there was Wells. The villainous speedster had been successful at keeping his plans under wraps so far, but Out of Time saw the façade slowly fall to pieces. The build-up to that climatic scene in the containment room was a commendable instance of strong pacing – there was no irritating manufactured disbelief, nor was there any unrealistic ‘Eureka’ moment where Cisco or Caitlin instantly turned on Wells – instead, the slow chain reaction of characters suspecting Wells felt natural and compelling, with the tension mounting until it all went very, very wrong.
It all came to a head in a final act that outstrips anything we’ve seen so far – a collection of scenes that smashed the show’s status quo to pieces, and then quietly repaired it in a way that didn’t even feel frustrating. The fateful scene with Cisco and Wells in the containment room was perhaps the biggest example just how bonkers this final act was – after fifteen episodes of dancing around the truth, Wells revealed pretty much everything about his plans, motivations… and identity.
The confirmation that Wells’ real name is Eobard Thawne (distant relative of Eddie) was a pretty huge thrill even for a non-comics reader – and the revelation that Barry’s speed is just the ticket to get Wells back home to his own time (!) was equally exciting. It might sand away some of the moral ambiguity Eobard previously had by contextualizing his protectiveness of Barry as essentially preserving a tool, but his motivation is hardly of the moustache-twirling, purely evil kind too. Heading into the final few episodes of the season, The Flash needed an unequivocal villain that posed a direct threat – but despite this revelation that Eobard is definitely a bad guy, he still retains enough complexity to stay as a three-dimensional and genuinely interesting villain…
… However, despite the complexity he may have retained, Eobard ruined the scrap of dignity he had left by killing Cisco in cold blood. Despite the fact that it’s almost certainly due to be undone, Cisco’s death was a gut-punch and a half – the character may have started off as a fairly pesky comic relief character in a series that had no real need for such a character, but Cisco has blossomed into a likeable and amusing protagonist whose near-fourth-wall-breaking antics have placed him firmly as the audience surrogate. Carlos Valdes also proved his worth with some genuinely affecting work as he pleaded for his life, showing how the actor has also developed from a fairly one-note performer to a far more versatile actor. Cisco may live on in the new timeline created but his ‘death’ was a perfectly executed shock, augmented by excellent performances from both Tom Cavanagh and Valdes.
As if that wasn’t enough, Barry and Iris finally had their big kiss – it’s marred slightly by the unpleasant nature of both of them essentially cheating, but the scene is a well-directed, operatic moment that evokes memories of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films. Like the romantic moments in those films, it may have been a little cheesy, but it’s the sort of grand sweeping moment that worked well in the context of the episode, and underlined just how much The Flash has embraced its four-colour roots. The revelation of Barry’s identity to Iris was also a notable surprise – it looks like it may also be undone, but it’s still a moment made shocking because of how early it is; it’s a scene you would expect in a season finale, not episode fifteen of a 23-episode season. As Out of Time emphatically showed, however, The Flash isn’t messing around with delivering landmark scenes when we least expected them.
And as if that wasn’t enough (yes, this episode was several kinds of bananas), Barry’s efforts to stop Mardon’s tsunami by running extremely fast (the solution to everything) lead to Barry running fast enough to accidentally pop back in time to the night Mardon appeared on the scene. I cited the rapid pacing of the time travel plot as a major strength last episode, and that same rapid pace is evident here – just two episodes after it was even mooted, we have our first on-screen moment of time travel. The fact that this will likely mean that some of the major events seen in the final few scenes will be rewritten should have been frustrating on paper, but Out of Time is smart enough to deliver revelations that can’t just be rewritten entirely (Wells/Eobard’s revelations, Iris’ true feelings) – and there’s the fact that Barry just went back in time. Barry himself summed this reviewer’s feelings up nicely with his final line:
There are not quite enough superlatives for this one – even taking into account a few niggling flaws, Out of Time was quite simply one of the best hours of television I’ve seen in quite a while.
Scene of the Episode: Unbreak my Heart – Wells reveals his true motivations before quite literally heartbreakingly dispatching Cisco.