What better way for Barry to figure out how to run faster than to travel back in time and talk to an old enemy? That’s his plan in the Tuesday, March 29 episode of “The Flash,” 2×17, “Flash Back,” but the moment he wonders, “What could go wrong?” it becomes clear the answer to that will be “everything.”
With Barry unable to solve the speed equation himself and still hurting from yet again being betrayed by someone he trusted and thought wanted to help him, he’s pretty much willing to do anything – including traveling back in time to talk to Wells/Eobard Thawne, after Wally talks about reading journals of engineers for his project. Barry can do one better and actually talk to the person, and so he jets out of dinner and fills Caitlin, Cisco and Harry in on his plan. Too much can go wrong, namely, that he won’t be able to fool Thawne since he’d been studying him for years. But Barry’s set in his decision, so all they can do is figure out the best time for him to go back: when Hartley attacked and any strange behavior from him can be explained by the tense atmosphere then.
Barry heads back, tranq dart from Caitlin in hand to use on his past self to keep him out of the picture so he can take his place, but he has to improvise since he arrives back in time as The Flash is facing off with Hartley. Barry intervenes, speeding his past self away, but he has to battle himself before he succeeds in knocking him out and then capturing Hartley to bring back to STAR Labs. Using his knowledge of the past and a half-hearted attempt at an explanation as to how he figured it out, Barry eliminates the possibility of Hartley’s escape before focusing on why he’s there: to get Thawne’s help with the speed equation. He’s been reading in his down time, Barry claims, when the other speedster wonders what inspired him.
However, Barry’s soon distracted when a wraith attacks CCPD, and while Cisco reconfigures the satellite to track it, Thawne lures Barry away, knocks him out and cuffs him inside his time vault. At first, he was worried that the time wraith had found him, but he knew he’d been too careful and it was really after someone who had traveled through time and didn’t know what they were doing. Though Barry tries to pretend to be his past self, his lack of flinching at Thawne’s speed gives him away. Thawne realizes he’s from the future and assumes that means his plan fails and he doesn’t get to go home, but Barry lies and tells him that he tricked him and did win. So why did he come back in time? Barry says that in helping him get home, they created a singularity and in order to stop it from happening, he needs to be faster and needs Thawne to help him. He also claims to have left a hidden letter telling his past self how it ends and how to beat him, so he can’t kill him.
The time wraith then attacks STAR Labs, but Hartley is able to use his gauntlets to drive it away. The next problem comes when past Barry walks into STAR Labs moments before present Barry, and that whole “don’t tell anyone you’re from the future” thing goes out the window. Yes, one day Barry time travels. Yes, they change the emblem. Yes, the reason they’re dealing with “The Frighteners,” only “scarier” and “faster” is Barry. No, they have no idea how to stop it. As for the answer to the speed equation, that’s where tachyon enhancement comes in, according to Thawne, who gives Barry a drive with the instructions he needs to follow to enhance the speed force in his system to run faster.
And with that, it’s time for Barry to head home, with a little help from his past self to keep the wraith off him long enough for him to get back home, where the others are waiting to deal with the time wraith, having spent the past year figuring out how: using Hartley’s gauntlets. Yes, Hartley is with the team when Barry gets back and off to dinner with his parents. And though it seems that Thawne tricked him at first, his drive does hold the answer to the speed equation. “I’m coming for you,” Barry promises, holding Jay’s helmet.
Meanwhile, Iris tells Barry about her date with Scott and admits that it feels wrong because of Eddie. He’d want her to find love again, Barry assures her, warning her not to keep herself closed off and risk missing out on something great. And with his trip back through time, he has the opportunity to help Iris, by going to Eddie and claiming to be recording a video montage for Iris’ birthday, suggesting he speak from the heart and talk as if it’s the last thing he could ever say to her.
When Barry gets home, he shows her Eddie’s message for her: “What does Iris mean to me? Wow, you know a lot of times, I have a hard time figuring out what to say to people, but when it comes to you, Iris, I don’t, because with you, everything that used to feel tough just doesn’t anymore. It’s one of the things I love about you. You don’t need me. You can handle anything on your own because you’re fearless and independent and loving, kind. You are without question the best decision I ever made, Iris West, and I’ve never thanked you for choosing to be with me because each day with you is a gift, so thank you. You deserve the world, Iris. You deserve to be happy the rest of your life, and no one wants that more for you than me. Happy birthday, baby. I love you.”
“The Flash” season 2 airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW. What did you think of episode 17 “Flash Back”?