After a six-month hiatus, The Flash has returned and the fourth season has commenced. Overall, the episode was pretty solid and gave off a fun and charming Season 1 vibe that we have all missed dearly while also introducing the new villain right off the bat. Barry Allen has returned to Earth, Caitlin Snow is here to stay (for now) and Team Flash is back - and fans couldn't be happier. However, there is one major issue with this episode that highlights the biggest problem with the entire show: a lack of repercussion.
The Flash Returns To Central City: Where Are The Repercussions?
The end of Season 3 saw Team Flash finally defeating Savitar, thereby creating an energy storm that appeared over Central City as a result of the empty speed force prison. In an emotional climatic moment, Barry explained to Team Flash that he needed to take responsibility for creating Flashpoint and take the empty spot in the Speed Force prison. He gave the responsibility of protecting the city over to Wally, Cisco and Iris before leaving them forever, presumably.
In the Season 4 premiere, we saw that rest of the team have barely been getting the job done with Vibe and Kid Flash having to protect the streets by themselves. We were also introduced to a hardened Iris that has stepped forward as the leader of Team Flash, determined to focus on looking forward rather than looking back and crying about the loss of Barry.
These repercussions only last for about 20 minutes until Cisco conveniently pulled a solution for getting Barry back out of nowhere at the exact moment that a giant robot samurai asks for him. Cisco and Caitlin ran the test, but they failed, presumably. But before we could even feel the fallout from that moment, Barry returned from where he'd been trapped in the Speed Force in the blink of an eye. When he returned, it was while talking complete gibberish and with no idea of where he was. Within five minutes, though, he'd miraculously regained both his memory and speedster abilities just in the nick of time to save Iris from the giant robot—wait, what? We were apparently supposed to be okay with it, though, as Barry was back to normal and had suddenly exterminated every feeling of guilt and emotional turmoil that had haunted him from the very first season. Oh, did I also mention that he somehow also came back ten times faster than he was before?
This is the central problem with The Flash. The show always sets up catastrophic, world-ending problems only for them to be solved in the most simple and convenient way possible; there are never permanent consequences. While it was truly refreshing to have a happy Barry Allen back whose speedster powers are far more powerful than before, it was such bad storytelling that it instantly took you out of the show, despite the season premiere being otherwise wonderful.
The worst part about this is that The Flash has had this blatant problem since the beginning. At the end of Season 1, fans were left on a cliffhanger where a black hole begins to tear Central City apart and at the last moment, Barry speeds into it in an effort to stop it. It was revealed during the Season 2 premiere that Barry had successfully closed the wormhole without much effort, but at the cost of Ronnie Raymond's life. It left Barry extremely depressed, even giving up the Flash mantle...for about 25 minutes. By the end of the episode, he'd gotten over it enough to save the city from the Atom Smasher. By the second episode, any lingering feelings of guilt and regret were already out the window. Even Caitlin got over Ronnie, her fiancé, in a matter of episodes. And don't even get me started on Flashpoint—prior to the start of last season, fans were assured the epic comic book event was set to bring the most dire consequences, but the immediate ramifications of it only lasted an episode and a half.
'The Flash' Needs To Address The Poor Writing
This bad habit has truly become a glaring issue for a good portion of The Flash fanbase. Why should we care about any big events such as Barry entering the Speed Force prison for "eternity" if we know that they are going to be solved within episodes with maximum deus ex machina convenience?
The way the writers introduced a "placeholder" for Barry in the Speed Force is an absolute garbage excuse for bringing him back. We'd have bought it if they had given us a better explanation for it, but it was obvious that the only reason he was put in the Speed Force was because they needed a reason to ditch the crybaby Barry persona and also to make him faster than Wally now that there are no more speedster villains. In that, the Speed Force acted like a narrative Swiss army knife, taking care of all problems in one swoop. This reminds me of the laughable reasoning of Zack Snyder's to kill Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: because he wanted Batman to be the one to unite the Justice League. This sort of story-rigging happens all the time in writing; the problem is when the reasons given for it are weak.
This problem can be easily fixed moving forward into Season 4. In Season 3, they had started to go down the right path with Barry learning his mistakes from Flashpoint, but they flushed that down the drain in this episode. The writers can take notes from their mistakes and give us an emotional season with tragic events that, for once, have consequences. The Flash would be a much better show for it.
What did YOU guys think of the season premiere? Did you notice this major flaw in the storytelling? Debate below!