I've bemoaned for the last few weeks that the story-line of Barry giving up his speed to save Wally has basically been botched, in that all we've gotten is Mopey Barry - no introspection, no getting to the core of why he did it, and the underlying damage to his psyche because of his sacrifice. Well folks, in rides Director Kevin Smith on his white horse to rescue the season, with the most emotionally satisfying ep in many a moon.
Mucho credit also goes out to another Hollywood heavy hitter - Writer Zack Stentz (screenwriter of 'X-Men: First Class', 'Thor', and "Fringe'), for penning a trippy, gut-wrenching, and oft times hilarious script.
The ep begins with the immediate aftermath of the ill-fated particle accelerator explosion, with the gang finding Jesse and Wally unconscious and not breathing in a hallway. They eventually get resuscitated, but Jess is in a coma-like state, much like Barry was after the original explosion.
Cisco clutches the ragged remnants of Barry's suit, hoping to 'vibe' his location - and it works! He sees Barry in a netherworld vortex of lightning, looking distraught but alive!
Cut to Barry in his childhood bedroom, wandering the eerie house until he comes upon the aftermath of his Mother's death, crime scene tape and all. A figure who is kneeling turns to face Barry, and it's Joe! Only it's not Joe. Here's the trippy part - the spectre facing Barry is the manifestation of his Speed Force, taking the form of Joe to put Barry at ease. Except that it really doesn't calm Barry down, it freaks him out instead! All Barry wants to do is go back and help his friends, but The Speed Force tells Barry that there is something he must do first - catch the speeding shadow that races by him in this netherworld.
So Barry goes outside and attempts to catch the shadow, but to no avail - he's just not fast enough. He stops, out of breath, and sees Iris standing next to a park bench. Only, you guessed it, it's NOT Iris. It's The Speed Force again, telling him that the speed he was given was a rare and precious gift that he rejected. This opens up a more metaphysical than scientific reason for his superhero-ness, like higher forces are at work here.
Back on Earth 1, Cisco and Wells make with the science and figure out a way to harness Cisco's 'vibe' abilities to go where Barry is and provide Cisco as a beacon and a tether to bring Barry back into their dimension. A breach opens in Barry's dimension, and Cisco pleads with Barry to come through. Speed Iris tells Barry he's free to go, but he'll never have his speed again. Barry reluctantly turns his back on Cisco and resumes his search for the shadow, which leads to a cemetery, where he finds The Speed Force again. This time Speedy is in the form of his birth father Harry, and he's standing over the grave of Barry's mother.
This is now playing out as a trippy version of Scrooge, with Barry's 'ghosts of Christmas' taking the forms of Joe, Iris, and now Harry. The crux of the story now begins, for it is Barry's inability to move on from his mother's murder, which he could have prevented as The Flash, that must be dealt with. The murder of Barry's mother at the hands of the Reverse Flash is essentially Barry's origin story, and his decision to go back in time but not prevent the murder as The Flash is a millstone around his neck, and he will never reach his full potential until he reconciles this heartbreaking decision. Speed Harry asks Barry if he really thinks that his mother would want Barry to die for her, and this revelation touches Barry - progress made.
Barry goes back home, and the final manifestation of the Speed Force is waiting - his mother. Speed Mother gently convinces Barry that death is part of the deal: that he can't save everyone, that the good he does far outweighs the bad. Barry weeps as he finally sees the bigger picture, and accepts his role in it. Kudos to Grant Gustin for giving his most layered, emotionally raw performance of the series. And much love to Kevin Smith for coaxing such a marvelous performance out of the actor.
Now that Barry has reconciled his fate, he easily catches the shadow, which is Barry in his Flash suit. He has become The Flash again!
OMG guys, I almost forgot about the b-side! Here goes: the particle accelerator explosion not only messed with Jesse and Wally, but it reanimated a meta corpse called Girder (he can make his body metal - remember him?). Meta Zombie! Girder was a high school jock who had the hots for Iris, and in his reanimated state all he has on his mind is the I-girl.
So this gives us the opportunity to see Iris and Cisco team up to stop Girder, and hilarity ensues. Kevin Smith is at his best doing screwball comedy, and he uses Iris and Cisco to maximum effect. After being not much more than window dressing this season, it was thrilling to see Iris as the smart, funny, sexy, kick-ass character she was meant to be. Thank you Kevin Smith! Add to that a cameo of 'Jay' (Jason Mewes) in one scene, and 'Silent Bob' definitely struck comedy gold in this one!
Everything Iris and Cisco try on Girder fails miserably, so the Scooby gang is left hiding in the lab, with Girder attempting to break the door down. As a last ditch Hail Mary, the gang attempts to contact Barry one more time so he can save their sorry asses. Only this time Iris holds onto Cisco, to act as the beacon and tether. The bridge opens, and Barry sees the loving visage of Iris reaching out to him, saying, 'Barry, come back to me.' Barry looks back at Speed Mother, and she smiles and says, 'Run, Barry, run.' Barry holds Iris by the hand, and together they teleport back to Earth 1.
Barry is back, which leads to the line of the night, uttered by Cisco, who says, 'I'm so glad you're back, cuz we're about to die.' Wells and Cisco talk over each other, blurting out the whole Girder scenario in hilarious fashion. Barry gets the gist of it, and runs in a circle at a gazillion mph to power the electromagnets that eventually kill Girder - science!
After the scene at the lab, Barry comes to the bedside of the still comatose Jesse, and touches her hand, sparks a flyin'. Jesse wakes up, and Barry is the only one not shocked by this - something has happened to Barry (in a good way). He now realizes that the Speed Force is part of him now, and that he is part of something bigger than himself, bigger than all the worlds and dimensions he's seen.
Back to the cemetery now, where Barry finally visits his mother's grave. He's there with Iris, and after paying his respects he looks into Iris' eyes and tells her that she is everything to him, and always has been! Iris tears up, kisses Barry and gives him a long, loving hug. Now, FINALLY, can we maybe get going with this big Bi-ris romance?
One more thing:
It's a good thing that Barry is back, because Zoom has amassed a meta army to take over Earth 1 (just as he did on Earth 2), and he means business! I expect an epic smack-down is on the horizon!
Major love to whoever decided to bring Kevin Smith in to Direct this pivotal episode: he is a talented Director who 'gets' the genre in general and this show in particular. More Kevin in the future, please!