The Flash kicked off Season 8 with an imperfect but thrilling five-part series that pitted Barry against his long-time nemesis the Reverse-Flash, in one of their most fun encounters since the show’s very first season. After a long break to finish up some of the other shows, The Flash is now back with an episode focused on Barry and Iris’ time-traveling adult children. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 8, Episode 6, “Impulsive Excessive Disorder.”
“Impulsive Excessive Disorder”
Picking up where season 7 left off, after returning home from a visit for their parent’s vow renewal, Bart (guest star Jordan Fisher) and Nora (guest star Jessica Parker Kennedy) quickly realize that things are not exactly as they left them. The duo race to repair any fissures in the timeline and restore everything back to the way it is supposed to be.
Things were going so well. We had this awesome Reverse-Flash arc that was weird, fun, and satisfying. So why are we right back here again?
This week focuses squarely on Barry’s kids, Nora and Bart West-Allen as they try to clean up a messy timeline left in the wake of the Season 7 finale battle against Godspeed. Somehow, Jay Garrick is alive again, but he has a different wife–something is off. The kids trace the ripples back to a pre-Flash event involving Joe West, just after the particle accelerator explosion, that shifts a number of events in its wake. So the kids end up back in 2013 at the Central City Police Department.
The first of this episode’s mistakes happens early on. Because this involves the pre-Flash CCPD, of course, Eddie Thawne is still alive and still working for the police. He hasn’t sacrificed himself to stop Eobard Thawne, and he hasn’t even started dating Iris West yet. So the show brings back, for the first time since Season 1, actor Rick Cosnett to reprise his role as Eddie Thawne. And it just totally sucks.
His role amounts to little more than being kind of a jerk and condescendingly asking the “interns” to why there isn’t a coffee in his hand. This is the kind of thing that I think might play better in the pages of the comics than on a show. On a show, bringing an actor back after six seasons off is kind of a big deal, and the show frames it like it is, but then gives him absolutely nothing to do.
The core of the episode is about the kids screwing up the timeline and having to fix their mistakes, especially in the case of Bart, who has a rose-tinted view of his father’s exploits. Bart is seemingly still in that phase where his parents are perfect, and he feels that he can never take over as The Flash when he keeps screwing things up. The lesson is, of course, that Barry made mistakes, too, but took responsibility for them and fixed them.
But Bart isn’t a child, or even a teenager. Actor Jordan Fisher is 27, and he looks it both in-costume and out. 27 is far too old for someone to be walking around thinking their parents are perfect. So instead of this moment feeling like a sort of father-son bonding moment–despite the fact that Barry is in a coma for the entire episode–it feels kind of hollow and forced. Jessica Parker Kennedy, who plays Barry’s daughter, is literally older than Grant Gustin by 5 years. That’s okay–this is a time travel show after all! But these full-on adults act like frantic teenagers throughout the episode and it just left me wondering why they decided to spend an entire episode of the show on this storyline.
The episode also reintroduces the Royal Flush Gang, which appeared in the first part of the Armageddon storyline, except Nora and Bart’s hijinks cause them to form literally long before they otherwise would’ve. It’s unclear yet whether that’s going to be a thing the show deals with.
Drama for drama’s sake
Over time this show has gone from “The Flash runs fast and can sometimes time travel” to “The Flash time travels and sometimes runs fast.” Frustratingly, it’s a foregone conclusion at this point that the writers are using it to make drama rather than to tell interesting stories. It’s an excuse to bring Barry’s adult children back over and over, but almost never an excuse to send Barry anywhere interesting aside from “Central City, But With Holograms.”
This episode is kind of exemplary of everything I’ve come to resent about my favorite hero’s television show. None of the characters gives me any reason to care about them. Nora is fun in general but not at her best, and Bart is more of a headache than anything else. The plot doesn’t feel like it means much to the overarching show, and bringing back Rick Cosnett just to have him be a jerk feels like a wasted opportunity.