There’s a new speedster in town and, by all accounts, she’s there to do the right thing. When Barry goes to visit her lab, though, he’s in for the surprise of a lifetime. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 8, Episode 18, “The Man In The Yellow Tie.”
“The Man In The Yellow Tie”
With a new speedster in town, The Flash (Grant Gustin) gets much more than he bargained for, meanwhile Cecile’s (Danielle Nicolet) powers experience a growth spurt allowing her to aid Team Flash on an entirely different level.
Welcome to Thawne week at The Flash, where all your Eobards are hanging out for handshakes and selfies. This week, Barry comes face to face with not one but two Eobards. While helping the new speedster Meena harness her abilities, he finds out that she’s been working with Eobard Thawne. It’s not the same Thawne we’ve been hanging out with over on Lian Yu, though. This is Matt Letscher‘s Thawne, the one usually reserved for appearances on our dearly departed Legends of Tomorrow (R.I.P.), and he seemingly has no memory of his past. Even at first sight, he doesn’t seem to be the monster we’re usually dealing with.
A Tale of Two Thawnes
Barry is as reactively hostile as we’d expect, and quickly finds out that the Thawne he locked up is still waiting in his cell on Lian Yu. While practicing speed with Meena, she accidentally hits him with lightning and it makes his powers go on the fritz. Meeting Thawne gives him the clue he needs–this is negative Speed Force.
The Flash is at its best when it goes whole hog on comic book nonsense without also resorting to melodrama. This is the multiversal, timey-wimey kind of stuff that made the show feel so special in its early days, back before both the MCU and DC films kicked the Multiverse wide open.
For some reason, none of the villains The Flash has introduced since Thawne have ever resonated. Tom Cavanagh brings the dangerous, psychotic elements of the character to life so beautifully, while Letscher gives us a more patient, scientific version of the character. It’s rare we get both of them in the same episode, though, in a way that so effectively contrasts them as this one.
A Different Man
While Cavanagh’s Thawne is locked up in Lian Yu, brooding and furious, Letscher’s Thawne is working to assist Meena with her quest to become a speedster. His memories only go back a year, and he seems to have none of the ill intentions we associate with him. This Thawne is more like the one we met in the final season of Legends (R.I.P.), a version who had learned to understand the purpose of the Time Wraiths and who had seen clearly an alternative to his past behavior. That even comes up thanks to a fun cameo from Brandon Routh, A.K.A. Ray Palmer, who Chester calls on video conferencing software. Do you think they call their video conferencing software ‘Zoom‘ in the DC universe?
Palmer tells them about the version of Thawne the Legends met, and they theorize that maybe the same Time Wraiths that put him in charge of protecting the anchor point saved him when he died and dumped the seemingly reformed Thawne back into Barry’s time. It’s enough to explain what’s going on without making that too much of a focus.
Meena gets supercharged with the negative Speed Force and, for a brief moment, is an evil speedster as she zips around town draining energy from any source she can find. She and Barry battle, and she has the upper hand for a brief moment before Thawne steps in to protect Barry and appeal to the side of her that cares about Thawne himself.
World Await, maybe
While all of this is going on, Barry visits the jailed Thawne to get caught up on the device that the other Thawne built, and to make sure that they’re not the same guy. As soon as he leaves, around the corner steps John Diggle. Thawne, he thinks, might have the know-how to figure out what’s up with the green box he’s been carrying around. The two go back and forth, and Diggle finally figures out how to open the box… and immediately rejects it.
This feels like a really weird move considering that this storyline started two and a half years ago. And why bother putting a Green Lantern ring–we never see the ring, to be clear–in front of Diggle if he’s not going to accept it? It feels a bit like we’ve been toyed with. It also calls into question what David Ramsey’s role will be in the upcoming, theoretically still-in-development Justice U show. It’s hard to tell if that show will actually happen with the state of the Arrowverse, really, but for Diggle to reject this feels less like a character decision and more like an actor one.
A Heel Turn
Meanwhile, lawyer Cecile Horton is at the bank when a bunch of robbers show up. The stressful situation causes her powers to level up, and she projects feelings of fear and regret into the robbers. Later in the episode, a mugger drops to the ground holding his head before he can hurt the purse’s owner, and Horton walks out in a black leather outfit the universal symbol of “characters who were good but are taking a heel turn and we need to telegraph that this is going to be their dark phase.”
Thanks to the multiple Thawnes and Barry, this is a killer episode for the season, with some great performances and fun scenes. I enjoyed watching it. But it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow at those other developments.