The Flash is a really fast guy. We all know that. But for a clear-cut example, let’s take a look at how much faster he is than, say, Groundhog Day‘s Phil Connors. It took Phil Connors 10 years or more to figure out how not to be a jerk. Barry, meanwhile, figures his stuff out in like two weeks. The Flash is fast. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 9, Episode 01, “Wednesday Ever After.”
“Wednesday Ever After”
Barry (Grant Gustin) creates a map book to guide him and Iris (Candice Patton) throughout their future in order to keep her safe, but the results are not what he expected, and instead, they relive the same day over and over again. Joe (Jesse L. Martin) has a heart-to-heart with Cecile (Danielle Nicolet). A new big bad is introduced to Team Flash and friends and foes, old and new, begin to descend upon Central City.
The Flash has often struggled to figure out what to do with Barry and Iris as a couple. It’s gotten so bad that they had Iris spend Season 7 stuck in the Mirror Universe and Season 8 stuck in the Speed Force, untethered from time before being temporarily killed by Reverse-Flash. This episode attempts to remedy that by making it impossible for them to escape each other.
Walkthrough for Real Life
After Barry makes a guidebook telling the West-Allen family how to live their best lives, the two get stuck in a time loop on February 1–the day before Groundhog’s Day. Was it Barry’s book that got them stuck there, or the technology that blasts Barry at his first encounter with New Captain Boomerang?
It’s actually not very clear. It seems pretty obvious that the technology in question started things, but the solution that Barry and Iris find doesn’t exactly fit that. But it’s probably okay–the episode itself mostly works and is pretty fun.
Barry and Iris are the center of this episode, and it seems like Gustin and Patton had fun with the whole time loop thing. There’s a sequence in which they wake up screaming over and over again that looks like it was probably a riot to film, and the two spend enough time together to actually look like a married couple for once.
The core idea of the episode is a good one that picks at some of the couple’s biggest problems. After almost losing Iris so many times, Barry is nervous about it happening again and being permanent. As such, he’s written a guide to their life based on everything they know about the future–a step-by-step guide on how to be happy. The problem is that it’s a guide in the same sense as a game walkthrough. It covers when important events happen, tells the couple how to respond to certain situations, and so on as if they were playing a role-playing game and trying to get the best ending.
The question of free will
At the same time, Iris has been along for the ride for all of these things–she had her choice taken away from her over and over as the Mirror Monarch and Reverse-Flash trapped her in their respective ways. When Iris realizes the idea behind Barry’s book, she’s very reasonably pissed off; the guy who saves her over and over is now telling her how to live her life in minute detail. Free will is out the window.
And so each of them has a valid emotional reason for their response: Barry wants to protect Iris from genuine threats. At the same time, Iris needs to be able to continue living her life as a full person, making her own decisions and experiencing life in real-time.
It is, to some degree, too little too late. The Flash is heading into its last season here, and Iris has had a target on her forehead for at least a third of it if you want to go all the way back to Savitar in Season 3. You can’t repair that in one episode. At the same time, Iris has had so little to do for so much of that time that it’s hard to imagine building a season around her without her being in danger.
You and the Cap’n make it happen
There’s also the question of the baddie of the week–a new Captain Boomerang. This does seem like a good use for him since it’s hard to imagine him being a major threat all on his own. We learn at the end of the episode that he’s working for the real villain of the season, Red Death, making him more or less a high-power henchman. It gives the writers a way to use him more than once without having to literally appear on-screen and ask us to take Captain Boomerang seriously this time.
The other concern here is that The Flash has a bad habit of having fun and creative season openers that precede the show falling flat as it depends on melodrama, so it’s hard to say if this episode is indicative of a good season to follow. But it is a lot of fun, and that’s a good start.