‘The Flash’ Is Reborn in Scintillating Season 4 Premiere

After “The Flash” spent much of its third season reveling in some pretty dark themes, it really felt like the show had lost sight of what makes the Scarlet Speedster such a key player in the DC Comics franchise. Thankfully, the show’s fourth season premiere washes away all the foreboding that the third season laid down and brings back the three key elements that underscore the CW property’s success so far: humor, spectacle and faith. Thanks mostly to Cisco’s (Carlos Valdes) knack for punchlines and an invading robot samurai, there’s no shortage of the first two, but restoring the latter takes a while. It ends up being a wholly satisfying ride, though, one that tests Iris West’s (Candice Patton) strength in more ways than one.

With Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) sacrificing himself to the speed force at the end of season three, it’s only natural for Iris to be a tad shaken up. But fast forward six months and instead of curling up into a ball and crying about it, we get a glimpse at perhaps the most hardened version of Iris yet as she takes charge of the S.T.A.R. Labs crew in fending off baddies as part of Team Kid Flash (the name is a work in progress). Iris comes across really well as a fearless leader, although the team’s success ratio isn’t exactly knocking anyone dead. Through juxtaposing Iris and Cisco, the show adeptly plays with the idea of pushing forward versus moving on. True, Iris keeps on running as Barry asked her to do, but she lacks any kind of faith and is subsequently trapped in her own depression.

It’s Cisco and Joe (Jesse L. Martin) who work as a positive counterbalance to a brooding Iris. Joe tries to convince Iris that faith is essential, but he gets cut short and Iris dramatically storms off. She also rebukes Cisco for secretly hatching a super science plan to bring Barry back from the speed force. It’s strange that Iris of all people would object to the plan, but it’s a good representation of her fragile state of mind where getting her hopes up and then being disappointed could be the final blow for her.

After a robot samurai hits the scene, schools all of Kid Flash’s associates and demands the real Flash, the team’s put in quite the sticky situation. Once he has enlisted a defrosted Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) from some dive bar, Cisco’s ready to put his “bring back Barry” plan into action, whether Iris likes it or not. They retool the speed force bazooka and manage to open a portal hundreds of miles away, out of which shoots a nude Barry. All is well, except it’s not. Barry’s sporting a beard now, and he’s basically a raving lunatic, talking nonsense and drawing symbols all over the walls. It’s unsettling, particularly to Iris, who just got used to the idea of having her Barry back. Gustin really strikes a spine-chilling performance as The Flash in a “Beautiful Mind” kind of trance.

Both of Caitlin’s theories turn out to be debunked. The first is that Barry’s speaking a different, more elevated language that simply needs to be decoded, but once Cisco manages to interpret Barry’s scribblings as code for “This house is bitchin,” that one doesn’t quite hold up. The second postulates that Barry spent millennia in the speed force because it exists outside of space and time, and so much time trapped there might have driven Barry insane. It looks like this theory might be the right one, which is bad news for Central City because the robot Samurai demands a meeting with The Flash. It’s Iris who, after a pep talk that Joe surely regrets immediately, gives herself away to the robot samurai in order to entreat Barry into remembering who he is. It’s a god awful plan that didn’t have a chance of succeeding, which quite frankly has become a staple of the CW’s suite of superhero shows. It actually does work, and Barry rockets off, new suit and all, to whisk his beloved damsel to safety and take care of “Samurai Jackass” once and for all.

The season premiere worked really well as a reset of sorts, bringing in an even more developed version of Barry Allen with added super speed to boot. He claims to feel cleansed, too, possibly an homage to the past season and all the turbulence he had to endure. Caitlin’s not so lucky. Returning to her bar and quitting, only to go total Killer Frost on a crony and immediately regretting it. Caitlin’s story might just be getting started, and that adds a whole other wrinkle into this season, and what’s a season of “The Flash” without some wrinkles? With the final stinger revealing The Thinker as this season’s main villain, this might be the show’s wrinkliest season yet.

The Flash” season 4 premiered Oct. 10 and airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CW.