Celebrating 100 episodes doesn’t quite mean what it used to. Back in the day, when a show hit this landmark, it usually meant it was ready to get sold off into syndication. These days, however, it feels like more of a celebratory moment because fewer shows manage to make it that far. The Flash, the hopeful CW drama, is one of those lucky few, and it toasted this milestone with an hour that revisited some important moments in the show’s history. Directed by Tom Cavanagh, the “What’s Past is Prologue” was fun, poignant, and surprising in equal measure, which is what you want from an episode of The Flash. (Read my spoiler-filled postmortem interview with showrunner Todd Helbing about the episode here).
To be honest, the reason for the episode’s journey to the past does feel somewhat contrived, like the writers had to work backward in order to justify this nostalgia tour right as the Cicada storyline is heating up. Basically, now that Team Flash knows who Cicada is, they start working on figuring out a way to defeat him. The main challenge, however, is his dagger, which dampens their powers, so they need to find something to dampen the dagger’s power (dagger dampener? Dampening dagger dampener?). You’d think that would be easy, but for very scientific reasons they need very specific materials to make something that can pull the dagger away from Cicada. Leave it to clever Nora to come up with the idea. She points out that they’ve come across everything they need to make such a weapon in the past:
- A strong alloy = A piece of Savitar’s suit.
- Something to remove Dark Matter = Zoom’s Speed Force transmitter.
- A massive event that can infuse the shard with dark matter = The particle accelerator explosion.
You would think that Barry and Team Flash would have learned their lesson about messing with time travel, but they haven’t! At first, Barry is set on traveling to the past to collect the items by himself because doing so would mean revisiting some “crazy times,” but Iris convinces him that he should take Nora along for the ride. So, throwing caution to the wind, Barry and Nora head into the Speed Force — and Ralph throws on “Back in Time” by Huey Lewis and the News, because when else will you get an opportunity like that? The 100th episode was filled with so many funny touches like this, which I’m assuming is at least partially the result of Cavanagh directing the episode.
The duo’s first stop is the final battle against Savitar in the season 3 finale, during which Nora collects a piece of Savitar’s suit while Barry distracts a Time Wraith. Then, they jump back into the Speed Force and travel to season 2’s “Versus Zoom” to grab the Speed Force transmitter, which Zoom used to steal Barry’s speed and was left on the lab table. In this time, Nora has an opportunity to witness her mom comfort Past-Barry after he loses his speed, and it’s a truly touching and delicate moment that works as a statement on the strength of Barry and Iris’ relationship. Unfortunately, Zoom returns to the Cortex and chases Present-Barry and Nora back into the Speed Force, with a Time Wraith right on their tail once again.
Barry and Nora accidentally fall out of the Speed Force and land on the ground at the wrong time. And by “the wrong time,” I mean the time that Barry traveled back to in season 2’s “Flash Back.” Unfortunately, the Speed Force transmitter broke during the fall. Nora suggests that they simply ask Thawne to help them, but Barry assumes he won’t. Alas, it’s their only option.
NEXT: Nora’s other big secret is revealed