Spoiler alert: Barry Allen will return from the Speed Force when The Flash returns on Tuesday. For him, the trip has gone by in the blink of an eye, but for the rest of Team Flash, the last six months have been, well, tough.
In Barry’s absence, Iris (Candice Patton) has become the new leader of Team Flash as they’ve struggled to stay afloat over the past six months. “There’s a lack of confidence for sure in the team, but they’re doing the best they possibly can,” Patton says, explaining that Iris has set aside her heartbreak for the good of the group. “She’s devastated that Barry’s gone.”
But it’s actually a lack of that emotion that has many on the team a little concerned. “Joe is really, really worried about Iris and thinks that she has taken this too easily,” Jesse L. Martin says. “That doesn’t sit right with him; something’s not right. If she’s just accepting this, then something’s not right. He’s trying to encourage her to express herself.”
When a new foe threatens Central City, the team must move forward with their plans to get Barry out of the Speed Force — something not everyone agrees on. “Cisco, being the technology genius god that he is, always has a trick up his sleeve,” Carlos Valdes says. “So as far as Barry being trapped in the Speed Force is concerned, he definitely has a plan for that. The thing that he struggles with the most in the episode is Iris’s wishes. Her M.O. is more along the lines of accepting the fate that was handed to her, accepting that Barry is gone, and willing the team to move on. However, there is a strong part of him that wishes Barry were back. Iris, as the leader of the team, has her leadership challenged by Cisco. Cisco is the main proponent of getting Barry back. He is the one who believes in the team’s ability to get him back from the Speed Force, and his confidence and his optimism is in sharp contrast to Iris’s fatalism.”
The team is, of course, able to get him back. But when Barry does return, he’s scrambled, forcing everyone to rally around him. “Barry comes back from the Speed Force, and he’s a madman,” Valdes says. “He’s spouting all these crazy, nonsense words and dialogue that just doesn’t make any sense, and it’s all chopped up from different semblances of conversations. As far as the team’s skill set is concerned, there’s nothing that they can do about this, so episode 1 is basically just about figuring out how to get the Barry that they know and love back. They get him in the physical form, but he’s not the same.”
Once Barry is back in action, Gustin stresses that despite small hurdles ahead — like Barry and Iris landing in couples therapy — the duo are really a solid couple this season, which is not surprising considering the upcoming four-way crossover will feature their nuptials. “We do fall right back into wedding planning,” Gustin says. “It’s all good in Barry and Iris land right now. He feels confident in moving forward with the wedding. It’s been fun for me just because it’s back to the optimistic guy that we all got to know Barry as, that he lost a little bit the last couple years.”
That’s all part and parcel of the show leaning back toward its season 1 roots in tone. “The producers and writers are pretty hands-on this season about changing the tone of the show and getting back to a lot of the humor that we had in season 1,” Patton says. “I’ll even venture to say that there’s way more than even season 1, just in terms of the lightheartedness and jokes and funny scenarios that happen on the show. It’s really fun. I know me and Grant have had a couple of those scenes where it’s just been him and I, and we’ve both gotten to really put our comedy chops on the line. I’ve spent three seasons crying so much, and I haven’t really gotten to do a lot of that lighthearted stuff, so it’s really fun. We’re trying to go back to this more lighthearted comic-book-y version of The Flash.”
While it’s quickly back to business as usual, Barry’s return does raise a number of questions, namely what this means for Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale), who has taken up the mantle of the Flash in his absence. Cisco also stepped up while Barry was gone, which means seeing more of Vibe in the field this season. “Along with that field experience comes a natural growth of power,” Valdes teases. “Much in the same way that Barry got more comfortable with his powers at the beginning of the show and during season 1, there’s definitely some growth in that respect — but honestly, most of Cisco’s growth is more personal than it is with regards to his powers.”
Along those lines, the premiere is not just about getting Barry back from the Speed Force. There’s also another wayward member of the team who has been MIA this summer: Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker). “Cisco feels the loss of his best friend, and that’s not just accounting for Barry, it’s accounting for Caitlin as well,” Valdes says. “As far as the audience knows, Caitlin is nowhere to be found. However, there might be some surprises with regards to what Caitlin’s doing with her life when we pick up in season 4.”
Though details on Caitlin’s journey in season 4 have been scarce, Panabaker teases that we’ll see a much more withdrawn version of the character. “At the top of season 4, Caitlin has been apart from Team Flash for a good six months, she’s taken a different job, and she’s really focusing on other things when Cisco comes to try and recruit her to bring her back to Team Flash,” Panabaker says. “Caitlin is a little bit more reserved, at least at the top of the season. It’s not the Caitlin we’ve seen in past seasons. At this point, obviously she’s been through some traumatic things, particularly the loss of her husband, but this one’s different; this one has affected her in a very specific way, and in a much more internal way.”
The Flash returns Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.