When The CW's DC superhero shows return this week, arguably no season premiere will be more scrutinized than "The Flash Reborn," the season 4 premiere of The Flash.
The CW's biggest show, The Flash had a rocky season 3 which ended on a cliffhanger: Barry Allen, the titular fastest man alive, willingly sacrificed himself to the Speed Force, presumably never to be seen again.
Of course, the title lead doesn't actually go anywhere to "never" be seen again, and Barry Allen returns tonight, along with the rest of Team Flash in an episode that feels -- in ways both good and bad -- like something out of season 1.
After an opening sequence that is well-written and well-directed, showing off both the strengths and the weaknesses of a Flash-less Team Flash and showcasing a minor villain we've seen once before, the episode settles into a familiar rhythm: a bigger, badder, mysterious metahuman shows up to threaten Central City, and the team has to figure out how to get rid of him.
The big difference is that this time, rather than helping Barry figure out how to most effectively use his speed powers, the team has to figure out how to bring Barry back from the Speed Force without creating a storm in reality by leaving the Speed Force jail empty.
In some ways, that raises the emotional stakes for the characters: Cisco isn's just working to save the city, as he has dozens of times before, but to save his friend as well; Iris has to face her feelings about her fiancee leaving while celebrating his return and leading the team against a powerful new foe.
There are some growing pains in the episode: you can't really fix the perceived problems of last season without addressing them, and in some cases those references are so tangential and dismissive that some fans may feel shortchanged. During a recent interview, showrunner Todd Helbing told me that the show adheres to the rule of "cool trumps logic" at times, and that is in full effect a few times in the premiere.
The downside? Some hardcore fans will quibble with the logic. The upside? The episode is really cool.
It is also fun and light, in a way that feels more like Supergirl than The Flash in some ways. The increasingly, some would argue oppressively dark tone some episode of The Flash have taken in the last couple of years is absent, but with it so is some of the texture and complexity that a show builds up over the years. Like Arrow, The Flash feels a little bit like it's undergoing a reset this season, with even the plot elements being carried over from the past seemingly tweaked somewhat to smooth down some of the edges.
You can check it out soon -- The Flash airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.