The Flash: The One With the Nineties

Was this wardrobe choice really necessary?

After a somewhat rough start, trying to recover from the COVID complications in producing a show, Flash is settling in to their 7th season. It’s a bit odd not having a Wells around, although it’s been hinted that will change at some point. With Mirror Master/Monarch defeated, now the team is dealing with new threats as personifications of different Forces are showing up, and most of them aren’t friendly. You get an idea how things go wrong from the title, “The One with the Nineties.”

The episode starts with a woman getting off shift and chatting with a friend on her phone. Strange things start happening which range from what she initially dismisses as cosplay to increasingly unlikely events, which culminate in a large vessel with the wrong sound effect and a nod to a classic adventure movie. Then, of course, we get the “24 Hours Earlier” tag as we find out what the heck is going on.

As seen last episode, Barry is in a suspension chamber, trying to heal from injuries that I found a bit unclear. It more seemed like a way to take Barry or the actor Grant Gustin out of the show for a bit. Always a bold move, taking your main character out of the action. The Speed Force, using the Nora Allen appearance still, is worried about Barry, and tries to share what she remembers about the recent attack on her. Chester gets back and is awed to meet her, which amuses everyone. After a bit of technobabble, Chester and Cisco, calling themselves Chesco, go on a short road trip, leaving a bemused Iris shaking her head. Back at the Snow apartment, it appears we’re in for some stereotypical roommate comedy as Caitlin and Frost try and get used to being separate people.

Team “Chesco” (which is at least fun to say) is going to work placing signal amplifiers for their Detect Force Beings network. They end up in Masonville, a suburb of Central City, and Chester talks a bit about his past. Then, weirdness strikes with a green energy signature and a lot of pop culture references from our duo of scientists. Iris talks to Nora (it’s just easier to type than “the Speed Force” over and over), and decides to take Nora home to show her some things.

Gradually, Chesco realizes they are in the past, and narrow it down to 1998. After a lot of technobabble and more pop culture references (which I suspect will be ongoing whenever these two are together), they decide they need to science their way home, and Chester has some ideas. This leads to Chester going dumpster diving, which he was doing the first time we met him, so it’s a nice callback. Once they get their new toy built, their search brings them to the local high school, where we learn Chester still has a dread of the principal. I was expecting to meet him after this build up, but I guess it was just a one-off joke. They go “undercover” ala 21 Jump Street and ask the students a lot of questions, somehow never attracting staff attention. After meeting various Breakfast Club type kids, they finally get a lead but that results in a new problem and they learn they haven’t just time traveled, but are also in a time loop.

After some difficulties with things being reset, and geek fandom saving the day, the pair start over. Iris shows Nora some things that are important to Barry, and Nora suddenly comes to a realization and speeds off. Chesco runs into some difficulties when they realize a part they need was just bought by someone else, and it turns out to be someone important from Chester’s past. This leads to a lot of emotional exposition and the somewhat unlikely importance of the day they happen to be stuck in. It would make some degree of sense if Chester had looped them, but he didn’t, so this just seems like needless drama flakes to me. Having hit all the regular sets (STAR, the loft) already, Iris finds Nora at Jitters, where they talk about Barry’s emotional state and the importance of memories.

Chester is forced to confront his past and learns some surprising things he had no idea about. It’s a touching scene, and also shows us the origin of one of Chester’s hobbies/predilections. Later, a thrilled Chester relates his encounter to Cisco, but the story is cut short when the actual bad guy shows up, and it’s a very unexpected form. We learn parts of the villain’s origin, and it’s kind of petty as far as driving motivations go. As the baddie flexes his power, ripples move ahead, and we get a series of amusing incidents in the present, including giving the show’s wardrobe team a workout. This leads to assorted alarms going off, and eventually loops us back to the opening scene with the waitress having a very bad night.

The big confrontation with the bad guy goes with the theme we usually get on Flash or Supergirl, as opposed to the punching and shooting from Arrow. Chester opens up his heart and tries to talk the bad guy down. He’s somewhat successful, in that a few things go back to normal, but the villain gets away. This brings everyone back to the proper time and lets the team get together again.

Barry has come out of his healing pod and gets briefed about what happened while he was out. Cisco has no luck in tracing the bad guy, but goes on a naming spree for the new concepts they’re dealing with. Cisco praises Chester’s handling of the situation, and Iris extends an invitation that catches several people by surprise. Chester decides he wants some alone time and starts to work on a project someone else began. The final scene introduces a new look for Frost, and a warning from Joe. Frost has an odd reaction to this, and I can’t say it’s a smart one. I do expect it will be a subplot for several episodes, if not the rest of the season.

What I liked: Cisco and Chester amuse me. I could see hanging out with, or gaming with, those two. The writers did a decent job with the time loop, making it work without beating us over the head with repetitions. I’m enjoying Frost discovering who she is.

What I didn’t: I’m still not sure why Barry needed to sit this one out. The roommate trope is going to get old fast if they revisit it too often. The odds of the day that Chesco got looped into being important to two very different characters seemed unlikely at best. I’m hoping we get a new Wells soon.

It was a fairly average episode on a lot of fronts, really. I’m giving this one a 3 out of 5.