The Flash’ writers seem pretty intent on adding more elements from the comic book source material this season (whether they accurately follow it is another matter entirely). Last week they gave us an interesting look at speedster villain Godspeed. This week, in the episode titled “Snow Pack,” we finally get a glimpse at something integral to the character of Eobard Thawne, aka Reverse Flash, that this Flash fanatic has long hoped would be acknowledged: the Negative Speed Force. Anyone familiar with the show, and even more so the DC comic books, knows that the Speed Force is the energy by which virtually all speedsters derive their fleetness of feet powers (for a more in-depth look at this cosmic force, check out our Speed Force Primer). The Reverse Flash, however, does not receive his speed from these energies, as he is not a natural speedster. In his obsession with the Flash and desiring to be a better version of the hero, Thawne created his own Speed Force, but his obsession, hatred, and rage had causal effects on it or rather negative ones. Thus, the Negative Speed Force was born. Thawne’s energies run opposite of those which Barry, Jay, Wallace, and Nora have tapped into, and it is due to this that Barry is unable to sense when Thawne is coming, as Thawne does not travel through the Speed Force. It is for this reason that Nora, having been forcibly returned to the year 2049 by Barry at the end of last week’s episode, implores the Reverse Flash to teach her how to access his method of travel so that she may return to the present day undetected by her father. It’s too soon to tell how the CW show will handle this force, and their track record isn’t exactly the best, but we shall see. As it stands, the only things we know are that tapping into the Negative Speed Force requires focusing one’s rage and that it gives them red lightning. (As a side note: you may recall Nora researching speedster lightning in the prior week’s episode. Want to learn what the different lightning colors mean in relation to their comic counterparts? Get yourself educated here!)
Iris is not happy with her husband in “Snow Pack.” Without consulting her at all, Barry took their daughter back to the future without so much as giving her a chance to say goodbye to any of her family. Naturally, this wouldn’t go over well with any reasonable wife, and she and Barry have a less-than-pleasant exchange of words with one another before Iris takes off in anger. Barry wants the team to refocus on finding Cicada II (because that’s apparently the most clever name we can come up with here at the CW). The rest of the team isn’t exactly thrilled about Barry’s decision regarding Nora either, but their attention is quickly shifted elsewhere as Caitlin and her mother are kidnapped by the cold-hearted alter ego of her father, Icicle. With Team Flash’s attention fixed on their missing friend, Iris and Ralph sneak a ride in the Time Sphere and travel to the future to bring Nora back and heal the hurt in the West-Allen family. They arrive in time to see Nora speaking with Thawne, a sight that riles Iris more than she expected it would. After witnessing her rage mode daughter tap into the Negative Speed Force and vanish, Iris begins to understand why Barry reacted so harshly when he learned the truth of Nora working with his mother’s killer.
Parallel to this time-hopping adventure, the rest of Team Flash tries to track down Caitlin and her mother, not knowing what Icicle has in store for his family. The specifics of his plan revolve around somehow giving his wife a wintry persona, followed by destroying the warmer personalities of both his wife and daughter. During their time captured, mother and daughter begin to rekindle their lost connection. Emotional performances are at a high in “Snow Pack,” between Barry and Iris blowing up at each other, and Caitlin and her mom coming to a mutual understanding of one another. Even Nora’s explosion of rage upon believing that her father no longer loves her is a high point.
There is a great lesson in “Snow Pack,” as Barry and Iris spend much of it apart and angry with one another based on their different ideas of how to handle the situation with Nora. Just as Iris begins to see what drove Barry to act so rashly, Barry comes to understand that not only was his decision inherently the incorrect one, but he should have never left Iris out of the choice; they’re husband and wife and, therefore, a team that can only succeed if they tackle problems together. It was nice to see this sort of paralleled growth for a romantic pair. Too often we see things through the lens of one person always being the screwup and the other being the one who tolerates it. A meeting of the minds in the middle is not only the more realistic but also the healthier response in such situations, and by the end of “Snow Pack,” the husband and wife pair realize this together and promise to make an effort to tackle these decisions as a team. Iris and Ralph’s journey to 2049 comes to an end just as Barry is attempting to rescue the women of the Snow family from the wintry wackadoo dad. While Barry manages to save Caitlin’s mother from the cryo chamber that threatens to give her a chilling new personality, Caitlin herself goes after Icicle in one of the cooler-looking battles we’ve seen so far this season. The visual effects used for the ice slide battle between Killer Frost and Icicle is a slick use of the characters’ powers (if a bit unoriginal). The would-be family reunion for the Snows comes to a grinding halt when Cicada II shows up to steal the cryo device that Icicle has stolen, and Caitlin’s father sacrifices his life to save the life of his daughter. Team Flash has a lot to deal with now, both present and future; they still have to simultaneously defeat future Grace, aka Cicada II, and save young Grace. Now, they have to deal with a Negative-Speed-Force-enraged Nora too. To say nothing of Thawne’s presence would be a disservice, as I’m certain the death row speedster is still in the back of their minds.