How Is Eobard Thawne Back On 'The Flash'? Reverse-Flash May Be Visiting From An Alternate Timeline

For an actor on a superhero TV show, your character's death doesn't always mean you've lost your job completely. Last Tuesday's episode of The Flash proved that when it ended with a blast from the past: the Reverse-Flash is back in town. "Potential Energy" closed with the speedster sprinting onto a sleepy Central City street. Barry Allen's nemesis — given name, Eobard Thawne — looked just as confused to be there as Team Flash will be when they learn last season's big bad isn't as dead as they'd assumed. ("Gideon, where the hell am I?") And that'll be sooner than later; this Tuesday's episode is titled "The Reverse-Flash Returns," because subtlety is overrated and this character's reappearance warrants some fanfare. But his very existence in the prime timeline goes against the laws of time travel. He's a paradox. How can Eobard Thawne have come back to The Flash ?

Eobard's reappearance is a real insult to the memory of Eddie Thawne, who sacrificed himself to save Central City from that rotten branch of his family tree. Here's a speedy recap of the Reverse-Flash's history so far: Eobard Thawne hates The Flash — like, straight up loathes Barry Allen — so he goes back in time to kill him before Barry can grow up to obtain his powers. Thwarted by grown-up Barry, Thawne settles for killing Barry's mom, Nora, the crime for which his father serves years in prison. The Revere-Flash becomes stuck in the past and takes over the identity and body of Dr. Harrison Wells to get himself back to his own time. Fast forward through lots of revelations and a couple of showdowns; the rivalry all comes down to the Season 1 finale. Eddie makes his move just as Reverse-Flash is about to kill Barry; since he is Eobard's ancestor, Eddie's death at his own hands erases the villain instantly.

Team Flash has had enough on their plate this season in the form of Zoom, who's sort of a Reverse-Flash 2.0. The trailer for this Tuesday's episode proves that Cisco at the very least is shocked to see that yellow suit again. Harry is less so. "This is his origin story," he says of Thawne. "And there's nothing you can do about that." I love that Earth-2's Wells has become the defeatist voice of reason for his optimistic colleagues. Every squad needs an Eeyore.

In December, Entertainment Weekly broke the story that Eobard Thawne actor Matt Letscher would be making his unexpected return to The Flash in 2016. Executive Producer Todd Helbing wasn't giving up many details about the "how" of Thawne being back in Central City to spoil the fun, but he did offer some hints as to the impact his reappearance would have. "His impossible return to Central City puts a member of the S.T.A.R. Labs team in unexpected danger," Helbing told EW, "forcing Barry to make a life-changing decision.” The phrasing of this hint is interesting to me — it's not worded as if Reverse-Flash is targeting someone, rather that his very presence is throwing reality into disarray.

And is it just me or did Eobard Thawne not seem as murderous as he has in the past at the end of "Potential Energy"? The most obvious rationalization for the Reverse-Flash being back in the mix is that he is the Earth-2 version of the character; in that case, his personality could be as different as Harry's is from the flashbacks of the real Harrison Wells. And Harry's words in the trailer become even more concerning; it's possible that the S.T.A.R. Labs crew will somehow activate the Reverse-Flash's lifelong blood feud with Barry. But how?

Even if Earth-2's Eobard Thawne has no vendetta against Barry yet, he's still got his powers and a direct line to the Speed Force. And for The Flash, that makes one unpredictable speedster too many.

Images: Katie Yu/The CW; wiccan92/Tumblr