The Flash – Season 9 Episode 11
“A New World, Part 2 – The Blues”
The Flash details the other side of the story with Team Flash reacting to Barry’s disappearance and becoming aware of the new threat.
A bizarre pattern in the final season of this show is its lead being absent for a large percentage of it. This is the third Barry-lite episode in a season that only contains 13 episodes which means that Barry barely appears in nearly 25% of the season. That by itself isn’t an issue as Arrowverse shows knock on the door of being ensemble-driven so sidelining the lead can provide opportunities for the other characters to develop in interesting ways. The issue, in this case, is that this is the final season and Barry’s absence kills what little momentum there was. The previous episode was the first sign of the season building to a conclusion but this one hampers the buildup by focusing on what the rest of Team Flash was doing while Barry revisited the night of his mother’s death.
Again, this isn’t necessarily an issue as the other characters could come by information that enriches the larger story and expand on it naturally. They have abilities and skills Barry doesn’t have so could use them to feed into the tapestry of the story being told. What actually happens is a standard incoherent plot where the rest of Team Flash is attacked and one of the other characters gains or unlocks immense power to deal with the threat. It’s something this show repeatedly falls back on and has long since become tiresome.
The character to level up is Khione. It has now become clear that this character was introduced to give the writers an easy catch-all solution to any problems. Her full potential has been an ongoing mystery usually progressing with her gaining a new power that mitigates whatever tension might exist such as saving Mark’s life with a kiss or mysteriously knowing things because of her vague connection to the natural world. That connection is expanded with the reveal that she’s a Goddess who has a real-time connection to every living thing. This officially makes her the most powerful member of the team because there is very little she is incapable of doing. An attempted limit is established when she can’t heal Allegra because the Cobalt isotope is part of the natural world so can’t be removed. By contrast, she can take steps to remove Halon gas from people’s lungs because it isn’t part of the natural world. It comes across as an excuse that allows Kayla Compton to be absent so that she can direct the episode rather than a carefully considered limitation to her powers that will form a meaningful part of her character.
This episode is built around Khione coming to realise what she is and starting to decide what to do with that knowledge. She is challenged by the Negative Speed Force possessed Mark when he calls her an abomination and condemns her for taking it upon herself to save lives. He argues that she did harm to them and altered them without their consent. With more work, there could have been an interesting exploration of the application of power and whether those who have it have the right to take action without actually being permitted to do so. It’s especially relevant to Khione as she later realises she’s a Goddess somehow so is well placed to be wrestling with those questions. Those she saved will likely end up being grateful once what happened sinks in as this way they’re alive rather than dead but the issue of consent is there to be explored, particularly if what she did to them ends up being permanent. The episode doesn’t make it clear if there is a permanent alteration or not so the argument itself never has the chance to really begin.
Negative Speed Force Mark looks to divide the team by preying on their anxieties so they are too distracted to effectively resist. In the case of Khione, he preys on how little she knows about herself which serves as a reminder of her working to find purpose and sets up her coming to the realisation of what she is. The word “abomination” is harsh and clearly impacts her significantly to the point that she worries about what she is becoming and how others see her. It’s not as interesting as forcing her to confront what motivates her to act and encouraging her to learn a lesson about considering the consequences before using her powers. Such an approach would give depth to the Negative Speed Force as there would be an element of truth to the points it makes. Its attempt to shatter the team by preying on their anxieties only approaches substantive where Khione is concerned. Chester is merely distracted so it can sabotage his work and Iris and Cecile are lured by the promise of food. There is no depth in either scenario.
Khione’s realisation that she’s a Goddess after a short conversation with Speed Force Nora is a confusing scene though Speed Force Nora’s presence, in general, is confusing. As is always the case when the Forces are included in an episode, the audience is expected to accept whatever nonsense is said as how things work no matter how ludicrous or inconsistent -or both- it may be. She talks about being under attack by all the Negative Forces but there is no mention of what the other Positive Forces. Her presence is at least justified by her looking for Khione but the notion of Caitlin entering a machine, dying and birthing a Goddess using herself and Frost is beyond nonsense.
It’s also meaningless because there’s a limited sense of Khione as a character and no weight to the reveal of her being a Goddess because it doesn’t actually mean anything. Her being a Goddess doesn’t currently bring anything to the table that couldn’t be achieved by her being an insanely powerful Metahuman. There’s an implied hierarchy of powers including Metahumans, Forces of Nature and now Gods/Goddesses but there’s no material difference in how the show approaches them beyond inconsistent displays of power levels that are routinely dismissed to manufacture a solution. The Arrowverse has touched on Gods in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow but that show was never as concerned with relative power levels as this one is so the mechanics didn’t matter. The Flash usually counters something powerful with something more powerful so apparently Goddess beats a Force of Nature like the Negative Speed Force but it doesn’t mean anything as no strong sense of the relative power levels has ever been delivered so it’s just another meaningless development.
Khione realising she’s a Goddess does work as an affirmation because she is meaningfully changed by it. She now understands that her potential is far greater than simply being a supporting player on Team Flash so she pledges to leave and apply her abilities on a global scale once the current threat has been dealt with. As said above, there’s no coverage of Khione’s relationship to the Earth or the people on it as a Goddess so it’s an empty statement.
Another progression that should be more impactful than is presented is Iris going into labour. Barry returns in time to learn that baby Nora is on her way before disappearing again. Barry is oddly passive when learning that fatherhood is imminent and there’s a lack of urgency in the team discussing the threat of the Negative Speed Force. It’s impossible to invest in the threat it represents because the characters aren’t treating it as being significant. This is the final threat the team will face before the show ends and it comes across as a villain of the week that is outstaying its welcome. Not to mention the fact that it was the antagonist -along with Thawne- that ended the previous season so it also suffers from being repetitive.
Speaking of repetitive, the new Rick Cosnett character -now named Dr. Malcolm Gilmore- appears to be following the same path followed by August Hart when he had no memory of being Godspeed or Eobard Thawne before regaining his memories. He appears to be a good person on an inescapable trajectory towards corruption. That corruption comes hand in hand with learning the truth about himself so it’s very much in line with those characters and, so far, doesn’t differ from what was offered previously. This iteration actually offers less as there’s no indication that Malcolm is a good person because his investigation into Eddie Thawne is very mechanical so there’s no sense of who he is as a person or what he stands to lose by having his identity replaced by that of Eddie Thawne. Does Malcolm Gilmore have family or friends that will miss him? Is there a life he would like to hold onto?
The episode doesn’t even glance at those questions because having him learn about Eddie is the priority and it ends with him fully embracing his identity as Eddie Thawne, most likely casting aside Malcolm Gilmore entirely. The Thawne story actually managed to be engaging because there was reason to invest in him as a good person which made it tragic when the corruption associated with his memories was forced on him. What is planned with Eddie is unknown at this time but with two episodes to go, it doesn’t feel like the show is going anywhere.
One possible direction as the end approaches is properly addressing the fact that Barry didn’t vanish in Crisis as was predicted since the first episode. Crisis happened and a technicality allowed Barry to continue but the circumstances didn’t in any way resemble what was teased or promised by the commonly featured article. Iris theorises that Barry’s disappearance may be the universe correcting itself in some way. An appropriate final challenge would be those events coming to pass in a slightly different way and forcing Barry to confront the fact that he never actually faced that choice. It’s unlikely to be the case but if it comes to pass then this website predicted it.
A weak episode that continues the trend of not building towards anything significant and wastes time with a meaningless Khione reveal.
- Khione being meaningfully changed by her affirmation
- failing to explore a compelling consent-based debate surrounding Khione’s powers and how she chooses to use them
- no weight to the reveal of Khione being a Goddess
- Barry being oddly passive in his limited screen time
- Barry being largely absent so close to the end of the show
- the Malcolm Gilmore plot being too reminiscent of earlier stories and doing far less with the idea
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