The Flash – Season 9 Episode 12

May 18, 2023 | Posted by in TV
Flash

“A New World, Part 3 – Changes”

The Flash prepares for the final episode with a resurrection and a corrupting influence looking for revenge.

It may be a redundant statement at this point but there is no sense that this is the final season of this show. Only one episode remains and there’s nothing to distinguish the events as presented from a standard episode of the show. A final season is typically an opportunity to celebrate what came before and present the characters with a challenge that forces them to make changes in their lives befitting the fact that viewers won’t see them in this context again. Not that everyone should die or move on to new things but there should be some kind of indication of seismic change in the air. Iris being pregnant could qualify but The Flash could continue while Barry and Iris are parents, particularly since the frequent looks at the future indicate that being a father doesn’t interfere with Barry’s life as a superhero.

Flash

I don’t think that’s how genetics work

The previous episode directly addressed Barry not disappearing during the events of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” as if to suggest that some sort of cosmic balancing might be attempted in order to recreate those circumstances. That would seem to be supported by the Negative Speed Force storm and reddening skies in 2049 in this episode but no more has been said since so it appears to be something that was mentioned merely to fill time and inspire an emotional reaction from Iris at that point. It could become a factor in the final episode but it won’t land as the work hasn’t been done to properly set it up. If done well it would certainly qualify as a major challenge befitting a final season as there would be genuine tension associated with the possibility of Barry disappearing since the show is ending meaning his disappearance is a very real narrative possibility.

Not addressing this doesn’t make this episode bad, especially if that plot isn’t to factor into the final episode but it stands out that it was brought up in the previous episode coupled with the return of red skies in this one. It wouldn’t take much for a connection to be drawn and concerns raised about Barry’s future as a result. Instead, he’s alive and well in 2049 albeit absent because he’s in outer space and Team Flash hasn’t changed at all in the intervening years.

The only suggestion of possible change comes from Cecile after inhabiting the body of her future self to help Barry combat the Negative Speed Force when he arrives in 2049. Beyond drawing attention to the lack of effort made to make anyone appear 26 years later, the real reason for Cecile doing this is to see that her future is less than ideal. She is horrified to learn that she has prioritised Team Flash over her family as evidenced by only seeing Joe and Jenna twice in the space of a year. Future Chester and Allegra see no problem with it as they cite a busy year being the reason but Cecile sees this as history repeating itself and her making the same mistake she did with her mother. Focusing on work meant that she missed her mother’s death.

Flash

Who needs an avatar?

Chester is the one to advise her, presumably because it completes the bingo card of pep talk pairings rather than any logical reason for Chester to be best placed to advise her on this. He doesn’t have a history of mismanaging his priorities and regretting it so there’s no reason he would be chosen to dispense advice. In fairness, that’s true of a lot of pep talks in this show but it stands out here because he states that he isn’t best placed to do this and Khione convinces him that he is.

His advice is frankly baffling. Instead of pointing out the expected solution of using her knowledge of the future to ensure that she doesn’t fall into the trap of the imbalance in her priorities, he tells her that she’s doing nothing wrong. In a competently written show, this would encourage Cecile to either find a more appropriate balance or analyse what’s truly important to her and make a choice that she then sticks to. She already feels that she has a tendency to prioritise the wrong things in life and is horrified that her future self seems to be neglecting family over Team Flash so she clearly believes that family should be more of a priority in her life. Seeing how this plays out could be the wake-up call she needs to be actively more attentive and establish boundaries between the different aspects of her advice.

Chester telling her that she has struck up an amazing balance between Team Flash and her family so should be confident that this will continue makes no sense for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s blatantly untrue as there was an entire episode this season about the struggles Cecile was having splitting her time between her job, Team Flash and her family. There has been no indication since that she has now mastered it nor has there been any commentary on her continuing to struggle to find the balance. The latter is more likely as problems like that don’t ever tend to solve themselves, particularly when villains aren’t considerate enough to only attack during business hours. Life is generally complicated and unpredictable so Cecile will be facing constant challenges that risk diverting her attention in one direction over another.

Flash

The last square on the pep talk bingo card

Another problem is that Chester is actively encouraging Cecile to ignore her concerns and proceed under the assumption that she is managing her time effectively. He suggests there must be a good reason her future self has barely been home in the space of a year and urges her to trust herself. Her concerns are countered with irrelevant examples of the path his own life has taken. The message to take from those examples is that life is unpredictable and it’s easy for seemingly innocuous choices to spiral into significant problems if left unchecked. For Chester, the unpredictability has been positive as it turned his life around to the point that he works with Team Flash but Cecile lost the opportunity to say goodbye to her mother.

Not to mention Cecile’s rarely -if ever- mentioned other daughter. Has she damaged that relationship with her choices? What started as an opportunity for character development and a step towards a significant decision for Cecile in the final season of this show is brushed aside in favour of ignorantly assuming there is no problem.

Cecile’s crisis of self-confidence amounts to nothing more than a manufactured delaying tactic designed to keep her out of the way until the climax of the episode where she saves Barry. This is yet another example of Barry being easily outclassed by an opponent and needing to be saved. It is repeatedly mentioned that Barry is at the peak of his power, he has nearly a decade of experience under his belt that should come with skills and knowledge that make him nigh unbeatable at this point. Having him constantly in need of saving devalues Barry’s status as a hero as he frequently finds himself at the mercy of an opponent who shouldn’t be a challenge for him at this stage of his development.

Flash

How about we pick up where we left off?

The Negative Speed Force is being set up as the final big bad so it should present a significant threat but it’s presumably far from at its peak until it bonds with the new avatar. Being vulnerable until that happens would support its indirect approach to fighting Team Flash. It possesses whoever it can and uses that body to introduce self-doubt to throw them off balance. This could be seen with Khione in the previous episode when the Negative Speed Force preyed on her uncertainty about her sense of self. It’s valid as an approach and could be very sinister if done correctly but it’s contradicted by engaging Barry directly when inhabiting a body. In its current state, it should be afraid to do so as everything else points to that being the case.

Keeping Barry out of the way by forcing him into other time periods while trying to secure its avatar and pick off the rest of Team Flash when the Flash isn’t there to protect them makes sense but the show fails to commit to this idea. Team Flash clearly don’t need Barry at all considering how easily they dispatch the Negative Speed Force without him. Khione is a Goddess so has no trouble with it and Cecile can apparently use her powers to force it out of any body it inhabits. The first episode of this arc had the Negative Speed Force engage Barry while in Joe’s body and this one has it inhabit Nora. On both occasions, the plan was to put Barry in a difficult position whereby he couldn’t defeat the Negative Speed Force without killing someone he loves.

In both cases, contrived developments prevented Barry from making a difficult choice, therefore, rendering the threat meaningless. He doesn’t actually have to deal with the implications of what the Negative Speed Force is doing because something always solves the problem with no consequences. This is nothing new on this show but it remains frustrating all the same. There are no tangible stakes or examples of what the Negative Speed Force is truly capable of as nearly everything is restored to the status quo by the end of the episode.

Flash

Who even needs Barry any more?

The strategy of using Barry’s loved ones as a vessel when attacking him is a reasonable strategy but the Negative Speed Force seems to be pursuing two incompatible plans. One is the careful manipulation of people in order to gain the strength necessary to be a true threat and the other is a direct attack with the intention of overpowering Barry. It can’t have both yet we’re repeatedly seeing both being deployed simultaneously. As mentioned above, there are no tangible stakes because it’s unclear where anyone stands at any given point. Is the Negative Speed Force desperate and weak without an avatar to connect with or is it powerful enough to kill Barry when inhabiting anyone? Does inhabiting a Speedster like Nora make it more powerful than inhabiting a human like Joe? Would inhabiting Khione make it unstoppable? None of this is answered so all these episodes amount to is a procession of things that happen with no grounding to invest in.

It’s even unclear why the Negative Speed Force needs an avatar in the first place as the positive Speed Force doesn’t though the other positive forces do when the other negative forces take on the forms of the avatars of the positive forces. The complete lack of consistency has doomed this plot before it even started and the incompatible actions taken by the Negative Speed Force suggests that no effort has been made to make this final challenge to Team Flash coherent.

Eddie Thawne’s resurrection is because he is the desired avatar of the Negative Speed Force but it apparently requires absolute consent in order to make the connection. That isn’t a requirement when it inhabits anyone else but there may be a difference between possession and true connection though considering this show’s approach to establishing baselines for power levels and using contrivances to engineer the defeat of powerful threats it’s unlikely to make a material difference on screen. Regardless, one of the Negative Speed Force’s plans is to bring Eddie around to its way of thinking so that he consents to connecting with it. Presumably, the lightning strike prepared his body for the bonding though Joe could be possessed without being struck by lightning so, once again, there are no rules to engage with.

Flash

I’m so distracted by how much older everyone is

Pushing that aside, there are some interesting ideas here. It plays out similarly to an Angel or Demon in Supernatural requiring consent before it can use someone as its vessel. An entire episode was devoted to Lucifer preying on a man’s grief in order to encourage him to say “yes” and accept Lucifer’s essence. The same thing is happening here with Eddie being presented with all that has changed since his death and having some of those changes being framed as aspects of his future that were taken from him. A manifestation of a version of Nora that is his daughter with Iris acts as a vision of a life that he should have had. It promises him that it’s possible to reclaim that life and his resolve is chipped away by repeated examples of how things have progressed since his death.

Eddie being brought back as he was in season 1 at the moment of his death in theory presents the opportunity to reflect on how far the characters have come since then. He can comment on everything that has changed and naturally call back to a time that was only a couple of days ago from his perspective. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really happen to any meaningful extent. It’s limited to a number of short conversations, one with Barry, one with Iris and some with the Negative Speed Force in various guises. His conversation with Barry is instrumental in pushing him towards the Negative Speed Force as Barry comes across as someone not to be trusted. He makes stopping the Negative Speed Force more about him and fails to consider how Eddie might factor into it. When challenged, he states that they could help him and Eddie can start a new life but it’s far from definitive, particularly after Barry started out admitting he has no idea how to stop it. Eddie is afraid of losing the life that was given back to him and isn’t being offered practical ways to ensure that doesn’t happen if he rejects the Negative Speed Force.

Another thing on his mind is Eobard Thawne’s taunts about him being the only member of the Thawne family to amount to anything. His perception of the years since his death is that he was quickly forgotten as everyone moved on with their lives. This conclusion is supported by his conversation with Iris when she refuses to abandon the life she has built with Barry and their children in favour of the life she could have had with him. He sees this as a betrayal as her “screw the future” promise is still ringing in his ears because of how recent it was for him. Her rejection is what solidifies his choice to embrace the Negative Speed Force because it offers him everything he feels that has been taken from him whereas Barry and Iris are living the life that he feels he should be living.

Flash

You’d think we’d be sick of these kinds of conversations after so many years

This is an example of good scenes in an otherwise weak setup. This episode sets itself up as the battle for Eddie’s soul but there are too many distractions for it to resonate in the way that it should. The Negative Speed Force’s conflicting plans combined with Cecile’s uncertainty about her priorities dilute what should be an intense personal story about Eddie Thawne coming to terms with the fact that the world continued without him. Focusing on this would have allowed for more compelling empathy-filled conversations where Barry and Iris tried to convince him that they will always care about him but a necessary part of grief means moving on with life. Iris could even be allowed to mistakenly set him off by admitting that she always loved Barry even when she was with him but was too young and naive to realise it at the time because flawed characters are interesting. Eddie’s acceptance of what the Negative Speed Force has to offer could have been partially prompted by mistakes made by Iris and Barry in dealing with him. The Negative Speed Force could have been even more persuasive by inhabiting someone Eddie knew well that was still alive such as Captain Korber (Stephanie Izsak). There was a great deal of potential here but the show does what it usually does and fails to take advantage of it.

One more episode remains of this show and the Arrowverse but there is no strong sense of where it’s going beyond another battle with the Negative Speed Force bonded with Eddie. According to Speed Force Nora the entire timeline is at stake which means nothing as this is routinely the case. Everything is so empty and lifeless that there is no anticipation for the end of this show or the universe it’s a part of. My biggest concern is that the Arrowverse, a remarkable success that ran for years will fizzle out with an underwhelming finale of a show that can’t even add any sense of occasion to its own final season.

Flash

I blue myself!


Verdict

A weak episode that dilutes what could have been an interesting and intensely personal story with unnecessary distractions and a villain pursuing two contradictory plans.

Overall
  • 2/10
    “A New World, Part 3 – Changes” - 2/10
2/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • Eddie’s scenes with Iris, Barry and the Negative Speed Force
  • interesting ideas surrounding Eddie’s choice of whether to accept or reject the Negative Speed Force

 

Rise Against…

  • Chester’s baffling advice to Cecile
  • Cecile’s legitimate concerns about handling her priorities and her history with making mistakes being completely dismissed
  • the Negative Speed Force pursuing two contradictory plans
  • no baseline power levels to give the threat of the Negative Speed Force any grounding
  • Barry once again needing to be saved
  • the complete lack of consistency in regards to the Forces
  • wasting the potential of the battle for Eddie’s soul with unnecessary distractions and surface level exploration

 

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4.57/10 (7 votes)

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