The Flash – Season 7 Episode 1
“All’s Wells That Ends Wells”
The Flash returns for a seventh with the continued efforts to create an Artificial Speed Force, Iris still missing and Eva McCulloch free to wreak havoc.
From a production point of view last season ended on less than ideal terms. The COVID pandemic forced production to shut down before filming was completed so what ended up being the final episode of the season was never intended to be. I always resolve to review what is actually in front of me without accounting for external factors as what is presented on screen is what I’m analysing so I make no allowances for issues that may reduce the quality of what airs since average viewers will likely have no idea especially if watching years later. The previous season ended well as far as I’m concerned with the promise of Eva McCulloch as a villain and ongoing tension created by Barry’s rapidly diminishing speed. Problems that needed to be resolved were set up and there was enough finality to qualify as something befitting the end of a season. In general the previous season was a massive improvement and a step in the right direction for a show where quality had declined massively.
Similarly this episode has many of the hallmarks I’d expect from the opening to a new season. The opening is engaging and action packed, there’s a constant sense of urgency and the writers are putting their best foot forward in terms of characterisation. It would seem there’s little measurable difference between intended late season episodes and the opening gambit to a new one. There’s no way of knowing what material lingered from before production shut down and what was new but on the whole the episode is cohesive even if it does resolve things that I would expect to carry on over at least a chunk of a season.
The main objective of this episode is to get the Artificial Speed Force online before Barry completely runs out of what he has left. At the beginning of the episode he’s down to 1% though there’s no indication of how long that’s supposed to last,. There’s an inconsistency between that warning and how freely he uses his speed. It’s in Barry’s nature to put himself at risk when it means protecting others but he doesn’t come across as being all that concerned that he is running on fumes even when everyone else present is reminding him how close to powerless he actually is. Some of this could be attributed to how close to completion the project is but there have been failed attempts to activate it before so as far as he knows a working Artificial Speed Force could be very far away.
Barry running on fumes accomplishes what it did in the previous season with increased tension in the action sequences as he is far from at his best. He can be hurt without healing instantly, can’t run as fast as he did before and has to be more strategic in the way he approaches confrontations in order to conserve what he has left. Some of that comes across in his conflict with Eva in the opening moments of the episode though it amounts to little more than him being out of breath when he stops running and arriving too late to be of much use. It’s good to have an in universe excuse for him being too late to stop a villain rather than simply forgetting how fast he’s capable of running as has happened on so many occasions before.
The Artificial Speed Force requires a sacrifice in order to get it up and running. Technobabble about Multiverse Particles as a power source is thrown around with Nash being the only repository of them available. The other versions of Wells make it clear that an organic component is required to facilitate the transfer of these particles which will have the unfortunate consequence of being fatal for Nash. He isn’t prepared to sacrifice himself even if it means restoring Barry to full speed because he has built a life that he likes with people that he cares about. In essence he feels that he has a lot to lose so is eager to find another solution that doesn’t mean him losing his life. Anyone who has seen the show before will know that this is the precursor to a failed attempt to find another way before accepting that the only solution was the one presented in the first place. It’s a reliable formula for a story and allows Nash plenty of time to shine as he gears up for his sacrifice.
Initially he sees Allegra as the solution as her powers will allow the particles to be pushed out of him and manipulated from a safe distance. This is one of many instances of Allegra appearing to be the solution to the problem at hand because of her ultraviolet powers. This continues to raise concerns as it risks becoming a crutch the writers lean on whenever a quick solution is needed. Thankfully that’s not the case here as her abilities are only used to rule out the possibility of mitigating Nash needing to sacrifice himself as well as creating an excuse for Grant Gustin to do his best impression of Tom Cavanagh’s various Wells personas over the years. It’s rare that Grant Gustin gets the opportunity to cut loose in this way and he certainly rises to the challenge even if his imitations of Tom Cavanagh’s takes on the various characters aren’t always on point. There’s something particularly off about his take on Harry but in general it’s an entertaining comedic distraction that neatly segues into being meaningful. There has been a tendency to push the comedy far beyond the point where it ceases to be funny in the past so the restraint here is certainly welcomed.
Nash’ conversation with Harry makes for a really resonant moment. It allows him to articulate that he doesn’t feel like a good man and is reminded through constant interactions with other versions of himself that he’s far from the best Wells to be associated with Team Flash. Cisco’s words about being stuck with the Wells that killed the Multiverse constantly haunt him and fill him with an unshakeable sense of self loathing. Harry talks about Team Flash making him and every other Wells that has been a part of it better people, In Harry’s case he started out working for Zoom only to be forgiven and make up for his mistake. The others had their own baggage that they were able to overcome by being part of the team and Nash is no different in that respect. Harry assures Nash that he believes there’s a good man in there waiting to be discovered because that has been the case with every other Wells.
This informs Nash’ decision to sacrifice himself so that Barry can get his speed back. It’s a great moment though a little undercut by the fact that Chester and Allegra are present instead of Cisco and Caitlin since they don’t have the same connection to the various iterations of Wells. Having the entirety of Team Flash there when saying goodbye to the final Wells would have made for a stronger sacrificial moment but what was presented was still very good. Barry’s plea for him to stop because of how many people he has lost and his awareness of how many have died for him is powerfully delivered by Grant Gustin and Nash declaring that he’s both proud and honoured to be giving the Flash his speed back is excellent. It was a nice touch to have Harry, H.R. and Sherloque make a brief appearance to say goodbye as well.
Barry asks the question around how he will function as the Flash without a Wells on the team and that’s a really interesting one to contemplate. In one way or another there has been a version of Harrison Wells present since the show began so in many ways they represented an adult presence on Team Flash that could support them. Over the years Barry has matured and embraced his leadership position with Joe still around to offer guidance but there does come a point where people have to grow up and come into their own. Nash’ sacrifice could be that turning point where Barry has to fully embrace a leadership role without falling back on a Harrison Wells. That’s something I find very interesting as it’s long overdue for Barry to take a more confident stance when it comes to leading his team. I doubt having advice barked at him through comms will stop but the lack of the guiding presence of Harrison Wells could force dramatic change for him.
That is of course assuming that Nash or the other versions of Harrison Wells are gone for good. They could end up being affectations within the Artificial Speed Force that offer him guidance when he taps into it or there could be another surviving Wells out there somewhere that we haven’t met yet. I would hope this isn’t the end of Tom Cavanagh’s tenure on the show as he has been endlessly watchable. At a minimum I suspect he will return as Eobard Thawne because he’s too good in that role for it not to recur but we may have seen the end of a permanent Harrison Wells presence on the show which certainly amounts to a significant loss though perhaps a meaningful one.
It’s possibly not a good thing that the Artificial Speed Force is now up and running as it may remove the interesting limitations that were used well last season. If Barry has use of the full extent of his powers without any complications associated with building an Artificial Speed Force then the whole situation will have been a complete waste. It’s impossible to tell whether this version of the Speed Force matches the old one or if future episodes will detail differences that exist between what he once had and what he now has. The brief sequence shows him running fast but there’s no way of knowing how fast that is relative to his previous capabilities. The Flash as a show has been guilty of sidestepping consequences in favour of moving plot forward but the quality of the show has been improving so it could go either way at this point.
Eva McCulloch appears to be concerned with tying up loose ends as well as fixing some mistakes made by the show in the past. She begins the episode killing the previous version of Mirror Master before revealing that he was her first creation that had outlived his usefulness. The previous attempt to adapt Mirror Master in this show left a lot to be desired so it’s a welcome retcon and clears the decks completely for Eva to be the mirror powered villain to pay attention to. The reveal that she herself is a duplicate has potential as she now likely has to deal with an identity crisis now that she isn’t what she thought she was though it’s unclear where this will go. She does remain an engaging villain and her lack of interest in Team Flash beyond when they get in her way makes her refreshingly unique as antagonists go. How long she can be sustained remains to be seen but for now she represents a compelling threat to the team and there’s a lot of potential for development in the reveal that she isn’t the real Eva McCulloch.
Killing -or smashing- the first Mirror Master provides an opportunity for Rosalind Dillon aka The Top to come into her own. Previously she was portrayed as Mirror Master’s sidekick with the ability to inconvenience people by inducing vertigo. Her power is now altered to allowing her entry into people’s thoughts to magnify and morsel of doubt to induce emotional vertigo. She uses it on Cecile and it causes her significant difficulties. Along with this comes the revelation that she was actually the brains of the operation and was hiding behind a misdirection so that others would underestimate her. That didn’t come across as even a remote possibility when she appeared before but anything is possible post Crisis and if it ends up creating a more interesting villain that can appear periodically then it’s certainly welcomed. Her scenes with Cecile work really well and it’s good to see Cecile’s power become more active rather than passive especially when it’s used so effectively.
Iris remains stuck in the mirror dimension and is trying to stop herself from being driven insane. She is haunted by manifestations of herself as she appeared over the previous seasons who try to convince her that she has been broken by her surroundings . A mirror is literally held up to her and she is forced to face what she used to be as well as what she could become. Words like “weak” and “victim” are thrown around as a possible identifier for what she is and what negative traits she should focus on. She does eventually realise that all of this is a deliberate ploy to have her descend into madness and once she realises that Eva is playing a game with her the power she has goes away. This comes with a proud declaration that she is not afraid of the woman she has become; something that has been completely earned by the U-turn the writers have accomplished with Iris. Her more recent development has come from internalising her flaws and using them as a springboard to overcome them. This makes it believable that self confidence would be the key to ending Eva’s manipulations and her awareness that Eva is afraid of her gives her renewed determination to find a way to escape. Eva definitely seems more Iris’ villain than Barry’s and it’s working brilliantly.
A good start to the season that continues to build Eva as a strong antagonist, provides compelling movement on Barry’s diminishing speed problem and has an excellent defining moment for Iris. The Artificial Speed Force creation plot has been lingering for a while now and Barry’s finite speed has been a great source of tension in the action sequences. Using the urgency associated with bringing it online as a potential exit plot for Nash Wells works really well because it allows for exploration of who he is, what he has to lose and what he wants to bring to those around him. The other versions of Harrison Wells are fun to see and Grant Gustin clearly has a great time playing them even if his Harry is a little off. The conversation between Nash and Harry where Nash highlights his unshakeable sense of self loathing only to be told that every Harrison Wells started out with baggage that needed to be overcome on the way to becoming better people. Nash’ growth is highlighted through his sacrifice and his farewell is appropriately moving. It’s unknown if this marks the end of Tom Cavanagh’s tenure on the show or if there will be other ways to include him but as an exit for Nash this really worked. The Artificial Speed Force being up and running may not end up as a good thing as it could return the show back to the point where Barry’s capabilities are forgotten in the name of moving plot forward. If there are no differences or limitations created by the Artificial Speed Force then it will amount to a pointless diversion.
Eva McCulloch continues to be an engaging villain and the fact that she has no direct interest in Team Flash remains refreshing. Having her cleaning up loose ends by killing the original Mirror Master before declaring that he was her first creation worked really well because it allowed Rosalind to come into her own through revealing that she is more powerful than originally indicated and a lot smarter than she let on. Her scenes with Cecile worked really well and it sets up an engaging recurring presence. Eva’s discovery that she is actually a duplicate of the original could go in interesting directions as well. Iris being haunted by manifestations of herself designed to hold a mirror up to her and highlight her negative traits works brilliantly. Her development beyond those traits has been well earned and it’s great to see her proudly declare that she isn’t afraid of who she has become. Once she realises this Eva has no power over her and this positions her as Iris’ villain rather than Barry’s which works brilliantly.
- building naturally to Nash’ sacrifice by exploring how the other versions of Harrison Wells were changed by Team Flash
- Grant Gustin having a blast doing his best Tom Cavanagh impression
- the meaningful conversation between Nash and Harry
- Nash’ sacrifice making for a powerful moment
- Rosalind being set up as a compelling recurring antagonist
- her scenes with Cecile
- Eva continuing to be a strong antagonist
- Iris proud declaration that she isn’t afraid of who she has become
- not making great use of Barry’s limitations during the opening action sequence
- Harry’s sacrifice not being as effective as it could be due to Cisco and Caitlin’s absence
- Grant Gustin’s unconvincing Harry impression
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