The Flash – Season 8 Episode 13

May 5, 2022 | Posted by in TV
Flash

“Death Falls”

The Flash continues to deal with the Deathstorm problem as Frost prepares herself for the final confrontation before the city is overwhelmed with grief.

This show is nothing if not consistent when it comes to ruining potential. Robbie Amell in the role of Deathstorm was a clear setup for an intense personal story for Caitlin with her being forced to confront the face of her dead husband and push that association aside in order to focus on defeating the threat. Forcing the characters to confront their grief also had a lot of potential that the show failed to fully capitalise on.

Flash

You will see that smile in your nightmares

The problem is that the storytelling is really repetitive. All of the characters are confronted by phantoms of lost loved ones to encourage their descent into despair so that Deathstorm can feed on their grief. Chester sees his father, Allegra sees Esperanza and so on. It makes sense because those losses weigh on them heavily but the problem comes from this being a replay of what happened previously. Allegra encountered an Esperanza phantom in the previous episode and she didn’t fall for it as she understood Deathstorm’s tactic but in this one she is overcome by grief so she has managed to forget something she understood so completely mere hours earlier. Granted the implication is that Deathstorm’s phantoms are far more intense at this point but Allegra and Chester being overwhelmed by them isn’t believable because they both managed to overcome a prior attempt.

It’s all in service of having them come together to gush about how important they are to one another. In fairness this does track with the growth of their relationship and them finding comfort in one another while being consumed by grief makes sense as an emotional beat. When grieving people seek support from those they care about which is exactly what they are doing but it’s overpowered by the fact that Allegra and Chester should be the best equipped to ignore this based on prior characterisation.

Barry being confronted by every loss he has ever experienced was really effective. He previously stated that everyone on Team Flash has processed their grief to a significant degree and the amount of loss he has experienced has necessitated a compartmentalisation approach. He experiences a loss, deals with it as best he can and recognises he has a responsibility to stay on task as the Flash. In the case of individual losses this makes some degree of sense but being forced to relive every loss he has ever experienced is understandably crippling. The montage of clips of losing his father, Oliver Queen and everyone else illustrates this effectively and Grant Gustin plays the decimation of his resolve brilliantly. His phantom is his mother/the Speed Force; a figure that holds massive emotional complexity for him so it’s easy to see how he would be crippled by this.

Flash

A quick pep talk and then we’ll be on our way

Iris is confronted by Eddie who holds her and Sue hostage. Rick Cosnett is excellent in this role; playing the Eddie phantom as overly nice to the point of being creepy. The way he talks casually about making soup and being Iris’ fiancé is incredibly unsettling and there’s a palpable sense of danger to the whole situation. His claim that the self sacrifice actually didn’t matter because Eobard Thawne returned time and time again is a sore point for all concerned as Eddie’s death was in service of ensuring that his descendent would never plague them again. It ultimately proved to be worthless so reminding Iris of that would makes his loss even more visceral. It’s possible that Team Flash actively avoided ever considering that but Iris is being directly confronted with that fact is certainly difficult for her to process.

Ultimately overcoming the phantoms is the same for every character. They don’t actually defeat them by processing their grief as Frost sends out energy that dispels the phantoms so it’s more that the characters endure the onslaught until the problem is resolved externally. It isn’t a satisfying conclusion as the characters don’t develop in any way though suggesting development on this show is often a waste of time as the characters usually regress.

Frost is the key figure in stopping Deathstorm with her being upgraded to be the antithesis of him. Deathstorm clearly knows that she’s a threat because he comes to her and tries to make her doubt her very identity. He talks about being unable to feed on her grief because she doesn’t actually experience it since she isn’t real. Deathstorm picks as the fact Frost was created in a lab and implanted within Caitlin. He tries to convince her this means she doesn’t actually matter and is only a shadow of another person. Given that Frost’s main arc has been around forging her own identity this makes sense as something to attack though it does come as something of a surprise as this is the first suggestion that her sense of self is something she doubts, at least since the arc began.

Flash

Upgrade complete

Deathstorm’s commentary would seem to be confirmed when the upgrade fails and she worries that it’s because she doesn’t actually have a consciousness for the process to work on. The mechanics of what is being done to her don’t matter because it’s all complete nonsense but the viewer is encouraged to latch onto the emotional problem. It amounts to Frost having to believe that she’s real in order for the upgrade to work. Self-doubt begins to consume her and she thinks back to her first memory being taking control in order to take the hit when Cailtin was run over by a car. After that point she hid in Caitlin’s subconscious until deciding that she wanted to live. A certain reading of that is that she only exists to protect Caitlin; something that she forgot about when she got her own body, friends an interests but she keeps coming back to that purpose. What she is attempting to do in this episode is motivated by protecting Caitlin so Deathstorm strikes a very particular nerve which amplifies doubts that have been beneath the surface.

Mark of all people gives her a pep talk about what makes people real. He assures her that based on his own observations she is as real as it gets because he has seen her experience lots of emotion and knows how much she loves Caitlin. The origin of both her and those feelings doesn’t matter because the love is real and that’s what is important. The upgrade takes root when she allows herself to experience the grief she has been suppressing. This comes about when she considers a life without Caitlin. Allowing herself to feel the emotion provides the missing piece of the puzzle and she is able to confront Deathstorm fully confident in her purpose and her identity.

The Frost/Deathstorm fight is a reasonable example of an action sequence but there’s very little weight to it. Even though the stakes are clear and an emotional connection exists on Frost’s side Deathstorm is the weak link because he amounts to exposition related to his origin and a vague threat around making Caitlin his bride to end his solitude with nothing beyond that. Ultimately he’s a minor obstacle with a familiar face that is easily defeated in a short CGI driven action sequence. Any potential associated with Caitlin’s connection to him is ignored. Caitlin has nothing to do in the episode and Deathstorm is never allowed to be an actual character.

Frost’s death isn’t as impactful as it needs to be nor is it clear how permanent it is. From a main cast perspective Caitlin and Frost as the most expendable characters as one of them leaving the show doesn’t mean the loss of an actor. The moment immediately after her death where Barry and Caitlin deliver the bad news to the others works well. Grant Gustin and Danielle Panabaker’s performance is strong and the weight of loss can be felt in the way the scene plays out. Contrasting that is her death feeling like an incidental detail tacked on at the end of the episode. It’s likely the next one will deal with the emotional fallout but the death itself doesn’t logically flow from from the events preceding it. It should be more of a shock than it is presented to be and it follows Frost re-learning a lesson she already understood rather than a profound personal point of development on her part. It’s unfortunate such an interesting character would be extinguished in such an underwhelming way.

Flash

This is a thing that happened


Verdict

An uneven episode that goes back over well trodden ground, solves problems with laughable neatness and delivers a shock ending that isn’t nearly as shocking as it needs to be. The storytelling is really repetitive. All of characters are confronted by phantoms of lost loved ones to encourage their descent into despair so that Deathstorm can feed on their grief. It makes sense because the losses weigh on them heavily but it’s nothing that hasn’t been seen below. Allegra and Chester in particularly had already overcome their specific phantoms so shouldn’t be as affected as they are. In fairness the intensity is ramped up but it doesn’t make sense for them. It’s all in service of having them come together to gush about how important they are to one another. This does track with the growth of their relationship and them finding comfort in one another while being consumed by grief makes sense as an emotional beat. Barry being confronted by every loss he has ever experienced was really effective. He previously stated that everyone on Team Flash has processed their grief to a significant degree and the amount of loss he has experienced has necessitated a compartmentalisation approach. He experiences a loss, deals with it as best he can and recognises he has a responsibility to stay on task as the Flash. In the case of individual losses this makes some degree of sense but being forced to relive every loss he has ever experienced is understandably crippling. The montage of clips of losing his father, Oliver Queen and everyone else illustrates this effectively and Grant Gustin plays the decimation of his resolve brilliantly. His phantom is his mother/the Speed Force; a figure that holds massive emotional complexity for him so it’s easy to see how he would be crippled by this. Iris being confronted by Eddie also works well. Rick Cosnett is unsettling in playing Eddie being nice to the point of creepy and there’s a palpable sense of danger to the whole thing. Ultimately overcoming the phantoms is the same for every character. They don’t actually defeat them by processing their grief as Frost sends out energy that dispels the phantoms so it’s more that the characters endure the onslaught until the problem is resolved externally. It isn’t a satisfying conclusion as the characters don’t develop in any way though suggesting development on this show is often a waste of time as the characters usually regress.

Frost is the key figure in stopping Deathstorm with her upgraded to be the antithesis of him. Deathstorm clearly knows that she’s a threat because he comes to her and tries to make her doubt her very identity. He talks about being unable to feed on her grief because she doesn’t actually experience it since she isn’t real. Deathstorm picks as the fact Frost was created in a lab and implanted within Caitlin. He tries to convince her this means she doesn’t actually matter and is only a shadow of another person. Given that Frost’s main arc has been around forging her own identity this makes sense as something to attack though it does come as something of a surprise as this is the first suggestion that her sense of self is something she doubts, at least since the arc began. Deathstorm’s commentary would seem to be confirmed when the upgrade fails and she worries that it’s because she doesn’t actually have a consciousness for the process to work on. The mechanics of what is being done to her don’t matter because it’s all complete nonsense but the viewer is encouraged to latch onto the emotional problem. It amounts to Frost having to believe that she’s real in order for the upgrade to work. Mark of all people gives her a pep talk about what makes people real. He assures her that based on his own observations she is as real as it gets because he has seen her experience lots of emotion and knows how much she loves Caitlin. The origin of both her and those feelings doesn’t matter because the love is real and that’s what is important. The upgrade takes root when she allows herself to experience the grief she has been suppressing. This comes about when she considers a life without Caitlin. Allowing herself to feel the emotion provides the missing piece of the puzzle and she is able to confront Deathstorm fully confident in her purpose and her identity. The Frost/Deathstorm fight is a reasonable example of an action sequence but there’s very little weight to it. Deathstorm is the weak link because he amounts to exposition related to his origin and a vague threat around making Caitlin his bride to end his solitude with nothing beyond that. Ultimately he’s a minor obstacle with a familiar face that is easily defeated in a short CGI driven action sequence. Any potential associated with Caitlin’s connection to him is ignored. Caitlin has nothing to do in the episode and Deathstorm is never allowed to be an actual character. Frost’s death isn’t as impactful as it needs to be nor is it clear how permanent it is. The moment immediately after her death where Barry and Caitlin deliver the bad news to the others works well. Grant Gustin and Danielle Panabaker’s performance is strong and the weight of loss can be felt in the way the scene plays out. Contrasting that is her death feeling like an incidental detail tacked on at the end of the episode. It’s likely the next one will deal with the emotional fallout but the death itself doesn’t logically flow from from the events preceding it. It should be more of a shock than it is presented to be and it follows Frost re-learning a lesson she already understood rather than a profound personal point of development on her part. It’s unfortunate such an interesting character would be extinguished in such an underwhelming way.

Overall
  • 4/10
    Death Falls - 4/10
4/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • Chester and Allegra coming together to support each other through their grief
  • Frost examining her identity and self-worth
  • Barry being confronted by every loss he has ever experienced
  • Rick Cosnett’s unsettling nice to the point of creepy performance
  • a reasonable action sequence
  • the atmosphere surrounding Frost’s death working well

 

Rise Against…

  • repetitive storytelling around the grief phantoms
  • no character based resolution to the grief phantom problem
  • Allegra and Chester being overwhelmed despite defeating phantoms before and understanding the tactic
  • Deathstorm never becoming an actual character
  • the potential associated with Caitlin’s connection to Ronnie squandered
  • Frost re-learning lessons she should already understand
  • Frost’s insecurities around her identity coming from nowhere
  • Frost’s death feeling like an incidental detail tacked on at the end of the episode

 

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4.38/10 (4 votes)

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