The Flash – Season 7 Episode 17
“Heart of the Matter, Part 1”
The Flash begins the endgame of the season with an expansion of the Allen family and the ramping up of the Godspeed War.
Finale time on The Flash can usually be described as chaotic as there is often a lot thrown at the viewer with very little of it making sense. This season has been an unusual case in that it effectively has three season finale type episodes with the early part of the season dealing with the delayed conclusion of the previous one, the midseason finale closing off the Forces arc and now this finale dealing with the threat of Godspeed.
Despite repeated failures to make post Thawn Speedster villains engaging the show falls back on old habits with Godspeed though to the credit of the production team the mistakes being made are different to prior examples which can be defined as progress in a way. Godspeed is deliberately not a character at this point as Team Flash are facing two factions of clones of the original. They are defined as a periodic threat that emerges at given intervals that the team have to be ready for. It’s clear there is no reasoning with them and their powers eclipse those of Team Flash so they are a threat. There is still a failure to sell the urgency of having a dozen Speedsters threatening the city but at least the parameters are clearly defined.
Bubbling along in the background is the presence of the original August Heart who came back in time from the year 2048 for reasons that remain unknown even to him. Lip service is paid to the uncertainty around what sort of a person he is but it’s relegated to the background until the very end of the episode. He is a resource Team Flash have that is referred to throughout with minor steps forward but no real substance. It makes a degree of sense considering how chaotic the situation is but at the same time it does come across as something of an underplayed element.
Amusingly the episode ends with Barry taking yet another mind trip in order to get to the truth of Godspeed and learn what his plan is. August has a vested interest in learning who he is even if that happens to be a bad person so he agrees to let Barry into his head. It’s staggering how often this show falls back on the entering someone’s mind in order to move the plot forward. Continually doing this reeks of a lack of creativity as it seems that all the writers can do to threaten Barry is place him in a situation where his mind can be endangered since external threats should often be no match for his powers. In this case it’s doubly confusing because Godspeed is more than a match for his powers so at the very least this qualifies as a credible external threat where this tired plot point shouldn’t be required. Barry being confronted with the hateful August Heart/Godspeed ready to battle inside the mindscape is a week cliffhanger largely down to the lack of development of either side of this persona.
More interesting than the external threat is the arrival of Barry and Iris’ future children. Nora and Bart make for a really engaging pair. Nora is familiar but identified as a different version of the character and Bart is a new addition brought on by changes in the timeline. This new version of Nora is far more secure in her abilities, more experienced, less reckless and a lot more confident but never to the point of arrogance. The implication is that having both parents in her life who helped her hone her powers rather than hiding her from them better prepared her for living with them. She has a measured approach to heroics which makes for an obvious yet effective contrast with her hotheaded younger brother.
Bart is certainly an acquired taste and some will find him difficult to accept because of how intense he is. For the most part I connected to him as there was enough depth behind his bravado to prevent it from straying into being obnoxious. He came close to it at times but never quite crossed the line. One thing that helps is that Jordan Fisher is effortlessly charming which gives him an innately likeable quality even when he is chewing the scenery in a particular way. As mentioned he is the opposite to Nora in many ways by being reckless and inexperienced though not lacking in confidence.
It doesn’t take long to reveal that Bart considers Godspeed to be his Thawne and he reacts very passionately when confronted about it. Barry starts off being offended at such a comparison because of the significance it carries. He starts by assuming that Bart doesn’t understand the weight behind what he’s saying which prompts a very passionate and angry reaction from Bart who makes it clear he understands exactly what he’s saying. Thankfully it isn’t long before Bart’s claims are backed up in a conversation with Nora where they talk about Godspeed killing Jay Garrick right in front of him. It’s an undoubtedly traumatic experience and it sets up Jay being used to bait Bart later in the episode.
Bart’s bravado being a front for intense pain that is always on the verge of being released is a compelling character detail that the episode uses well. Barry considers him a loose cannon because he is governed by his emotions which makes him a liability in the field but he fails to actually address the issue and help him to deal with it. This is a consistent failing on Barry’s part as he often asserts his authority in the first instance before trying to understand why someone might be acting a certain way. Consistent characterisation is a good thing but the lack of any measurable growth after repeated realisations that it was the wrong decision is not. In this case he is right to take a cautious approach where Bart is concerned and Nora backs him up by telling Bart that he is incapable of properly controlling himself but benching him without following up on what amounts to a deep personal trauma is a failure on Barry’s part. There is an attempt to explain it through Barry not wanting to know too much about the future but that doesn’t hold water and the half baked resolution where Barry takes a leaf out of Bart’s reckless book to stop a Godspeed clone fails to resonate.
Barry and Iris’ discussion about the Allen family being doomed to suffer hardship in the form of powerful enemies fixated on making their lives a misery and resigned to watching loved ones be killed right in front of them is an intriguing realisation. With all the talk of starting a family they haven’t fully taken the time to internalise what that means for them. Their children coming back from the future forces them to confront that truth and consider whether they are caught in an endless cycle of loss. Barry has addressed how many people he has lost before such as when Nash sacrificed himself but this frames it differently as a consideration of his legacy and whether he’s right to allow such trauma to be shouldered by his children. He does have a very limited view of their lives in the future and there is a strong sense that they are generally happy but it’s a powerful consideration and at least having an awareness of it after being directly confronted with it allows for strong introspection of the wider implications of what they do.
The Godspeeds using Jay as bait for Bart creates a really tense moment despite the logistical confusion around how fast the Speedsters can reach the location. Barry and Nora should have been seconds behind him rather than the several minutes it seemed to take though that’s hardly a new problem on this show by this point. There are actual consequences to Bart’s reckless actions as he is completely incapacitated for now and it helps establish that there is a credible threat facing Team Flash. The emotional heft does get somewhat lost among the abundance of other content but firmly confirming the threat is a step in the right direction.
Iris’ return is as abrupt and as random as her departure. There is a quick explanation that Deon figured out how to stabilise her so that she could return to her family. Ultimately it’s another one of those things that just happens but it’s forgivable as it allows Iris to be present to add to the family dynamic. Any scene that features Barry, Iris and their grown up children is really strong. They have natural chemistry together and collectively bring a lot of energy to their interactions. Hopefully Nora and Bart will have a reason to stick around after the current plot is over or the show can utilise them in flashforwards similar to the last two seasons of Arrow. For now they are a breath of fresh air and a welcome one at that.
Another abrupt return is Cisco with very little to say about his inclusion other than a reminder that it makes no sense for him to be so willing to embrace tech based abilities when he wanted to stop being Vibe for very specific reasons with his change of heart never being addressed. He did enhance already strong character driven scenes and his presence will certainly be welcomed in the finale.
Allegra grieving over the loss of Esperanza is another impressively varied display of grief in the Arrowverse. Most of the characters are no stranger to loss in one way or another as this very episode explores with Barry. The approach to different characters handling loss has been as different as the characters themselves which is always appreciated as loss is complex and people deal with it differently. Allegra’s approach is to isolate herself and try to deal with it on her own. It doesn’t work because she keeps replaying what happened in her mind. It affects her deeply which includes the kind of energy she outputs and is noticed by Chester who offers his judgement free support. He doesn’t try to force her into opening up to him but makes it clear that he is there for her. Their friendship is an engaging one and having him be there for her in this very particular way enhances that.
One majorly weak link is the Joe/Kramer plot. All there is to say is that Joe is concerned that she is unwilling to confront Adam’s claim that she watched her die. This largely feels like an afterthought and it’s difficult to see how it will suddenly become satisfying given how little time remains in the season.
A good episode that brings in two engaging characters that are used well, maintains a believable threat level and internalises a significant issue for Barry. The Godspeed War still feels underdeveloped as a story though the Godspeed clones are clearly defined as a periodic threat that they have to prepare for and eclipse Team Flash in terms of power level. August Heart is a presence that bubbles along in the background with little in the way of development. The episode takes minor steps forward with him with no substance and the inclusion of yet another mind trip as a solution is baffling. More interesting in that is the arrival of Nora and Bart; Barry and Iris’ children from the future. This Nora is a different version who grew up having her abilities nurtured so is more skilled, experienced and level headed where Bart is very much the opposite. His arrogance never strays into being obnoxious and there is a lot of depth behind his bravado following the reveal that it covers up intense pain that he struggles to process. Unfortunately Barry once again fails to demonstrate any growth by benching him without properly addressing the underlying issue with the half baked excuse of not wanting to know too much about the future being cited. Going into detail about what Bart is dealing with allows for some fascinating introspection on how Barry’s legacy for his children might be endless loss. Having this culminate in the Godspeeds using Jay as bait for Bart was a really strong touch as it had actual consequences that further established the threat level.
Iris’ return was as abrupt and as random as her departure but it was forgivable considering how engaging any scene featuring Barry, Iris and their children was. They have natural chemistry and the arrival of the two young Speedsters is a welcome breath of fresh air. Cisco’s return is equally abrupt but works well enough especially where the team dynamic is concerned. Allegra grieving the loss of Esperanza is really strong and allows for further development of the growing Allegra/Chester connection in a really natural way. Unfortunately the Joe and Kramer plot continues to feel like an afterthought that is completely unconnected to anything else.
- clearly defining the parameters of the threat the Godspeed clones represent
- Nora and Bart being a breath of fresh air
- Bart’s bravado hiding intense pain that is explored very well
- any scene featuring Barry, Iris and their children
- Barry questioning his legacy being an endless cycle of dealing with loss
- actual consequences to Bart recklessly walking into a trap
- the handling of Allegra’s grief
- naturally growing the Chester/Allegra connection
- Barry once again showcasing a lack of growth
- August Heart lacking in depth
- another mind trip
- the Joe/Kramer plot feeling like an afterthought
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