The Flash – Season 7 Episode 18
“Heart of the Matter, Part 2”
The Flash wraps up its seventh season with an end to the Godspeed War and a renewal for Team Flash.
Season finale time on The Flash is often defined by chaos. Impossibly high stakes, unexpected and bizarre plot twists, explanations that come from nowhere based on nothing that has previously been established and a fixation on how team solidarity conquers all. This episode had all that but also managed to deliver a ludicrously entertaining viewing experience despite all its flaws.
I’m never an advocate of the idea of switching your brain off in order to be able to enjoy something but I’m starting to think that for The Flash it’s mandatory to do so because expecting anything to make sense at this point is very much a fool’s errand. At times it still nails character work and there can be a lot of creativity when it comes to the set pieces but plotting leaves a lot to be desired.
The Godspeed War is a great example of how The Flash has a ropey grasp on making any kind of sense. A lot of this is down to having a lack of time to develop the various elements that make this up. There are two factions of Godspeed clones that fight each other when they don’t have Team Flash to contend with though it’s not clear why they turn on one another, they are fixated on amassing speed to bring to their creator, August Heart who has no memory of who he is and they can only plague the city periodically for short intervals. None of this is really explained, justified or developed so the only thing the viewer can do is accept it and let the episode take them along for the ride.
Similarly the resolution isn’t properly explained even though there’s an entire scene devoted to Barry and Iris trying to summarise what went on to make it seem like it was part of a clever plan. Barry tries to explain why he thought using the Speed Force to bring back Thawne to help him defeat Godspeed was a good idea and how the threat August Heart represents was removed but all it does is highlight how little it makes sense. The Speed Force has always been used as a crutch to allow certain things to happen with a minimum of explanation though this episode leans on this far too heavily as there are two occasions where she is used to solve certain problems.
One problem she solves is Bart being injured and clinging onto life. She fixes that problem with almost no effort and Bart is back in the game as if nothing happened. I mentioned in my review of the previous episode that it was refreshing to see consequences through a major injury for Bart. It raised the stakes appropriately and established Godspeed as a credible threat. It’s in keeping with this show to resolve something like this without much fanfare but it never stops being disappointing when it happens. This also opens up questions around why the Speed Force can’t simply appear whenever anyone is injured and solve the problem immediately. It’s liable to be another thing that will be conveniently forgotten whenever tension needs to be manufactured.
Having Bart up and about is better than not having him up and about though and his contribution to the episode is as good as it was in the previous one. His likeability and energy are undoubtedly an asset to the overall group dynamic even if he doesn’t do a great deal in the context of the episode itself. Sometimes having an engaging presence is enough though it would be better if he was able to meaningfully contribute beyond a magnetic personality.
Part of the problem this episode has is that there are too many characters to be reasonably juggled. Everyone is present but very few have anything meaningful to do. There is a strong moment where Jay advises Bart to settle down and trust Barry to make the right call. The fact that Jay believes that is unintentionally hilarious but it’s a great piece of advice that resonates with Bart because of his known strong connection to Jay. It may be the only meaningful contribution that Bart has -aside from his serenade at the closing ceremony- but it’s a good one because time was taken earlier to give it that meaning.
Nora -as in the daughter Nora- has very little to do other than worry about the fate of her brother early on. There’s a repeat of her cool lightning whip ability but other than serving as a confused background voice her presence is largely ineffective. Jessica Parker Kennedy never fails to be an engaging presence but if the trouble was taken to involve these characters then their involvement should have some weight to it. Both of the future children meaningfully contributed in the previous episode but their involvement in this one was largely superfluous. The same could be said about Jay Garrick and -to an extent- Cisco though his involvement was far more meaningful outside of the main plot as will be covered later.
Some attempt was made to develop August Heart as a villain and that effort was appreciated. Barry entering his mind allows him some time with the real August Heart so that he has time to wax lyrical about what he wants and what his plan is. It’s a really strong interaction with excellent acting on both sides. Karan Oberoi plays the anger and insanity of the Godspeed persona to perfection and Grant Gustin comes across as appropriately heroic as a counter. It does serve to highlight how wasted Karan Oberoi is with the lack of content he has to work with as there’s clear potential for him to rise to the occasion of being an engaging villain. August Heart’s motivation is very simple but with more time to explore it the simplicity wouldn’t necessarily matter as he has a clear goal in mind and the means to achieve it. The Barry/August interaction ending with a lack of resolution and an ultimatum from August sets up the central conflict for the rest of the episode nicely and in theory gives Barry something to wrestle with.
It ends up not mattering and plays out in a largely predictable way with Barry spending the bulk of the episode refusing to give into this ultimatum despite Nora urging him to until he decides that giving August what he wants is the only way to solve the problem. Barry arriving at that decision is more of a foregone conclusion than an organic solution. At a certain point of the episode he simply states that they are going to give August what he wants and cites his kids as the inspiration behind it. Nothing in the episode supports him changing his mind.
As for August Heart, there is a lot of potential to the character that the episode flirts with but doesn’t fully commit to. Prior to regaining his memories he is worried about the person that he is prompting a pep talk from Cecile who urges him that he has a choice and doesn’t have to be a bad person if he doesn’t want to be. This sets up an internal struggle that doesn’t even begin to play out as the restoration of his memories turns him into an over the top maniacal villain with no depth. So many villains are defeated by an impassioned speech about embracing their better nature on this show so trying to do something different is welcome but August Heart/Godspeed comes across as more of a means to an end rather than a meaningful antagonist in his own right. Setting up the internal conflict between his good natured amnesiac self and the maniacally arrogant Godspeed persona demanded some form of payoff and there was none to speak of.
Ultimately all this was in service of the return of Thawne. Godspeed was established as a threat that Team Flash couldn’t defeat on their own which meant that a difficult decision had to be made. To its credit much of the episode proceeds down the line of Team Flash being able to overcome anything when they’re united in pursuit of a common goal before concluding that this wasn’t going to be enough this time but the Godspeed threat never quite reached the necessary heights to make that believable. Thawne’s return was an unexpected twist and it led to a wonderfully entertaining action sequence with each Speedster wielding lightning swords. It almost distracts from the fact that Thawne’s presence was never properly justified though not quite.
Thawne stabs Godspeed but doesn’t kill him for some reason and then finds that Barry is faster than he is meaning he needs to level up in order to be a threat to him. The episode fails to sell that Barry needed a temporary ally with no limits to bring down Godspeed and not enough work is done to explain why Thawne didn’t take Godspeed’s life so it’s reasonable to assume that Barry wanted Thawne’s help so that someone could kill Godspeed while keeping his own conscience clear which is very sketchy as far as morality goes. Despite what makes sense it ends up working out exactly as Barry planned and leaves Thawne on the board to plague him in the future.
Dialogue suggests that Thawne was gone before Barry asked the Speed Force to bring him back but his most recent appearance ended with him escaping to crop up at some later point. It’s possible that Crisis changed that but it hasn’t ever been covered which renders this development more than a little confusing. As I mentioned earlier enjoying this show might mean to stop thinking about it entirely though that doesn’t stack up with my sensibilities as an analytical reviewer. Being entertaining isn’t enough to give the show a free pass as far as I’m concerned so this Thawne twist didn’t work for me despite how strong the action sequence was and the possibilities that exist having Thawne as a threat that can and will return in the future.
Barry’s attitude towards unleashing Thawne once again is incredibly confusing. This is something he should feel guilty about but he’s dismissive of it and states that it’s a problem to be dealt with in the future. By stating this he is ignoring the potential damage that Thawne can cause as he works to increase his powers to match Barry. What Barry has effectively done is indirectly caused countless deaths. Failing to address this stands out and I suspect it won’t come up when Thawne inevitably re-emerges.
As I mentioned this is a very entertaining episode despite its flaws. The action sequence featuring all of the Speedsters -including Iris- fighting the Godspeed clones is really impressive with a lot of unique displays of power. Bart’s lightning shurikens, Nora’s lightning whip and Jay throwing his charged helmet to ricochet off a group of Godspeeds are really fun touches that provide something unique for those involved Speedsters. Spectacle by itself can be worth watching but it does little to detract from the unfocused plotting.
Chester giving Allegra another pep talk to show her she has support when it comes to dealing with her grief is a really strong moment between these characters. Whether they are headed for romance or not is unknown but as a character beat it was excellent. Chester telling her that she isn’t responsible for Esperanza’s death and not going on the mission with her meant that the Flash is alive to save the city helps her gain that perspective and understand what value she brings to the team. It is a quick resolution to this but it makes her appearance during one of the action sequences feel earned which was clearly the intent.
Joe and Kramer’s plot really goes nowhere beyond revealing that Kramer has a Metahuman ability that allows her to mimic the powers of nearby Metahumans. Considering how passionate her campaign against Frost was earlier in the season and her well documented hatred of Metahumans it should be more impactful for her to learn that she is the very thing she hates but it is portrayed as a meaningless detail attached to a pep talk where Joe tells her that he always had an inkling that she was a better person than she appeared to be. It does count as a resolution but this plot bubbled along in the background without much weight to it despite it being possible to explore Kramer’s PTSD
Ending the episode on Barry and Iris renewing their vows was an endearing character driven happy conclusion that was definitely long overdue. I’ve mentioned previously that this show would benefit from taking more time to feature scenes where the characters simply enjoy being together. It’s a cheesy saccharine moment but the actors fully invest in it and Cisco performing the ceremony is joyous as is Bart serenading his parents. The hint that a wedding may be on the horizon for Joe and Cecile was a nice touch and having the season end on a completely happy note without foreshadowing some future threat was unusual in a good way. It suggests a blank slate of sorts for the next season though it’s likely that Thawne will be the big bad once again. Until then the seventh season ends on a blissfully happy note which was certainly appreciated.
An entertaining yet messy episode that delivered some impressive action sequences but failed to make much sense in the plot department. The Godspeed War continues to not make a lot of sense and the Speed Force reviving Bart largely nullifies the threat they represent. There was a lot of potential associated with August Heart potentially having to battle his inner demons and let his better nature win through but the episode does nothing with it despite setting it up. It is counter to the norm for the villain to not be reasoned with but setting up the possibility to then ignore it is hardly an improvement. Barry’s conversation with August is wonderfully performed and outlines August’s motivation. It’s simple and clear though largely uninteresting but he is a wonderfully maniacal presence that could have been so much more than he ended up being. The decision to bring Thawne back also makes no sense as the episode failed to establish it as the only option available to them and there is no mention of guilt around the potential consequences of this. A scene exists to explain why the situation played out as expected but it’s clumsy and fails to justify it. Godspeed failed to be enough of a threat to necessitate this decision either.
Despite its flaws it was an entertaining episode especially in the action department with two particularly impressive sequences to speak of. It isn’t enough to forgive the plotting issues but the spectacle is entertaining by itself. Chester supporting Allegra through her grief makes for another strong character beat between them that pays off as expected. The Joe/Kramer plot amounts to nothing despite the detail of Kramer realising that she’s a Metahuman after being well established to hate Metahumans. Ending the episode on Barry and Iris renewing their vows was an endearing character driven happy conclusion that the cast fully committed to. Cisco performing the ceremony was a lot of fun and Bart serenading his parents was a strong touch. It was cheesy and saccharine in the best possible way and ends the season on a blank slate of sorts with no clear threat to deal with as the next one begins. Ending on a blissfully happy note was certainly appreciated.
- the performances in the Barry/August conversation
- excellent action sequences
- the blissfully happy character driven ending
- Chester helping Allegra process her grief
- explanations that make no sense
- failing to justify the Thawne appearance
- lazy plotting
- setting up the internal conflict for August to explore and doing nothing with it
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