The Flash – Season 6 Episode 10
The Flash returns to explore the show’s perspective on the new world the characters now live in as a new threat emerges.
As I’ve said in many reviews, “Crisis on Infinite Earths” was literally world altering with significant impacts on all of the shows that participated in the monumental crossover event. The Flash was central to the event right from the first suggestion that it was on its way in the very first episode and now the writers have to establish what the canvas looks like in the wake of what happened while starting to find a way to move forward. In typical tradition for this show the episode is very much a mixed bag with some elements that work really well and others that feel tedious.
I’ll start with the tedious so that the review can end on a more positive note. Most tedious is the story that receives the focus. For whatever reason we’re still on the secret organisation known as Black Hole who operate in the shadows and recruit light themed Metahumans to do their bidding. Previous coverage of this story was so unmemorable that I’m struggling to think of what actually went on and where it left off but that doesn’t really matter since this is largely new material. The mastermind villain of the episode is a CEO by the name of Joseph Carver (Eric Nenninger); a smarmy and unlikeable figure who generally does a poor job of hiding the fact that he’s involved in an evil secret organisation. The secondary antagonist is another iteration of Dr. Light; her real name is Kimiyo Hoshi (Emmie Nagata). She’s a missing scientist who may or may not have been brainwashed into doing Carver’s bidding and little more than a flamboyantly dressed henchman with a gun powered by her powers.
It’s not fair to exclusively tar The Flash with the brush of poor villains of the week as many shows both in and out of this universe are guilty of dropping the ball on delivering memorable short term threats but this certainly makes for yet another example of this which makes for a poor first step into this brave new world filled with limitless possibilities. She could easily have been something interesting as there’s the idea of control in the background that could have been explored had the writers given her any personality to speak of. Instead she just appears at various points, kills a few people, fails to kill others and generally prompts the audience to question how Frost survived the encounter when she was very much at her mercy with no hope of escape.
Despite being the A plot it’s actually a mercifully small part of the overall content of the episode. It takes up too much screen time and has little of note worth discussing because of how unengaging the antagonist is. It is a great showcase for Iris who displays excellent intelligence and resourcefulness when chasing down the story. Kamilla and Allegra are still a great addition to her plots that allow Iris a team of her own separate from Team Flash that she can interact with. This opens up so much more storytelling potential and gives Iris a life outside of Barry. I also really like the characters when they are together as they bounce off each other wonderfully though I hope that Cecile will find a more organic role outside of being tacked onto whatever other plots are happening around her.
There’s not a lot more to say about Iris contribution to the A story other than it was actually really good and uses the character far more effectively than she typically is. It was good to see her engineer a trap for Carver that made it impossible for him not to back down in public therefore giving Iris a win and some protection in the short term. She uses her role as a journalist to threaten Carver with a very real risk of exposure and sets things up nicely. The show is still butchering journalism as a profession -as does the rest of the universe this show belongs to- as it boils down to little more than reckless enthusiasm in pursuit of the truth and bland platitudes about ethics.
Much more interesting is Iris’ state of mind throughout the episode. She is reckless and detached almost from her first scene and that attitude almost gets her killed. The striking thing about that is that she has no regard for her own safety because her focus is entirely geared towards breaking the story. This is at the expense of her mental and physical health though she has something of a wakeup call when it all catches up with her and she’s forced to recover in S.T.A.R. Labs. This creates the perfect opportunity for a “Joe Speech”. Having Iris as a captive audience really helps as she has no choice but to sit down and listen. Her state of mind is all inspired by Crisis and Joe fully understands where she’s coming from because he shared it before the event happened. He talks about throwing himself into his work because he had no idea how much time he had left and wanted to save as many people as he could in the time available. The difference between Joe and Iris is that he opted to slow down once the Crisis passed since there was now time to take stock of life and adopt a more sustainable pace. It’s a really grounded approach to dealing with such a large scale event.
Look back at any review I’ve written where there was a Joe speech and you’ll see similar praise in most of them. Joe is a consistently well written character who is able to corner a character and say exactly what they need to hear whether they’re comfortable with it or not and this is another excellent example of those sorts of speeches. It’s an important and necessary reality check for Iris who needs to slow down and adjust to a more measured pace because that’s what will ultimately keep her alive. It appears to be a lesson well learned though she ends up driven to investigate a lead at the end of the episode and ends up dragged into a mirror by Eva McCulloch -presumably a gender flipped version of comic book Mirror Master, Evan McCulloch– showing that Iris has failed to learn that lesson. Her impatient tenacity feels at odds with the realisation she was supposed to have and a forced way to manufacture a tense cliffhanger.
This mindset extends to Barry who is struggling to adjust to the new normal. His mindset is exacerbated by the arrival of Diggle with a gift for him in the form of the mask Barry made for Oliver during his first appearance way back in Arrow season 2. Barry is immediately convinced that there must be a hidden purpose behind the gift and sets about investigating it. The investigation takes him to Lian Yu to track down the last Mirakuru samples in existence. It’s clear from early on that Barry is reaching for a situation that doesn’t exist because he’s struggling to accept the death of Oliver. He wants to honour Oliver’s memory by finishing something that he started and, in a larger sense, protect the world that he allowed to exist.
It’s classic denial on Barry’s part and a refusal to slow down for long enough to process the feelings that he’s having. He has endured so much loss in his life and Oliver was a really good friend of his so it’s an adjustment he’s not really prepared to make at first. Diggle does what he does best here and gives the advice that needs to be heard in order to attempt moving on. He humours Barry at first though it’s not clear if he goes along with it because he thinks there’s a risk that more Mirakuru may exist out there or if he feels that Barry needs to work through this manufactured mission so that he can see for himself that there’s nothing there to investigate. Either way it leads to the same conversation where Diggle advises Barry to slow down and enjoy life rather than constantly looking for problems. He sees living the life that was given to them as a way to honour Oliver’s sacrifice because when needed they will be where they need to be. Barry really needs to take the time to grieve and he realises this by the end of the episode thanks to Diggle. Ultimately the mask becomes a symbol of everything Oliver fought and gave his life for which is an important thing for Barry to bear in mind.
This episode is set before the Arrow finale which makes Diggle’s appearance somewhat confusing. He appears to have accepted Oliver’s death and that his mission ended with his life but in the Arrow finale he’s very much at the beginning of that journey which is then resolved by the end of the episode. On one hand it doesn’t really matter as that episode doesn’t really impact this one other than the characters they share and grieving people often regress to earlier points in their journey towards finding a way to move on with their lives so this could simply be an example of that on Diggle’s part. David Ramsey plays him calm and collected here which suggests to me that he’s over the worst of it and fully committed to finding another purpose in his life. Of course that isn’t a sleight on this episode as there’s nothing wrong with Diggle as presented here but in the larger tapestry of the universe both shows inhabit it feels inconsistent.
Cisco is also struggling with accepting the new reality. He appears strung out for most of the episode and is angry at the fact that Team Flash have gained a bunch of new or remixed villains from Metahumans to aliens. He’s also angry at the history of the world being rewritten to include Superman and Supergirl because his memory doesn’t feature this new world. He spends the episode wearing a Superman T-shirt that he doesn’t remember buying which acts as a clever physical representation of how out of place he feels in the world that he’s supposed to belong to.
All of these are minor niggles for him in the grand scheme of things as he believes that the entire multiverse has been destroyed leaving only Earth Prime. This means that an incalculable number of people across an infinite number of universes are gone as if they had never existed. The sheer magnitude of such a loss is something is unimaginable but it makes sense that Cisco would be most affected by this because his powers meant that he was connected to the multiverse in a really fundamental way. Even though he no longer has his powers it still feels like a part of himself has been lost and he doesn’t know how to move forward. He does a very Human thing when trying to cope and reduces the loss down to Earth-2. It was the first known universe to be destroyed with Jesse and Harry being among the casualties. Team Flash were very close to them and had no idea they were gone until long after it happened. Carlos Valdes suggests and emptiness within Cisco in his performance as he tries to wrap his head around everything that has happened. There’s also a great deal of guilt being experienced as he wonders whether keeping his powers might have helped prevent the destruction as he may have been able to sense the antimatter wave.
I’ve talked a lot about the portrayal of grief across the Arrowverse shows and this is another unique one. Cisco is blaming himself for the loss and wondering what he could have done differently or prevent it. This is all too common when people are grieving and certainly a really dangerous mindset to find yourself in as you end up feeling responsible for things that are impossible to control. Cisco is shouldering more blame than he should be but it’s a very natural reaction and very much part of his journey towards acceptance.
Nash becomes the conduit for all of his anger as Cisco is looking to displace the blame. As far as he’s concerned Nash is the most deserving candidate because his quest to track down The Monitor resulted in The Anti-Monitor being let out. Nash does accept the blame but he also feels that as Pariah he paid for his mistake after being forced to bear witness to the destruction of the multiverse. Interestingly he’s fairly flippant in dealing with Cisco though it could be that he is letting him work through his grief and comfortable with the fact that he won’t be easily accepted after everything that happened. The Cisco/Nash dynamic is a really interesting one though I thought Cisco coming around to the idea of letting Nash hold the fort by the end of the episode was a bit premature and far too neat.
Cisco’s conversation with Caitlin was the best scene we’ve had between these characters for quite a while. It feels like Caitlin has been sidelined in favour of Frost so it was great to see her back albeit briefly. Their friendship is something I always found engaging because they understand one another in ways other characters don’t. Caitlin suggesting that Cisco is best placed to make a record of the old world as sort of a memorial and a comparison to the new one. Part of Cisco’s frustration is that he isn’t aware of the extent of the changes but Caitlin helps him conclude that it’s alright to not have all of the answers right away because these things take time. Perhaps for Cisco understanding will bring acceptance and he’ll come away from it more mentally stable than he currently is.
An interesting return for the show that has a compellingly varied approach to exploring how the characters deal with the new world they find themselves in. The A plot is fairly tedious with an underwhelming smarmy CEO antagonist and a flamboyantly dressed henchman that does very little to spark interest. It’s good enough as a vehicle for Iris to show intelligence and resourcefulness while continuing the strong dynamic she has with her own team. Cecile still seems adrift in the grand scheme of things but there’s definite movement towards defining Iris outside of her connection to Barry. The scene where Joe encourages her to slow down because there is now time to do so now that Crisis is over is a great example of the patented “Joe Speech” that offers a grounded perspective on how to deal with such a change. Iris doesn’t really learn that lesson as evidence by the final scene which feels like a forced attempt to create a cliffhanger ending. Iris’ mindset extends to Barry in a slightly different way when Diggle brings him a gift Oliver left to him in his will in the form of the mask Barry made for Oliver. Barry immediately looks for it to be a clue pointing him in the direction of a final mission where no such thing exists. Ultimately he has to accept that his friend is dead and gifted him something to remind him of the reason he fought. Diggle’s conversation with Barry makes for an excellent scene.
Cisco is struggling to accept the new reality and the destruction of the multiverse in favour of a single Earth. He’s angry about the changes he doesn’t remember and especially angry about the sheer magnitude of the loss. He focuses on Earth-2 as a clear example as he was very close to Harry and Jesse. As many do when grieving he blames himself and thinks of things he could have done differently to help prevent the destruction. He also blames Nash because of the role he played which he accepts but also feels that he has suffered because of what he became during Crisis. Cisco starts to move forward when Caitlin has a conversation with him about how he might be able to move forward. This could involve documenting everything that has changed as something of a memorial to the world that has been lost. It’s a great scene and serves as a reminder of how strong the dynamic between these characters is. It’s a shame that Caitlin is largely sidelined in favour of Frost at the moment. Seeing her however briefly was certainly welcomed and it makes sense that she would be the one to get through to Cisco in a way that helps him take the next step.
- Iris showing intelligence and resourcefulness
- the “Joe Speech” about slowing down and taking stock of life as it is now
- Barry’s misguided desire to find extra meaning in Oliver’s gift
- Diggle’s conversation with Barry about enjoying the life Oliver allowed them to have
- the complex exploration of Cisco’s anger and grief
- the Cisco/Nash dynamic
- an excellent scene between Cisco and Caitlin that helps Cisco figure out how to take the next step
- a tedious A plot
- the underwhelming smarmy CEO villain
- Dr. Light being little more than a flamboyantly dressed henchman
- Cisco resolving his anger towards Nash a little too quickly
- Iris not really learning her lesson and awkwardly being used to set up a tense cliffhanger
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