The Flash – Season 8 Episode 19

Jun 23, 2022 | Posted by in TV
Flash

“Negative Part 1”

The Flash delivers part one of a two-part finale where the answer to an enduring mystery is provided and the threat starts to reveal itself.

Something I’m very torn on when it comes to this show is whether it’s better when things aren’t explained or if any attempt at an explanation is worth all the time a given plot takes up. The typical formula is to introduce something that is impossible to get invested in and drag it out for a very long time before explaining it in a way that makes no sense. Other times things simply aren’t explained and the show moves on to something else. Both are bad examples of storytelling but in the context of this show, it’s hard to determine which approach is worse.

Flash

Everyone gets a suit

The long-awaited answer to the tedious question of what caused Iris’ Time Sickness is “Negative Tachyons”. It’s as meaningless as the rest of the plot because they are just words applied to something that had no weight to it in the first place. The Time Sickness existed to manufacture drama where none existed and consistently failed to accomplish that so any explanation or development along these lines is likely to be equally pointless. Part of the problem is that there is no established baseline for the rules of this Time Sickness so the writers can create any circumstances and use Time Sickness as a justification for them.

Time Sickness randomly throws Iris into the year 2048 in front of her future children who can’t run her back to 2022 because of Time Sickness. A visit to Joan Williams provides the “Negative Tachyon” information and Nora zips back in time to tell Barry this before coming back because someone is needed to defend the future. It amounts to meaningless exposition and does nothing to raise the stakes because there’s no concept of what the rules are.

Another revelation is that the Deon that betrayed Barry is actually the Negative Still Force who brings the Negative Strength and Sage Forces to threaten Team Flash. They wear the faces of Deon, Alexa and Bashir for reasons that aren’t explained and desire to be the dominant forces which means bringing back the Negative Speed Force. The Negative Force isn’t available because Barry somehow got rid of it when severing Thawne’s link to it. It’s best not to think about how the Negative Speed Force can be absent yet still have Meena drawing power from it.

Flash

He’ll be back

At least when the Positive Forces were in the role of antagonists there was some semblance of character to them. Deon, Bashir, Alexa and Speed Force Nora were all introduced in episodes of their own and developed to some degree. This added meaning to the narrative and provided some emotional grounding for the audience to latch onto. The quality of it was a separate issue but an attempt was made. No such effort exists here. The Negative Forces are featureless antagonists who make threats and provide something to fight. There is nothing more to them than that so it’s impossible to invest in the threat they represent. The action sequence later in the episode is laughable because there’s no concept of the power levels in play nor is there any consistency to what any of them do.

At one point Negative-Deon transports Allegra, Chester and Cecile outside only to gloat about how he’s going to finish them off rather than simply doing it in the first place. Barry is his usual brand of idiotic by stopping to talk before using his powers. Action sequences in this show are nothing more than time fillers and empty spectacle at this point because no effort is put into making logical use of the powers involved. Barry is fast enough to do what he needs to do while being too slow to stop certain things from happening, other characters can do whatever the plot needs them to and the antagonists can present themselves as a threat even though their abilities should be no match for Barry. That is very much the case here which makes for a toothless climactic sequence.

There is talk of avatars and necessary sacrifices to set up the cliffhanger ending where Iris puts herself in the path of Barry’s lightning because it’s something she suddenly knows she has to do. It’s deliberately cryptic and might make sense once it’s explored in the next episode but the developments come from nowhere with the intent to shock the viewer without any reason for them to be happening. Thawne’s death and resurrection are an example of that. The latter will likely be explained in the following episode and it remains to be seen whether that explanation will make the development worthwhile. His death earlier in the episode was purely for shock value and added nothing to the overall narrative being presented. The same applies to Negative-Deon and the other Negative Forces showing up to warn Thawne that they were planning to kill him before leaving despite having the perfect opportunity to take his life at that point. None of what happens has any weight to it and there is no cohesion to the storytelling.

Flash

Negative Forces to be reckoned with

Something that makes the episode at least partially watchable is the presence of Meena. Her introduction has been a breath of fresh air in that she brings a unique energy to the overall dynamic. Her relationship with the good Thawne is really endearing and she bounces off Grant Gustin wonderfully. Self-doubt causing her to run away and reject the notion of her being a hero leads to a rare competent pep talk from Barry who helps her see that anyone can be a hero and proves that by unmasking. Barry unmasking to practically everyone he meets is a running joke -pun intended- at this point but this is the first time in a while that revealing his identity has felt earned. He recognised that Meena was having trouble seeing herself as a potential hero and he took steps to show that he was willing to trust her as well as speak to her as a person rather than the symbol that is the Flash. She sees him as larger than life and an unattainable standard but seeing his face helps her recognise that he is a person just as she is.

This exchange helps but it’s not enough to silence the entirety of her self-doubt. A conversation with Thawne reveals that she is obsessed with being the best because she doesn’t want to let him down. She feels guilty that she has the powers and he doesn’t so she wants to prove herself worthy of them and live up to a standard that doesn’t exist for him. Her intention was to help others through healing them and she feels that she has lost sight of that but Thawne sees what she is doing now as a variation on what she was planning to do before. It’s a strong exchange that shows there is potential for that relationship to continue to be engaging but his untimely death appears to put a stop to that unless it can be undone.

Meena sharing her power with Thawne and having it be Barry’s idea is an extension of that earned trust that was depicted in the previous episode. How he knew that it was possible for Meena to share her powers isn’t explained but it does further the confirmation that this Thawne is a good man. He is shown to reject the hate and anger that defines the Negative Speed Force before focusing on the positive connection he has to Meena and tapping into its power with none of the corrupting influences. The aim is clearly to offer Thawne redemption in a way which doesn’t quite work and is negated by the evil version of him returning.

Flash

Think good thoughts

Other things happen in the episode that don’t feed into the main plot and are completely extraneous in any context. The increase in Cecile’s powers and that turning her into some sort of leech for psychic abilities is a confusing addition because it’s not clear what direction it might be heading. There is a connection in that she uses those powers against the Negative Forces but the coverage of her investigation into what’s happening to her is more confusing than anything and all the talk of Cecile becoming the most powerful Metahuman in the city is another frustrating example of exponential power growth that ultimately makes no material difference to the stories being told.

Caitlin and Mark also continue their quest to resurrect Frost. They have somehow managed to build the machine Mark designed and Caitlin goes into it. Before doing so she talks about realising she could never have let go of Frost and that if this fails then they will find another way. There is a story here about failing to accept loss and being led down a dark path when consumed by grief but it receives barely any attention and those ideas aren’t actually present. Perhaps they will when Frost is brought back as an abomination of some kind but that’s essentially the same beats as the Deathstorm arc and it wasn’t very engaging so there’s no reason to think that this will be any different. Of course, it’s just as likely that Frost will be brought back and a short period of adjustment will take place before it will be as if she had never died. If that’s the case then, at least it’s a reasonable emulation of comic book storytelling.

Flash

Round 2. Fight!


Verdict

A frustrating episode that provides a meaningless answer to an ongoing story, continues the tradition of empty action sequences and completely fails to characterise the villains in any way. “Negative Tachyons” being the answer to Iris’ Time Sickness is as meaningless as the plot itself. Iris’ circumstances and the exposition surrounding them aren’t grounded in anything and do nothing to raise the stakes because there’s no concept of what the rules are. Another revelation is that the Deon that betrayed Barry is actually the Negative Still Force who brings the Negative Strength and Sage Forces to threaten Team Flash. They wear the faces of Deon, Alexa and Bashir for reasons that aren’t explained and desire to be the dominant forces which means bringing back the Negative Speed Force. The Negative Forces are featureless antagonists who make threats and provide something to fight. There is nothing more to them than that so it’s impossible to invest in the threat they represent. The action sequence later in the episode is laughable because there’s no concept of the power levels in play nor is there any consistency to what any of them do. There is talk of avatars and necessary sacrifices to set up the cliffhanger ending where Iris puts herself in the path of Barry’s lightning because it’s something she suddenly knows she has to do. It’s deliberately cryptic and might make sense once it’s explored in the next episode but the developments come from nowhere with the intent to shock the viewer without any reason for them to be happening. Thawne’s death and resurrection are an example of that. The latter will likely be explained in the following episode and it remains to be seen whether that explanation will make the development worthwhile. His death earlier in the episode was purely for shock value and added nothing to the overall narrative being presented. The same applies to Negative-Deon and the other Negative Forces showing up to warn Thawne that they were planning to kill him before leaving despite having the perfect opportunity to take his life at that point. None of what happens has any weight to it and there is no cohesion to the storytelling.

Something that makes the episode at least partially watchable is the presence of Meena. Her relationship with the good Thawne is really endearing and she bounces off Grant Gustin wonderfully. Self-doubt causing her to run away and reject the notion of her being a hero leads to a rare competent pep talk from Barry who helps her see that anyone can be a hero and proves that by unmasking. This is the first time in a while that revealing his identity has felt earned. He recognised that Meena was having trouble seeing herself as a potential hero and he took steps to show that he was willing to trust her as well as speak to her as a person rather than the symbol that is the Flash. This exchange helps but it’s not enough to silence the entirety of her self-doubt. A conversation with Thawne reveals that she is obsessed with being the best because she doesn’t want to let him down. She feels guilty that she has the powers and he doesn’t so she wants to prove herself worthy of them and live up to a standard that doesn’t exist for him. Her intention was to help others through healing them and she feels that she has lost sight of that but Thawne sees what she is doing now as a variation on what she was planning to do before. It’s a strong exchange that shows there is potential for that relationship to continue to be engaging but his untimely death appears to put a stop to that unless it can be undone. Meena sharing her power with Thawne and having it be Barry’s idea is an extension of that earned trust that was depicted in the previous episode. He is shown to reject the hate and anger that defines the Negative Speed Force before focusing on the positive connection he has to Meena and tapping into its power with none of the corrupting influences.Other things happen in the episode that don’t feed into the main plot and are completely extraneous in any context. The increase in Cecile’s powers and that turning her into some sort of leech for psychic abilities is a confusing addition because it’s not clear what direction it might be heading. It’s another frustrating example of exponential power growth that ultimately makes no material difference to the stories being told. Caitlin and Mark also continue their quest to resurrect Frost. They have somehow managed to build the machine Mark designed and Caitlin goes into it. Before doing so she talks about realising she could never have let go of Frost and that if this fails then they will find another way. There is a story here about failing to accept loss and being led down a dark path when consumed by grief but it receives barely any attention and those ideas aren’t actually present.

Overall
  • 3/10
    Negative Part 1 - 3/10
3/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • Meena’s conversation with Barry where he helps her see her potential to be a hero
  • Meena and Thawne’s conversation about what she expects from herself

 

Rise Against…

  • the meaningless explanation for the cause of the Time Sickness
  • no tension because there is no concept of what the rules are
  • the Negative-Forces having no characterisation
  • the empty action sequence
  • Cecile’s confusing exponential power increase
  • Caitlin and Mark’s out-of-place Frost resurrection plot
  • no weight or cohesion to the storytelling

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User Review
2.5/10 (1 vote)

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