The Flash – Season 8 Episode 20

Jun 30, 2022 | Posted by in TV
Flash

“Negative Part 2”

The Flash concludes its eighth season with the latest in a long line of final battles against Thawne and the resolution of the Time Sickness plot.

Finales in this show have become known for being repetitive and making no sense. Plots are wrapped up with explanations that mean nothing because they are filled with invented jargon designed to explain other invented jargon. the things being explained often made no sense to begin with so there’s no possibility of an explanation providing clarity on something that was already unclear. This approach creates a narrative numbness and causes the audience to lose faith in the ability of the writers to tell engaging stories. Characters simply react to nonsense with more nonsense, visual effects are thrown at the screen, nobody learns anything and the episode or season ends.

Flash

Always a pleasure

This finale loses credibility within seconds by showing Barry surprised that Thawne has come back. It should be well known by him at this point that one of the things Thawne does is come back from death. The previous season finale had Barry play a part in his resurrection so experiencing surprise makes no sense.

The emotional hook of the episode is supposed to be Barry’s anger and grief following the loss of Iris. It spirals him into a murderous rage and almost kills Thawne with his lightning before being pulled back to his senses by Nora and Bart. Their words are filled with the usual platitude about being no better than he is if he goes through with it and then the episode moves on. There is mention later of Barry being out for revenge but dispensing lethal justice never comes across as a real possibility as the episode gets bogged down in the invented mechanics of getting into the Negative Speed Force.

What is involved in gaining access to it in order to confront Thawne doesn’t bear analysis and it culminates in a very short conversation where Barry learns from Negative-Deon that this situation is all his fault. It began when he severed Thawne’s link to the Negative Speed Force because doing that created a cosmic imbalance that inspired the other Negative Forces to seize power after realising that it’s possible to do so. It’s impossible to say whether Thawne being an avatar for the Negative Speed Force counts as a retcon or not because no effort is made to explain how anything works. The current situation being Barry’s fault is at least consistent with prior plotting as so many of the problems that plague Team Flash originate from Barry in some way.

Flash

A new look

The Thawne and Negative Forces threat culminates in an incoherent action sequence with brags about power levels and Barry being given the power of the Positive Forces to combat the power Thawne has. It’s all so tiresome and meaningless with the result being Thawne’s supposed permanent death brought on by failing to appreciate that the universe needs balance in order to function. Barry somehow proves that by refusing to fight and allowing him to be his own undoing. In theory, Thawne being the architect of his own death is a dramatically poignant ending for him but the plotting is so messy that it fails to actually come across. What happened is only clarified when Barry reflects on it with Iris at the end of the episode.

Another massive problem is that neither side of the Forces comes across as all that powerful which is an issue when they are supposed to be foundational forces of the universe. There are already issues around what they represent but their power level seems to scale depending on the situation. Part of the point of their introduction was for the team to face something so far beyond them that conventional methods wouldn’t work but the final showdown comes down to two Speedsters with extra powers fighting in the city. Nothing is sacrificed, nothing is learned and nothing is gained by any of this. There’s no sense of the primordial powers at play and it all ends up being very empty because none of it is in any way character-driven.

The writers seem to have forgotten that characterisation is supposed to be the most important aspect. If the viewer can’t relate to the characters in some way then everything the episodes provide is meaningless. The Time Sickness plot is a relevant example of that as it does nothing to inform Iris or anyone around her. The closest thing to emotional grounding was the disappearance and return of Tinya’s mother but even that is half-baked and unimpactful. Iris finds herself inside the same Time Stone wielded by Damien Darhk and a remnant of his consciousness exists within it to give Iris someone to talk to. Neal McDonough is a pleasure to see as always but his role within the episode is meaningless. The important realisation that he leads her to is that she’s a survivor and that’s what will be able to get her out of the Time Stone. She then does it and returns to Barry. It’s a broken record at this point but it’s a meaningless development because it’s unclear what the episode is getting at with it.

Flash

United forces

Similarly, the reveal that Cecile’s powers were levelled up by Bashir because he needs someone to bring back the Positive Forces and chose her because of her capacity to care for others is emotionally barren. She puts on his mask, screams a little and the problem is solved. The only consequence is that her levelled-up powers are gone though she does gain telekinesis for some reason. The episode is basically a procession of things happening with no weight to any of them.

Interviews with the showrunner stated that this finale could function as a series finale if the CW chose not to renew the show which means that the intent was for there to be some sort of finality to this episode. Statements were thrown around suggesting that this was the culmination of years of plotting but none of that comes across in what is delivered here. An argument could be made with the supposed final death of Thawne but anyone who watches the show wouldn’t be surprised if he came back. It’s certainly something I expect to see happen next season because it always does.

Teases for the next season exist within the episode such as the foreboding warning that the Negative Speed Force will eventually choose a new avatar which makes sense following the talk about balance but also doesn’t work as the situation being dealt with was all about the Negative Forces wanting to intensify the imbalance and seize total power. This also renders Barry’s victory confusing because his efforts actually maintained the imbalance. The Negative Forces weren’t shown to have changed their mind or decided to honour their place in the cosmic balance so there is no actual resolution to this problem. Thawne being resurrected actually restored the balance and his death brought about the same imbalance that existed prior to his resurrected. No agreement was arrived at and the Negative Forces experienced no definitive defeat so there’s no reason for things to be back to what passes for normal at the end of the episode. The other tease for the next season is Danielle Panabaker’s voice coming from the chamber suggesting that something new has been created rather than resurrecting Frost. There is to be another season so an answer to that question will be given.

Flash

The end of Thawne…for real this time


Verdict

A weak finale with nonsensical plotting that uses invented jargon to explain other invented jargon, no meaningful character-driven content and a resolution that doesn’t actually resolve the problem. The emotional hook of the episode is supposed to be Barry’s anger and grief following the loss of Iris. It spirals him into a murderous rage and he almost kills Thawne with his lightning before being pulled back to his senses by Nora and Bart. Their words are filled with the standard platitude about being no better than Thawne then the episode moves on. There is mention later of Barry being out for revenge but dispensing lethal justice never comes across as a real possibility as the episode gets bogged down in the invented mechanics of getting into the Negative Speed Force. What is involved doesn’t bear analysis but it does culminate in Barry learning that this situation is all his fault. It began when he severed Thawne’s link to the Negative Speed Force because it created a cosmic imbalance that inspired the other Negative Forces to seize power. It results in an incoherent action sequence with brags about power levels and Barry being given the power of the Positive Forces to combat the power Thawne has. It’s tiresome and meaningless with the end result being Thawne’s supposed permanent death. In theory, Thawne being the architect of his own death is a dramatically poignant ending for him but the plotting is so messy that it fails to actually come across

Another massive problem is that neither side of the Forces comes across as all that powerful which is an issue when they are supposed to be foundational forces of the universe. Nothing is sacrificed, nothing is learned and nothing is gained by any of this. There’s no sense of the primordial powers at play and it all ends up being very empty because none of it is in any way character-driven. The writers seem to have forgotten that characterisation is supposed to be the most important aspect. The Time Sickness plot is a relevant example of that as it does nothing to inform Iris or anyone around her. The closest thing to emotional grounding was the disappearance and return of Tinya’s mother but even that is half-baked and unimpactful. Iris finds herself inside the same Time Stone wielded by Damien Darhk and a remnant of his consciousness exists within it to give Iris someone to talk to. Neal McDonough is a pleasure to see as always but his role within the episode is meaningless. The important realisation that he leads her to is that she’s a survivor and that’s what will be able to get her out of the Time Stone. She then does it and returns to Barry. Similarly, the reveal that Cecile’s powers were levelled up by Bashir because he needs someone to bring back the Positive Forces and chose her because of her capacity to care for others is emotionally barren. She puts on his mask, screams a little and the problem is solved. The only consequence is that her levelled-up powers are gone though she does gain telekinesis for some reason. Teases for the next season exist within the episode such as the foreboding warning that the Negative Speed Force will eventually choose a new avatar which makes sense following the talk about balance but also doesn’t work as the situation being dealt with was all about the Negative Forces wanting to intensify the imbalance and seize total power. This also renders Barry’s victory confusing because his efforts actually maintained the imbalance. The Negative Forces weren’t shown to have changed their mind or decided to honour their place in the cosmic balance so there is no actual resolution to this problem. . The other tease for the next season is Danielle Panabaker’s voice coming from the chamber suggesting that something new has been created rather than resurrecting Frost. There is to be another season so an answer to that question will be given.

Overall
  • 1/10
    Negative Part 2 - 1/10
1/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • Neal McDonough

 

Rise Against…

  • nonsensical plotting
  • nothing character-driven to be found in anything the episode does
  • the resolution not actually acting as a resolution but being treated as one
  • using invented jargon to explain other invented jargon

 

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User Review
8.87/10 (23 votes)

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