The Flash – Season 7 Episode 16
The Flash brings back an old friend to help with the rapidly escalating Godspeed problem as Barry worries about the future of his family.
Storytelling on this show has been off kilter over the past few episodes with variable pacing that hasn’t always lent itself to strong content. Since the Forces storyline ended there has been a lack of momentum which makes episodes like this less effective because they are burning through plot at such an extended rate there is no time to take stock of anything.
The Godspeed clones/drones/whatever they are are ramping up their attacks on present day Central City for reasons that remain unknown to the team initially. After interrogating one of the Godspeeds it turns out that one faction wants Barry’s speed to give to their master whoever that may be -my money’s on Eobard Thawne because he’s usually behind things like this- and the other faction simply wants to survive. Both are looking for August Heart (Karan Oberoi) to prevent him from gaining powers in the first place. All in all it doesn’t really make a lot of sense but the episode doesn’t have time to explain things properly so it’s left as vague before Godspeed escapes and things continue on.
It is enough to help Team Flash plan their next move which involves finding August Heart before the Godspeeds do. They find him but he has no memory which they manage to fix to a limited degree so that he can at least remember that his name is August. The common thread here is the limited time for any of this to sink in which is a major problem. For the most part this episode is simply things happening one thing after another with very little substance to any of it. Seeing it play out in this way is clumsy and a little exhausting as a viewer because there’s no way to really follow what’s going on since none of it naturally flows. There’s clearly an awareness on the part of the writers as so much exposition is spewed out by the characters in an attempt to make things cohesive but in true The Flash fashion it’s little more than nonsense often coming from characters that have no place making particular comments. One notable example is Cecile’s psychological expertise that she routinely offers after sensing a feeling.
She will often explain why that feeling is being experienced and what it means when there’s nothing established about her that would suggest she has that knowledge. Sensing feelings doesn’t mean understanding them and a big part of some of the earlier stories involving this power were centred around her not understanding it. On the other hand it’s reasonable to assume that if she has this power then she would want to learn how to use it effectively. That actually makes sense and is an obvious opportunity for growth in her character but the show hasn’t done the work to get her to this point. She is now in that position with nothing suggesting she did anything to get there. As with many things major character development happens off screen.
The Godspeed plot itself is oddly handled. Dialogue suggests that it’s rapidly escalating beyond their control, the city is majorly endangered by the continued activity and they have limited time remaining to solve the problem. This is at odds with how the episode actually plays out as there’s a distinct lack of urgency to be found in the way the situation is presented. Team Flash still have time to have various unrelated conversations about their feelings while the city is apparently under attack and there’s a lot of posturing around what to do next without highlighting how important it is to come up with a plan quickly. It is established that the Godspeeds disappear for a time before returning but the team should be far more stimulated than the episode suggests they are.
Having Godspeeds attacking the present and August Heart supposedly native to this time period rather than the future does raise some red flags for Barry who is worried that Nora will no longer exist because of how significantly the timeline has changed. Despite his concerns he is reluctant to run to the future to check on her because he doesn’t want to break the timeline any more than he already has. This would be fine if it happened to be his prevailing attitude but it isn’t. Barry’s attitude to time travel changes depending on what tension needs to be created in a given episode. Sometimes he recognises travelling through time as a necessity with no doubts plaguing him and sometimes he is concerned about damaging the timeline with doubt consuming him. In this case it’s the latter with this internal conflict only existing so he can be externally convinced that the best thing for him to do is run to the future. The conversation that prompts this is excellent with Diggle telling Barry what he has learned about the importance of family by being a father himself. It’s a standard pep talk about Diggle’s family being everything to him and there being nothing he would consider off limits if it meant protecting them but it’s delivered with such conviction and sincerity that it makes for a really powerful moment. Ultimately it exists to get Barry to the point it was obvious he’d reach but it was strong because it came from a very experienced place.
Barry’s attempt to run to the future is interrupted by Godspeeds blocking his path which throws him into a conversation with Deon who tells him that the Speed Force is working to fight off all of the Godspeeds who act as something of an infection. In the meantime Deon’s energies are directed in another direction that explains Iris’ bizarre absence over recent episodes. For some reason she is phasing in and out of different timelines and Deon is the only one who can stabilise her but only if she stays with him. It does explain the absence but barely though there remains an open question over why this is happening and what it means overall. As with most things in this episode there is no time for this revelation to breathe which means it’s resigned to more nonsense exposition though there is a good emotional beat between Barry and Iris where Barry has to actively push aside his emotional trauma associated with her predicament in order to focus on the task at hand. It’s an unusually pragmatic attitude from Barry while still allowing at least some opportunity to highlight his emotional connection to this particular problem.
It is very difficult to buy into the revelation because it hasn’t been set up beyond Iris being absent and that being continually referenced. At no point was it suggested that her illness was in any way unusual before now so it’s a bizarre reveal in execution while also not adhering to any established rules though the same can be said for most things this show does. It’s also notable that she is once again in a position where she is separated from the team and they have to save her which seems redundant after last season.
John Diggle’s addition to the episode is welcomes. He brings with him experience and wisdom that allows him to contribute wonderfully to the team dynamic. He enables Barry’s only workable emotional moment as discussed earlier in the review and is something of a living legend within the universe the show inhabits. This is hammered home by Chuck who treats him like a celebrity with Diggle humbly allowing it while remaining entirely on task. The observation he makes about the team levelling up almost qualifies as amusing meta-commentary on this show’s approach to how it handles powers. His presence doesn’t overpower the episode as Team Flash remain the focus with him offering meaningful support and taking a step back when appropriate. He also manages to have his own brief plot independent of the main narrative.
His headaches have something to do with the box he opened containing something emitting a green glow. He frequently has episodes where he hears voices and is overwhelmed by the sensation Those voices tell him “worlds await” but no other information is given as he resolves to deal with the problem and promptly leaves without saying much more. The prevailing theory is that Diggle was chosen by a Green Lantern ring and has rejected the calling which is causing him the issues he is experiencing now. His speech about family and the responsibilities that come with it reminded him that he owes it to them as well as himself to make sure he deals with this problem. It’s a very small yet clear arc for him to follow and deepens the mystery around his headaches that started in Batwoman, continues here and will possibly conclude in an upcoming Superman & Lois. It could be seen as frustrating to have this teased and possibly resolved elsewhere but as a fan of the universe in general it works well and doesn’t take away from Diggle’s contribution to the episode overall.
The Allegra/Esperanza plot continues in the background with Esperanza fixated on going after those responsible for her being the way she is. She has her voice back and Allegra encourages her to move away from the desire for revenge but it’s too strong and she is also motivated by ensuring the same thing doesn’t happen to others. Allegra does accept that and encourages Esperanza to wait until the current crisis is over so she can help but this falls on deaf ears and prompts a guilt trip about Allegra’s loyalties. It’s harsh but understandable that Esperanza would see it that way as earned loyalty isn’t something she understands since her prior allegiances have either been forced on her or motivated by her own sense of obligation where her family are concerned. Esperanza believes that Allegra is choosing Team Flash over her which counts as a betrayal as far as she’s concerned. Allegra agonises over this before deciding to help Esperanza but she’s too late and Esperanza dies in her arms though her disintegration suggests that isn’t the end of the plot.
It’s confusing for this to receive so much attention particularly with the Godspeed plot supposedly being so urgent but it does offer a great showcase for Allegra and allows Kayla Compton to showcase her impressive acting talents. It’s a subplot that perhaps belongs earlier in the season but there is merit to it and it develops Allegra in interesting ways. Connecting them through Allegra overhearing Diggle’s pep talk to Barry works to a degree with the fixation on family in this episode especially rivalling a Fast & Furious movie. In summation the plot works in principle but feels out of place in the context of everything else battling for attention.
Another seemingly unrelated plot is Joe and Kramer’s investigation. It goes nowhere particularly interesting other than introducing Adam (Julian Black Antelope) who decided to be out for himself after feeling betrayed by the Army and donates half of his ill gotten gains to the reservation. As for Kramer the episode follows the seam beats the previous one did with Joe having to talk her down from revenge. Joe is always an engaging character to watch but the attention given to this is bizarre especially at this point in the season.
The ending where Nora appears to Barry -not in a dream this time-, assures him everything with Iris will work out well and introduces his other son Bart (Jordan Fisher) to him was well done. Bart has good energy based on his short appearance and Grant Gustin plays the shock combined with confusion to perfection. I look forward to seeing Nora back in the show and Bart folding into the dynamic for the final two episodes though there is the risk of Speedster saturation once again with the many Godspeeds as well as Barry’s future children.
A messy episode with too much happening and not enough time to process anything though does offer some strong character moments. The Godspeed War plot is underwhelming so far with some answers given as to the nature of it but no time to properly cover them in any meaningful way. The mention of a boss on one side and a desire to survive on the other clearly outlines the motivations but the mention of hunting down August Heart complicates matters especially when everything is so rushed. There is a lack of urgency to this despite the dialogue constantly stating that they have limited time. Barry’s concern over the changes to the timeline meaning that Nora will never exist allows for the strongest emotional beat where Diggle hammers home the importance of family and the responsibility that comes with it though it is founded on Barry’s shaky relationship with how he regards changing the timeline. His attempt to run to the future being stopped and learning that Iris is phasing out of the timeline while Deon uses his powers to protect her was really clumsy as nothing was established about Iris’ absence beyond her being unwell before this point. It’s unfortunate that there is another plot around Iris being separated from the team and needing to be saved so soon after the last.
Diggle’s presence is welcomed and he folds seamlessly into the team dynamic. He brings with him experience and wisdom that is deployed in a way that doesn’t overpower the other characters. Barry’s most significant emotional beat is prompted by him and he also manages to have a plot of his own that may conclude elsewhere. As a fan of the universe I have no issue with it though I do see how it might be frustrating to some. The Allegra/Esperanza plot continues in the background though it’s not clear why as it diverts attention from the supposedly more urgent Godspeed plot. There is talk of loyalty and Esperanza’s perception of it that is interesting to contemplate while allowing some strong content for Allegra though it’s out of place despite how engaging it can be. Similarly the Joe and Kramer investigation is completely unconnected as well as failing to be engaging because very little is offered by it. The ending where Nora shows up with Barry’s son, Bart works really well thanks to Jordan Fisher’s strong energy and Grant Gustin’s perfectly played reaction.
- John Diggle
- Diggle prompting a strong emotional beat from Barry
- Diggle weaving into the plot without overpowering it
- strong content for Allegra
- an effective ending
- rapid explanations with no time to properly process them
- many of the explanations making no sense
- Iris in another situation where she is separated from the team and needing to be saved
- a lack of urgency associated with the Godspeed War
- characters like Cecile having unearned expertise
- the Allegra and Joe subplots feeling out of place
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