The Flash – Season 6 Episode 19
“Success Is Assured”
The Flash ends its sixth season earlier than planned with a team effort to stop Eva McCulloch from murdering her husband.
This is a difficult episode for a reviewer as it’s technically a season finale but was never intended to be one so it’s not completely fair to grade it on how effectively it wraps up this season. On the other hand it’s the season finale we get so it does have to be analysed based on that. Fortunately it actually works fairly well as a season finale and possibly provides a real opportunity to take the next season in unintended directions.
I can only speculate as to what might have happened in the three episodes that were never made but my guess is that Eva McCulloch would be defeated in a somewhat final way and something would have been put in place that would carry over to the next season. It has already been mentioned that an ending was planned involving Eobard Thawne so I’m thinking it’s for the best that didn’t happen because that character is overused and was the endgame of the previous season so there’s a real risk of season finales feeling repetitive since they all need to apparently involve Thawne in some way.
Instead, we get a season finale that is entirely focussed on Eva McCulloch and her singular goal of getting revenge on her husband. Joseph Carver fears for his life once he learns that his wife is after him and out for blood so he seeks help from Barry in his capacity as a member of the CCPD rather than his capacity as The Flash. This feels notable because it’s rare for anyone to ask Barry for help in this capacity. It ultimately gets us to the same place but it makes use of a role for Barry that often gets neglected on the show. It just goes to show that it doesn’t always take a lot to make the storytelling feel different enough. Another thing that stands out is that no attempt is made to redeem Joseph Carver in any way. There’s no speech about a tragedy in his past that caused him to start behaving the way he does or see himself as above others. Joseph Carver is just a terrible person and he makes no apologies for that fact. This leaves a lingering question as to whether he’s worth all the trouble Team Flash go to in keeping him alive. It becomes known in this episode that he made no attempt to save his wife from the mirror dimension, instead he sold her tech off to the highest bidder and basically forgot about her. This makes Eva more sympathetic than he is but one of Barry’s key values is that he won’t kill anyone or allow his inaction to lead to the death of someone so every effort must be made to ensure that Carver makes it through the night.
Carver’s lack of redeeming features allows the choice presented to Barry to have a lot more weight behind it as it’s something he finds it difficult to dismiss regardless of his core values. Fake Singh offers him the opportunity to trade Carver for Iris. All he has to do is let Eva have her revenge and Iris will be released so that they can be back together. Ultimately Nash makes the decision for him in the moment after being urged by a manifestation of Harry that the Barry Allen he knew would never consider a deal like that because it would be crossing a line for him. The episode doesn’t play it as if Barry was ever seriously considering the deal but the offer throws him because there’s a lot on his mind and not having Iris to help him puzzle through what he’s dealing with has affected him deeply. Nash observes that he hesitated when being offered the deal and Barry doesn’t try to deny that because he feels that he has to save Iris because she’s his wife so for a brief moment the prospect of getting her back by giving up the life of a terrible man seemed tempting to him.
Ultimately his heroic side wins out and he remembers that he doesn’t get to decide who lives and who dies. Being a hero sometimes means making decisions that you’re not comfortable with and one of those is protecting someone who has done nothing to deserve that protection. It’s an engaging dilemma that runs underneath this entire episode that serves as a strong reminder of Barry’s commitment to everything that he stands for while also highlighting that not having Iris in his life is something he can barely handle.
Eva stands out as a villain for a few reasons but the most noteworthy is that she has no real beef with Team Flash. She will fight them when they stand in her way but she has no personal grudge against any of them and is willing to leave them alone as long as they don’t interfere with her plan. Their efforts to protect Carver puts them in her crosshairs and since she’ll stop at nothing to kill him Team Flash become her enemy for the duration of that particular vendetta. Once she succeeds in killing Carver by brutally pushing mirror shards through Barry to stab him it is made clear that she doesn’t intend to come after them as long as they leave her alone. Barry declares that they will never stop coming after her which means that Eva is going to have to devote some time and resources to keeping them from foiling her plans. This brings us neatly onto another reason she’s compelling; her confidence in her own abilities. It was recently established that she doesn’t see Barry as a threat because his powers have severely diminished so he has no real way to match her on a purely technical level. She’s not worried about what Team Flash can do because she has so easily beaten them before this point which is nothing new for major antagonists but the main difference is that she’s happy to leave them to their own devices as long as they aren’t in her way. It’s a refreshing motivation and definitely sets her apart.
The episode ends with her becoming an even bigger threat because she has the resources of McCulloch Technologies at her disposal after she regains control in the wake of her husband’s death. This makes her untouchable in a legal sense as well as in the Metahuman sense. This sets her up as a huge problem for the next season as Team Flash will have to be very careful when moving against her because she has the law on her side as well as the resources of her company. It’s a very different sort of villain though might be too similar to Lex Luthor but it entirely depends how this is handled.
Another issue is that Eva has managed to frame Sue Dearbon for Carver’s murder which means that Sue can’t go home otherwise she’ll be arrested. Sue’s inclusion in this episode was another great use of her. Her back and forth with Ralph always makes for fun viewing with their bickering in the hall proving to be a particular highlight. There’s also a number of reminders that behind the sass and duplicity there is a person who just wants to be back with her family. She has put a lot of time and energy into making that happen and Natalie Dreyfuss plays the quiet relief when Sue believes that it’s safe for her to go home followed by the horror and disappointment when she learns that she can’t perfectly. The look on her face when she sees that the situation is worse than ever sells exactly how Sue will be feeling in that moment. Looks like she’ll be hiding out among Team Flash next season which would offer a natural opportunity to develop the chemistry Sue and Ralph already have.
I really liked the main action sequence of the episode. It was really interestingly edited with different aspects of it split into panels so that the audience could understand everything that was going on in a really chaotic sequence with a lot of moving parts. I’d like to see the production team try different things more often as it can turn what might otherwise be a standard warehouse fight sequence into something uniquely fun and stylish. Everyone involved receives plenty of focus and everything was really easy to follow at any given point. It was impressive, memorable, fun and just looked really cool. Some of the tricks such as combining the panels when the two sides come together were really nice touches. I wonder if the increased editing time due to Coronavirus shutdown gave the production team more time to think about how they wanted to frame a sequence and gave them the necessary push to be more experimental than usual.
There is some attempt to resolve the friction between Allegra and Nash by having Allegra come around to his efforts to forge a connection between them by the end of the episode. It was going to happen sometime but the resolution feels rushed because Allegra goes from rejecting any attempt he makes to interact with her to accepting him. It feels awkward and isn’t earned because of how quickly her mindset changes. This could have been left until later as it was an engaging enough dynamic so it’s a pity that they’re on better terms so abruptly.
Another issue the episode has is the handling of Caitlin/Frost and the plot involving their mother. It feels like a means to an end that accommodates Danielle Panabaker’s maternity leave. Part of the problem with Caitlin/Frost centric plots is that there’s a sense that the writers have no coherent idea of where these characters are going so they get saddled with whatever flavour of the month they can think of. It was good to see Frost talk to her mother for what amounts to the first time as far as we’re concerned and have her accepted as every bit the daughter Caitlin is. Danielle Panabaker and Susan Walters play that moment wonderfully but there’s very little else going on here that justifies its inclusion. It’s just a quick scene that resolves a point of anxiety for Frost without any clear indication as to where it’s going or why we as viewers should be invested.
The cliffhanger ending capitalises on a promise made by Carver that the mirror dimension is incompatible with the Human mind. It’s strongly suggested that Eva’s mind was warped by it which intensified her hatred for her husband and made her capable of murder. This feeds into what Iris is experiencing when she adapts to the dimension by being able to read inverted displays and use the technology. Kamilla is worried about how much the mirror dimension is changing her and the episode ends with her disappearing which suggests that she is beginning to control the dimension in the same way Eva is. I like what this sets up as it’s possible Iris could become a villain next season with powers exactly like Eva’s which would be the most personal struggle he has ever dealt with. If nothing else it’s an effective ending that has a lot of potential. This is juxtaposed with the return of Joe which is played as such a happy and victorious moment. He walks in and immediately reminds the team that there’s hope as long as they’re together. It may not be how the season was intended to end but it makes me eager to see what comes next and that’s something I haven’t been able to say about The Flash in a long time.
A strong finale that makes great use of the villain, delivers engaging character moments and teases the next season in compelling ways. One major thing that stands out about this episode is that Joseph Carver asks Team Flash for help but no attempt is made to redeem him. He remains a bad person that Team Flash have to save because they don’t get to decide who gets to live or die. Eva is looking to murder him so he needs protected and that’s about all it boils down to. Ultimately Eva succeeds which shifts the power balance in her favour in some really significant ways and puts her in a great position to threaten the team next season Eva stands out as a villain because she has no personal vendetta against Team Flash. She only pays attention to them when they try to get in the way of what she has planned, otherwise she doesn’t see them as a threat and has no interest in devoting much of her energy to them. Part of this is because of Barry’s diminished powers but it’s also because she has other plans that don’t involve them. Her interest in them ends when she succeeds in killing her Husband. Barry does promise to never stop trying to bring her down which means she will be forced to deal with them next season. It’s a refreshing change to have the villain’s motivation differ in this way and sets her up as a really compelling antagonist next season. Framing Sue Dearbon for her husband’s murder creates further problems for Sue who was looking forward to finally going home as of this episode. The subtleties to Natalie Dreyfuss’ performance as Sue realises that she can’t go home are great and her interactions with Ralph are as engaging as ever. This episode has a really well put together action sequence with lots of moving parts that come together seamlessly thanks to creative editing techniques. It’s a lot of fun to watch and is memorable because of how different it is to the norm. The cliffhanger ending that suggests Iris might be heading down a villainous path is a really intriguing end to the season that has me actually feeling excited to see more of The Flash; something I haven’t felt in a long time.
There are some missteps in the episode. The Allegra/Nash tension is resolved here and feels far too abrupt in the way it’s done. It makes sense that they would eventually find common ground but having it so neatly tied up here didn’t work. Their dynamic is engaging and more time could have been taken to build them towards a proper resolution. The Caitlin/Frost plot is also less than engaging. It’s transparent that it only exists to allow Danielle Panabaker the required time off because of her pregnancy. There are good things about it such as Frost receiving the acceptance she was worried she wouldn’t get from her mother but there’s very little of interest here. There’s no clear indication of where it’s going or why viewers should be invested in it.
- doubling down on Joseph Carver being a bad person with no redeeming feature
- Eva McCulloch amounting to a different sort of villain with no vendetta against Team Flash
- ending the season on Eva McCulloch having access to near infinite resources
- Barry’s understandable hesitation when offered the chance to trace Carver’s life to get Iris back
- using Nash to explore Barry’s mindset surrounding that choice
- the scene between Frost and her mother
- more great Ralph/Sue interactions
- the subtleties to Natalie Dreyfuss’ performance when Sue realises she can’t go home
- the suggestion that Iris could be headed down the path to villainy
- the creatively edited action sequence
- the Caitlin/Frost family story failing to be engaging despite the strong acting
- the rushed resolution of the Nash/Allegra tension
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
For the first time in a while I can safely say that The Flash isn’t wholly predictable. Having the season end in ways that the production team didn’t plan for could be a blessing in disguise as it allows them to rethink what they were planning to do. Eva McCulloch is too interesting an antagonist to be dealt with in a small number of episodes at the end of the season so leaving us with the potential for her to be a significant threat in the early part of next season could end up being a great thing. Her resources make her formidable and her lack of interest in Team Flash makes her different to any big bad that has come before.
Barry’s diminishing powers is a thread that remains unresolved. As of the end of the season the artificial Speed Force is not yet working and Barry still has some speed left though it’s unknown how much. I suspect the artificial Speed Force will come with its own set of complications that will affect Barry in different ways and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few episodes between Barry losing his speed completely and bringing the artificial Speed Force online.
Iris remains trapped in the mirror dimension with the added complication of it warping her mind. The finale teases the fact that the Human mind is incompatible with it which suggests that Iris may be heading down the same path Eva did and will become a villain for a while. I’d like to see this as it would be a unique use of this character that will impact Barry and the rest of the team in really profound ways. There’s also the lingering question over whether Fake Iris’ thoughts and feelings are shared by the real one and if this sets up a scenario where Barry and Iris have to address the fact that their relationship isn’t as perfect as they’d like to think it is. If this doesn’t happen then the Fake Iris plot will turn out to be largely inconsequential.
The Coronavirus situation is unfortunate for many reasons but based on what has been set up here I firmly believe that it has a good chance of being a strong opportunity for this show to improve massively and refocus attention into some really compelling stories.
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