The Flash – Season 6 Episode 8
“The Last Temptation of Barry Allen Part 2”
The Flash closes out the Bloodwork storyline, bringing an end to the first arc of the season ahead of “Crisis on Infinite Earths”.
When the previous episode ended things looked really bleak for Team Flash with Barry moving over to the dark side and Ramsey starting to assert his control over Central City. This episode has a much more frenetic pace as Team Flash pull together to deal with the problem at hand without the help of their leader. It’s a showcase for Cisco and Iris with Cisco pushing himself into the role that Barry wanted him to take up in his absence. He says that this was the moment Barry was preparing them for and in a lot of ways it is except from the fact they also have to deal with Barry as an antagonist. Luckily Cisco has contingencies in place should Barry ever go dark.
The force field that he puts up around S.T.A.R. Labs is one of those things that would have come in handy countless times before this. There have been innumerable examples of villains wandering in and out of S.T.A.R. Labs whenever they wanted whether Team Flash were in a lockdown situation or not. It’s one of those inventions that seems invented for the current situation and will be conveniently forgotten in the future. For further examples of this see Flashtime. In the context of this episode it’s a good idea as it puts a protective bubble around S.T.A.R. Labs that can’t be penetrated but it also comes with limitations as their communications are also disabled by this so they have no real idea what’s going on outside. That is, until a simple walkie talkie can be used. The writers really missed a trick here as there was a real opportunity to have Cisco and Iris isolated from everyone else with putting themselves at risk being the only way to gain extra information. It would have been a true dilemma for them but it runs out of steam fairly quickly.
Cisco and Iris being isolated from everyone else and having to find a way to stop Barry builds on one of the major themes the show has always championed; that acting in isolation is less effective than relying on the help of others. The urgency of the situation means that they both forget this and forge ahead with plans that aren’t well thought through or joined up. Cisco tries a brute force approach with his photon emitter which fails because Barry sucker punches him when he has it trained on Ramsey and Iris tries to appeal to Barry’s better nature without realising that he can’t be reached in his current state. The solution ends up being a combination of the two with Barry using his connection to Ramsey to drop small clues and Cisco drafting Allegra to evolve his ultra violet light idea into something far more effective. It doesn’t quite come together as the natural solution but it works well enough as a message. The fact that it takes other people to implement the plan only strengthens the notion that the team are strongest when they work together.
Unfortunately most of this equates to mundane obvious character beats. Iris’ conversation with Barry when he’s at the height of the infection is something we’ve seen play out countless times with Iris insisting that Barry isn’t himself and Ramsey using his knowledge of their relationship to get under her skin. She is especially affected when he brings up that she has accepted his inevitable death because deep down she feels guilty about having accepted that she’s going to lose her husband so it’s a particularly sensitive nerve to strike on Ramsey’s part.
Cisco performs really well in the leadership roll he has been preparing for all season. He has it in his head that Barry can’t be saved because he’s too far gone so initially has no problem bringing him down as he sees the thing wearing his skin as being completely divorced from the man he knew. Why he doesn’t believe that Barry is in there somewhere is unclear though I get the impression certain liberties were taken in order to have Iris and Cisco on opposite sides of the issue until the point where they realise that they should work together. It’s all narrative trickery but it doesn’t quite excuse Cisco all but giving up on his friend. It’s good that one character is on task and is aware of what’s at stake but a little more attention would have made it feel more organic.
This isn’t really a Barry episode as most of his screen time has Grant Gustin playing the corrupted version of him. It’s largely a thankless task though the visual design of Dark Flash is appropriately creepy and the writers do a good enough job of showing how dangerous a corrupted Speedster can be even if there isn’t enough evidence within the episode itself. Some of that can be attributed to Ramsey not really knowing what to do with his most potent weapon but there is a disconnect between how terrifying it is to have someone so powerful working against you and what he actually does.
The previous episode was focused on the choice that Barry had to make and what leads him to making the wrong one so it’s surprising that there was almost no coverage of that in this one. It’s mentioned late on that Barry was pointing Ramsey in certain directions subconsciously and at the end he manages to conjure up an image of Ramsey’s mother in order to distract him. I was left with the impression in the previous episode that Barry was so consumed by anger and despair that the choice he made was fairly definitive so having him realise that he made the wrong one off screen and hinging the climax of the episode on that realisation is really clumsy. There should have been a definitive moment where Barry once again accepted the inevitability of his sacrifice and renounced Ramsey because what he had to offer comes at too high a price. It’s bizarre that there was none of that and it hurts the episode a great deal.
Ramsey continues to be really underdeveloped as an antagonist. Any potential for him to be sympathetic has all but evaporated which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as not all villains need to be sympathetic though this is one that needed to be given all the efforts to establish him as a tragic figure in earlier episodes. This is potentially the fault of Crisis looming on the horizon but Ramsey often fell by the wayside and didn’t receive as much development as he should. There’s no sense that he’s in any way tragic in this episode as he has turned into a crazed villain bent on world domination because he thinks that his way is better than the old way. The manifestation of his mother trying to remind him that he’s a healer falls a bit flat because he doesn’t realise the error of his ways. When he’s imprisoned he still thinks he was chosen to save the world so he hasn’t truly been defeated which probably means he’ll return later.
His transformation into the comic accurate Bloodwork form is completely unearned because it makes no sense in context. It was visually impressive but there was no prior indication that he was mutating into anything like this. The black eyes and tendrils were unsettling enough for the purposes of this show so the transformation wasn’t really needed and did little more than create an action sequence that wasn’t all that impressive to watch.
There was talk of Bloodwork bringing in horror elements to produce something vastly different than fans of this show had seen before. In fairness this does happen though more so in recent episodes than earlier ones. The brief Zombie apocalyse wasn’t particularly scary though the impression of a situation escalating beyond control was successfully created and the stakes did raise through Joe’s injury and the constant growth of Ramsey’s army. The most effective use of horror in this episode was the single take sequence where Kamilla and Cecile escaped the building they were trapped in using Cecile’s empathy power as a Zombie detector. It was dynamic and dripping in tension with the pace ramping up at just the right moment. I always enjoy creative uses of different abilities like this.
Allegra continues to be an excellent addition to the cast. She has had to deal with a lot of information over a short period of time and handles it really well while still carrying the appropriate amount of self doubt for someone so early in their development. Her powers are something she remains uneasy about and is reluctant to unleash them even if she is being told that it’s the best chance they all have for survival. She knows the pain they can cause and she still doesn’t trust herself to control them properly. In time she will get there but for now she has a lot of growing to do and the writers are handling her character brilliantly. With any luck she’ll be bumped up to regular cast status before long.
The second to last scene is where this episode really shines. It’s a quiet moment where Team Flash do nothing more than sit around reminiscing about the good ol’ days before they knew about the multiverse, time travel or any of the other outlandish things they’ve come across. They all know that Crisis is imminent and want to enjoy the time they have left together because it’s very likely that a significant change is coming that means they won’t get another opportunity. It feels like such a Human moment that begins with nobody really knowing what to say until Barry states that he doesn’t want to wait for Crisis in silence. From there it turns into a discussion about how their lives have been bettered by Barry being in it. Cecile quotes H.R. Wells’ assessment of Barry and the hope he carries within himself, Caitlin talks about how she had lost so much to the point where she had given up on pretty much everything and Iris delivers the usual talk about him being the love of her life and no cosmic force being able to entirely take that away from them. It’s saccharine for sure but it makes perfect use of the relationships that have developed over the years and lets the cast just be comfortable around each other. Such quiet moments are relatively rare and it’s good to see everyone in one room enjoying each other’s company before Crisis hits.
An uneven episode that has some really effective horror moments but suffers from a lack of focus. The episode is paced really well and the sense of urgency is clear throughout. It’s a good showcase for Cisco and Iris who deal with the reality of facing a citywide catastrophe without Barry being around. The whole thing is further complicated by Barry being on the opposite side. Cisco’s force field that renders S.T.A.R. Labs inaccessible including comms is a good idea because it adds to that sense of isolation though all the workarounds that are found in order to communicate with the outside world lessen the effectiveness of this. Having Cisco and Iris not on the same page when it comes to dealing with Barry is a reasonable idea as it sets up their eventual realisation that working together is always better than going it alone. The solution doesn’t entirely reflect that but it works well enough. Iris’ conversation with the corrupted Barry is nothing new as far as these things go and it doesn’t really make sense that Cisco would write off Barry as being completely gone though conflict was required and this is how it was manufactured.
Barry takes a complete back seat and the choice he made in the previous episode is barely followed up on. There should have been some definitive moment where he renounces Ramsey and once again accepts the inevitability of his sacrifice but that never comes and the reveal that he has been subtly influencing Ramsey throughout is underwhelming as a solution to that. Ramsey also continues to be an underdeveloped antagonist to the point that any notion of him as a tragic figure is now gone. The conversation he has with the manifestation of his mother doesn’t work because he doesn’t realise the error of his ways which means that he hasn’t actually been defeated so will probably come back. His transformation into the comic accurate Bloodwork form doesn’t work either because there was no indication that such a mutation was happening and it doesn’t really amount to anything in context. There are some effective horror moments such as Kamilla and Cecile escaping a building using Cecile’s power as a Zombie detector. More sequences like that were definitely required over the course of the season. Allegra’s contribution continues to be great. The continued focus on her being afraid of her own powers and slowly developing to the point where she trusts herself to use them is being handled wonderfully. Team Flash sharing a quiet moment just before Crisis hits to reminisce about old times and how much Barry means to them is great as it allows the cast to simply be together and share a rare downplayed moment together. It’s a great showcase of the relationships that have developed over the years.
- Cisco and Iris being on opposite sides of the issue
- the realisation that working together is always the better option
- the tense single take sequence involving Kamilla and Cecile
- Allegra’s self doubt being used well
- the quiet moment Team Flash shares before Crisis hits
- no follow-up to Barry’s choice in the previous episode
- Ramsey continuing to be a poorly developed villain
- his transformation making no sense
- Ramsey not being truly defeated
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