The Flash – Season 6 Episode 4
“There Will Be Blood”
The Flash continues to deal with the prospect of Barry’s unavoidable death as he tries to prepare Cisco for life without him.
Readers of this site will know that I’ve been very critical of The Flash in the past as it dramatically reduced in quality after a stellar first season. It’s worth noting just how much of an improvement this season is at this early stage. Even though there’s a game-changing event around the proverbial corner there has been a great deal of focus on how that relates to the characters and that’s absolutely the right decision.
The topic of the moment is Barry’s seemingly unavoidable death and how the others are dealing with it. Last week focused on how Killer Frost felt about the idea of losing a life that she had only just started to live and this episode is focused on Cisco’s reaction to the inevitability of losing Barry. It’s not unexpected that he slips straight into solution mode and considers how to make sure that Barry survives. So far this season is about the stages of grief and different characters are at different points in that journey. Barry has firmly settled on acceptance where Cisco is comfortable in denial. It’s easy to see why he would think that considering how often Team Flash have beaten the odds and accomplished the impossible. They managed to save Iris from apparently certain death so as far as Cisco is concerned this should be no different. What he fails to account for is the stakes attached to saving Barry but there’s a wilful ignorance on his part because he is so fixated on keeping his friend around.
There are many reasons The Flash lost its way; among them is losing sight of what worked about the core relationships. Barry and Cisco’s friendship was a hallmark of the early days of the show that has subsequently faded into the background so it’s good to revisit the idea of them being best friends. Cisco’s inability to accept the fact that Barry has to die in order to save the lives of everyone else is one of the major driving forces of this episode. He doesn’t want to believe that Barry’s death is a foregone conclusion and looks to find a way to prevent it but Barry is more focused on preparing Cisco for Team Flash leadership. He wants to prepare the team for life without him and training Cisco for that eventuality is the key to success as far as Barry’s concerned. I suppose we should ignore the fact that Iris was team leader not so long ago but her focus has shifted to her new journalism project so that makes sense.
Barry’s case study for Cisco involves saving the life of Ramsey Rosso because it acts as an example of the brand of heroism that Barry believes in. As much as it can be about the big picture there is also a lot to be said about saving the life of one person because every life matters. Barry’s argument is that Ramsey is a brilliant doctor who could go onto achieve great things if he happened to have the time to do so. His brilliance is tragically limited by a death sentence so Barry sees it as an achievable goal to cure Ramsey of his terminal illness which allows him the time he needs to make a real difference in the world. Cisco rightfully has issues with this as he wonders if Barry’s remaining weeks should be used to cure everyone suffering from Cancer but Barry isn’t looking beyond the prospect of saving the life of one man because he sees that as being worthwhile by itself even if it negates a broader solution.
The trouble with this is that it’s going over ground that Team Flash should have already covered several times. Over the years they have all learned that not everyone can be saved and that saving the life of one person makes a great deal of difference so this isn’t something that Cisco should need to be told. Granted he is coming to terms with the fact that he’s due to lose his best friend in a few short weeks but the episode frames this as if it’s something Cisco didn’t know before which definitely isn’t the case. It wouldn’t have taken much to correct this as it would have been easy to shift the message as a reminder of something Cisco was already aware of but was blinded to because of the current situation. Characters learning and subsequently forgetting important lessons is something the show has historically been guilty of so it seems that it’s not something that can be completely shaken even if there is a significant improvement.
One major barrier to Barry’s plan is that curing Cancer is a lot easier said than done. If it was easy to whip up a cure to cancer then they would have done it already so Cisco is understandably frustrated with spending time on something that basically can’t be done. In true The Flash tradition a potential solution is almost immediately dropped in their lap thanks to the randomly appearing Nash Wells who has knowledge of a serum salvaged from the Dominator invasion featured in the “Invasion” crossover. It has the potential to replicate healthy cells to replace unhealthy ones which would surely save Rasmey’s life. Naturally Nash wants something in return for this information in the form of a piece of technology to help him on his mysterious quest and with that we have our main fetch quest narrative that takes up a great deal of the screentime.
This time is very well spent as there is a strong focus on the Barry/Cisco friendship. Barry’s determination to prepare Cisco for a world without him is evident and Cisco’s inability to accept the prospect of losing his friend is a well developed counter to that outside of it being a repetition of lessons that should have been learned by now. Carlos Valdes does an excellent job playing a melancholy Cisco uncomfortable with Barry’s apparent acceptance of his fate and the self serving decisions he makes in an effort to find a way to save his friend feel completely justified within the context of the story. It’s also worth praising how intelligent and mature Barry is acting this season. This makes two episodes in a row where he has been a keen observer of behaviour to deduce that someone is being less than honest with him. In this case he observes Cisco being unable to look him in the eye and combines that with noticing the freezer unit set to the temperature requirements of the serum to catch Cisco out. This is a version of Barry we should have seen long ago so it’s really good to see that the behaviour in the previous episode wasn’t a fluke.
Nash Wells’ contribution to this episode was minimal but memorable. Tom Cavanagh’s portrayal continues to be nuanced and entertaining. He creates a vastly different dynamic with Barry and Cisco than we’ve seen with any prior iteration of Wells and I feel that this is the best one we’ve had since Harry, at least at this early stage. Using him sparingly is working well for now as the main cast still feels a little bloated so having someone appear and disappear who has his own agenda mixes things up a bit.
Ramsey continues to be a villain unlike anything we’ve seen before which is both a good and a bad thing. I have to applaud how quickly this is progressing and how the character is being handled. His desperation is central to his character and there is an attempt to make his actions understandable based on that desperation. This doesn’t really work as this episode features him becoming comfortable with killing others in order to save himself after concluding it’s a necessary component to curing himself. The writers are clearly hoping that Ramsey’s situation is sympathetic enough to make this horrific decision something that we as viewers can at least understand. Unfortunately there isn’t enough work done to make this as strong as it needs to be so it feels like there’s a significant disconnect between Ramsey being obsessed with finding a cure for himself and his willingness to kill to achieve that goal.
There are attempts to flesh out his motivation by flashing back to his final days with his mother but these scenes don’t provide any new information to work with nor do they give a true sense of Ramsey’s relationship with his mother as their conversations are almost entirely focused on her illness. The time would have been better spent giving the audience insight on exactly what Ramsey has lost and trying to develop his character along those lines. He is still the desperate man driven to do terrible things but it’s difficult to fully accept it.
Ramsey also fails to come across as a significant enough physical threat to Barry due to his limited abilities. This is yet another frustrating example of Barry forgetting how powerful he is to make a villain seem more threatening. When Ramsey had a hostage that he threatened to kill it should have been no problem for Barry to quickly separate them before Ramsey had any conception of what had happened. I should be used to it by now but it continues to be a weakness of the show to have Barry’s powers work on a context basis as there’s no consistency around what he can do and when.
A small amount of time is spent checking in with how Ralph is dealing with Barry’s seemingly inevitable death. He retreats into himself and gives up on the missing persons case he has been obsessed with since the beginning of the season. Iris comes to him with a promising lead and he dismisses it because he thinks it’s unimportant when compared to the coming Crisis but Iris and Joe are able to convince him otherwise even if he reluctantly picks up the case again. His reaction is a perfectly reasonable one and there’s a sense that he’s not entirely over it by the end of the episode so it works well enough.
The most powerful character moment in the entire episode also numbers among the strongest in the history of the show. Barry and Joe’s conversation towards the end of the episode is the perfect encapsulation of their relationship. Up until now Joe has been really strong around everyone because that’s the sort of man he is. He is very much a father figure to everyone on the team so sees it as his responsibility to be the voice of support for everyone who needs it. This changes when he’s alone with Barry and completely falls apart as he confesses that he’s not ready to lose him. Barry tries to offer him comfort but Joe’s too far down a pit of despair for it to be any help. It’s a really poignant display of grief on Joe’s part and highlights the impact Barry’s death will have on those around him. Scenes like this are always worth celebrating and this example is definitely up there with the best of them.
A strong episode that gives much needed attention to the core Cisco/Barry friendship while continuing to explore how the knowledge of his upcoming death is impacting the team. Barry choosing Cisco as his successor at the head of Team Flash makes a lot of sense and Cisco’s determination to find a way to save him is perfectly in character for him. This episode is a great reminder of how great the Barry/Cisco friendship used to be when the show spent a great deal of time on Barry’s desire to make him understand the importance of saving a single life even when unimaginable stakes are right around the corner suits his established character even if it’s a lesson that should have already been learned by Cisco several times. It’s a reaffirmation of Barry’s brand of heroism and a continuation of Barry showing his intelligence. Adding Nash Wells to this plot with the convenient solution they need to both the Cancer problem and Barry’s death is a great touch as well despite the convenience of it. Nash is a great addition with Tom Cavanagh injecting unique personality into the character that sets him apart from any version of Wells that we’ve seen previously.
Ramsey continues to be problematic as a villain because there’s a huge disconnect between his desperation to save his own life and becoming comfortable with killing. The flashbacks showing him interacting with his mother don’t provide any new information nor do they provide a sense of what Ramsey has lost since she died so it’s difficult to feel in any way sympathetic towards him especially after his descent into obvious villainy in this episode. It’s also a frustrating conceit that makes him a physical threat at all when he really shouldn’t be. Ralph’s reaction to Barry’s seemingly inevitable death is more subtle but works well enough. Deciding that his missing persons case no longer matters when compared to what is coming is a perfectly understandable reaction and the fact that he doesn’t seem to be entirely over it by the end of the episode helps make it work. Joe and Barry’s conversation towards the end of the episode is definitely up there with the finest moments shared by these characters. Joe transitioning from being the pillar of strength for others to completely breaking down around Barry makes for a poignant display of grief that highlights the strength of this relationship.
- showcasing the Barry and Cisco friendship
- continued evidence of Barry behaving intelligently
- Nash Wells’ unique contribution to the episode
- Joe’s poignant display of grief when he talks to Barry
- Ramsey Rosso’s flashbacks providing no new information
- a disconnect between his desperation to cure himself and willingness to kill
- the constantly frustrating inconsistencies where Barry’s powers are concerned
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