The Flash – Season 9 Episode 7

Mar 30, 2023 | Posted by in TV
Flash

“Wildest Dreams”

The Flash brings in a special guest as Iris starts to hurtle towards her future.

Based on the storytelling pace, you’d be forgiven for assuming the writers had no idea this would be the final season when they started writing it. There is no momentum to the storytelling, most of the episodes have so far been standalone and there has been no significant progression for any of the characters except for Joe who had to be written out due to external circumstances. The halfway point of the final season has been crossed and there’s no strong sense of what the season is about.

Flash

If only I could have slept through most of this episode

One very loose ongoing theme has been preparing for the future. It was set up in the first episode with Barry’s ill-conceived book containing a roadmap of the expected milestones. Since then there have been periodic comments related to the contents that they can remember. The specific milestone that receives attention in this episode is Iris’ first Pulitzer Prize awarded to her for her article about the Red Death. It dawns on her after seeing the headline that the future is fast approaching and she’s unsure if she’s ready for it. Recently falling pregnant escalates the anxiety around rapid change in her life and her ability to process it.

Nia Nal (Nicole Maines) visits Central City to help her process that anxiety. She shows up for reasons that aren’t all that well explained. The episode opens with Nia in the midst of an ominous dream that contains Iris and ends with her death so she goes to Central City to try to understand why. It’s a vague justification that gets the plot started but it’s far from ideal due to how clumsy it all is. Shortly after exchanging pleasantries, they fall into a shared dream and spend most of the rest of the episode working through that.

Viewers who have never seen Supergirl may be confused here. Nia was a character in that show who has dream-based powers. She can predict events by interpreting her dreams, harness dream energy in combat and help others deal with internal strife by using dreams as a form of therapy. She has other abilities but those are the main ones. Supergirl wouldn’t always deploy those abilities as well as it could. Most of her dreams contained surface-level imagery that took no effort to interpret and the dream energy was catch-all power that could do whatever the plot needed. None of that mattered too much as Nia was an excellent character who brought so much to the show because of who she was.

Flash

That’s Captive Iris, not Captain Iris

She is largely a means to an end in this episode though actually has an arc to follow, or more accurately complete as it doesn’t actually develop. A problem is described and she eventually resolves it with no in-between stage. The loss of her powers was actually a sign for her to give up control so that the first Dreamer can guide her in the use of upgraded powers. It doesn’t make any sense as a reveal and will mean absolutely nothing to those not familiar with Nia from Supergirl.

Part of Nia’s purpose for appearing is to help Iris deal with her self-doubt about the future she feels like she’s stumbling into. The dream presents her with two alternate paths her life could have taken. Up first is following in Joe’s footsteps and becoming a police officer. In the dream she is Captain and is very content in that role. Her officers love her and she’s very skilled. The second is being a manager at Jitters. She’s a beacon of wisdom to her useless staff made up of Barry and Chester and manages to coax them into solving obvious problems that crop up. She tells Nia that she loved working as a Barista and talks about having a latent desire to live a life where she can clock out of work at the end of the day and do whatever she wants after. As a business owner she is never off duty and is aware of the demands she puts on herself as a result.

Another part of the dream depicts her accepting the Pulitzer Prize as her staff at the Citizen talk about her being a fraud who gets stories because she’s married to the Flash. Even Allegra is accusing her of not earning the accolade and Iris is visibly upset by this. This outlines her core anxiety surrounding the story she can’t bring herself to publish. She feels like she hasn’t earned the award she will be presented with because she knows her future and sees it as a pre-ordained fact. Added to that is a general feeling of being overwhelmed by the life she has chosen because she never has an opportunity to switch off from it. The dreams do a reasonable job of making that clear even if it’s well worn ground for Iris.

Flash

Don’t you just hate dreaming about being at work?

There are actually some interesting ideas in here but the episode fails to explore them meaningfully. Iris has previously been anxious about her role as a journalist and questioned whether she is capable of going into a management role. This is something she has worked through and resolved on a number of previous occasions so it doesn’t work when repackaged as if it’s something new. It isn’t the first time Iris has been presented with a byline she hasn’t writen yet. The “Flash Missing Vanishes In Crisis” headline appeared repeatedly throughout the run of the show until never actually coming to pass in “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. Iris’ first look at the byline told her she’d marry Barry at some point in her near future. It’s a slightly different situation as an award isn’t involved but it’s another example of her being presented with a future she considers to be unavoidable.

Another example of seeming inevitability is that she has met her future children as adults which either presents her with the inevitability of raising those children or the prospect of altering the timeline so that they don’t exist. The timeline is always in flux as has repeatedly been shown. Two distinct versions of her daughter Nora have appeared and she is currently pregnant earlier than the book stated. There’s a whole debate that could be had about how the child she’s currently pregnant could be the Nora she knows as she was conceived at a different time which would surely result in a different child being born. They could call her Nora but she wouldn’t be the same because of how genetics work.

Bearing in the mind the malleability of the timeline, how can Iris be sure that the article will net her a Pulitzer Prize in this altered timeline? Knowing about future events often means they are no longer certain so a better development would be that she publishes the article perhaps at the wrong time and it doesn’t get the same traction that resulted in her being awarded the prize in a prior timeline. It would be a potentially compelling setback that tells Iris -once again- that the future isn’t etched in stone and that she should take nothing for granted. The most likely progression of this is her winning the Pulitzer Prize as predicted.

Flash

Inappropriate!

For better or worse, Iris does come to realise that she worked for the success she has and knowledge of the future has nothing to do with it. She’s right as she still wrote the article that will win her the prize. Barry only told her the headline and she wasn’t even the one to come up with it so the content of the article has no external influence. Nia’s point about Iris still putting the work in regardless of what she knows about the future is certainly accurate but it doesn’t apply in this case as she isn’t recreating an article she has already seen. No paradox exists so Iris having her confidence shaken doesn’t resonate as it should.

The episode also fails to have any tangible stakes. There is concern over the shared dream and how their bodies are being affected by it but the tension is undercut by Cecile stating that she senses a Guardian Angel-like presence. Allegra puts it best when she says that it’s “like nothing ever happened”. It’s heavily manipulative to force jeopardy by having the characters outside the dream express concern over the ways their bodies are reacting only to have it undercut by there being no actual threat. Combined with Iris working through an arc she has already dealt with this episode is entirely disposable.

As a fan of Supergirl, it is good to see Nia again. Nicole Maines is as endearing in the role as she always was but is let down by having very little of value to do in the episode. Her powers getting stronger and the promise of expert training is empty as that progression will never be shown. A better use of her would have been as an expert coming to help Team Flash solve a problem uniquely suited to her rather than a vague dream featuring Iris prompting her to pay a visit. It’s weak storytelling and a disservice to a guest character.

Flash

Goodbye Nia, sorry this is your Arrowverse swan song!

The B-Plot involving Khione and Mark is incredibly tedious. Mark dreams about kissing her and can’t stop thinking about the chemistry between them in that dream so decides to take her on a tour of some of the things he liked to do with Frost in an attempt to fill the void created by her death. He is consistently obnoxious and insensitive which is exactly the point as he has to learn that Khione is her own person with her own interests and can’t replace Frost. This is something he should already know without having to learn it again but repetitive character arcs are among the fundamentals of the show at this point.

It plays out exactly as you might expect. Khione questions why he dismisses everything she wants to do and eventually they have a conversation in front of a group of very vocal bar patrons who constantly deride Mark for his behaviour. It’s a bizarre scene that made me wonder if Mark was also trapped in a dream. It’s a reasonable assumption considering this plot begins with a dream and there’s an unreality to the way the rest of it plays out. Somehow it isn’t and Khione ends up leaving because Mark’s efforts to turn her into something she’s not make her uncomfortable.

The episode fails to address the most obvious problem with Mark’s misplaced infatuation. His entire justification for his insane actions is the chemistry he felt in the dream. He’s definitely attracted to her even if that attraction is founded on misplaced feelings brought on by her physical resemblance to Frost. The problem with that is that Khione is technically weeks old. She may be physically an adult but one of the few traits that manage to come across is her innocence and naivety. She is very childlike which suggests she lacks the emotional maturity to handle the sort of relationship that Mark is getting at. The episode never excuses Mark’s behaviour but it also never acknowledges how truly inappropriate he is.

Flash

Oh bye Mark

One positive outcome from all of this is that Mark seems to be going away for a while. The character is unbearable and such a poor addition to the show so his absence will be no loss. He recognises the error of his ways and acknowledges his need to deal with his grief without constant reminders of what he has lost. Khione forgives him but it’s not enough to get him to stay and then she ruins lunch by manifesting ice powers by freezing everything. Her abilities are unsurprisingly tied to emotion which may be interesting if the growth of her powers is tied to her emotional development but the optics are also problematic as she is a female character governed by uncontrollable emotion. I say again, poor Danielle Panabaker being stuck with this.

Captive Iris

Welcome to a new segment. Long-time readers will remember I used to include a “Where’s Wally?” segment when Keiynan Lonsdale was supposedly a regular on the show as several episodes would often go by without him appearing. This episode made me realise that Iris gets trapped frequently in this show. There was the Mirrorverse and the Still Force previously and two examples are already contained in this season. She was trapped in a time loop with Barry in the first episode and in this one, she was trapped inside a dream. The promo for next week’s episode shows that she finds herself in another temporal trap of some sort so it’s appropriate to have some fun and chronicle when this happened. Stay tuned for the rest of the season as I detail the various ways Iris gets trapped.

Flash

I guess we’ll order in then


Verdict

A weak episode that wastes Nia’s guest appearance, struggles through a repetitive character arc for Iris and provides abject tedium in the Mark/Khione plot.

Overall
  • 2/10
    Wildest Dreams - 2/10
2/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • Nia being as endearing a presence as she ever was
  • interesting implications associated with Iris’ anxieties about her future

 

Rise Against…

  • the lack of stakes
  • Nia’s flimsy reason for being included
  • giving her a half-baked arc that has no bearing on the show
  • not properly exploring Iris’ fears
  • the tedious Mark/Khione B-Plot
  • Mark’s unacceptable behaviour
  • failing to address the obvious problem with his behaviour

 

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