Come on, The Flash. You're better than this.
After almost a yearlong break (understandable), it's great to see Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Team Flash return. Unfortunately, it feels like they just delivered a weak return instead of coming back with a bang. There's only so much we can blame on COVID and production delays to apologize for this incredibly slow start to their final season.
And that's the thing: this is the final season! No reason to hold back anything now! Instead, this feels like (what it likely was) a touched-up "Episode 20" of Season 6 trying to tie up those loose ends, which. . . still remain untied. This episode should have been the first 20 minutes of the season premiere, and the second half dealing with getting Iris out of the Mirrorverse and resetting the table for Season 7.
Because this is the point of The Flash: it's about family. And The Flash doesn't work if you don't have all the family dynamics there. You need Barry and Iris (Candice Patton), Joe (Jesse Martin) and Cecille (Danielle Nicolet), and then Wells (Tom Cavanaugh), Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker), and Cisco (Carlos Valdes). It's like salt, acid, fat, heat: you build off their specific chemistry and build layers upon layers of flavors and dramatic tension. It's a perfect formula. Don't @#$% with it.
Instead, we still have sad Barry, who is powerless, Iris "damseled" in a mirror dimension and robbed of all agency, and Cisco and Caitlin are replaced by Chester P. Runk (Brandon McKnight) and Allegra (Kayla Compton). No offense to them: they're actually starting to grow on me, especially Chester. But they still feel like replacement Caitlyn and Cisco– and they're even referred to in the script as being the "B-team." Ugh. Look, we recognize that McKnight and Compton are the new series regulars and Panabaker and Valdes will only be back sporadically but don't draw attention to it. Don't hand someone a cookie, ask them how it tastes, and then tell them it's made with artificial sweetener or is gluten-free or has raisins in it or something. You're just pointing out things we might have otherwise been able to ignore instead of giving us reason to move on (which Chester does provide some of this episode). But we can do better than this.
This begins and ends with getting Iris out of the damn mirror-verse. Maybe it's the COVID-delays, but this storyline feels interminable and I'm tired of seeing a show rob a Black woman of her agency and damsel her like this is some 1950's fairy tale. The Flash, you're better than this. I know you're better than this because you've consistently been better than this. And as soon as you stranded poor Candice Patton in some hotel suite alone you started a ticking clock for how long it would be acceptable for her to be there. And that alarm bell has rung and been snoozed too many times now.
And then there's the titular Wells. Here's the problem: everything that happens in this episode feels low stakes, even though there are actually some major things that happen with our characters. They make this big deal about how he's the last one of the Wells and he's carrying around the thoughts and shadows of them in his mind from the multiverse. But we know even if something happens to Wells, Tom Cavanagh the actor isn't going anywhere. There will always be another Wells, another version of him as Eobard Thawne, another something for him. So everything is low stakes.
Again, this feels like them finishing up Season 6 with a leisurely pace instead of taking the season to reset to actually reset. Comparing to what their peers at Batwoman have done completely revamping that show, this just feels if not lazy, simply like it's not up to meeting the moment at hand. There's a lot of fat on this episode that might have been acceptable as you fill out a season order and have a slow burn to your big finale at the end of Season 6. But this should have been streamlined and moved more quickly, while also heightening the stakes for some of the bigger character moments. But at least Barry gets his speed back.
The Flash can do better. Let's hope they do when they return in "The Speed of Thought" on Tuesday, March 9 at 8/7 CT on The CW.
BARRY GAINS A NEW SKILL – When Barry (Grant Gustin) suddenly gains the power of speed thinking, he attempts to use his new gift to save Iris (Candice Patton). While Barry is thrilled with his new power, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is hesitant to trust it. Meanwhile, Eva (guest star Efrat Dor) must face a shattering truth. Stefan Pleszczynski directed the episode written by Jonathan Butler & Gabriel Garza (702).