The Flash: Inside the Still Force and the Search for Iris

The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace breaks down Iris’ disappearance, Deon’s betrayal, and his first time in the director’s chair.

Photo: The CW

The following contains The Flash spoilers

The Flash Season 8 Episode 15

One of the biggest overarching mysteries of The Flash season 8 has been the question of what, exactly, is going on with Iris West-Allen. Since developing a mysterious time sickness in season 7, she’s been frequently experiencing lost time, suffering debilitating headaches, and randomly making objects—and sometimes people!—disappear, with little to no consistency or logic.

At the end of last week’s episode, Iris herself vanished, leaving Barry and the rest of Team Flash desperate to track her down, a search that involves a dangerous trip into the Still Force itself and results in one of the show’s trippiest hours to date, at least visually speaking. 

“Into the Still Force” also marks The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace’s first time in the director’s chair, something that he calls a “labor of love” and a “real collaboration” with everyone else involved with the show, from the production crew to the writer’s room. 

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“One of the things I set out ot do on this was I just wanted to work as an episodic director, not as here comes the boss and he’s going to get whatever he wants,” Wallace says. “I put the same limitations on myself as I would on any of my regular episodic directors for the simple reason was that’s the experience I wanted to go through because I feel like it would help me understand what my directors go through when they’re making my show, and give me better insight how to do my own job as a showrunner better.” 

“Into the Still Force” involves, as the title suggests, a literal trip into the Still Force, which has always been presented as a sort of bizarre realm that seemingly exists in-between time. But much of this hour boasts a deeply creepy aesthetic, the world of the Still Force brought to life with unusual camera angles and distinctly horror-tinged vibes. 

“I watch too much David Lynch and I watch way too many horror films,” Wallace says. “And I’m a huge Twin Peaks fanatic so I knew when we were going into the Still Force—one of my biggest influences was going into the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks. [Because that] visualized technically this strange mystical place in such a unique way. And so when I was in prep on this, I was like ‘I feel like going into the Still Force is kind of like looking for Killer Bob in the Black Lodge in a Twin Peaks episode.”

Though “Into the Still Force” is technically what Wallace likes to call an “interlude” episode, or more standalone stories that aren’t clearly part of the larger, more interconnected “graphic novel” arcs, he says this episode is “very much a bridge” to season 8’s final major story, and “directly ties into the season finale.” 

“I didn’t really realize it until I was shooting it,” he explains. “Because I tweaked some dialogue here and there throughout the episode because this is where being the boss kind of helps. I can say if we just say this particular word or this line or deliver it this way, we can really set up what’s about to be unleashed on Team Flash in the final graphic novel. And it turned ‘Into the Still Force’ from an interlude episode into some kind of quasi-prelude to the season finale.” 

Iris and the Mystery of Time Sickness

Season 8’s final “graphic novel” will apparently (at long last!) finally delve into the mystery of Iris’ time sickness, including what caused it and why.

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“As far as Iris’ journey, there are [several] things happening,” Wallace explains. “This time sickness has been going on for a while, but we haven’t answered one salient question: Where did it come from? Why did it happen? And who did it? And the answer to all three of those questions provides you with the answer of who’s the Big Bad in graphic novel seven at the end of season 8.” 

Iris fans don’t need to worry, either—not only will her mysterious illness be the focal point of much of the remainder of the season, but she’s also going to be just fine in the end.

“Here’s the good news: By the end of season 8, Iris’ time sickness will be cured and Barry and Iris get reunited and they live happily ever after,” Wallace laughs. “Barry does not die, Iris does not die. None of that. I believe in happy endings, okay? I know what it’s like to be a fan and worry about characters you love.”

Wallace was also quick to reassure fans that Iris’ story has a real resolution by the end of the season, though he promises the journey to that point will be a wild one. 

“As far as getting there, oh goodness,” he says. “I think Danielle Panabaker said it best when she read the last two scripts for 819 and 820 and called me up and said, ‘These are the two biggest episodes we’ve ever done.’”

Deon’s Betrayal

How Deon, the avatar of the Still Force—not to mention the apparent betrayer of Barry Allen if his behavior in this episode is anything to go by—will fit into all of this remains up in the air, but viewers shouldn’t forget that Iris’s bizarre illness has somehow managed to infect him too. 

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“We learned in [“Death Rises”] that Deon is now suffering from the exact same sickness that Iris has contracted way back. Good Lord, I can’t even remember when she contracted it,” Wallace laughs. “But when we saw him disappear and then we saw him hunch over in pain—and then we see it again in ‘Into the Still Force’—he’s not himself. He’s suffering from this same time sickness, which leads us to [the question of] who gave it to Iris and why would they give it to Deon too? How are these two things related? That was the biggest question I wanted the audience to get from [this episode].” 

And according to Wallace, the answer “is obviously the same Big Bad.” (Though he also promises that Deon, like Iris, will ultimately be fine by the end of the season.)

The Return of Nora West-Allen

One of the most pleasant surprises in “Into the Still Force” was the return of Jessica Parker Kennedy as Nora West-Allen, an unexpected appearance Wallace says he really wanted to keep secret. 

“That was on purpose,” he says. “I didn’t actually want the audience to know she was in the episode until she pops up. And I’m glad it worked.”

But, according to Wallace, Nora’s return has more to do with giving Barry his hope back than anything else. 

“‘Into the Still Force’ starts out as a story of a husband, desperate to find his missing wife. It’s very grounded, right? You could put that in an earthbound thriller and everybody understands the journey the protagonist is going on,” Wallace explains. “But he hits such an incredible brick wall at the exact halfway point in the episode. He’s trapped. What can bring a husband out of that kind of despair? And the answer was the child he loves.”

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Nora’s arrival, according to Wallace, is the linchpin around which the back half of the episode—and possibly more—turns. 

“The second half of this episode is a father-daughter story,” he says. “It’s not just about giving hope back to Barry. It’s also about his daughter saying mom is missing. And that affects our whole family. It affects the West Allens past, present, and future. It’s not very subtle.”

It’s also probably a hint that we haven’t seen the last of Nora this season either. 

“It’s not a coincidence that Barry says [to Nora] right before she leaves ‘why don’t you go to 2049 and make sure Mom’s okay,” Wallace says. “If I was an audience member, I’d be thinking to myself, well, I wonder what happened when she got to 2049? It might come up again.”