This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 6 Episode 10
Well, after the highs of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which had arguably its best moments in The Flash‘s chapter, we were bound to have some kind of regression, and that’s exactly what we got with “Marathon,” an episode so bland that it felt like we were right back in the doldrums of season four and five. It’s a real shame. The Flash was the reason we got to see Crisis in the first place, and a significant portion of the crossover’s considerable dramatic weight rested on Barry Allen’s shoulders. It was The Flash that introduced the Arrowverse version of the DC Multiverse in the first place, and with all the rest of its CW brethren absolutely crushing it with their first post-Crisis episodes, I had high hopes that The Flash would not only do that, but help set the standard for what to expect from these shows for years to come.
Needless to say, “Marathon” did none of those things, and went right off the rails after its promising and suitably light opening scene depicting a robbery at Jitters.
It’s possible that the format of The Flash season 6, which is broken into two distinct mini-seasons on either end of Crisis (and which I found wildly effective for much of its first half) worked against it here. I understand that it’s difficult to establish a new threat that can carry us through to the end of the year, deal with the emotional fallout of not only Crisis on Infinite Earths but the death of face of the Arrowverse franchise Oliver Queen, and pick up any lingering story threads from earlier in the season that had been sidelined in favor of crossover buildup. But the smarter solution might have been for “Marathon” to just pick one of these scenarios and do it well instead of doing all three so very poorly.
McCulloch Tech is indistinguishable from any number of vaguely sinister tech firms we’ve met throughout the Arrowverse’s lifespan, and the new Dr. Light who spends the episode menacing our heroes and blasting holes in things is too taciturn to really feel like much of a threat. Our villain of the week is an assassin in a shiny jacket with a big gun, folks. Yes, McCulloch will be the source of (hopefully) more interesting headaches for Team Flash in the coming weeks and months, but so far, even with that “surprise” mirror ending, this ain’t gonna do it, even in small doses.
John Diggle makes an appearance to remind everyone that Oliver Queen is indeed dead, and that Barry is the new face of the Arrowverse. But Diggle delivering the first mask that Barry designed for Oliver isn’t a particularly poignant moment, and instead an excuse to get Barry out of town so that Iris and the Central City Citizen team can take center stage. That would be a fine way to accomplish this if, in fact, Diggle and Oliver were meant to accomplish anything. Instead, Barry’s insistence that a mystery contained within that mask involves a missing stash of mirakuru on Lian Yiu is an excuse not for an adventure, but for Diggle to give Barry a “knowing is half the battle” talk about slowing down and enjoying life in the wake of the Crisis and the death of their friend. The pointlessness of these moments, which takes place BEFORE the final episode of Arrow but which we see a week AFTER, are as boundless as the multiverse itself.
Cisco didn’t have a great episode either. Understandably haunted by the death of the multiverse, which he always had a strong connection to, Cisco is angry at himself and takes it out on Nash Wells. This, too, could have (and should have) been the focus of an entire episode, and one which Carlos Valdes could have absolutely shined in. Instead this is condensed into a handful of scenes, full of maximum exposition and minimal dramatic impact, all to (at least temporarily) write one of the most beloved members of Team Flash off the show. Can we sue Dr. Light for malpractice?
And while this may get me dragged all around the internet for the next week or more, the Central City Citizen story remains the weakest element of this show. Not because Candice Patton is anything less than stellar as Iris (and I particularly loved how Iris calmly steered her team out of danger when Dr. Light attacked their offices…she’s seen plenty of weirder and more dangerous stuff after all), but simply because the Arrowverse just doesn’t do “journalism” very well under the best of circumstances (the only profession they do worse is courtroom law). When I say “the best of circumstances” it’s good to remind everyone that Supergirl is an entire show where roughly half of the action takes place inside the walls of a news organization, and its version of “journalism” is often just characters randomly spouting platitudes about truth and integrity. The Flash takes a page out of that book (take Iris’ eye-rollingly self-satisfied “reporters don’t walk away from the truth” from this episode as only one possible example), but adds three characters who aren’t journalists to the mix, while leaving too many questions about how the Citizen is even in business unanswered. It’s a chore. I shudder to think how Superman and Lois is going to handle The Daily Planet.
It all culminates in an utterly tension-free showdown between Joe West, a holographic Iris stand-in, Frost, and Dr. Light. If anyone can explain the logic of how Frost “froze” the wound out of herself or why Dr. Light didn’t immediately fire again, I’m willing to listen because…actually, no, it’s cool. We’re cool.
Too disjointed to be compelling, too in love with its own dialogue to be moving, “Marathon” is destined to finish behind the rest of the pack of this season. Indeed, everyone on screen seemed pretty tired. Let’s hope the rest of season six picks up the pace.
– Flash righting the tray of coffee before it spills during the Jitters “robbery” is a quiet little homage to the first Barry Allen story in Showcase #4, where his powers manifest when he sees a diner waitress dropping a tray and he collects it in midair. Kind of a fun way to hint that we’re getting something of a fresh start post-Crisis.
– Cisco’s map now includes such DC Universe (and Arrowverse) mainstays as Metropolis, Supergirl‘s Capitol City, Black Lightning‘s Freeland, and former JLA headquarters Happy Harbor.
– Cisco’s “Who’s Who” binder is terrific. DC used to publish a series called Who’s Who in the DC Universe, which featured text biographies and vital statistics for every character in the DCU. It was a wealth of information and a total joy. The fact that they’re trading cards makes me think of the old Skybox Marvel and DC trading cards, which followed a similar formula. This is how we all collected ’em, in binders.
– Did Nash say he was going to deliver an “Atlantean shoulder check” to that door?
– After using a Joshua Williamson co-created villain in the first half of the season with Bloodwork, we get another concept from his brilliant run on The Flash comics with Black Hole. In the comics, they’re more speedster-focused with Speed Force-based weapons, but maybe we’ll get there by season’s end.
– The fact that this episode aired after the Arrow finale but takes place before it is one of the few times when Arrowverse events aren’t unfolding/airing relatively in real time with each other.
– Diggle still being nervous around metahumans had better change now that he’s headed to Metropolis and is the proud owner of a Green Lantern ring.
– We’ll obviously be seeing lots more of Eva McCulloch, who is a gender-swapped version of the Evan McCulloch version of the Mirror Master.
– Dr. Kimiyo Hoshi was indeed the second Dr. Light in the comics, an astronomer, and she actually made her first appearance in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths. And while she was always conceived as a relatively heroic character (unlike her predecessor), she wasn’t terribly nice about it. Something tells me that maybe this Dr. Light will switch sides in future episodes.
– Anyone else notice there was a CatCo reporter in the scrum at McCulloch Tech?