This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 6 Episode 14
I’ll confess, The Flash was starting to worry me just a little bit in the days since Crisis on Infinite Earths wrapped up. I still maintain that The Flash season 6 is well on its way to being perhaps the best season of the show yet. I know we all love season one (and I have the somewhat controversial opinion that season three might be my favorite overall), but under new showrunner Eric Wallace has taken some real chances this year, whether it was by breaking the season up into two mini-seasons, the choice of villains, or expanding the supporting cast (and giving them more to do while we’re at it), we can’t say that they’ve fallen back too hard on formula this time around. And after the incredibly conventional (and tedious) season five, that alone is worthy of applause.
Which is why I got a little nervous with the show’s post-Crisis status quo at first. So much of The Flash has a concept has hinged on the ominous fate of Barry Allen during Crisis on Infinite Earths, that without it, I was starting to worry that the series was going to feel rudderless without it. The show turned in two genuine back-to-back stinkers with the baffling “Marathon” and the inexcusable “Love is a Battlefield,” before rebounding with two genuine highlights of recent years in “A Girl Named Sue” and “Grodd Friended Me.” It’s a tricky balance to strike, but the balance is there, even if it still wasn’t quite clear what the general focus of this second “mini-season” (or “graphic novel” as Eric Wallace likes to refer to these) would end up being.
It seems that we get a better picture of that with “Death of the Speed Force,” which, while solid enough, doesn’t ever really get better or more compelling than its opening scene and one later on in the episode. But in fairness, what an opening scene! You couldn’t help for a better welcome home for Keiynan Lonsdale as Wally West than watching him disassemble a helicopter in midair. The Kid Flash suit remains one of the very best superhero costumes in the entire Arrowverse, and Lonsdale’s Wally, complete with his increasingly spiritual attitude, is such an immediately warm presence that it took me a minute to realize just how much I had missed this character.
Of course, Wally’s spiritual path doesn’t mean he can’t get annoyed with Barry when the time is right. With the revelation that there is indeed something very wrong with the Speed Force, we get to see a side of Wally that Lonsdale hasn’t been able to showcase in quite some time. The difference now, though, is that this isn’t some impulsive (sorry) young speedster, but a seasoned hero in his own right, and one who has a completely different mastery of and connection to the Speed Force than what Barry has. Wally taking Barry to task for, well, Barry being Barry, is an all time Wally highlight reel moment. We need more of this on this show. Especially now that Oliver Queen is dead and Barry Allen is the de facto face of the Arrowverse (do we need to find a new name for this?), it’s important that other heroes help him keep his perspective, and to remember that communication is perhaps the most important key to leadership.
The problem that this episode can’t outrun (sorry, I’ve been away for awhile) is…well…the Speed Force. Always a nebulous concept, even in the comics, one of the biggest mistakes this show has ever made was personifying it, specifically as Barry’s mother. Wally, for example, sounds like he has a much healthier relationship with the ol’ Force. I’m definitely down with the idea that the Spectre’s energy somehow corrupted the Speed Force, and Barry blaming himself for it is…well…pretty on-brand for him, but dude, you DID IT TO SAVE ALL OF CREATION. If some speedsters can’t do good things because of it, whatever wrongs you are unable to right are totally insignificant compared to all of existence being wiped out. It’s not always about you, dude!
While Turtle 2.0 is almost too disposable to bother mentioning (although don’t be surprised if her powers become a factor in later episodes), we need to talk about these other two villains. I am all in on the new Mirror Master, although I’m starting to wonder if we’ve now spent one too many episodes in the mirror dimension with her and Iris. Overall, I’ve liked how they’ve been slow to reveal more about this character, but I think we’re getting into put up or shut up time. And then there’s the matter of Thawne…
That Thawne reveal at the end of “Grodd Friended Me” was terrific. It was so damn good that it made me forget for a minute that Thawne factored so heavily into the back half of season five just last year. Thawne is an excellent villain, and Tom Cavanagh plays him better than any other Wells. But this show can’t keep leaning on Thawne every time they need a major threat. For a while it seemed like we were in danger of having too many speedster villains, which is fair, but I would rather see them try and do Godspeed properly than keep coming back to ol’ Eobard every time things run dry. Just as I think they’re taking too long with Eva, I think it might have been better to keep the mystery and dread of what was going on with Nash a little bit longer.
That being said, the presence of Thawne made for the only other truly memorable scene of the episode: Cisco’s confrontation with Nash/Eobard. Can you believe it is one week shy of being five years to the day since “Out of Time” (one of the, if not THE greatest episode in this show’s history) aired? There was definitely something cathartic in Cisco’s realization that Thawne couldn’t actually kill him this time, and I was hoping he was going to be able to kick his ass a little bit more. Still, it’s a great scene, and considering how important the Valdes/Cavanagh dynamic in all its forms is to this show (and thank Grodd Carlos is back, right?), I can see this carrying the rest of the season pretty far.
So yeah, not as clever as “A Girl Named Sue” or as flat out ridiculously joyful as “Grodd Friended Me,” “Death of the Speed Force” is still a solid hour, one that raises the stakes just enough, and showcases a little more of this season’s ambition. While it didn’t all work for me, it’s nice to get a feel for where this season is going, and it once again feels like we’re as far away from the mid-to-late season doldrums of seasons four and five as can be. That’s good enough for me.
- The episode takes it title from a DC Comics story that ran just last year in the pages of The Flash comics, as part of Joshua Williamson’s increasingly epic and sprawling run as Flash writer (we’re coming up on four years, with no end in sight). There are some other similarities to that comic book story, but I won’t get into detail here in case any of them end up being spoilers down the road for future episodes.
- Look, it has been hundreds upon hundreds of episodes of these shows, so please forgive me if I’ve asked this before: was this the Arrowverse’s first mention of Santa Prisca? It can’t be, right? Surely Arrow did something with this? But just in case you don’t know, Santa Prisca is a fictional Caribbean island, one that is perhaps most famous for being the source of the drug which gives Bane his superhuman strength. It’s also the source of Bane himself, who spent most of his life in prison there.
- When Flash and Kid Flash embrace upon Wally’s return, it’s a virtually perfect re-creation of a page from DC Universe: Rebirth, an excellent book from 2016 which helped put the DC Comics publishing line back on track after the missteps of the New 52 era.
- Wally having a much more direct connection to the Speed Force kinda makes sense. The very concept of the Speed Force was introduced in the comics at a time when Wally was the primary Flash (and let’s not forget, he was for over 20 years before Barry came back). I’d like to think that TV Wally being more attuned to it is a nod to comics Wally.
- Cisco wants to wash “the Atlantean fish smell” out of his clothes. So…Earth-Prime now has an Atlantis, which means there very well might be an Arrowverse Aquaman. As far as I know, the only hint of Aquaman we ever had before was on the now-vanished Earth-2 during season two of the show. I’m too tired to check right now, but I’m pretty sure!
- Caitlin mentions that Wally also got to “raid Egyptian tombs.” I almost have to wonder if that means there was an adventure involving a Dan Garrett Blue Beetle scarab (nah…I couldn’t be that lucky…these shows have been teasing me about Blue Beetle stuff almost from the very start) or perhaps something related to Shazam or Black Adam. Hey, it wouldn’t even be our first Shazam reference! Remember “Eternium” when Nash Wells was first introduced?
- Turtle 2.0 seems to be a creation of this show, which is fine with me. But it’s neat to see that her powers seem to function similar to how the Turtle’s recent comic book incarnations have. That green energy sure feels like it could be part of the Still Force.
- Wally’s reference to the “chain of lightning” is not only a nod towards how there’s no superhero brand in all of pop culture where the concept of “legacy” is quite as important as it is with the Flash, but something more specific as well. He mentions “his kids.” In the comics, Wally and Linda Park have super-powered twins, Jai and Iris. They have since caused all kinds of continuity headaches as DC Comics has been doing their very best to a) forget they exist and b) screw over Wally in recent years, but it’s still neat to hear them even obliquely alluded to here.