This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 6 Episode 15
After two incredibly unambitious seasons, a promising first half of this one, and being the centerpiece of the most ambitious crossover in TV history, The Flash is definitely now trying to do too much. The problem is, it’s not doing any of these things particularly well, and I’m starting to worry that it doesn’t even know which of them it’s supposed to be doing.
Let’s start with the most promising piece of the post-Crisis season: the new Mirror Master. Eva McCulloch has been a compelling and mysterious enough character. In the unlikely event anyone didn’t see her heel turn coming a mile away, it was still underplayed from the start, it’s easy to be sympathetic to this woman who has been isolated for six years, and I still see the potential for her to become a memorable big bad. But this episode she’s relegated to some expository video game mission exposition in the cold open, sending the barely defined mirror duplicate versions of Iris and Kamilla on a mission for a piece of unintelligible technobabble (“the prismatic refractor”) that has vague relevance to one of the other 5 b-stories the show has been juggling since Crisis on Infinite Earths ended.
And then there’s the matter of the mysterious case that Joe West (and now Singh) are investigating, and the vague problem that there is a mole within the CCPD. There’s a lot of procedural cop talk, and only tenuous connections to the main story, just as anything involving the Central City Citizen or Black Hole has been since earlier in the season. Still, it’s nice to see Chief Singh again, as Patrick Sabongui’s semi-regular presence on this show is missed. It’s amazing that The Flash has been around long enough that seeing Singh, once an essential piece of this show’s world, feels like a nostalgic throwback, but here we are. Ordinarily, I could watch Sabongui and Jesse L. Martin run lines all day, but the writing of this episode was pretty uninspired.
And even more vaguely connected to the story that barely registers this season is this week’s “menace,” a bottom of the barrel meta-of-the-week with the equally dreadful name of “Sunshine.” You would think this episode would have bigger fish to fry, and there’s nothing to indicate we’ll ever see Sunshine again. Nor would we want to, when she’s here solely to have what might be the single most uninspired fight scene in the show’s history (her “battle” with Frost) and to spout lines like “ice vs. sun, guess who melts.” Those sure are six words that technically make up a sentence and could be considered dialogue, I suppose. And why we’re back to particle accelerator metas (or why all metas seem to need common origin sources…after hundreds of episodes of Arrowverse shows where the audience is now completely invested in the weirdness of this world) is similarly beyond me.
So there’s the matter of the literal “Death of the Speed Force” as we saw last week. This means that Barry has to ration his powers, as there’s still some residual speed within his DNA. How much? Nobody knows! The solution is a “speed gauge” built by Cisco, which monitors Barry’s speed output (although not what he has left). Caitlin recommends he keep it in the “green” zone as often as possible, but it’s not clear how long that would last…because everything related to this has been so vague.
If things were different, this could be a concept worth exploring (although I think all superhero storytelling needs an indefinite moratorium on “hero loses their powers” type stories). Would keeping that Speed Gauge “green” put Barry’s power levels similar to what Wally’s were in the late 1980s and early 1990s comics, where he could only move roughly at the speed of sound and had to consume massive amounts of calories to keep going? If he went beyond that would he risk prematurely aging himself? Perhaps if the show weren’t pulling in six other directions at once these would be questions worth answering or concepts worth worth exploring, but here, it just feels like an excuse to keep Barry out of costume for another episode and perhaps save on the FX budget.
Which brings us to the titular “Exorcism of Nash Wells.” We know that Thawne has been taking over Nash’s body. We know that Nash is seeing visions of now-departed Wells from alternate universes. We know that whenever Thawne shows up, he’s going to make life miserable for everyone around him, including/especially Barry (who, in one of the episode’s few truly memorable scenes, gets angry enough to nearly kill Thawne via his own “vibrating palm strike”). What we don’t know is a hell of a lot about Nash Wells. At the very least, this episode fixes that.
What only/almost saves this episode is, unsurprisingly, Tom Cavanagh, finally humanizing Nash Wells in ways we haven’t seen before. The initial flashback to his first meeting with Allegra’s doppleganger was this character’s best scene since his introduction. And while I don’t think there was ever really any mystery as to what happened to her and why Nash seems to determined to help the Earth-Prime version, we at least get some genuine drama here. I can’t help but feel that this would have played out better if more of the episode was devoted to these flashbacks, and we weren’t wasting valuable time with Sunshine and Mirror Iris and Mirror Kamilla, but hey, that’s why I write for Den of Geek and not for big budget network TV superhero shows.
As for the “exorcism” itself? It’s pretty unmemorable. In another “tropes that should be retired” staple, members of Team Flash have to insert themselves into someone else’s psyche to “help” fight a literal battle of some kind. To be fair, it finishes better than it started, with Cecile, a character who deserves so, so much better than the nonsense the writers have been giving her to work with, making the lamest, most obvious exorcism joke in history.
We’re still left with no clear resolution to the issue of Barry’s powers, only the vague promise that Team Flash will now build their own Speed Force. The presence of Thawne these last few episodes feels more than ever like kind of a cheap thrill. I’ve said before, you can’t just break out the best villain in the show’s history whenever they need to fill some time or make it feel like they’re upping the stakes. And right now, that feels like exactly what they’ve done.
This bad review is, I guess, relative to the overall high quality of this season. It’s better than the bad episodes of seasons 2, 4, or 5 for one thing. But I just can’t excuse an episode that’s so unfocused, that spouts so much nonsensical technobabble, or that features Barry delivering teary-eyed lines like “metas are the ones with limits, not people” (metas ARE people you jackass!). I’m starting to worry that this back stretch of episodes is too far along for it to pick a lane. But I guess considering everything else we all have to worry about right now, this is a pretty minor worry.
I hope you’re all taking care of yourselves and looking out for each other.
- Maya died on Earth-13. Given Wells’ love of mythbusting, the fact that in the comics this is a heavily occult-themed Earth is appropriate.
- Nash is from Earth-719, which doesn’t have a DC Comics counterpart that I’m aware of.
- Wells mentions Earth-26, which is an anthropomorphic world populated by heroes like Captain Carrott and the Zoo Crew. Could the “psychic starfish” he also mentions be a manifestation of Starro the Conqueror, perhaps?
- Sunshine isn’t a DC Comics meta, she’s an original creation for the show. This doesn’t make any of this any better.
- We do get our second Corto Maltese reference in the space of two episodes. Now let’s see if this means there will be an arc centered around it on Batwoman season 2 or something!
Let me know in the comments or on Twitter if you spotted anything I missed!