This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 6 Episode 16
Annnnnd….we’re back! After The Flash had to go on a production hiatus because of this little pandemic you may have heard of that affects everyone from regular folks to CW TV superhero stars, which (among other things) caused this episode to get pulled from the schedule for a month, the series has returned. More importantly, it returns with a strong episode, and in fact its weightiest one since the conclusion of Crisis on Infinite Earths. I was starting to worry (especially after the meandering, unfocused hour that was “The Exorcism of Nash Wells”) that without the inherent ticking clock of that Crisis-teasing newspaper headline that The Flash was going to run out of gas. But “So Long and Goodnight” is the kind of episode that proves me wrong.
So what did this episode do right? Well…by finding time for its entire cast for starters AND by remembering to put Barry in costume. Of all the Arrowverse shows, this show has seemed to be the one hardest hit by the Crisis. While Supergirl found a renewed sense of purpose and Legends of Tomorrow is quite simply the absolute best, The Flash has felt like it’s cutting corners at times, a real shame after how strongly it started. But with “So Long and Goodnight” it has some pop in it, and for the first time in months it’s like all of the elements of the series that work so well are working together again.
Let me be perfectly clear, when I say “finding time for its entire cast” in this case I specifically mean Ralph and Sue. Well, Ralph, Cisco, and Sue. But really, while the Ralph/Sue stuff should feel like a diversion, it somehow doesn’t. It’s exactly the kind of palate cleanser that’s necessary after some of the other heavier goings-on of the episode. I could watch Ralph and Cisco or Ralph and Sue all day, and while I’m not TOTALLY sure that a Moonlighting-esque “Dibnys” show is the strongest pitch on the pile, I’d certainly give it a shot if it came to that. “What? No snarky comeback? Ohhhh because I’m right.”
But that aside, we all know the truth: this is a Joe West episode. A damn good one. Jesse L. Martin has delivered several of his best performances as Joe this season, and this might be the highlight. We had two spectacular, intimate, heart-wrenching moments with Joe and Barry earlier in the season, and this time we get to see them go at it. Grant Gustin brought it in that scene as well, and it’s great watching Barry and Joe argue, knowing that ultimately both of them are right (“You know I’m not proud like that.”). And that doesn’t even take into account Joe’s cool, calm, and collected waltz into Carver’s home, or the look on his face after he saves first Cecile and then himself from that bomb.
I think most audience members would pull a Flash and try and pick bullets out of the air to protect Martin if we needed to, and this episode is just further reinforcement of that. My only hope is that Joe going into witness protection won’t be something that is as kind of easily brushed off as Cisco disappearing for a few episodes earlier this season to catalog the post-Crisis changes. This was a good, dramatic episode and work got done, so I want the ultimate resolution to live up to that.
I’m always a fan of having Ragdoll show up, if for no other reason than it gives me reason to believe that maybe someday we’ll see these shows try and do something with Gail Simone’s Secret Six comics. But I like the way the show plays with horror movie angles whenever Ragdoll is around. I’m not the biggest fan of this kind of overpowered version of the character, and I hope they find a way for him to revert to his generally more unsettling self at some point, but he’s still exactly the kind of baddie you bring in once a year instead of some other baddie-of-the-week to help make this feel even more like a superhero show than usual.
In fact, one of the highlights of an already strong episode were Barry’s two direct confrontations with Ragdoll. The first, where Flash fails to stop a bullet meant for Joe West, is quick, and even with some really gorgeous special effects (seriously, was it me, or did the few speed shots in this episode look absolutely crystal clear?) felt underplayed and dramatic. But I was really into Barry reduced to banging on pipes with a wrench to try and flush out Ragdoll. Something about the lighting in that scene, the perfect Flash costume they’re using this year, and the pure supervillain-ness of Ragdoll’s look just gave the proceedings a classic superhero feel.
I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of going through more “hero loses their powers” stuff, and I still find the whole “speed meter” Barry wears on his wrist to be some pretty lazy shorthand. But there were lots of subtle moments throughout the episode that I thought illustrated what was going on better than any prop or special effect could. Barry unable to use his speed to win at whatever drawing/Pictionary game they were playing at the start of the episode was one, as were little things like how he stumbles/falls into the room where Joe and Cecile were with the bomb, more out of breath than a trip of that distance should make him was another.
Really, it’s just good to see an episode where we (mostly) get to see everyone doing what they do best. Yes, it feels like Iris has been sidelined again as she waits things out with Eva. But while real Iris may be stuck, Mirror Iris (and real Candice Patton) is still here to deliver. That was a genuinely devastating conversation with Barry to end the episode. Of course she’s wrong but…she’s not really totally wrong, right? “You always make all of these decisions and the rest of us have to deal with the fallout.” And even though we know this element of things will be resolved by the end of next week’s episode, there’s still elements of this that Barry needs to hear every now and then.
And then there’s the matter of Singh. I was getting worried that they were making it a little too plain that he was up to no good here. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that he was another mirror duplicate, so while I’m sure smarter viewers saw this coming a mile away, indulge me the luxury of enjoying that reveal. I kind of hope that Eva continues as a baddie into The Flash season 7, because this raises the possibility that she has been manipulating events from the mirror dimension for quite some time. And now that she knows Barry is the Flash, well…this can’t be wrapped up quickly and neatly, can it?
Any real problems I have with this episode are mostly hangovers from earlier episodes in this half of the season. As a self-contained hour of The Flash, “So Long and Goodnight” works really well. With the unfortunate news that the season has been shortened and there’s fewer episodes left than we normally would expect because of the coronavirus-mandated production shutdown, I really hope the final few installments work as hard as this one did. But if nothing else, it looks like my fears about this show having lost its way post-Crisis may have been unfounded.
- I know you all know what a flux capacitor is. It would absolutely make sense for Barry to be drawing one. But he isn’t.
- I have to appreciate the prescient, social distancing-appropriate fist bump from Cisco and Ralph
- Just for the record, Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls” is one of the very best jams of that decade and it’s still an absolute masterpiece.
- The bit with the “shards” of Eva looking at Carver from the shattered mirror felt very much like the comics Mirror Master. The more we see of the real Eva the more interesting she becomes.
- This is probably a coincidence, but Cleary Capital Investments…CCI…as in Comic Con International? The parent company of San Diego Comic-Con? Nah.