This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 6 Episode 19
For an episode that wasn’t supposed to be The Flash season 6 finale, I’ve gotta say, “Success is Assured” absolutely managed to look and feel big enough (and surprisingly mostly satisfying enough) to work as one. I never would have seen this coming. But maybe I should have.
After all, this season has spent almost all its time breaking rules. From the very start, new showrunner Eric Wallace planned to break with several conventions, not just of The Flash, but the entire Arrowverse. Notably (and most importantly) not trying to stretch a single villain out over a 22 (well…in this case 19) episode season. Hence this year’s two “graphic novels” (as he called them), with Bloodwork as the villain of the first half before Crisis on Infinite Earths, and then Eva McCulloch coming in as Mirror Master for the 2021 episodes. The result (the occasional pacing issue or filler episode aside) was such a resounding success that not even having this story chopped off three episodes early could hurt it.
This season managed to tell two complete supervillain origin stories. Often (but not always), big bads on these shows emerge fully formed, and we have to kind of backtrack to figure out their motives or the source of their powers. That wasn’t the case with Bloodwork (although Ramsay Rosso was a little too unsympathetic from the very start) and it certainly wasn’t the case with Eva. They even waited until tonight to give her a proper (and kick ass) supervillain costume, only to show that by the end of it, she might end up being more threatening in civilian clothes after all.
Even with an incomplete story, Eva McCulloch is the best bad thing to happen to this show since season one Reverse-Flash (before they kept bringing Thawne back and watered down what made him special). She’s one of the best Arrowverse big bads of recent years overall, too. I wish this season had leaned a little further into the paranoia and uncertainty of what she can accomplish in “our” world a little bit earlier in the season, but it was really effective here. They made us wait for her to go “full Mirror Master” and it was absolutely worth it.
And even all suited up and wreaking havoc with her C-list metas, she was still more sympathetic than Carver. In fact, the only time I felt annoyed with her was when she burst out of/shattered that poor, devoted Singh mirror duplicate. And that Singh dupe, I feel is almost the pivot of the episode in some ways, and if I was less tired and overworked I might try and make some kind of clever, structural mirror analogy here, but I am both of those things and thus cannot, but hear me out anyway, please!
Like much of the back end of this season, there’s been very little traditional “Flash” action with Barry in costume, as his speed has been conveniently sapped by the “death of the Speed Force.” But it’s still really great seeing him suited up next to Ralph in full Elongated Man gear. It’s a good reminder that this is still a superhero show. But you know what I found genuinely refreshing for some reason? Carver referring to Barry as “Officer Allen.” It’s so rare that we get reminded that Barry isn’t just a lab rat, he’s an actual cop, and Barry coming to Carver in plainclothes, in his official capacity as a police officer, somehow felt new.
But this is what I mean where it felt like the Singh duplicate was where everything turned. Barry uses that confrontation with “Singh” and that warehouse as a way to try and call Carver out, who of course denies any knowledge of that warehouse, even as it makes him realize that the walls are starting to close in on him. The Flash basically failed in that warehouse because of his lack of speed, so Barry has to try and work this angle as Barry, no powers required. And later in the episode, the Singh dupe literally “becomes” Eva, as just another reflection for her to travel through and manifest out of.
The episode was clever in other way, too, displaying a visual flair that I can’t remember ever seeing before. Let’s face it, even when the special effects on The Flash are great (and they often are), you kind of know what you’re getting from week to week. But the big fight with Team Flash and Eva’s henchfolks? That was different.
Ordinarily, I’d feel like using “panels” and even a page turn effect (look, kids! comics!) would be kind of…I dunno…hacky. Here, maybe just because it was so unexpected and such a departure from what we usually get on these shows, it wasn’t just fun, it was slick and well executed and ultimately felt like it made the fight itself more dynamic (especially when the panel border disappeared as two teams squared off). If we’re looking for other ways to bookend the season, it was almost as much of a treat as Barry going into the black hole in the season premiere. I’d like to see this show take more visual chances to go along with its narrative ones in the future.
And perhaps that battle’s greatest trick was making three utterly forgettable villains of the week suddenly feel useful. It’s rare that these throwaways get to come back and team up (and often when they do, it’s unwelcome), but here it was exactly as it should be. Eva’s too good to employ nameless henchpeople, and having Elongated Man take on the likes of Doctor Light while laser beams zipped around everyone’s heads and the screen broke off into comic book panels felt like a kind of 21st century equivalent of the classic Batman TV series from the 1960s.
But any nods to that kind of campy fun are erased by Barry’s last second “rescue” of Carver, which leads to one of the most gruesome moments in this show’s history with Eva driving a mirror shard clean through Flash’s shoulder…and into Carver’s chest. This, and Eva’s casual dismissal of Barry is a terrific way to shift gears after a more traditional superhero/supervillain brawl. “I’ve achieved my goal for today.” Maybe she was after more than just revenge on Carver after all.
It’s hard to believe that about 20 minutes earlier we had just been laughing along to more delightful/hilarious Ralph and Sue banter outside his office door. Like I’ve said before, I think I might be ready for a genuine spinoff with these two, but I suspect they’re going to make us earn it for another season…especially since Sue now has a frame to get herself out of. Still, Ralph’s fake laugh when Sue shows up with her parents was absolutely priceless, as was the quick look of disappointment on Sue’s face when Ralph says he didn’t “torch the place.”
It’s a remarkably tight episode considering how much actually got done. The only digressions were the Caitlin/Frost stuff, which has still lingered far too long, and the Nash/Allegra stuff (which, despite having an entire episode devoted to it, still feels unfocused at best). And yes, a “season finale” that barely features co-star Candice Patton in it is far less than ideal, but considering the genuine uncertainty of her fate and the Iris-centric cliffhanger we were left with in the end.
I wasn’t sure going into this episode whether I was going to have to grade it on a curve or not. Were we all about to endure one of those “it could go either way” late season episodes, where the show either barrels towards its conclusion or perplexingly decides to go spin its wheels instead? And was I then going to have to give a relatively high mark for a “season finale” that wasn’t intended to be? The answer was thankfully “no,” and I can’t help but feel that ending with so many unresolved cliffhangers might actually end up helping The Flash season 7, believe it or not.
Think about it. Part of what made this season so successful was its willingness to depart from traditional Arrowverse (and even CW scripted drama) format for the season. Well, thanks to circumstances beyond everyone’s control, Eric Wallace and co. had to break that format one more time, in perhaps the biggest way of all, by not resolving their big bad’s story neatly in the final episode of the season.
But think about what Eva McCulloch could end up being for The Flash season 7 in her current role. She’s already accomplished her big goal, which in the scheme of “evil schemes” isn’t really ALL that terrible (I mean, c’mon, Carver was a dick). And while this doesn’t make her a good person, imagine what life for Team Flash is going to look like in a Central City with Eva’s shadow hanging over it as a “powerful and respectable citizen.” In a different reality, I might try and say something like “c’mon, nobody would believe a story as thin as the one Eva feeds the press” and then I just have to look at the headlines of any given moment and I’m reminded that “nope, that would absolutely fly and she will never face any additional scrutiny or consequences.”
We haven’t really had that kind of villainy on The Flash since the original Harrison Wells (it’s being used to some effect on Supergirl right now, especially with Lex Luthor, but he’s far more of an explicitly malevolent force than Eva), and it feels like Eva can be far more manipulative, public facing, and sympathetic than he ever was…and she’s got a handful of metas already at her disposal, the capacity to create more, and really cool powers of her own. That’s a dangerous combo that could make for fascinating storytelling.
I don’t know when we’re going to get new episodes of The Flash, and I would be shocked if things are back on track enough for us to get season 7 in that usual October premiere window. But based on this season, it’s pretty clear that we’re in good hands in this post-Crisis world. As usual, it’s been an absolute pleasure covering this season and chatting with everyone. We’ll keep you posted on any and all Flash developments whether TV, movies, or comics all summer long until this show is back. Until then, stay well and take care of each other.
- The old reliable “Barry spins his arms to create a vortex that puts the fire out” trick comes straight from the comics…but it doesn’t work when he’s nearly out of speed.
- Eva’s Mirror Master costume is mostly green, which is a nod to her comics counterpart, who wears green and orange. But really, green and orange ain’t gonna fly on TV, right? In any case, I’ll take this version of Mirror Master over virtually any comics incarnation, and that’s saying something.
- Carver getting brought up to speed about what’s really going on during the commercial break is an expert bit of using the TV format wisely.