This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 6 Episode 5
Well, if you’re going to do a filler episode, this is how you do it. While “Kiss Kiss Breach Breach” may very well be the weakest episode of The Flash season 6 so far, it’s tough to really hold that against it. It wouldn’t be fair, really. We’re coming off what might be the best four episode stretch in the show’s history, so a detour like this one was bound to feel like a little deviation from the pace.
But as far as detours go, at least this one was fairly adventurous. We’re now five episodes into this season without a traditional “villain of the week” installment, and five consecutive episodes where there’s not a single ongoing b-plot that feels like it grinds the season’s story to a halt. I can’t remember the last time we had it this good with this show. So for all the little things that bug me about “Kiss Kiss Breach Breach” (the hacky “12 hours earlier” opening, the convenient “well, we’re off on a quick vacation” setup, the ol’ reliable “two people at odds with each other trapped in a cave in with oxygen running out” nonsense, etc) there’s plenty of others that make it work.
Essentially a murder mystery, “Kiss Kiss Breach Breach” puts Cisco Ramon at the center of a tragedy that he may or may not have been the cause of. I wasn’t expecting to learn that Gypsy was killed (offscreen no less, and they still managed to make it feel emotional and effective by episode’s end), nor was I necessarily expecting the prime suspect to be Cisco himself (I guess I could have seen that part coming). I don’t think we needed any further proof that Carlos Valdes is perhaps the best actor on this show, but getting a little extra time with him, in an episode that feels like it could almost be a pilot for “Cisco Ramon, Multiversal Detective” was a fine reminder. But Carlos being excellent isn’t news for Flash fans. An episode almost entirely devoid of Barry Allen, let alone his costumed alter ego, kind of is.
See, on its own, this episode still feels a little formulaic. And it could be taken as a convenient bit of wheel spinning. But taken in context with everything else we’ve seen this season, with first Barry and then the rest of the team coming to terms with the fact that he’s going to die in Crisis on Infinite Earths, it takes on another meaning. Sure, Cisco is trying to prove to himself that he’s worthy of becoming Team Flash leader when Barry is gone, but that’s obvious.
No, what I really find remarkable about this episode is how the writing never once makes it feel like Barry’s fate is anything other than set in stone. In other words, we’ve known since episode 1 that Barry disappears (and probably dies) during Crisis on Infinite Earths. Every episode of this season has driven home the fact that not only is Barry destined to die, he MUST die in order for everyone else to live. While Arrow viewers (and certainly those who watched the Elseworlds finale last year) may have an inkling that Oliver Queen has a plan to make sure Barry gets to live, Barry and Team Flash don’t know that, and this entire season is playing this right down the middle like the final days of Barry Allen, with no winking or nudging to the fact that we all know Barry will ultimately live to run another day.
That shouldn’t have to be something I single out for praise on a long running sci-fi TV show, but sometimes the Arrowverse, much as I love it, is so completely beholden to its own formula and the overall conventions of superhero storytelling that it’s a genuinely pleasant surprise when they try something new and it works. But this episode feels like more than a Cisco Ramon backdoor pilot, but a seemingly authentic premonition about how a TV series like The Flash would look if its main character actually did up and croak during a big crossover event in December. I’ve gotta say, it’s just plausible and authentic enough, even though we know it ain’t gonna happen…right?
So on that note, Ralph Dibny continues to come into his own both as a terrific supporting character and a superhero. Hartley Sawyer’s chemistry with this cast has always been solid, but lately it’s been effortless, and it’s now increasingly difficult to imagine this team without him. And yes, the cave in with Nash Wells and Joe West sniping at each other is the oldest TV trick in the book, this is perhaps the most time Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin have spent on screen together in years. Remember last season when Jesse was injured and thus Joe was criminally underused throughout the year? Between the final moment of “There Will be Blood” and his performance this week, he’s making up for lost time with consecutive knockout performances.
Enough time has passed since season two where I’ve pretty much forgiven (if not forgotten) Reverb and the whole “Earth-2 is The Flash equivalent of the Mirror Universe where everyone is eeeevil” conceit. And even Reverb’s big “this is how I did it” speech felt more in keeping with the kind of handy explanation you get at the end of a solid cop or detective procedural than a supervillain monologue. So while “Kiss Kiss Breach Breach” can be a little uneven (there was nothing wrong with the Caitlin and Dr. Rosso stuff, but it felt a little shoehorned in and threw the pace off), and perhaps not the sexiest way to move the big season story forward, I’ve gotta give it credit for trying. If this is an indicator of what The Flash season 6 looks like when it has to narrow its focus for an episode or two, then we’re in great shape.
And it did it all without even putting Barry in costume once? With Danny Trejo as a bonus? Yeah, I can’t really complain.
There…aren’t really many to speak of this episode? Other than some solid A-Team jokes early in the episode (and yes, I could totally see Ralph as Murdock, or hell, maybe even Face) I’m not really sure if there was much else from the DC Universe to follow here. It’s just as well. I’ve spoken in these reviews several times before about how sometimes The Flash does its best work when it puts its essential superhero-ness aside and instead just focuses on pure genre. When it does, it often ends up feeling like an episode of Star Trek or Doctor Who. That’s a good thing.