This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 6 Episode 8
“Nobody is giving up on anything because there’s nothing left to give up on.”
Well, it turns out my worries about the midseason finale of The Flash weren’t entirely unfounded. “The Last Temptation of Barry Allen” wasn’t really enough to merit a two-parter, although it was far from a failure. In fact, we’ve had worse, and less ambitious actual season finales in the past. Considering how The Flash season 6 has been experimenting with a new format as two mini-seasons, I think these first eight episodes are about as good an argument for that potential formula as we’re likely to see.
And there were certainly high points throughout this episode. I’d say this is just about as tense as we’ve ever seen Cisco, and he repeatedly proved Barry’s faith in him right. It’s no accident that so much of the episode’s drama came from Cisco and Iris working together, Barry’s two best friends facing a dire threat to the person they love the most. With Caitlin and Frost mostly busy elsewhere, and of course Grant Gustin getting a break from dialogue and big character moments after his showcase in part one, Carlos Valdes and Candice Patton were the real stars of this week’s episode, a perfect counterbalance to the first part’s deep dive into Barry’s brain. Iris’ best moments came either problem solving with Cisco or standing her ground against a terrifying Dark Flash, holding onto hope that Barry still remained inside.
Seeing The Flash go full blown horror movie atmosphere for nearly the entire episode was a nice change. Even when it didn’t completely hold together, it felt in keeping with the spirit of this season. So much of The Flash season 6 has been about taking chances and breaking out of this show’s comfort zones, and “The Last Temptation of Barry Allen Part Two” did that with its zombies (ahem, sorry, “blood brothers”), its lighting, and even the claustrophobic scenes with Cecile in the kind of fear-panic that only an empath could know. That was driven home even further by how ruthlessly Bloodwork would turn random Central City residents, and ESPECIALLY by his grotesque (and comics accurate!) final form. Although for my money, far creepier than Bloodwork himself were the little touches on the Dark Flash makeup, like the subtle hints of swollen redness under his eyes or the filthy nails that tore through his gloves.
If we’re to look at this episode as a season finale rather than a midseason one (and I think that’s fair, considering that showrunner Eric Wallace has described this season as two distinct “graphic novels” broken up with Crisis on Infinite Earths in between), it’s a little small scale. On the other hand, I rarely got the impression that it was trying to appear bigger than it actually could (see the season two finale for an example of that). Sure, Bloodwork’s threat was imminently city threatening, but my impression was more that we were seeing just enough of those isolated incidents to raise that threat level, without the show seemingly trying to take shortcuts to illustrate a larger threat.
So all of this is nice enough, but unfortunately not enough to justify two episodes. There was entirely too much video game logic, with the single drop of blood in the particle accelerator serving as a countdown device and Allegra’s last second light show. Making sure Nash Wells had some zombie-fighting action while he’s STILL screwing around down in those tunnels felt obligatory, not like something that was really serving this story. Yes, I realize he’s crucially important to Crisis on Infinite Earths, but there were other ways they could have gotten him to where he needed to be. It was all too neat, and supported by entirely too much expository technobabble (yes, even by this show’s standards) to really hold up. It also featured perhaps the single worst example of Caitlin/Frost talking to themselves that the show has ever inflicted on us (something it has been MUCH better about on the whole this season), and whenever that happens my eyes roll so hard that I fear I may do permanent damage to my eyesight.
And sadly, perhaps the episode’s biggest crime, is that the final scene with Team Flash in the moments before Crisis begins felt more obligatory than truly moving. We’ve had more effective farewells to and from Barry and the team in the episodes leading up to this. There was too much overwritten sentimentality that has been better expressed elsewhere this season, and by this point, it’s time to get on with the show. They’ve shown us more than enough (and quite effectively) all season long how everyone feels. Here they opted to tell us. And tell us again. And again.
Still, the first half of The Flash season 6 might be, episode for episode and minute for minute, the best fall section of a Flash season since the first one, if not ever. As the Arrowverse has grown, the seams have started to show in its formula more and more, so seeing the show that is about to become its flagship take relatively drastic chances deserves our applause. Bloodwork was suitably different from any of our other big bads, didn’t overstay his welcome (at least not by much), and they even managed a satisfying reconciliation of sorts for him at the very end. Whatever mistakes this season has made so far, they’ve been new ones, and it’s good to see The Flash continuing to evolve.
Now bring on Crisis on Infinite Earths!