The Flash: Into the Void

"You know, the only way we're gonna get through this is if we carry this burden together."

By nature I love brevity: The Flash starts its sixth season strong with an emotionally resonant and exciting premiere that sets the stage for the season to come.

This show can get hard to love sometimes. Don't get me wrong, I pretty much always enjoy it on some level, but last season had some major issues. It's just not a good look when the main thrust of the season depended on the performance of a main villain whose every line delivery sent me into hysterical laughter. Coupled with some writing and execution difficulties, I was really straining my love of this show at the end of Season Five. So when Season Six premiered, with the Crisis looming, my hopes were rather low. Color me impressed.

'Into the Void' does start on an odd note, jumping directly into the action of the show in a way that had me wondering if the episode had started or if the recap was still going. But that was quickly forgotten as the story started up. We find Team Flash chasing rogue duplicates of Godspeed, a relief for fans of the character who thought he'd been wasted as a one-off in last season's appropriately titled 'Godspeed.' Moving that mystery aside, the team dynamic has to be reinforced, this time around with an outdoor potluck at the West home.

I really do like these characters, and the way they interact with each other. When I think about it, this is the show that has kept its team the most constant of all the CW superhero series. Sure, there have been slight changes to the cast, but they've almost universally been additions, and those additions are really the only ones who have left. In fact, with the exception of Eddie, the entire main cast of Season One remains with the show to this day. That, for six seasons, seems to ground our emotional connection with these characters a lot more than the ever-evolving casts of the other shows. That's not to throw the other ones under the bus, but rather to make the point that I care a lot about Team Flash. That makes a simple scene like this one, where they're all sitting together and enjoying each other's company, a joy to watch.

It was nice to start this season out with a bit of a positive mystery to solve. Rather than a villain intent on murdering somebody, meta of the week Chester P. Runk is a brilliant science vlogger who accidentally created a black hole out of trash. Uh-huh. Scientific qualms aside, though, it allows the audience to breathe just a little bit easier knowing there's no malevolent threat deliberately coming after our heroes, which in turn allows the emotional journeys to take center stage.

First is Caitlin/Frost, with a little help from Ralph. It was quite clever how they explained Ralph's absence with a throwaway line as if the actor wasn't available for the first few episodes and they needed something to 'occupy' him, and then had him show up. It allowed his entrance to actually be a surprise, without using more than a few lines' worth of screen time. In any case, he sets out to help Frost and Caitlin work out the difficulties they've been having. It turns out Frost is frustrated at having taken a backseat to Caitlin's life all this time. Their arrangement in the end will be an interesting chance to explore Killer Frost as a character a bit more, although I still like Caitlin better and I hope this doesn't mean she won't be coming out very often.

But the main focus is on Barry and Iris, as they each struggle with Nora's death in different ways. Barry has mired himself in his work, keeping busy and trying, as usual, to outrun his troubles. Obviously that doesn't work, and he's pushing the team a lot harder than he should be as a result. Iris, on the other hand, has convinced herself she doesn't need to grieve because Nora will be born later and they'll see her again from the other side. Clearly that isn't healthy, and the weight on her shoulders is clear. A missing jacket and a few black holes later, and the two of them are on the balcony baring their souls to each other. One of Barry and Iris' strengths is their strong reliance on each other, and this is the crux of their solution.

It all comes to a close in a climax that's made infinitely more interesting by the use of 'Flash' by Queen. There wasn't any real suspense in the few moments Barry was inside the black hole, but I still found myself hooked by the buildup on that song. Kudos. And by the way, Barry has a new suit! Say goodbye to the monstrosity that was the Season Five costume, and say hello to this beauty. It looks amazing to me, but I may be overestimating how much I love it simply because I will take anything over last season's absent jawline and unsightly torso pattern.

All in all, a strong start. And as the show gets in gear for the Crisis, we need this type of emotional grounding. Some have complained that the action is disappearing, but as the budget gets tighter and the CGI looks worse, I argue that isn't a bad thing at all. The heart of this show is Barry and Iris, and they're what keeps me coming back to it.

Running Plot Threads:

-The fake Godspeeds will undoubtedly come into play at some point. My guess is that it will be in the second half of the season, since it was announced that there would be a different big bad after the Crisis.

-Caitlin's friend Ramsey Rosso has cancer, and he's injected himself with Dark Matter. Nah, probably won't be important.

-Ralph mentioned he was investigating the disappearance of Sue Dearbon. Comics fans will know this name well, but to avoid spoilers for those who don't know, I'll just tell you to file that away in your brain for later.

-The Monitor explicitly told Barry and Iris that 'The Flash must die' in the coming crisis. Anybody notice he didn't say 'you must die' or 'Barry Allen must die,' though?

Pensees:

-Tom Cavanagh was in the credits, but did not appear. Of course he'll be showing up at some point.

-This is far from the first time Barry has run into a black hole in the sky. It's becoming a thing.

-I hope to see a lot more from Joe this season, after Jesse L. Martin's back injury kept him mostly out of the first half of Season Five. I really like that he and Cecile are around to mentor the younger cast; it actually keeps the young adult angst aspects from overtaking the show.

Quotes:

Kamilla: "Why is it every time I come to visit there's a crisis?"

Iris: "Not everything here is garbage."
Cisco: "Everything here is GARBAGE! I hate garbage!"

Barry: "Iris was attacked by a..."
Cisco: "A frakkin' black hole."

Iris: "Really, Cisco?"
Cisco: "The guy is running into and out of a black hole."
Iris: "Good point."

Ramsey: "I will never accept death, not like you did."

5 out of 6 frakkin' black holes.

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All types of drat! CoramDeo can't come up with an obscure reference for his signature!

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

CoramDeo, thank you so much for taking on The Flash! I felt much the same about this one -- that Barry and Iris dealing with their pain about Nora in different ways was a strength, and that I really do love this cast/family. I am looking forward to getting to know Frost a lot better. And for some reason, I absolutely loved the sequence with the song by Queen. I couldn't stop laughing.

Patrick said...

Just some random notes:

* I too enjoyed that the "villain" this time wasn't really one. After the tragedy of last season, it was nice to start this season off with a happy ending of sorts

* I love the idea of giving Frost the chance to develop a life of her own beyond merely coming out to save the day when she's needed. And I think it's important that Caitlin is supportive of the switch. I really like how the two of them went from being antagonistic to developing a very unique friendship, and Danielle Panabaker does a great job playing both halves of their shared existence. One thing I noticed in this episode, does anyone call her Killer Frost anymore, or is it just Frost? When did that start? They've been adjusting her look, too. When she first started showing up she had much paler skin and nearly pure white hair. Now her skin tone is normal and her hair is silver. Not only does it look good but it looks as if there's less of a hard separation between Frost & Caitlin, a nice touch. Her new suit is awesome, too.

* Yeah, the fake Godspeeds that only speak modem definitely feel like foreshadowing for the post-Crisis Big Bad. Sadly, I'm more curious about them than I am about our apparent pre-Crisis Big Bad, Ramsey. He just feels like he's going to be the kind of bad guy we've seen a zillion times. Brilliant but reckless scientist messes with something he shouldn't, goes psycho, chaos ensues.

* FLASH! Ah-ah!!! As a fan of Queen's music I am so excited that they finally went there, and did it in-character with Cisco actually playing the track over the comms :)

* I'm very much looking forward to see the results of Ralph's search for Sue Dearbon, since I know who she is in the comics.

* "Kick his butt, Barry!" Who didn't grin when Kamilla said that? I know that because of the 4-month jump we didn't get to see the process of her getting to know Team Flash, but I'm glad that she seems cool with it all. At least so far. I wonder how involved she's going to be.