The Flash: Death of the Speed Force

"We can't punish ourselves for the mistakes we've made. That's a closed door. But we can take responsibility for our actions, no matter how great the obstacle to overcome."

By nature I love brevity: Okay. Not bad. The return-to-form trends of 'Grodd Friended Me' continue, although the overall quality of this episode was significantly lower.

I'll start with the good. 'Death of the Speed Force', as I said in my brevity segment, continues the upward trends of 'Grodd Friended Me'. There's some good, fun speedster action, balanced out by the characteristic deep emotion. There's meaningful character work within the episode alongside the season-long development. This episode even saw the return of the meta of the week formula, although it spent most of its time elsewhere. This felt a whole lot like an episode of Season One or Two. Only it felt like one of the less good episodes of Season One or Two.

I have two big problems with this episode. The first is primarily structural. The different storylines hardly mesh with each other at all, and when they try to it's clunky. It feels scattered and disjointed, and the whole is a lot less than the sum of its parts. I get that we needed, for example, a reaction from real Iris to Wally's return, but there was no need for an entire scene set in the mirror dimension. Likewise, the Nash/Thawne plot was essential to set up Barry's decision at the end of the episode, but it seemed entirely unconnected to anything else that was going on in this episode until that little bit at the very end. And of all the plot lines, the one that got shoved to the side the most was the villain of the week. For all that I love the idea of returning to an old formula, Turtle II was a complete failure. She did practically nothing, and the complete lack of connective tissue to anything else that was going on made her precious few scenes seem unimportant.

That was the first thing. The second is Wally West. Again, I love his return in theory, but in reality it was just more of the same old thing. I thought he worked very well during his stint on Legends of Tomorrow, and I would be more than happy to see him return there. But this is not his place. It's so clear. He just doesn't work. I don't know if it's Keiynan Lonsdale, or the way the writers write Wally, but something about the character doesn't gel with this show. He even looks uncomfortable, like he isn't quite sure he wants to be here.

One of my theories is that it primarily boils down to the way the characters express emotion. The Legends' method of doing emotional scenes is very candid and straightforward. The characters talk about their feelings with each other openly and regularly, and these conversations often come at abnormal times during the episode. Team Flash, in contrast, has a set rhythm to their emotional beats. There's a kind of buildup-release-review cycle that each character tends to go through over the course of an episode that typically follows the same pattern. It's why the hallway pep talk has become such a trope, and why The Flash's emotional beats tend to feel formulaic, especially when it's not done well. I wonder if Keiynan Lonsdale's acting fits better with the Legends style of expression than it does with the Flash style.

But that's just theorizing. Regardless of why, Wally still doesn't work for me, even after all this time. If something about the character, his writing, or Lonsdale's performance doesn't change, he should return to Legends or not come back at all.

That's a lot about what I didn't like. But this episode does have some strong points. Grant Gustin carries himself pretty well, and Jesse L. Martin seems especially at the top of his game this time. Of course Tom Cavanagh is always entertaining, and even Danielle Panabaker got to spend the whole episode as Caitlin. I didn't see any CGI that I found especially bad, and the action breathed decently well. And I appreciated the cinematography, particularly in the scene where Wally takes Barry into the Speed Force. Actually, this show tends to pretty consistently have great cinematography lately. The show's current cinematographers are Brenton Spencer and Alwyn Kumst. I know the director can sometimes have a great deal of say in the framing of shots, but I want to mention these two. One or the other of them has to work every episode, and they probably both go entirely unnoticed by most people.

Overall, I was not a big fan of this episode. It felt far too jumbled and cobbled together to be a great episode. But there were a lot of little bits I liked, and it was good to see the show continue to find itself.

Running Plot Threads:

-Nash has been somehow inhabited by Eobard Thawne's consciousness.

-Fake Iris sent Kamila to the mirror dimension. I assume, because I don't think she's just dead.

-Cisco has returned from his cataloguing of the new universe.

-The Speed Force is DEAD! Long live the Speed Force?

Pensees:

-Cisco provides us with yet another Atlantis namedrop. When are we just gonna go there?

-While it's true that Thawne has always wanted to kill Barry, he has almost always had other goals that superseded that one. It might be interesting to see what Thawne looks like when he no longer has any other priorities.

-I imagine the creation of the new Speed Force will be the season finale.

-Hartley Sawyer has a guest contract, right? He must, because treating a series regular this way is almost inexcusable. I mean, he could at least have been in the welcome party scenes, without changing anything meaningful about the episode. He didn’t even need to have any lines.

3 out of 6 not-so-Zen outbursts.

CoramDeo wishes he could sing, strong and sweet, like the cucumber.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Ugh, I HATED Wally in this episode. His constant berating of Barry for "killing" the Speed Force wore thin quickly. Plus the idea that it was broken during Crisis seems a bit contrived(even when grading on the "comic book universe" curve). If anything that should absolve Barry of at least some of his guilt. All of space and time had been basically wiped out, what else was he supposed to do? And yet Wally kept ripping into him. And this from a character that's supposed to have gone all Zen while he was away? I say again, ugh.

I think a big part of my frustration with this plotline is that there's so little actual suspense to it. Do we really think Barry won't get his full speed powers back before long? The show IS called "The Flash" after all, and we know it's coming back next season(pandemic-induced production shutdowns notwithstanding). If it was handled better like when Zoom took Barry's speed in Season 2, I'd be more invested in seeing how he gets his mojo back. But this year it seems to be a completely separate plot thread apart from the Black Hole story, so it feels like it's just a waste of time.