The Flash: The Exorcism of Nash Wells

"Crisis on Infinite Wells."
(This should have been the title of the episode, honestly)

By nature I love brevity: The Flash reveals its fundamental strengths and weaknesses in an entertaining and quite good episode. Those strengths and weaknesses also happen to be the same thing.

I have argued, and will continue to argue, that this show's greatest strength is the cast of characters that feels like family by this point. In fact, The Flash relies primarily on old things in general for its greatest successes. Think about the inclusion of John Wesley-Shipp in his various roles, and Mark Hamill's Trickster, both from back in the first season. This continues all the way to the present, in which the show is now able to fall back on old things from prior seasons, rather than prior shows. However, while this tends to produce the best of the show's content, it is also used on occasion as an excuse not to do anything else of worth. Case in point (here comes the angry comment storm): Eobard Thawne.

I agree completely that Thawne was the best part of the last season, and that his continual appearances throughout the show have been thrilling for me. But the law of diminishing returns is slowly creeping up on him, and if something isn't done to make his character relevant again, it will consume him. Besides, 'best part of Season Five' is not a high bar to clear. Here's the thing: in Season One he was a character. He was an integral part of the team, and then he turned out to be the team's greatest enemy. He meant something to Barry, yes, but he meant something to us, too, after watching him teach Barry week after week. He worked so well that they repeated the formula in the second season with Zoom. And that visceral connection we had to him made his next few appearances gripping. Every time we saw him, we remembered the intensity from the first season, and that ramped up the tension. But it's now been a little under five years since Eobard's exit from the regular cast, and his effect has faded.

It would be so simple to revive him, and it's frustrating that they aren't doing it. Just give him a new motivation. Now obviously it's not the easiest thing in the world to create a believable motivation, or every show and movie would do it, but there could at least be something. Here it's kind of unclear what he wants. He just hates Barry, and so everything Thawne does is more or less just to screw with him. That just isn't compelling, and not even Tom Cavanagh can rescue it. Is it still papered over by the character's legacy? Sure. But the paper is getting thinner.

However, when it's worked in with other things that are equally good, The Flash's habit of returning to the familiar works like a charm. I almost cheered when I saw Patrick Sabongui's name in the credits, and it's not like he's this show's most central player. Singh is a character whose presence in the series was light but always there, and it's somehow comforting to see him slip right back into it. It helps that he's wrapped up in what's probably my favorite element of this episode, the meta of the week.

I was highly critical of last week's meta, so I'll explain why this one worked for me. There are two approaches to the metas on this show that work and have been used to great effect regularly. The first is when they are woven into the story, humanized, and made compelling characters. These sorts of metas (such as Reverb, Pied Piper, or even Weather Witch) populated the episodic parts of the early seasons. During more serialized stretches of episodes, we tend to see more of the second type of effective metas. These (such as Peek-a-Boo, Tar Pit, or Ultraviolet) serve the purpose they need to for the plot, have interesting powers with striking visuals, and do very little else. They work because they serve their purpose and don't try to do anything more. Turtle II failed last week because they seemed to be trying to deepen her character but never did, and because her powers were boring and had lackluster visuals. Sunshine this week was visually bold, had powers that were fascinating to watch, and did just enough to establish a presence and nothing more.

A few final things. Efrat Dor is still interesting as Eva McCulloch, but I am rapidly running out of patience for her storyline. Something had darn well better happen soon, and I don’t mean they should look for another macguffin. If there's no escape from the mirrorverse pronto, I'll be checking out fully. I wasn't thrilled with Cecile's participation in the titular 'exorcism', but it probably bothered other people more than it did me. I can sometimes have a strong stomach for cheesy dialogue, and this is one of those cases. Barry's diminished speed is interesting, and I suppose his mood ring speed gauge was an interesting visual. The real test, however, will be in trying to keep this plot going for a few more episodes. We're not quite getting to the end of the season yet.

Running Plot Threads:

-Kamila has also been replaced with a mirror counterpart. We do not know what happened to the real version.

-Nash will continue to see previous versions of Wells, although none of them will be Thawne anymore.

Pensees:

-Missed opportunity: an episode featuring the Black Hole agent Sunshine did not feature the song Black Hole Sun.

-Caitlin got to stick around for most of this episode again. I hope the trend continues.

-I was extremely concerned that they were bringing Singh back only to make him the mole. Actually, I'm still concerned about that.

-The mechanics of Eva's control over her mirror folk isn't really very clear. Do they only mirror her movements when she's watching them? Or is she making every motion that she needs her minions to make, and explaining it to real Iris? Also, are fake Iris and fake Kamila always doing the same exact motions at the same exact time? Clearly not, but then they do sometimes. The point is, we don't really know how it works, and it sort of bothers me. But it's a nitpick.

-Sure, Sunshine can turn invisible when she's in sunlight, but the truly impressive disappearing act on this show is Ralph. #bringbackralph

-This episode appears to confirm that there's a new multiverse, rather than just one Earth to replace the old multiverse. The weird thing is that it seems like they've been saying both of those things at the same time ever since Crisis. They're contradictory, and I wish they'd pick one.

Quotes:

Caitlin: "Nash needs help, not maiming."
I'm glad somebody finally called Barry out on his obsession with Thawne.

Maya: "The prize is everything."

Barry: "You think that Nash and I are limited by our emotions, but you're wrong. They give us our strength."
Yes, it's about as on the nose as you get, but you gotta love the sincerity of The Flash's optimism.

Nash: "I made a lot of discoveries in my career, but she was the best discovery."

Cisco: "Status report: Nash is physically fine but emotionally destroyed, and Cisco is completely bushed. [faceplants into bed] You guys make up yet?"
Caitlin: "Mm-hmm."
Cisco: "Thank god."
I love these characters so much.

Pretty good, with some weaker elements. 4 out of 6 precious diamonds.


CoramDeo must go into the world and do noble things for the good of all. But he can't because he's quarantined, and he doesn't speak French.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

Yeah, I really want an explanation or some way to move forward the mirror thingy, too. It was super creepy at first, but it's also confusing.

I think Cisco faceplanting on the hospital bed was my favorite moment. :)