The Flash: Success is Assured

"Run along now, Barry."

By nature I love brevity: That was... surprisingly coherent. Some exceptionally clever editing and a cliffhanger later, and bam! You've got something that can reasonably be called a finale. Sure, there are some massive gaps, but they did everything they possibly could under the circumstances.

I think the cliffhanger route was exactly right. It allows them to leave story threads as they are and take the time to resolve them properly when they can film new scenes. My guess is that the bare bones of the main plot was designed as a penultimate episode, and that the side bits were taken from somewhere else in the four episodes originally slated to take place after last week's 'Pay the Piper'.

I want to get this out of the way: if I binged The Flash Season 6, let's say, five years from now, with little to no understanding of what was going on in the world at the time, I would be extremely disappointed in this as a season finale. However, let's take a look at exactly what this episode truly needed to accomplish.

1. By my count, resolve five ongoing storylines
2. Follow convincingly after the events of the previous episode
3. Create a coherent episode of television using only whatever pieces of the four original episodes had been filmed and whatever effects shots the animators were willing to create from their homes
4. Be a satisfying season finale

And all of this with eight weeks and change between the halt of production (March 13) and the release of this episode (May 12). Also do it all on a TV budget without anyone involved leaving their homes. To say this is a tall order is like saying the Sun is a little bigger than the Earth. One might say success was not assured.

So let's dig into those four tasks, and see how this episode did on each of them. First, the five storylines. These are: Nash and Allegra; Caitlin/Frost; Joe in Witness Protection; Ralph and Sue; Iris and co. stuck in the mirrorverse. Obviously Iris and her Amazing Friends will have to wait until next season's cliffhanger resolution. Side note: I never expected them to actually call it the mirrorverse. That was literally the first word that came to mind when I wrote these reviews, and I left it in because it sounded dumb and it was funny, not because it was a creative name.

I thought Nash and Allegra's conflict was resolved abruptly, but pretty well for this show. Frost's emotional issues with Caitlin's mom also resolved themselves far too quickly after being introduced, but again I thought the resolution itself was not bad. As to Caitlin's exit, I have no idea if it was meant to be similar to the departure and return of both Cisco and Joe during this season, or if it's something more permanent. Danielle Panabaker's performance in her final scene with Barry seemed to indicate the latter. If that's the case, I hope they keep her around next season long enough for a proper send-off. Speaking of Joe, the bumps in that road were smoothed really well by the opening scene they squeezed into last week's episode, so they didn't have to do much about it here. Ralph and Sue, I'm not quite so sold on. As a rule, I tend to hate scenes in this show that have a 'plinkety plink' sort of music (I often call them 'hijinks'), so the early sequence with Sue's parents rubbed me the wrong way. Also, there was clearly something missing in between Sue's takedown of Ralph and her return during the final battle. I think it was wise to leave it where they did, though. All in all, the ongoing storylines were done about as well as they could have been.

The second task was to follow convincingly after the events of the previous episode. With the side storylines, this worked really well. Even Eva's confrontation with Carver made sense, even if it was abrupt. The clear loser was Cisco, whose trip to Atlantis was a big deal at the end of 'Pay the Piper', and who doesn't appear or even get so much as a passing reference here. I wonder why they didn't have any footage of him that they could make any sense out of. The other big difficulty is Barry's speed. There's a reference near the end, but I'm not sure if he was wearing the watch at other times during the episode, and he didn't seem too preoccupied with losing his speed during the action sequences. I'm almost positive that he was supposed to get his speed back before most of the events of this episode as originally written.

The third and fourth tasks, we'll tackle together. Was 'Success is Assured' coherent and satisfying? Yes and no, respectively. Despite some hiccups as far as tone goes and a slight lack of connective tissue between the different storylines, this worked really well as a whole. Particularly commendable was the insertion of the Caitlin/Barry scene at the end, which was clearly meant to take place before the final battle but actually worked afterward as a debrief. However, though the cliffhanger was an excellent idea, it didn't have quite the oomph a season-ending cliffhanger typically needs. As a result, this falls just a tiny bit flat as a finale. The rushed nature also prevents the season itself from feeling quite cohesive, which is truly unfortunate.

I'm very pleased with this episode considering everything surrounding it. A lot will depend on their ability to resolve all of these issues and plotlines whenever they are able to make the next season. Time will tell how this fits into the larger puzzle that is The Flash, but for now, I'm impressed with the resourcefulness of the creative team.

Pensees:

-By the way, CW, I would pay good money for a director/producer's commentary on this episode explaining how they constructed it out of what they had to work with.

-I would also love to hear from the costume designer who made Eva's costume for the end, for different reasons.

-The animators clearly had to make these effects on a very tight schedule. It shows in two places especially. The first is when Eva comes through the screen in Carver's panic room. Watch her hands on the edge of the mirror especially. The second is the screen that Iris sees before disappearing at the end. It was very obvious that it was added in post, and was not there when they shot the scene.

-The building Singh blew up was literally just the STAR Labs storage room. It wasn't even redressed or anything. Those were the same exact shelves.

-There was a weird part early in the episode when Nash repeated everything Barry said as though it was his idea. Then later, when Carver showed up to ask for protection, he was leaning against the wall in exactly the same way Barry was. I wonder if the episode those scenes were taken from had a running gag where Nash was copying Barry.

-More missing connective tissue: Sunshine is suddenly free in this episode. You'll recall I wondered what happened to her back in 'So Long and Goodnight'.

-I loved that when the three Black Hole super villains were getting ready early in the episode, they were all speaking different languages and understanding each other somehow. It makes no sense, and there's not even a hint of an explanation.

-Carver described his panic room as 'Concrete walls and not a mirror in sight'. Then he opened the door, and nearly every single surface was shiny and reflective.

-Can we bury the phrase 'There's still good in you' in all non-Star Wars fiction? Please?

-The suddenly comic-bookish style of the final fight came out of left field. I wonder if it was originally intended for an episode with other hyper-stylistic elements. Usually those sorts of episodes are Legends of Tomorrow's bread-and-butter, not The Flash's.

-The oversized, bloated mug that Kamila was drinking from in the mirrorverse at the end nearly made me laugh out loud.

Quotes:

Nash: "What do you think Iris will say when you tell her you traded another person's life to save hers?"

Eva: "Honey, I'm home."

Nash: "I know I'm not your favorite person, but if ever you need anything, if ever you need my - coffee... I thought you didn't like coffee."

'They did everything they could possibly do' out of 6 unfinished effects shots.

--
CoramDeo is in the yellow pages under 'Spatulas'.

9 comments:

Red Pearl said...

The final didn't really feel like a final.

Most of it, Frost and her mother, boring; Ralph and Sue, uninteresting; Iris in mirrorverse, could see less of her; the rest of the episode was spent saving someone we all like to see die. So I'm glad Carver did die.

I disliked the bit that Barry considered trading Carver for Iris, when he should have been better than that. This is one of the things I hate about WestAllen, Barry's clingy dependence on Iris West, who had never been that dependable. Barry's obsession with her made him a worse hero and a worse person than he could be. This toxic relationship is the ruin of him.

I didn't always hate Iris as a character. In the first season, when we first met her, I thought she was really pretty. A little spoilt and self-centred, and clearly had nothing in common with Barry, but I was hoping she'd grow, even though she was consciously or subconsciously holding onto Barry as her backup boyfriend, and sabotaging his relationship with Linda. That temper tantrum she threw with Eddie did her no favours either, but I still see her potential.

In the second season, Iris actually seemed to be better, more mature and more considerate. Except when she accompanied Barry to his mother's grave and proceed to compare her own mother, who was a drug addict and abandoned her, to his, who loved him was murdered. I suppose because she never had a connection with her mother like Barry had with his, she couldn't really empathise with his pain of losing her.

Without Eddie, she began to take an interest in Barry. She believed it was destiny, shown by the future newspaper and Earth 2 married WestAllen, even though she had said she made her own destinies when she chose Eddie in season 1. So it felt more like she had settled for Barry because she didn't want to get out there had her heart broke again.

And when Barry rejected her, (She wanted to try to be together just after his father died. Really, her timing was awful!), she said since he waited for her years, it was time that she waited for him. That sounded more like she wanted to make up for his years of pining than she had any genuine love for him.

In season 3, Iris kept blowing Barry hot and cold, but she was under the pressure of death, so it gave her emotional reactions a reason, even if she did break up with him when he had been beaten up and was recovering in bed.

Still, when Iris videoed her vows for Barry just in case, it was supposed to be a touching scene, but all I could think was 'did she not want him to get over her?' Because you can be sure, when she was dead and Barry watched that video, it'd send him into a downward depression.

Savitar was a future version of Barry, yet Iris didn't have any hesitation in shooting him in the back, that was understandable since she was trying to save the current version of Barry, but she didn't show any reaction to the fact she just shot a version of her future husband afterwards.

I liked Savitar much better than Iris. If I could pick I'd pick Savitar to be kept on the show instead of Iris every time. I wish Savitar didn't have to die. I wished H.R didn't have to die either. Neither HR nor Iris was essential to the Team Flash, but I still regretted his death.

Iris didn't seem to have any reaction to HR's sacrifice either. HR deserved better.

Red Pearl said...

Season 4 was when I really start to hate Iris.

Starting season 4, Iris was suddenly the leader of Team Flash, with no leading up to it at all. It was like the writers wanted to make Iris an essential part of the team, but Iris had no useful skillful to contribute, so they made her a leader, then she could just boss everyone around, and pretend to be useful.

To make her seemed useful, the show dumbed everyone down for her, especially Barry, who was pushed off the position of being the leader and dumbed to the point of not capable of think of any solution by himself. It just made me angry with Iris.

At first, Iris didn't even want to try to get Barry back from the speedforce. She actually sabotaged Cisco's attempt to try to exact Barry, never mind the danger it could pose to Barry to have the connection suddenly cut. That was just cold. Then when Barry was back, she behaved like it never happened, she always wanted him back!

Iris took him to therapy where they both had to lie to the therapist and accused him of abandoning her when he was trying to save the world.
And let's not forget the invention of -

WE ARE THE FLASH!

OMG, how shameless! When she had done much less for the Flash than Cisco or Caitlin, neither tried to claim to be the Flash!

Season 5 was all about Nora, so was Iris, who was desperate to get in her future daughter's good graces. Unfortunately, Nora was a liar and a traitor, still, Iris took her side against Barry's. She told Barry she didn't care that it was Thawne was manipulating Nora, and could very well endanger all of their lives.

It just showed not only Iris was unable to empathize with his pain of losing his mother. She didn't really care about that pain either. Iris cared about Barry when it was convenient for her. When it wasn't, she cared about her own feelings first.

In season 6, they tried to fix Iris, showing her to be softer and kinder. But the damage was done, I still couldn't stand Iris, even if she behaved better. She didn't even look pretty anymore, now she just looked old and tired. I hated that she took up so much screen time.

WestAllen wasn't the gold standard it pretended to be. The writers must know it, otherwise, they wouldn't be so afraid to do a Barry & Caitlin bonding scene. Cisco got an episode of dealing with the news that Barry was going to die, but Caitlin only got one line in a group scene. This just showed how nervous they were about WestAllen. Because frankly, Barry and Iris had zero chemistry, their love scenes were embarrassing to watch.

At the end of season 6, I'm finally going to say goodbye to the show. I loved the Flash from the start, Barry Allen was immediately likable and adorable. I enjoyed the first two seasons and suffered through the next 4 seasons in the hope it'd get back its spirit, but I finally give up.

As soon as the Flash moved its focus away from Barry Allen and his journey as a hero, to Iris and Barry and the WestAllen melodrama, it began to go downhill. Nothing could have saved it as long as WestAllen was still the center of the show.

I hated The Flash moved more and more away from the Flash and became an ensemble show with a cast of mostly uninteresting, and some hated, people. (I hated the new title sequence by the way) They should have killed off Iris in season 3 and saved the show. But they didn't, now it was too late.

I hope Grant Gustin gets better materials to work with, better roles in the future. He had consistently put out good work in the past season, but as it stands, the Flash doesn't deserve his talent.

Billie Doux said...

Red Pearl, your comments are very welcome, I've read them all, and I understand where you're coming from. But in nearly every Flash comment you've posted, you trash Iris, and here you take many paragraphs to do it again. To be honest, I haven't felt comfortable responding, which is why I haven't. What can I say? I like Iris.

Although I did hate Ralph Dibny. :) I could probably have come up with a number of paragraphs about why I hated Dibny, although fortunately, he's been fired and I don't have to any more.

Hate-watching isn't very rewarding, so you're probably right to decide to let this show go. There's still a ton of good stuff out therefor you.

Red Pearl said...

Hi Billie!

I really like this site. It has introduced me to some very good shows. Sorry for spamming the site with negative comments.

Although to be fair, I not only trash Iris, I trash Nora, too. :)

I do try to be fair to Iris in my comments though, only writes what's she's done, trying to see her point of view. Iris suffers the same symptom that many TV female characters suffer, she has faults, the show refuses to acknowledge them, and pretend she's perfect.

No other female characters frustrate as much as Iris though.

Because I don't care about other male characters the way I care about Barry, who is the only one left on The Flash that I still care about. Barry Allen had so much potential, both as a person and as a hero, but because of Iris, he could never fulfill that potential. I miss the bright light inside him at the beginning of the show.

It felt good to finally done with The Flash even though I still care about the Flash himself. I don't have to fortify myself for another episode viewing anymore. It's very freeing.

P.S I actually liked the Earth 2 Iris West and Earth 2 WestAllen. It took only 2 episodes to show a relationship I could get behind. But the 6 seasons of Earth 1 WestAllen is an epic failure. How did that happen? Did the writers fail on purpose? I just don't understand.

But I'm done with the show. I'll leave my frustrations to the past.

CoramDeo said...

Red Pearl, while I can see your arguments (and to be completely honest, was probably not a skilled enough critic when those seasons aired to notice anything you pointed out), I also like Iris. I do agree that the shift away from Barry and towards everybody else has not been excellent for the overall health of the series, though. I think you may have made the right decision to let the show go, if you feel this strongly about it.

I realized I may not have ever written about why I love this show. The reason is because this is the first show I ever watched devotedly as it originally aired. Up until this show, the only TV I'd seen was a year or two old at the absolute minimum. But in 2014, I started watching The Flash's first season. I eagerly anticipated the next installment each week, theorizing and loving every minute of it. That probably sounds familiar to a lot of you, but to me at that time, it was the first time I had ever has that experience. It was magical.

All this to say that, while I do criticize this show now, I don't think I could ever hate it, or stop watching it for any reason. It will always have an extremely special place in my heart.

Billie Doux said...

Well said, CoramDeo. And also -- well said, Red Pearl.

Red Pearl said...

Thank you all for listening to my rants.

Thank you CoramDeo for sharing your experience.

Happy viewing!

Katie Hart - Pinterest Manager said...

Yeah, this didn't seem like a season finale. I actually waited this long to watch it since I wasn't keen to see where they'd be forced to end things - and 2 episodes ago actually did seem more like a finale, so I was content to leave the characters there. (I may have employed a similar technique on other shows that ended too soon - for example, I still have 6 unwatched episodes of Tru Calling.)

However, I was caught up on the rest of the Arrowverse (except for Black Lightning, which I didn't start because it was on a different Earth, but now it isn't, so, should I go back and watch it? Let me know if you think it's worthwhile), so I decided to dive in and watch these last two.

They tried and made a reasonably entertaining hour of TV, but it's not great. At least at this point I knew Hartley wasn't coming back, so I could say farewell to Dibney. Not my favorite character, but I did appreciate the lightheartedness he brought to the show, especially since Cisco is far more serious now than he was at the beginning. Sue was cool, but an enigma more than a character. With how this ended, at least they can reasonably write both of them off the show as they head off to clear Sue's name (not as clean as it could be, since they would be going after Eva too, but they could write something in to force them to work on the problem somewhere other than Central City).

I'm most curious about that tag with Iris. If that happened just because she was looking at screens, Eva should have had something similar happen with all her years stuck there. Is there a mirrorverse inside the mirrorverse? Will she get some sort of powers?

Yeah, this year of TV is going to be looked back on in a similar fashion to the writer's strike era. "Why was that episode so weird/incomplete/off? Oh, it aired in 2020, that explains it."

Red Pearl said...

I suppose they did the best they could with the final episode, but most of the plots were still dangling.

The whole Ralph and Sue storyline wasn't badly written, just very disconnected to the rest of the show, makes you wonder what was the point of it all.

This mirror universe thing had been going on too long, and still so little explained on the rules inside the mirror, what happened to Iris made no sense. So, maybe it was to give Iris powers to make her a bigger Mary Sue.

I only watched 1 episode of Black Lightning. It seemed a more serious show, a superhero show, and family drama, which is somewhat different from The Flash which had become a family soap opera pretending to be a superhero show.