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'.

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