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The Flash: Central City Strong

“I thought everything would be okay once I was back. It’s not.”

Last week’s episode reminded me that given all the trauma Barry, Iris and the rest of Team Flash have been through, they all would suffer from PTSD by now. Since this is a superhero show, I never expected them to acknowledge it. I was wrong.

Despite the title and the multitude of references to Central City Strong, the physical damage inflicted on  the city serves mostly as a reflection of Barry’s personal life. The Flash couldn’t protect his city any more than Barry could save his wife. For Barry, this wasn’t about losing his speed or not being able to outwit Eva. It all comes down to mistaking Mirror-Iris for the woman he spent most of his life loving.

He spends much of the episode trying to make up for what he believes are his mistakes. With Iris, that means candlelit dinners and trips to Hawaii and Monaco. In his heart he knows gifts cannot repair the damage but they momentarily assuage his guilt.

Professionally, it means capturing the latest threat to Central City, Abra Kadabra. In his past appearance, Abra’s victims were collateral damage in furtherance of his goals. Now the death and the damage are the point.

Yet Barry’s singular focus on stopping bad things from happening hampers his ability to do just that. We’ll chalk his general obtuseness up to turmoil he’s recently suffered. Otherwise, considering he’s a trained scientist and investigator, his lack of curiosity was staggering. In his anguish he forgot that answering the how and the why of events often provides the key to solving the problem.

Barry isn’t the only one suffering. As this show continually reminds us, The Flash is Barry and Iris. At least Barry realizes there’s a problem. Iris spends much of this episode in denial. Her article on Eva McCulloch’s attack is long on facts but short on emotional investment. Iris claims it’s because she’s the reporter and not the story. That argument falls flat when Allegra points out that Iris spent months with Eva and none of that knowledge made it into her article.

Iris’s denial continues even as she takes Allegra’s advice to be the voice of the people who suffered at Eva’s hands. Iris abruptly abandons her interview when the stories from the Mirror-verse Support Group members hit a little too close to home.

I loved both storylines. Showing the repercussions of events like this grounds them in reality despite any sci-fi or supernatural elements and creates stakes for our heroes that I believe can only strengthen the stories. If I had a nit to pick, it would be this. Iris helps Barry find his way through his pain, enabling him to save the city. Yet she has to work through her anger and grief with only Allegra to bear witness. That may make sense in the context of this episode, but it is a weaker choice given the series-long narrative.

Crisis appears to be the gift that keeps giving. The melding of the multiverse into a single universe took away Abra Kadabra AKA Phillipe’s wife and son. In a cruel twist of fate, he was left with enough residual emotions from his alternate life to investigate why. Abra’s pain mirrors Barry’s. The difference is Barry has internalized it as guilt and Abra seeks to share his misery with the rest of the world—starting with The Flash.

In another surprising turn of events, Phillipe’s regret over his actions didn’t earn him the automatic Get Out of Jail Free card The Flash so often gives to his adversaries. The murder of multiple people and the destruction of property deserve some punishment. So it was only fitting that Phillipe’s minor redemption arc ends with him sacrificing his life to save the city he was about to destroy. RIP.

Not everyone was dealing with emotional carnage. Caitlin/Frost only had ongoing and unexplained headaches to contend with. I spent the episode suspecting this was due to Barry’s lack of action several episodes back and would add to the mountain of other things for Barry to beat himself up about. That it led to the Killer Frost and Caitlin’s separation from each other is far more interesting. It also gives the repeated references to Frost’s status as a wanted criminal more context.

Finally, we have our new supervillain, although Cisco has yet to name them. I say them because I have no idea if they are male or female and await more evidence. I would also like to confirm my suspicion that they are related to the multi-colored lightning storms that have been plaguing Central City.

Anyone strong enough to withstand an antimatter bomb is by definition a worthy adversary of The Flash. As for the rest, we’ll have to wait and see.

4 out of 5 antimatter bomb creating pylons

Parting Thoughts:

How does one become a CCPD Consultant Intern?

While the geek in me loves Cisco and Chester’s discussion regarding the proper order to watch the Star Wars films, the Star Wars fan in me still rebels against the prequels being canon.

What was the point of removing Cisco’s meta-abilities if he was just going to create a tech version of them?

This is the second episode in a row where Barry’s heart was more important than his speed. Do I detect this season’s theme?

Before his grand exit, Abra Kadabra dropped a few exploding Easter Eggs. That The Flash would soon have to deal with The Chronarch and that he would become obsessed with the future. Last time we had to wait till the following season for his prophecy to come true. What’s the over/under we’ll see them play out this year?

Quotes:

Iris: “Usually we have to kiss first to make the ground shake.”

Abra Kadabra: “Now for my greatest trick. Absolute suffering.”

Cisco: “Oh, you know, he’s just your standard time-traveling, murdering, thieving 64th century magician who uses imbedded nanotech and calls it magic.”

Cisco: “Mecha-Vibe? I know he did not just name me?”

Barry: “Kadabra’s caught. The job’s finished. You really wanna argue over who gets credit?”
Cisco: “Yes.”

Frost: “What’s wrong with me?”

Barry: “Iris, will you please just let me make this up to you? Please?”

Abra: “You cannot defeat a man who has lost everything."

Allegra: “Wait, what? Are we about to have Crisis Part Two?”
Cisco: “No, no. There’s not enough antimatter energy for that, thank the sequel gods.”

Allegra: “That’s not your happy face.”

Barry: “The entire city, millions of lives will be lost because I got tricked. Again.”

Iris: “Something terrible happened to you, not because of you.”

Abra: “Destruction is the ultimate catalyst for change.”

Chester: “The Flash doesn’t need big fists. He’s got a big heart.”

The Flash: “The people we love never leave us.”

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Excellent review, Shari. You know this show so well. I did like that there were emotional consequences for Barry and Iris after such a long arc that victimized them both. The Caitlin/Frost split was a surprise.

Anonymous said...

This review is great. A lot of the discussion around this episode was so negative that, along with being personally unimpressed with last week, I was considering just dropping the show. Your score got me to take the chance and watch it and I am so glad. I enjoyed (almost) every moment :)

Iris' journalism plotline showing up is always cool. I think it's interesting that the show seems to focus on the writing aspect rather than Iris actually going out and getting information. Definitely a more realistic take on the intrepid reporter, and it really stops her from feeling like a discount Lois Lane.

I'm not sure what Chester's role in the series will be. He mostly just seems to be a character for Cisco to pal around with, which both original Wells and the newly-separated Caitlin would be able to do. Hopefully they do actually give him a space, I like him and want to see him do more than stand around.

It was interesting to hear Barry call himself a scientist. He hasn't really defined himself like that for a while, I don't think. Maybe they'll do something with that alongside the "heart" theme. Seeing him working more as a forensic scientist would be great, but I guess there just aren't as many opportunities in the serialised format.

Once again, great review!

Shari said...

Thank you both. I've always looked at these reviews as a conversation between fans of the shows. So knowing that it entertained and encouraged you to watch something I enjoy is gratifying.

I think your right. Chester is Cisco's partner in crime in the absence of a new Harry. He may also fill the comic relief/hero in training role that Ralph once served now that Hartley Sawyer will not be returning to the show. We'll have to see if it works.

For several seasons they seemed to forget that Barry and Iris had jobs to perform and it drove me nuts. I hope you're right and there's a renewed focus on their careers. It's another thing that I believe creates more well-rounded characters and opportunities for stronger storylines.

Thanks again for your comments.