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The Flash: It's My Party and I'll Die If I Want To

“I hope you don’t mind me crashing your party.”

The return of old friends. Villains who threaten our heroes mentally as well as physically. Conflicts that are meaningful and not manufactured. This was everything I wanted in a Flash episode and more!

Birthdays, like New Years, are a time of reflection. Especially the ones ending in zeros. What have we done with our lives? Have we spent our time well? What can we do better? Since this is Barry’s second 30th Birthday, his reflections have doubled.

Barry’s parents, Nash, Frost, Caitlin, the list of people Barry has lost keeps growing while his clock was essentially turned backwards. He may have speed, but his abilities don’t make him a better person than them. So why did he win the lottery?

Enter Ramsey Rosso, AKA Bloodwork. A man whose fear of death became so twisted that he’s convinced himself any form of immortality is better than the alternative. Even if it involves everyone being remade in his own image. Ramsey is the perfect villain for this episode. Not only because his story directly preceded the events of Crisis of Infinite Earths and Oliver’s swan song, but because of his ability to see into the heart of anyone he’s connected to and manipulate their doubts and fears to suit his purpose.

Lucky for Barry, it’s not his first rodeo. Ramsey may be able to play on his survivor’s guilt but he can’t control Barry. Though the meta-ness of Ramsey making the Flash the star of his own show was fun to watch. Unfortunately, Barry’s not Ramsey’s target.

In keeping with the above meta-ness, I know this is The Flash and not Kid Flash, but the way Wally was shunted to the side has always been a pet peeve of mine. His anger issues and his resentment were tidily dealt with in a handful of season two episodes and never mentioned again except through his oblique but ongoing search for enlightenment. And Wally became superfluous once Barry was rescued from the Speed Force, which resulted in his hasty departure to the Legends. How Wally felt about any of this was barely alluded to, let alone addressed. Until now.

Wally’s search for enlightenment masked all the pain and resentment he still holds towards his family. And thanks to Ramsey, the focus of that anger is on Barry. Barry was raised by Joe and grew up with Wally’s sister. Barry is Central City’s savior even though Wally is also a speedster. Thanks to Barry, Wally is the runner-up (no pun intended) in his own story. It’s about time Barry faced that truth.

Ramsey’s manipulations may have amped up Wally’s anger and resentment. However, Ramsey had a lot of material to work with. And getting killed forces Barry to acknowledge how oblivious he’d been to Wally’s pain. Then Barry did for Wally what Oliver did for him. He reminded Wally that while the pain might never go away, the good in his life outweighs the bad.

This episode felt like a mini-crossover. The first half being a Flash episode and the second being an Arrow ep. Honestly, I’m so glad it was done that way. Wally deserved his moment in the sun and Oliver has a way of pulling focus in every scene he’s in. Not that I minded.

As much as I love The Flash, I’ve never hid my preference for morally gray characters and they don’t come much grayer in the Berlanti-verse than Oliver Queen. Which was kind of the point of his speech. Oliver may have repeatedly saved his city, but he could never be the hero that Barry is. Oliver’s decisions were always based on guilt and retribution. Barry’s were all about hope. Oliver willingly sacrificed himself in "Crisis" because he believed the world needed Barry’s light more than his darkness.

Being a leader is hard and often lonely. Oliver and Barry’s conversation was proof of how alone Barry has been, despite being surrounded by Team Flash. His doubts about his choices have brought him to the point where, while he may not want to die, he’s not sure he deserves to live. He needed Oliver’s reminder that being a hero doesn’t mean you won’t get knocked down. It just means you always get back up.

I could wax poetic about watching Oliver tease Barry about hugging him yet reach for Diggle on more than one occasion. I loved Oliver’s acknowledgment that Barry made him a better person. And the way Ollie’s voice almost cracked as he said goodbye to “John.” It has always been about the characters for me. And the relationships built between Oliver, Barry, and Diggle are some of my favorites.

Did they play fast and loose with our heroes’ backstories? Maybe just a tad. Did they resolve emotional issues that would have the West-Allen family in therapy for years to come? Most definitely. Did I care? Not one whit. We don’t watch superhero shows to see reality. We watch to see people with the courage to face their problems and come out the other side a little wiser, and, as Oliver would say, with a little more hope.

4.5 out of 5 multiverse-curing arrows

Parting Thoughts:

This episode was directed by none other than the Ice Queen herself, Danielle Panabaker.

Chester has expanded his repertoire beyond scientists to include actors of color. Duane Jones who was best known for his portrayal of Ben in The Night of the Living Dead.

Loved the ongoing competition between Singh and Kramer. Though I may need to side with Kramer on this one. Being a member of a group gives you insight that no one on the outside can have, no matter how empathetic.

As an easter egg for Berlanti-verse fans, Oliver’s comment regarding how many times Barry had saved his city was a nod to their respective shows. Arrow had 170 episodes, and this was The Flash’s 180th episode.

It’s probably a moot point now, but didn’t they establish that when Allegra used her powers it distorted cameras?

We got a little more insight into Khione’s abilities. In addition to her freezing powers, she’s connected to the natural world and can dispel the unnatural in it. I may need to meditate on this as well.

Quotes: (Forgive the long list. Just know the original was much longer.)

Wally: “May your current rotation around the sun be your best yet.”

Chester: “Oh no, frak this.”

Wally: “You can’t tempt me with simple desires. I know my truth.”

Barry: “Joe loves you and I love you.”
Wally: “Well I hate you.”

Oliver: “Oh, Barry, Barry, Barry. What have you done this time?”

Ramsey: “Now infinite souls will know my gift and rejoice.”

Barry: “How is it right I’m alive and they’re dead? How’s that fair?”
Oliver: “Life is a lot of things, Barry. Fair isn’t on the list.”

Barry: “Everyone has darkness inside them. There’s no cure for that pain. We can only accept it.”

Ramsey: “I was supposed to cure death. I was going to save the world.”
Barry: Don’t worry. That’s our job.”

Iris: “What? I read the long-ass emails you’d send me.”

Barry: “I don’t know what my life would have been like if I hadn’t taken that train to Star City.”
Oliver: “You still would have been a hero.”

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

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