Is The Flash Running On Fumes?

No blondes allowed in STAR Labs! Seven is the shortest ever season of The F-Lash, especially when you consider the first three episodes were supposed to be in season six. It’s a widely held theory that The Flash could reach the heights of its early years again if it didn’t have so many episodes per season. It turns out this is only true if the scripts selected to be produced are of its best quality to begin with. I should’ve seen this coming when none of them were titled “The Groddfather.” (I overpaid for the new Gorilla Grodd toy because his force of mind compelled me.) SPOILERS from when the conjoined seasons diverged!

The first arc of the new season is dealing with the new S-Force avatars. Fuerza’s costume in the comics is green, but it’s blue here. The lessens the She-Hulk comparison, negated by Cisco directly referencing her. The Sage Force was blue but shifted to purple. Psych has the same power as Supergirl’s criminally underused Psi plus magentacles. The Still Force is green like the Time Vortex & Timeless Wells, color-coding Deon as Turtle III. Much like Turtle II, his power’s don’t make sense. (They never should’ve killed off the original so wastefully.) Putting the cast in retro clothes was cute though.

 How did Chillblaine freeze that driver while stealing the chip if he needed the chip & a scan of Killer Frost to replicate cryokinetic powers? I expected to detest this substitute Snart, but this himbo was kind of affable? (This is an unpopular opinion, but maybe it’s a good thing I had low expectations for once?) Ice daggers are actually impractical, Killer Frost!  His yellow jacket with fur lining has Sabretooth vibes but he leaves it unzipped to show of his six pack.

CCPD Captain Joe West suddenly realizes the police system is problematic … when Caitlin Snow is peacefully arrested on sufficient evidence for crimes she committed as Killer Frost? But that’s ideally how policing should function! This misses the mark on real world social justice issues worse than Batwoman’s defund the police episode.

The following episode with metahuman powers as a civil rights issue was less of a headscratcher yet still dumb. Killer Frost wants to do 10-20 in Iron Heights while the prosecution wants to force the metahuman cure upon her to start a legal precedent. (It’s unclear whether they still want her to do jail time.) Since season five established that Killer Frost wasn’t a meta created by dark matter, would that cure even effect her? Should I just chalk up all continuity discrepancies to COIE from now on? The judge & Killer Frost finally agree to life imprisonment without parole or the cure. That still seems cruel & unusual given the charges. Caitlin confessed to hacking CCPD’s security during the sentencing trial but oddly isn’t arrested for that.

Barry isn’t present for any of this because he & The Speed Force are investigating Fuerza. Once they get her to trust them, the Speed Force vengefully murders her. (Supposedly the other S-Forces nearly murdered it when they were born.) It’s a nifty sequence with Speed Force throwing lightning at Iris, Barry intercepting by throwing his own lightning, & the combined lightning ball becoming the murder weapon.

Barry plans to avert The Speed Force’s kill spree by aborting the other dangerously unstable S-Forces with time travel. (He & Iris should’ve used protection!) He even tags in Timeless Wells to keep the timeline from getting borked. His scheme works until he sees how pretty all the sky beam colors are & changes his mind. So now he’s all aboard iris’s plan to stop the Force avatars being villainous by giving them parental lectures. They unite to to un-murder Fuerza, but they can’t do anything about Alexa Antigone being whitewashed like Cecelia Reyes & Sunspot. (She’s called Alexa Rivera on the show, so she may a different person in this continuity like Cicada. Unless she is intended to be the same person with a different surname like Zari Tomaz/Tarazi?) The weird anti-abortion metaphor is furthered by Barry & Iris weirdly acting like the Force avatars’ parents to make Psych & Fuerza behave like good siblings. Then Speed Forces has Turtle 3 help her kill Fuerza, Psych, & Iris. (Psych actually saved them with an illusion.) So why was Barry’s plan bad again?

Unlike the Speed Force taking the form of Nora Allen, the S-Force avatars are all normal people who got bonded with cosmic powers. (Technically Speed Force uses Nora’s form as an avatar to interact with others, but for simplicity we’ll consider her a personification here.) So the show insisting they’re Barry’s & Iris’s literal not metaphorical kids is bizarre. (Did their love literally create three new elemental forces or or just condense them into forms that could merge with humans?) Everyone immediately agrees with this notion. The reborn Speed Force being Barry’s mother & daughter is extra creepy. They are much less compelling than Black Widow’s sham-ily.

The Speed Force goes full Dark Willow, which is lazy costuming unrelated to her character. Dion (& probably Psych) shows the Speed Force an alternate future where she’s the only Force & she’s overwhelmed with loneliness. This causes her to suddenly want to be a family with the beings she spent several episodes trying to kill? Then they help Flash stop some random elemental force tornado that’ll reverse the Big Bang. Since the new S-Force avatar don’t have families or career prospects, they decide to live with the Speed Force. So now they’re all on another plane of existence where they don’t directly interact with the world. I still don’t understand why the S-Forces tried to destroy the Speed Force as soon as they were born. This whole arc was an an incomprehensibly convoluted mess that makes me miss “Mother.”

The Speed Force is a monstrously vital part of The Flash that’s still vague after all these years. Does this arc fill in some mythos missing blanks? No, its personification just pretends to be Barry’s helicopter mom whilst homicidal. We don’t learn much about the new forces either. So not only was this arc nonsensical, it’s also very skippable in the grand scheme of the show. Not fleshing out the Deus ex machina’s vague lore may’ve actually been for the best considering the quality of what we did get.

Kristin Kramer is the same as Chief Lopez on Black Lightning. Joe resigns as CCPD Captain as a moral stance against Kramer’s anti-meta tactics. This is supposed to shame her into being more ethical? He just removed all her opposition to cops shooting meta-humans with cure-bullets! I understand Sophie Moore leaving Crows because her reform efforts continuously fail, but the CCPD has been generally presented as a model police force. Wouldn’t Cecile doing some empathy telepathy have been more effective?

Killer Frost spent a whopping two episodes in Iron Heights! She was instantly paroled to hunt other meta-escapees.  At first I thought Frost lied to Caitlin about parole, but apparently if’s legit since Kramer hasn’t hassled her since. She didn’t even need to appeal her sentence or join Suicide Squad! It sure made her draconian punishment more pointless. Also she’s supposed to have Caitlin’s life experience memories, yet Frost often feels like she was born yesterday.

Iris West-Allen’s official codename should be Lightning Rod. Unfortunately she gets nothing to do in season seven. While everybody else gets arcs, she’s basically limited to being the mother of Barry’s metaphorical & actual children. They try making real babies in the STARchives (pronounced stark-ives despite being spelled star-chives). They don’t follow up on the showrunner’s bizarre tease of her actually being from the future. Allegra critiques her writing & Kamilla departs, but her journalism job is irrelevant. This is a huge downgrade from her investigation & Mirroverse arcs last season. She deserves better.

They directly referenced Rainbow Raider is still at large! Then he got another onscreen reference as a trading card. So why are they still not bringing Roy G. Bivolo back? At least they didn’t kill him offscreen. His successor, Carrie Bates, is named after writer Cary Bates & a snazzier dresser. Why can’t either Rainbow Raider control the full emotional color spectrum? Neither is living up to Rainbow half of their supranym. Have them team-up in season eight!

Carrie’s plan to drop money & jewels onto a football stadium is a terrible idea. Aside from the greed riot, plenty would be injured by falling gems. I can’t be mad at her stealing a stealth dirigible though. If the Flash made good on his promise to get her sentence commuted to working for the mayor’s economic team, it looks really bad that he didn’t bother vouching for Killer Frost at her trial. Her green eye powers made Barry breakdance, which was Vibe’s thing in the comics before the Beeboverse completely overhauled him.

Psych’s powers show Cisco Ramon’s greatest fear is is to remain at STAR Labs indefinitely as new generations of metaheroes come & go. That doesn’t sound that horrifying even on an existential level, especially when the others watched their loved ones get murked. So he leaves town to take a new job with ARGUS. It sounds like he’d be doing the same job for arguably less ethical bureaucrats away from his best friends. Maybe the pay & benefits are stellar? It’s a better departure than killing him though. (Carlos Valdes is departing for real this time.) Cisco presents Chester with a flash drive of future schematics to diminish his unique contributions. He returns for the last two episodes to undermine his grand farewell. Mecha-Vibe’s costume remains as bad as his name.

I wouldn’t rank “Good-Bye Vibrations” as an all time best, but it’s easily one of this season’s best. “Masquerade” might be even better. Cecile’s backstory was sad. Rachel Talay’s expanding white asylum corridors prove spooky doesn’t rely on darkness. The finally did something with Psycho Pirate’s Medusa Mask, squandered since Elseworlds. (Why is it named that when it doesn’t petrify people?) I appreciate Sue Dearbon ballet dancing around lasers. They’ve spent a few episodes lampshading Chester Runk as a replacement for Cisco through his insecurities. Hopefully they can move on from that now.

Allegra_Garcia

Kayla Compton possesses the most intense eyebrows this side of Sarah Yarkin.

Allegra Garcia got upped to the main cast this season. She’s a supporting character to Iris that’s undercut by The Central City Citizen being an afterthought. Her powers make her more useful to Team Flash but she’s not as well integrated. So her character is undeserved because she has to straddle both functions. It feels like she ought to have a codename (Wavelength?) & supersuit by now. The jumpsuit she wore to confront her cousin made me reconsider her casual look with bandolier. She had a cool Binary glow-up though. The energy pulsating out from her heart has a subtle body horror tinge. It still seems like she needs Nash’s smoke bombs to teleport unlike Esperanza Garcia. Her killer cousin, Ultraviolet, feels like a more faithful adaptation of this obscure character. The Spanish dialogue could use some work. Allegra’s family is Brazilian in the comics so they should probably be speaking Portuguese anyway.

Sometimes it seems like Allegra got the promotion that Sue would’ve were it not for Hartley Sawyer getting fired. It’s cool to see Sue not be shackled to Ralph, but they haven’t found a way to keep her full time without him. It’s fun to see Sue as a hypercompent martial artists & thief without a cat fetish. They haven’t recast Elongated Man yet, so they don’t have a comedic scene partner for Natalie Dreyfuss to bounce off. Hopefully they can get her a replacement (cast Cory Michael Smith!) by the start of season eight so this duo can be a permanent fixture.

I like it when villains attack Jitters just to dramatically wreck its overhead lighting & one table. Ultraviolet has that cool modulated voice (newly dubbed by Erika Soto instead of Alexa Barajas) because a Black Hole doctor cut out her voice box instead of just going straight to the voice changing mask? They inserted a microchip that’ll kill her if it doesn’t get regular updates, but the laryngectomy is still weirdly superfluous. Were the ex-Black Hole mercs having electricity rifles a nod to Black Lightning or Batwoman? Was Killer Frost “going shopping” without her phone code for hunting Chillblaine or was she honest about blowing off the team?

Although I’m warming up to the notion, teasing that Allegra & Chester will get together seems like pairing the spares. She calls him Chuck. Isn’t his portmanteau nickname supposed to be Chunk?

Taking a page out of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl playbook, Team Flash defeats all its foes with the power of friendship. Ordinarily I’d appreciate them convincing all their foes to reform, but it’s so repetitive & their foes’ changes of hearts feel abrupt. Since they’ve been at this for years, maybe the team finally has this down to a science? Or do the baddies just relent because they get sick of schmaltzy speeches?

Joe & Kramer hunt down Adam Creyke, the metahuman whom betrayed her army unit. You’d expect him to be a major supervillain after all that foreshadowing but no. Similar to Black Bison, he became a mercenary to financially support his tribe’s reservation. Although he blows up their car in the woods, Joe somehow pulls out a meta-boot launcher to defeat him. (Why don’t they use those more often?) Creyke either has resurrection or invulnerability powers but is shocked to see Kramer alive too. Maybe she’s been a spooky ghost all along? Carmen Moore (who previously played an unrelated HIVE agent on Arrow) recurs on Nancy Druid, so it’s possible.

Godspeed

Marshmallow Zoom is a costume in search of a unique personality.

As much as I enjoy hearing BD Wong’s voice, I like how alien the modem-speaking Godspeed clones are. The energy-sucking vortexes they beam out of their chests is a cool move. They’re like a more intimidating Putty Patrol.  Chester’s plan to broadcast confusing modem chatter throughout STAR Labs was clever until one broke the Time Vault.

Caitlin operates on Ultraviolet, whom isn’t even meta-cuffed, in unsterile conditions. It feels like something was missing from that sequence. I was half expecting Esperanza to die as collateral damage from the Godspeed rampage & Allegra take up her mantle. Or if that’s too dark, that Allegra would’ve used her power to keep the medbay running until the surgery was successful. 

Killer Frost’s & Chillblaine’s underlying sexual tension escalates when they’re forced to fight Godspeeds in STAR Labs lockdown. Just as it looks like they’ll be thawing each other out, the smoke bomb he placed in the cocktail shaker goes off. He uses this diversion to leap out the window. Why did Chillblaine cockblock himself?

That was a strong start to an arc that didn’t need to be stretched out over four parts. If you drink every time they say “soldier,” “civil war,” “army,” & “family” in the Diggle guest spot, you’ll die. It felt like they paused extra long on close-ups of Dig in his introductory scene as if they were waiting for a live studio audience to finish their applause at his mere presence.

Godspeed is spamming so many clones back in time that the Speed Force is clogged. (Er, not while it’s in the form of Barry’s mom.) The gaggle of Godspeeds cause chaos throughout Central City offscreen, which is gentler on the budget & pandemic protocols. Rick Wasserman isn’t a suitable substitute for BD Wong’s voice. Half of the clones are fighting the rest because they don’t want to be reabsorbed by their prime after they’ve completed their assignments. They aren’t necessarily good though. Neither faction can locate original August Hart (Karan Oberoi) despite him hanging out at the site of his future workplace. He has amnesia, which is the most distinct characterization this speedster cipher has received.

Iris being absent for two episodes in a row is awkward, especially when one is about her possible pregnancy. Couldn’t Candice Patton have at least recorded a couple lines of phone dialogue? She returns for the in-series explanation that she’s phasing in & out of spacetime. Then this metaphysical ailment vanishes almost as soon as it was introduced.

We had to wait a week for Esperanza, who looks surprisingly non-threatening out of costume, to get herself foolishly killed. She conveniently left to seek revenge without her supersuit. Now that that the codename & costume are available, Allegra should upgrade herself to Ultraviolet!

XS & Impulse are The Tornado Twins (born seven years apart)! Impulse’s costume does the late Mike Wieringo justice. The white areas are pearlescent! Much like Jessica Parker Kennedy, Jordan Fisher is excellently cast. His Bart West-Allen is less ADHD personified than traditional.

Time Trapper is namedropped in relation to the entropy trap, but he hasn’t appeared in the Beeboverse yet. (Unsless that was the mysterious enemy from the end of the failed Green Arrow & The Black Canaries backdoor pilot?) I guess he could’ve been part of the new Post-Crisis continuity offscreen, but it’s odd to just namedrop a major LOSH foe like that. Oh, he was in a tie-in novel. We’re supposed to read those now?

Apparently Jay Garrick & Dr. Joan Williams survived Crisis. Their Earth-1 counterparts had died previously so it’s not breaking the rules for them to still exist on Prime Earth, but it is kind of weird to have Not-Barry’s-Parents around. (So why didn’t Barry wish Jesse Quick & Harry Wells back into existence too?) Bart bonds with Uncle Jay in the future because he encourages his impulsiveness, which doesn’t track with any of the advice Jay had given Barry.

The Godspeed clones are creating a Faraday cage around Central City so communication with the outside world is cut off. On top of that, Wally West is on the astral plane. This is the type of situation where it’d be permissible to interrupt someone’s meditation retreat! (Barry borrowed so much personality from Wally that Wally had to steal Max Mercury’s zen side.) 

Barry journeys into Hart’s mind by attaching jumper cables to Jay’s helmet. It’s very scientific. Godspeed’s mindpalace replicates Zauriel Cathedral on Morrison Ave. He confirms that he’s merely a Reverse-Flash/Zoom/Savitar cover band. This bozo wants to be empowered with natural superspeed despite doing well enough with artificial variety.

Speed Force Nora (or Speed Force Nana to Impulse) gives Flash, XS, Impulse, Jay, & even Iris a boost. They have a colorful Power Rangers-esque fight with Godspeed clones that I dug. XS has her lightning lariat, Impulse has lightning shurikens, & Jay throws his hat into the ring as a discus. SFN makes a few collapse, but then her presence supercharges the clones anyway. So that’s a bummer the cool team-up fight ended up being irrelevant.

Barry won’t hand over depowered Hart to be killed by his rebel clones. XS & Impulse inexplicably decide their archnemesis ought to be given what he wants, yet Barry astutely realizes that’d be a bad idea. Until a scene later where he does give amnesiac August a natural Speed Force jumpstart. Then he stops being dubbed by Wong or Wasserman, but he does absorb all his bothersome doppelgänger. It turns out Goodpeed can’t be defeated with compassion, which is oddly refreshing. I expected this to be a trap allowing SFN to yank all the superspeed out of his system, but she instead corporealizes Eobard Thawne with his stolen Wells face. (The Speed Force being personified in this series is especially a narrative problem this season. If it loves the West-Allens so much, why does it allow evil speedsters to exist?) These three have a fun lightningsaber fight that Eobard wins by non-fatally skewering the albino pretender. Surely there was another way to defeat Godspeed without making him more powerful & resurrecting Barry’s arch-enemy?

Reverse-Flash ended the fifth season on a triumphant note but didn’t appear in Crisis as foreshadowed. Then he was randomly a red lightning ghost Post-Crisis. Now he’s in the wind after Barry thwarted his latest attempt to kill him. Tom Cavagnagh is retiring this season, so I don’t foresee the dastard getting a fitting swansong. Will he just reappear for an abrupt demise in the series finale? Maybe Matt Letscher should’ve resumed playing Thawne so his screentime could be less limited?

It’s a bit awkward the 150th episode was celebrated immediately before the season finale. Barry & Iris renew their vows to make up for their wedding being hijacked by Nazis & Olicity. Kramer takes a leave of absence upon discovering she’s a metahuman power mimic. Allegra had better officially become Wavelength or Ultraviolet II next season!

With the cast shaken up, it’s odd they couldn’t find room to include any LGBTQ characters in the main cast. (S&L is the only other Beeboverse series without this representation.) Maybe some are bisexual, but nobody’s headcanon has paid off yet. Pied Piper could’ve been Cisco’s replacement, although overeager Chester is less prickly to work with. Maybe XS could stick around?

This was unfortunately the worst season of The Flash since season three, which had a handful of great episodes to offset the overall arc. It still didn’t enrage me as much as Batwoman. (One of Safiyah’s assassins had the most idiotic weapon, but it was so inconsequential I forgot to complain about it.) It helps that it’s much more fantastical in plot & less dour in tone. The cast remains superb at earnestly spouting technobabble. So much of the two main arcs felt like filler, whereas the three breather episodes in-between were ironically more substantial. It’s built up enough good will that I’m just gonna shrug & hope season eight bounces back. Next season would probably be a good time for The Flash to end its run though. Make it a victory lap!

4 thoughts on “Is The Flash Running On Fumes?

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