Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Flash Season 6, Episode 7: The Last Temptation Of Barry Allen, Part 1

This week on The Flash we get one of the dreaded "All In The Mind" episode that sci-fi shows seem to love so much.

Pretty much every genre series I've ever watched has done one of these episodes. They generally involve the main character in some sort of fever dream, battling inner demons as the regular cast appears as negative aspects of the heroes personality.

As you can tell, I'm not a fan of these mind game episodes. Mainly because nothing of consequence ever happens in them. No matter dire situation occurs, it can be hand-waved away at the end by saying "it was all in the hero's mind." That means the stakes are generally extremely low, and you can safely skip such episodes and not miss a thing. I think shows like these kind of episodes so much because it gives the regular cast a chance to stretch their acting muscles.

All that said, this was a damn fine episode! For once I didn't er, mind all the mind games. There were actual stakes involved here, as Barry was tempted by Bloodwork, who offered him a way out of his upcoming death. 

As always, Grant Gustin turns in a powerhouse performance, as Barry's soul is torn apart by the forces of good and evil. He really is an amazing actor maybe even too good for a show like this!

The episode was directed by Charles Lowe, who's the younger brother of actor Rob Lowe. He also did an amazing job here, as he turned what could have been a muddled, nonsensical concept into a straightforward and compelling episode.

According to the producers, Ramsey Rosso's storyline will be wrapped up in Episode 8, to clear the runway for the big upcoming Crisis On Infinite Earths crossover event. Which means Bloodwork will be defeated one way or another next week. 

Talk about disappointing! I was generally pleased when it was first announced that Bloodwork would be one of the Big Bads of Season 6, as I get bored with Barry constantly fighting an array of speedster villains.

Unfortunately, Bloodwork's turned out to be a huge dud, in my opinion. His origin story could have been covered in one episode, but was dragged out for three or four, as each week he injected himself with some new compound that did... something. His motivations have been muddled and murky as well, as they seemed to shift and change each week. And he even sat out an episode last week, showing up for five seconds at the end! Good riddance to him, I say.

Also this week, I'm growing increasingly annoyed with Allegra and her "entitled millennial" attitude. For some reason she believes it's her god-given right to know absolutely everything that's going on at The Citizen, despite the fact that she's a lowly unpaid intern!

Speaking of The Citizen, this week Iris finally writes the fateful "Flash Vanishes In Crisis" newspaper article that we've all been seeing for the past six seasons. Once the Crisis comes and goes, what the hell are the characters all gonna stare at in the Time Vault from now on?

Speaking of the Crisis, I just realized something. This massive crossover event is gonna force me to have to watch Batwoman. Oy gevalt. 

For the record, the story meanders through almost all the Arrowverse shows:

Crisis On Infinite Earths: Part 1 Supergirl
Crisis On Infinite Earths: Part 2 Batwoman (oy)
Crisis On Infinite Earths: Part 3 The Flash
Crisis On Infinite Earths: Part 4 Arrow
Crisis On Infinite Earths: Part 5 Legends Of Tomorrow

Maybe I'll just read an online synopsis of the Batwoman segment, so I don't have to actually watch it.

I've said it before, and I might as well say it again temper your expectations, guys. There's a huge amount of online buzz for Crisis right now, as I think most fans are expecting to see the equivalent of Infinity War/Endgame on TV. I seriously doubt that will be the case. Most likely we'll get four episode of setup and characters standing around talking, and one episode of actual content and battle. I hope I'm wrong about this, but... based on previous crossovers, I don't think I am.


The Plot:
Picking up right where we left off last week, Ramsey tackles Ralph and they both go flying off the roof of a building. The two grapple as they fall through the air, and land on the street far below. 

Ramsey fires blood darts at Ralph, who manages to stretch his body to avoid them. Unfortunately he's not quite fast enough, as he's hit by a couple darts and infected. Ralph collapses, and Ramsey says he won't allow Team Flash to stop him from saving the world. He extracts his blood darts from Ralph, and leaves just as Frost breaches to the scene.

Frost brings Ralph to STAR Labs, where Cisco tries to stabilize him. Frost realizes she's in over her head medical-wise, so she reverts to Caitlin to help. She examines Ralph and determines his elastic cells aren't healing. She suggests Barry give Ralph a blood transfusion, hoping that'll somehow transfer his speedster healing to him. Barry agrees, and Caitlin performs the procedure. Amazingly, her preposterous idea works and Ralph stabilizes.

The next morning, Barry returns to his apartment and flops on the couch. Suddenly Ramsey appears, revealing he knows that Barry's the Flash (who doesn't?). Barry tries to punch him, but his hand goes right through him. Ramsey says the end of the world's coming, and Barry sees a wall of red anti-matter consuming Central City. Suddenly he wakes and realizes he had a nightmare.

At The Citizen, Allegra snoops on Iris' computer and sees the unfinished "Flash Vanishes In Crisis" article on her screen. Iris & Kamilla enter, and Allegra says she knows Barry's the Flash (who doesn't?). Iris is surprised, but rolls with it. 

She shows Allegra the photos Ralph gave her in the previous episode, of a man wearing a distinctive lapel pin. Somehow she knows he's working for a secret organization that abducted Allegra's evil cousin Esperanza, aka Ultraviolet. She says she's going to stake out the organization, and invites Allegra to come along.

Iris uses Joe's connections to track down the Mystery Man to an allegedly abandoned warehouse. She & Allegra stake out the location, and eventually the Mystery Man shows up. Iris confronts him, and he says he's with Maelstrom Couriers— a company specializing in transporting specialty items for wealthy clients.

Allegra asks if there's any other story Iris should be working on (like the Flash Vanishes one), but Iris still thinks there's more to Maelstrom than meets the eye.

Barry returns home again. Feeling unnerved, he searches the apartment at superspeed for Ramsey, but doesn't find him. Suddenly his late mother Nora appears, and he realizes that once again she's actually the personification of the Speed Force. This Speed Force Nora explains that during the transfusion with Ralph, a small amount of Ramsey's blood cells entered Barry's body. He's now been infected by Ramsey, whose sentient cells are attempting to take over his body and mind. She says his speed-healing is holding back the disease for now, and Barry has to be strong to resist Ramsey.

Elsewhere, Allegra finally comes right out and asks Iris if she should hurry up and finish the Flash article. Iris says it's not yet time. Allegra tells Iris if she doesn't do it, she'll never forgive herself (?).

Barry wakes and enters the dining room, where he sees Team Flash enjoying Thanksgiving dinner (I guess?). Suddenly Ramsey arrives with a lasagna. He slices it open, and black blood oozes from it. The others begin greedily eating it, black blood dripping from their mouths.

Suddenly Barry finds himself in the Time Vault, with the "Flash Vanishes" newspaper projected on the wall. Ramsey appears and says Barry's done nothing to change his fate, and accuses him of wanting to make Iris a widow. Barry then runs into the Cortex, which is filled with fog and the tombstones of various characters who've died on the show. We see the headstones of Eddie Thawne, Martin Stein, Henry Allen and even Barry himself.

Ramsey tells Barry that if he joins him, no one— including himself— need ever die again. The two then appear in a nursery, complete with a crib. Barry looks in the crib and sees an infant Nora West-Allen. He tries to pick her up, but his hands go through her. Suddenly the lights go out, and Team Flash surrounds Barry, accusing him of killing them all. The Reverse-Flash shows up as well, saying the Crisis was too much for even him.

Barry & Ramsey then appear at the site of a car crash, complete with a woman lying dead on the street. Suddenly Barry sees an image of the Flash run up and use his blood powers to infect the woman and bring her back to life. Ramsey says if Barry joins him, he can have that power and more. He extends his hand to Barry.

Barry wakes back in his home, and Speed Force Nora tells him he needs to focus, as time is running out.

Iris, Kamilla and Allegra return to Maelstrom, and find the place has been completely destroyed. Joe says the security cameras captured nothing, and suggests someone wanted to cover up something. Allegra finds the Mystery Man's lapel pin on the ground, and says it's been saturated with UV rays, meaning her cousin Ultraviolet was involved. Iris says they now have a new mission.

Meanwhile, Barry's still in his nightmare world. He tells Speed Force Nora that he's filled with fear and doubt. She tells him that's normal, and what makes him a hero. For some reason she also says Ramsey's dangerous because he doesn't lie. Barry realizes that he could actually save the world and himself with Ramsey's powers, and feels betrayed by the Speed Force.

Cisco and Frost breach into Barry's apartment, where they find him writhing on the floor. They take him back to STAR, where they attempt to help him fight Ramsey's infection.

Barry accuses Speed Force Nora of trying to manipulate him for its own needs. She denies this, saying she's just a guide. Suddenly the walls around him begin dripping with black blood. He asks how many times he has to suffer due to the Speed Force.

Ramsey appears and begins tempting Barry, saying he can live forever if he only takes his hand. Barry reaches out to Ramsey.

In the real world, Barry begins convulsing again. Cisco runs to his lab, opens a secret compartment and grabs a syringe of Velocity X. He injects the drug into Barry, which boosts the Speed Force within him.

Speed Force Nora tells Barry that Ramsey's powers can save his life, but not his soul. She reaches out, and Speed Force lightning touches his hand and spreads up his arm. Ramsey grabs Barry's wrist, and black blood envelopes him. The two opposing forces meet in the middle, seemingly tearing Barry apart ("You're tearing me apart, Lisa, er, I mean Speed Force!").

Suddenly Barry wakes in STAR Labs. Cisco asks if he's OK, and he says he finally beat Ramsey's infection.

At The Citizen, Iris finally sits down and grimly begins writing the Flash Vanishes article.

Elsewhere, Nash is still in the sewers attempting to get through The Monitor's door. He uses a hi-tech weapon to blast through the rock, revealing a metallic portal inscribed with seven hieroglyphic symbols.

Back at STAR, Cisco tells Barry to go home and get some rest. Barry says they have a lot of work to do before the Crisis, and begins puttering around in the Cortex.

Iris arrives at STAR and runs to Barry, worried for his health after his ordeal. He coldly assures her he's fine, and tells her to stop asking so many questions. She apologizes and slowly backs over to Cisco and Frost. She whispers to them that that's not Barry. Cisco approaches Barry, and when he turns around we see his eyes are black, as blood drips from his mouth. He speeds out of the lab, knocking everyone unconscious and shorting out the computers.

This Negative Flash then speeds through the city, and stops before Ramsey. He says soon the entire world will worship Bloodwork, and Negative Flash kneels before him.


• This week both Allegra and Barry mention there are two days to go until the Crisis begins. That means this episode takes place on December 8, 2019. The Flash generally happens more or less in real time, but they've jumped ahead a bit this week, as this episode aired on November 26.

• The "Ralph Treatment Scene" only lasts about a minute, but it's an absolute goldmine of goofs, gaffes and blunders.

After Caitlin manifests herself she tells Barry he can save Ralph with a transfusion of his blood. She says, "We're sort of in uncharted medical territory here. But your blood type is O-Negative, so you're a universal donor."

Anytime anyone on this show makes a declarative statement like that, you know I'm gonna check on it!

Wayyyyyy back in the Season 1 episode The Nuclear Man, Joe & Cisco reexamined Barry's childhood home, to try and determine who really killed his mother Nora. Cisco found two distinctive blood splatters on the wall. After analyzing them, he determined one sample was A-Positive, while the other was AB-Negative. He didn't specify which was which, but one came from the Reverse-Flash, and the other from Barry.

Sooo... yeah. The notion of Barry being a universal donor with O-Negative blood is a big fat retcon. Or as I like to call it, a mistake. Somebody on the writing staff ain't paying attention to their own history.

And then there's this shot. Jesus wept! That ain't how blood transfusions work! It ain't like siphoning gas from one car to another!

What they're doing in this scene is called direct blood transfusion, and it is a real procedure. But as you may have already guessed, it's a lot more involved than what we see here. I don't have time or space to get into it detail, but from what I've read it involves incisions, specific arteries and veins, and in some cases a small pump is even required!

Lastly, later in the episode Speed Force Nora says when that Barry gave Ralph a blood transfusion, a few of Ramsey's cells traveled through the IV tube and entered his body. Huh? Is that even possible? I thought blood transfusions worked one way. Are they really a two way street?

Actually, yes. Sort of. They kind of got this one right. Taking blood from someone's arm via needle is called a phlebotomy. Now and then additives from the IV tube can reflux, or travel backwards into the patient.

Plus, Ramsey's blood cells are sentient and can act independently, so it's entirely possible for a few of them to travel up the tube and into Barry's body.

• After Ralph stabilizes, Iris says they're sending him to ARGUS, where he can recover in a secure facility. Wait, what? How come Chester got to mend inside STAR Labs, but Ralph has to be moved offsite to do so?

• After saving Ralph, Barry returns to his apartment. Jesus Christ, look at all those locks! Is that because he & Iris are trying to keep out supervillains, or do they live in a really bad neighborhood of Central City?

• Once again, the Speed Force manifests itself as Barry's late mother Nora Allen— played by actress Michelle Harrison. I have to wonder— whenever the casting director calls up Harrison for a guest spot, does she ever think, "Um... didn't my character die like six seasons ago?"

• All through the episode, Iris keeps putting off writing the infamous "Flash Vanishes In Crisis" article. I assume she's hoping that if she doesn't write it, she'll somehow alter the future and Barry won't die? 

The problem with that is we've been seeing the article on a regular basis for the past six years. We all KNOW she's eventually gonna write it, which makes this entire subplot pointless.

By the way, zoom in on Iris' laptop there. If you look closely, you'll see a hastily-applied piece of tape at the bottom left of the keyboard, between the CTRL and ALT keys. That's where the Windows key is located! Apparently the producers didn't want to pay royalties to Microsoft!

• Iris & Allegra visit the sketchy organization which they believe kidnapped Ultraviolet. Turns out they're a high-end courier company that caters to wealthy clients.

Yep, Maelstrom Couriers sounds like a perfectly legitimate business. Nothing shady could ever possibly go on in a company with that name.

• Credit where it's due: the Thanksgiving dinner scene was creepy and unnerving, and very well done. Something about all those black mouths and teeth was just plain unsettling. Kudos!

Barry should have instantly recognized this dinner scene was a dream when Iris told him she fixed him a plate and there was a variety of food on it, and not just "banana."

The "bleeding" lasagna reminded me a lot of the chickens in the dinner scene in Eraserhead.

Every single actor on The Flash (and The CW in general) has impossibly straight, unnaturally white perfect teeth. I gotta wonder if this scene freaked out any of the actors, as they wondered if the black dye would permanently discolor their brilliantly glowing choppers?

• During one of Barry's mind trips, Ramsey shows him tombstones of everyone on the show who's died in the past six seasons. For the record, the names on the stones are HR Wells, Eddie Thawne, Leonard Snart, Harrison Wells, Martin Stein, Nora Allen, Henry Allen, Nora West-Allen and finally Barry himself.

When I saw these tombstones, my first thought was that Barry had nothing to do with most of these deaths. Heck, some of them didn't even occur on his show! Then I finally realized Ramsey wasn't implying Barry killed them, he was trying to tempt him into accepting his power and resurrecting them all.

• Ramsey taunts Barry with a vision of Baby Nora in her nursery.

Note the mobile above Nora's crib— those hanging medallions are identical to the symbol Nora wore as XS!

• Barry gets to hold Baby Nora for a while— in his mind, at least. I don't know where they found that kid, but she actually looks a bit like actress Jessica Parker Kennedy.

And I guess this is as good a time as any to bring this up, but Iris had better be pregnant with Nora right now, correct? There's only one more episode till the Crisis begins, and Barry will probably be a little too busy with that to try and make a baby. So if the two of them want to fulfill the timeline and have Nora— or any kid— Iris better find out she's pregnant soon!

• As part of his campaign to get Barry to join him, Ramsey tells him to "Choose life."

Who's he think he is, George Michael?

• Eventually Ramsey's blood cells get the upper hand inside Barry, causing his fever to soar. At one point his temperature is actually 111 degrees! Jesus Christ! 

I looked it up, and such a high temperature is possible, but it almost always results in certain death. Side effects can include severe brain damage, convulsions and cardio-respiratory collapse (!).

The Flash regularly features some of the most ridiculous and outrageous comic book "science" imaginable. That said, the show's medical jargon is usually fairly realistic and somewhat authentic. Unfortunately that all flies out the window in this episode!

When Cisco sees Barry's extreme fever, he tells Frost, "We could really use some cold powers right about now." Frost replies, "No, Ramsey's infection doesn't respond to ice. We need to treat him medicinally. Inserting 10ccs of naproxen sodium!" A couple things here.

First of all, isn't it incredibly convenient that Frost's ice powers have no affect on Ramsey's sentient blood? I don't understand why not though. Donated blood is routinely refrigerated to keep it from spoiling, so it's not like temperature has no effect on it. 

Secondly, Naproxen is a common drug used to relieve fever. It also reduces pain and swelling, among other things. You may know Naproxen by its more common name— Alleve! Yep, that's right! Frost just injected him with a healthy dose of plain old over-the-counter Alleve!

• Surprisingly, Frost's Alleve treatment doesn't cure him. Cisco then runs to his secret stash, where he pulls out a syringe of Velocity X and injects Barry with it.

We've seen Velocity serums on the show many times before— Velocity-9 in particular. It's a dangerous drug that enhances the powers of metahuman speedsters and causes normal people to become metas. Back in Season 2, Hunter Zolomon of Earth-2 (who was posing as Jay Garrick for a while) took the drug and became the evil speedster known as Zoom.

Unfortunately Velocity-9 is highly addictive, causes cellular degeneration and users will often develop a second, evil personality (!).

Based on what we see here,  for some reason Cisco modified the formula into Velocity X while we weren't looking. Hopefully he kept the drug's speed boost while filtering out the unwanted side effects.

• In the opening minutes of the episode, Frost brings Ralph to STAR Labs for medical treatment. When he begins convulsing she doesn't know what to do, so she gives control to Caitlin, who's a trained doctor. Once the emergency's resolved, Caitlin retreats and Frost emerges again. It seems as if they've decided to let Caitlin handle medical situations, while Frost takes care of the superheroics.

Then in the third act, Barry's at STAR when his fever skyrockets and he begins convulsing. For some reason, Frost just stares at him helplessly and collapses rather than letting Caitlin take control. Cisco ends up (seemingly) saving Barry himself.

What the hell? Why's Frost agree to let Caitlin play doctor, then seemingly forget all about it at the end of the episode?

Later on Cisco talks with Frost about the incident, saying: 
Cisco: "You wanna talk about what happened?"
Frost: "I already talked about it with Caity."
Cisco: "Okay. What'd she say?"
Frost: "With Crisis approaching, we decided it would be best if she handles the medical emergencies. I'll take a back seat."

Cisco: "Are you okay with that?"
Frost: "It's what's best for the team."

Wasn't all that decided upon early in the episode? Why'd we have to see it play out a second time? Did the writers forget what they already wrote? I don't get it.

• Last week when Allegra illuminated the sewer wall with UV rays, we got a fuzzy look at some sort of hieroglyphics beneath the rock. This week Nash Wells finally breaks through the rock, and we get a good look at the symbols.

Here's a closeup view of the seven symbols. So what the heck do they mean?

The answer lies with Arrow. In the Season 8 premiere, The Monitor explains that all people are not created equal, and some are extra special— you might even say they're Paragons. He goes on to say that the fate of the world (in the coming Crisis) rests on the shoulders of these Paragons. He also strongly implies that Oliver Queen is one of them.

Given that knowledge, it would seem that the symbols most likely represent seven Paragons. It ain't hard to figure out that the stylized arrowhead on the far right represents Oliver. But what about the rest of them?

It would make sense for the leads of the other four Arrowverse shows to be Paragons as well, meaning the Flash, Supergirl, White Canary and Batwoman (oy). 

The third symbol from the left kind of looks like Barry's cowl. I don't really see any that suggest the others though. I guess we'll have to wait a couple weeks to see if that's what these symbols really mean.

• This episode marks the first time since he's appeared that Ramsey's been called Bloodwork onscreen.

• Once Barry's taken over by Ramsey's sentient blood, his Flash symbol is festooned with black tendrils
— just like the ones covering Bloodwork's face. No idea why that would happen, other than the producers thought it would look kewl.

I gotta admit, with his soulless black eyes and discolored teeth, he does look pretty freaky and menacing.

In fact he looks virtually identical to the Negative Flash from the comics, which I assume is what they were going for. The comic book version had nothing to do with Bloodwork though. There, the Reverse-Flash infected Barry with the Negative Speed Force.

• This is the first ever non-crossover episode of The Flash to end with a "To Be Continued" screen. It's also the second two part episode, the first being Season 3's Attack On Gorilla City Attack On Central City.

As a graphic designer, I gotta point out the god-awful kerning in the word "Continued." There's wayyyy too much space between the C and the O, and especially the T and I. It's making me itchy just looking at it!
<35 .0="" br="">
This Week's Best Lines:
Meh. Nothing much this week, as most of the dialogue was Ramsey and Speed Force Nora fighting over Barry's soul.

Ramsey: "I guess you're wondering why I'm doing this to you."

Ralph: "You're evil. I get it."

Ramsey: (to Barry) "You were struck by lightning. That is quite the origin story."

Allegra: "Boss, this really feels like a job for... your husband's friend." 
Iris: "Oh, no, Kamilla knows that Barry's the Flash." 
Allegra: "Seriously? Since when?"
Kamilla: "Last summer. Cisco used to be Vibe."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter