Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Flash Season 6, Episode 14: Death Of The Speed Force

This week on The Flash we get a very busy and game-changing episode. The Speed Force dies, Kid Flash returns and we get the tenth or twelfth reappearance of Eobard Thawne. Oh, and Iris is still stalling in the Mirror Dimension.

I was shocked and surprised the show would do something as momentous as killing off the Speed Force, which of course is the source of all of Barry's superpowers. That's a pretty big step for the series! We are in the sixth season though, so it's probably time to shake things up a bit.

If I had a complaint about this particular storyline, it's that if felt a bit rushed. Barry finds out the Speed Force is dying, it dies and he decides to make his own. All in a single episode! Jesus, give the arc some room to breathe, why dontcha?

I was very happy to see the return of Kid Flash this week, even if it was only for one episode. Keiynan Lonsdale absolutely knocked it out of the park as the new and improved Wally West. He made me realize how much I've missed him.

That said, I also remember how the writers of The Flash squandered Lonsdale when he was a regular, as they had absolutely NO idea what to do with Wally after they introduced him. So maybe it's better that he only returns to the show occasionally.

Last week I pointed out that the Iris/Mirror Dimension storyline seemed like it'd gone on for one episode too long. Welp, it's even worse this week. I was onboard with this arc when it first appeared, as it was an interesting development for Iris' character. But now it's patently obvious that the writers had no plan for this plot other than for Iris to get trapped and eventually escape.

She can't get out of the Mirror Dimension until this current story block ends though, so they're forced to stall and stretch one episode worth of content into eight. Feh.

Lastly, it appears that Eobard Thawne has returned yet again to plague Team Flash. Thawne is the show's most compelling and interesting villain, and no one plays him better than actor Tom Cavanagh. 

But Jesus Christ, how many times can the writers use him as the Big Bad? They can't keep dragging him back to the show every time they need a threat to Team Flash. As awesome as Thawne is, eventually the audience is gonna become bored by him, as the creative team makes one too many trips to the Reverse-Flash well. And I fear that time is very near. Give us a new villain already!


The Plot:
Russian socialite Maria Volkova arrives in Central City in her helicopter. Suddenly the chopper begins rusting and decaying, and spins out of control. At STAR Labs, Caitlin (not Frost!) and Kamilla (who's there again for no good reason) get an alert. Caitlin says the chopper's heading for the newly-rebuilt Seaver Building, but she detects Barry speeding to the scene. Suddenly Barry wanders in and asks what's going on.

Cut to Kid Flash, aka Wally West, as he runs up the side of the Seaver Building and jumps onto the helicopter. He rescues Maria and the other passengers, then creates a series of time remnants (I guess?) to disassemble the chopper and set the parts harmlessly on the ground. Barry arrives just as Kid Flash finishes, and the two hug.

Back at STAR, Wally says he's been training with Bhikkhuni Amala, a Buddhist monk who's taught him the ways of the Force, er, how to use the Speed Force in new and surprising ways.

In the Mirror Dimension, Iris watches her brother's happy reunion with his family. Eva McCulloch says she hopes Iris' family doesn't forget about her as quickly as her own did. Suddenly Eva's hands begin shaking. In the real world, this causes Mirror Iris' hands to tremor as well, as she tries to pour a glass of booze. Kamilla sees Mirror Iris' distress and asks if she's OK.

Just then Cisco returns from his walkabout, and thinks Wally's "Welcome Home" banners are for him. He ends up partying too hard and Kamilla takes him home. Barry & Wally clean up the party debris at superspeed. Barry's speed unexpectedly falters, causing him to trip & fall.

Wally asks if this is the first time his speed has cut out, and Barry admits it's been happening more frequently. Wally says he's sensed something's wrong with the Speed Force, as he hasn't been able to communicate with it lately. Barry dismisses his concerns, assuring him everything is OK.

The next day at Jitters, Maria is confronted by a woman in a green cloak, who says she's surprised she didn't die in the helicopter accident. She fires a blast of green energy at Maria, which surrounds her and ages her a hundred years in a second.

Sometime later Joe, Barry & Wally (?) check out the crime scene. Wally somehow recognizes the desiccated mummy as Maria. Cisco enters and says this is the work of Frida Novikov, aka Turtle 2.

Back at STAR, Nash visits Cisco and asks if he saw any doppelgangers during his walkabout. Cisco says no, as any duplicates from other Earths would die from neurological degeneration (?). Nash wonders what would happen if a doppelganger was already dead, and Cisco (and the audience) asks what the hell he's talking about.

At the Citizen, Wally tells Iris that something's up with Barry. She says something happened between him and the Speed Force, but she's unsure what. Kamilla enters and takes a photo of the two of them with her new camera, which was recently souped-up by Cisco. Iris tells her to delete the photo immediately, to protect her from Black Hole agents. A sheepish Kamilla agrees and pushes the "Delete" button.

Wally returns to STAR Labs and confronts Barry about what's happening with the Speed Force. Barry admits he attacked the Force while under the influence of Bloodwork, and hasn't been able to enter it since. Wally says they're actually inside the Speed Force, as he's secretly transported them inside it. 

As they look around they see something's very wrong, as the Speed Force is filled with sickly green lightning. Barry realizes they're in a facsimile of his childhood home. He enters his old bedroom, and sees that once again the Speed Force has taken the form of his mother, Nora Allen. Nora says she's dying because of what Barry did.

Barry & Wally return to the real world. Barry says the Speed Force is an infinite source of energy, and it's not possible for it to "die." Wally says the Force always showed him images of his future, complete with a family of speedster kids. He says that's all gone now, and the Speed Force ends with them. Wally blames Barry for killing it and storms out.

Nash works in his lab, which is next to Cecile's office (?). Suddenly the lights flicker, and  speedster ghost with glowing red eyes that attacks him.

In the Time Vault, Barry uses a tachyon enhancer to enter the Speed Force so he can speak with "Nora" again. She tells him it's too late to cure her, but that Barry isn't the one who caused her death. She says she's been contaminated by a power beyond the laws of nature. Barry remembers Spectre Oliver "unlocking his potential" during the Crisis, and realizes that energy has corrupted and sickened the Speed Force.

"Nora" says she doesn't blame Barry, and tells him he did the right thing by saving the universe. She, or rather the Speed Force, then promptly dies!

Wally senses the Force's death, and tells Joe it's gone. He says he and Barry still have a bit of residual speed energy in them, but once they use it up they'll be powerless. Joe says Wally should go easy on Barry, as he'll be suffering too. 

Joe tells Wally he found out that Maria Volkova was an informant whose testimony helped convict Turtle 2, which is no doubt why she killed her. He says they have a second informant in custody, and is afraid Turtle 2 may show up to get revenge on her as well.

Wally goes back to STAR, where Barry tells him the Spectre energy killed the Speed Force. He says he's not yet ready to tell Team Flash that he's responsible for killing it. Wally apologizes for being angry with him. Just then Caitlin says they've spotted Turtle 2 outside CCPD. She says Cisco was working on a way to neutralize Turtle 2, but can't seem to find him.

At CCPD, Turtle 2 fires her energy blast, freezing everyone in place. She grabs Joe and gives him five minutes to hand over the other informant, or else.

Cisco shows up at Nash's lab to apologize to him. Nash turns to face him, and Cisco realizes something's terribly wrong. Nash has apparently been possessed by Harrison Wells, aka Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse-Flash. Thawne attacks Cisco and tries to phase his hand into his chest, but nothing happens. He realizes it's because he's in the powerless Nash's body.

Cisco takes advantage of this and fights back. The two struggle for a bit, until Thawne manages to hold Cisco down and choke him. Suddenly Cecile arrives and tases Thawne. She asks why Nash was trying to kill him, and Cisco explains that it's Thawne.

Caitlin whips up some Velocity-X and pours it into a dart gun. She says that should counter Turtle 2's power (???). Wally tells Barry they can't run to CCPD, because they'll use up their remaining speed. Barry plots a straight line course in order to use as little energy as possible (?).

They speed to CCPD, where they're attacked by Turtle 2. She fires dozens of energy globes at the two speedsters, who manage to dodge them. Suddenly Wally's hit by a globe and enveloped. Turtle 2 threatens to age Kid Flash to death unless Flash surrenders. Just then Joe sneaks up behind Turtle 2 and injects her with the Velocity-X that Barry secretly slipped him while no one was looking. She screams in pain as her power is neutralized, and Wally's freed.

Later that night, Barry tells Mirror Iris that the Speed Force is dead. Amazingly, Mirror Iris says maybe it's for the best, as now Barry can live a normal life. He's shocked and hurt by her cold & callous response.

Cisco calls Barry down to the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail, where he's imprisoned Thawne. Barry asks Thawne what he wants, and he says to kill him of course. He vows to escape and murder Barry and everyone he knows and loves, and says he won't be able to stop him because the Speed Force is dead. Thawne says that's why he created his own Negative Speed Force, so he wouldn't have to rely on a weak and fragile one. Cisco shuts the cell door, and asks Barry what Thawne meant about the Speed Force.

Barry finally tells Cisco and Caitlin about the Force. They offer to help him fix or resurrect it. Barry says he no, as he wants to take a page from Thawne's book, and make his own Speed Force.

Back at the West house, Wally tells Joe goodbye. He says to keep an eye on Iris, as there's something "off" about her.

At the Citizen, Kamilla notices the photo she took of Iris and Wally refused to delete. As she looks closely at the photo, she sees "Iris" appears to be made of faceted energy. Mirror Iris enters and tells Kamilla she's not the real thing. She then raises the Mirror Gun she stole from the Starchives, and shoots Kamilla, seemingly disintegrating her.

• Sigh... Ralph sits out yet another episode. Is he even on the show anymore?

• The episode begins with Russian socialite Maria Volkova flying over Central City in her chopper. She's complaining to a friend on her cell phone, saying, "Ugh, it's way too cold here. I'm taking the yacht down to Santa Prisca for the weekend."

Hmm... That seems like an odd vacation destination. In the comics, Santa Prisca was the site of a notorious Caribbean island prison. It's also where Batman villain Bane was born. It was mentioned once in Season 3 of Arrow.

Maybe Santa Prisca's bigger than we realize, and there's a lot more to it than just the prison.

• Apparently they're using gaming chairs in helicopters these days.

Kudos to the manufacturers of these kinds of chairs, as they've suddenly started popping up in virtually every genre show. They even use them in the shuttles over on The Orville! I guess sci-fi & superhero shows use 'em cause they're cheap and look sleek and somewhat futuristic?

• Maria's chopper inexplicably begins rusting, but Wally West, aka Kid Flash, manages to save everyone inside and prevent any damage. A LOT to unpack in this brief scene...

First of all, the disabled helicopter is heading right for the newly-opened Seaver building (the bifurcated structure in the center of the screen). 

The original Seaver Architects building was destroyed by a bomb placed by Rag Doll (I guess?), back in Season 5's All Doll'd Up. The reason I'm not quite sure it was detonated is because Barry discovered William Seaver, owner of the firm, tied to a chair inside the building. He saw Rag Doll slip away, but before he could try and catch him, the building began collapsing, even though we didn't hear any explosions. I assume Rag Doll was responsible for the collapse, but who the hell knows?

Anyway, apparently construction moves fast in Central CIty, as the entire skyscraper's been replaced in about a year and a half!

Next, Wally leaps onto the back of the flailing chopper and somehow makes numerous copies of himself. These clones then save the passengers and dismantle the chopper in mid-air. 

At first I assumed this was supposed to show us that Wally's so fast he can seemingly be in ten places at once. After watching the scene a second time though, I don't think that's what's happening. If you watch closely, he deliberately pauses for a second, and looks like he's physically willing actual duplicates of himself into existence.

So what are these copies Wally conjures up? Are they time remnants? Or are they a new type of duplicate he learned to make through his Zen training?

Also, once Wally clones himself, his duplicates begin dismantling the ailing chopper— without any tools! How the hell's he doing that? I would think a helicopter would be bolted together pretty tightly. Maybe he's speed-vibrating the pieces apart?

Lastly, how in the name of sanity did Wally gently set these heavy pieces of the chopper on the tarmac without splattering on the ground far below?
He reached the copter by running up the side of the Seaver building and then leaping into the air. But the building's in the far background when he repeatedly lands. Remember, he's just really, really fast— he can't fly. So again, how's he breaking his fall?

• Iris mentions she's been trapped inside the Mirror Dimension for weeks. Note that both she and Eva McCulloch have been wearing the exact same clothes the entire time. Eva then begins freaking out, saying she's been stuck in the dimension for 2,190 days. Does that means she's been wearing her same outfit for six years now?

By the way, Eva says she hopes Iris' family doesn't forget about her as quickly as her own did. Huh? Why would Iris' family forget her, WHEN THERE'S A DUPLICATE THAT'S TAKEN HER PLACE IN THE REAL WORLD? As far as Team Flash is concerned, Iris never disappeared!

• Did you know that Wally's been training with Bhikkhuni Amala, a Buddhist monk who's teaching him the practice of purity and renunciation? It's understandable if you missed this nugget of info, since he only mentioned it eight freakin' times during the episode!

• Cisco returns from his walkabout this week, and shows up wearing... this. What the frak? Was he trying to be incognito, or make everyone who saw him double over with laughter?

I've said it numerous times before, but it bears repeating— Cisco's self-appointed mission to catalog all the changes brought about by the Crisis was completely pointless. As proof, last week Barry 
simply fired up the STAR Labs version of Gideon and asked her to list all the Crisis changes. She found THREE TRILLION such differences, all in less than one minute!

Are we really supposed to believe that Cisco found that many alterations all by himself?

If the writers needed to get rid of him for a few weeks, why not just say he needed to take some time off to get his head straight or for self-reflection?

• Cisco mentions he wants to wash the "Atlantean fish smell" out of his clothes. That's because now that the worlds have merged, Earth-Prime now has an Atlantis (which was formerly located on Earth-2). 

Does that mean there's now an Aquaman on Earth-Prime?

• The Meta Of The Week in this episode is Turtle 2. I'll be honest— I completely forgot there was ever a Turtle 1. Hey, give me a break, eh? This show's been on for six years now. I can't remember every episode in detail!

Anyways, the original Turtle was Russell Glosson, who first popped up in Season 2's Potential Energy. He had the power to absorb the kinetic energy of others into himself, which left them in a state of temporary stasis. Cisco hoped to capture Turtle and figure out how to use his power to slow down Zoom, the Big Bad of Season 2.

• Turtle 2 rapidly ages Maria Volkova, turning her into a desiccated husk. Sometime later Joe and Team Flash arrive on the scene to investigate. Wally takes one look at the mummified Maria and says, "This is the same woman I saved from the helicopter."

What? How the hell could he possibly recognize this dried up corpse as Maria? He probably saw her for thirty seconds a day earlier. And even if her image was burned into his brain, this cadaver looks absolutely nothing like her.

• OK, this is some heavy duty nitpicking, but whatever. When Barry asks who could have killed Maria, Cisco gets out his handy binder and shows him a trading card featuring Turtle 2.

Wow, that's quite a photo of her on that card. Professionally lit and artfully composed. Where the hell did he possibly find a photo like this of a known metahuman criminal? Did he approach her and ask her to pose for him? Because that's the only way this pic could have happened.

• I'm a bit hazy on how Turtle 2's powers work. OK, make that a LOT hazy. Here's how her powers are described in the episode:

Barry: (discussing Maria Volkova) "Well, based on her signal joint T-cell receptors, she was 110 years old when she died."
Joe: "Damn. So the helicopter accident... that wasn't random. Someone targeted her."
Cisco: "Not just any someone. You see the kinetic energy levels on the body?"
Wally: "Yeah, they're almost zero, like someone removed it all."
Barry: "Therefore slowing down the victim, which is how Maria was aged so many years. I mean, real time, it would have been like a second passed, but, for her, it was almost a century."

OK, I've watched this scene and read the transcript a dozen times, and it doesn't make a lick of sense. Basically Turtle 2's powers allow her to radically slow down a victim. And yet somehow this causes them to age a hundred years in a second.

Wait, what? Slowing things down is how you preserve them. That's how you make ice— by stopping the movement of the molecules in a glass of water. Barry's got it all backwards Maria wouldn't age a hundred years in a second, she'd be in stasis as a century went by for us!

• For some reason, Caitlin appears in this episode instead of Frost. So what gives? Did Frost decide to throw Caitlin a bone and let her take control for a bit?

At least they managed to hide Danielle Panabaker's pregnant belly (I refuse to call it a "baby bump") a bit better this week.

• Wally describes his relationship with the Speed Force to Barry, saying, "When I used to talk with the Speed Force, sometimes it would show me visions of different futures, different possibilities of how things could go. There was always one common thread. There was always a speedster that would pick up our mantles, like a chain of lightning stretching through centuries. I saw my kids... running with their kids. I saw Nora. But now that chain of lightning... it ends with us."

Wally's reference to a future family comes from the comics. There, he eventually married Linda Park, and they had twins named Jai and Iris. Due to their connection to the Speed Force, the twins began rapidly aging, until Wally managed to reverse the effect and save them. There's about 50,000 more words I could write about these twins, but I don't have the energy right now.

• Barry watches in horror as the Speed Force— which once again takes the form of his mother— passes away right in front of him. Jesus, how many times has this poor guy been forced to watch his mom die? Four? Five? I've lost count.

• Cisco goes to Nash's office/lab/whatever the hell it is to apologize. Unfortunately Nash isn't Nash anymore, as he's been possessed by Eobard Thawne. 

Kudos to actor Tom Cavanagh in this scene— the instant I saw him, I KNEW he was Thawne and not Nash! Somehow Cavanagh was able to channel Thawne through his facial expression and body language alone! Now that's a good actor!

• Cisco and Thawne battle it out in Nash's office. Eventually Thawne gets the better of Cisco, pinning him to the ground and choking him. Fortunately Cecile shows up and tases Thawne, knocking him out.

As I watched this scene, I wondered if Cisco should have been affected by the taser as well. After all, Thawne had his hands around Cisco's throat, so wouldn't the current go through both of them?

I looked it up, and apparently not. A taser produces a current between two electrodes that are an inch or two apart. When you tase someone, they only feel the shock in the area touched by the electrodes. So Cisco wouldn't have been affected. Well done, writers!

• Turtle 2 gets through the crack security of CCPD and freezes everyone with a kinetic energy blast. She then grabs Joe from behind, and gives him five minutes to hand over the second informant whose testimony jailed her— or she'll kill him. Sure enough, five minutes go by and no informant is brought before her.

Um... she just froze everyone in the building. And she's holding onto Joe. The entire building is basically in stasis. Who the frak did she think was gonna bring the informant to her?

• After the Speed Force "dies," Barry & Wally have a bit of residual energy in them, and when it's gone they'll be powerless. In order to conserve what speed they have left as they rescue Joe, Barry plots a straight line course to CCPD for himself and Wally. He warns Wally that this course will require them to phase through various buildings in their way.

Yeah, wouldn't having to phase in addition to running use up even MORE energy? Would it really be that big a deal to move fifty feet to the left?

• Superhero Landing!

• Man, Thawne is absolutely OBSESSED with vibrating his hand into Cisco's heart! That's all he can think about! When he first encounters Cisco in Nash's office, he tries phasing his hand into his chest, only to realize he has no powers. Later on when he's in the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail, he looks at Cisco and gestures by jabbing his hand at his own heart!

Jesus, Thawne! If you love Cisco's heart so much, why don't you marry it?

• From what I understand, Barry's idea to create his own personal Speed Force comes from a recent comic storyline.

• At the end of the episode, Mirror Iris decides she's had enough of Kamilla. She shoots her with the Mirror Gun, seemingly disintegrating her.

A lot of fans are freaking out right now, convinced that we just saw Kamilla die. Eh, I wouldn't get too worked up about it. It was a pretty lame death, even for a secondary character like Kamilla. Surely if they were really going to kill her they'd have given her a more epic demise.

If I had to guess, I'll bet the gun actually transported her into the Mirror Dimension, and she'll reunite with the real Iris next week.

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