Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Flash Season 7, Episode 2: The Speed Of Thought

Now that's more like it! This week on The Flash we get a much better episode than last week's filler, er, I mean "Season Premiere."

I need to cut these first few episodes a break, as they're unavoidable leftovers from Season 6, which were delayed by the whole pandemic/end of the world thing. Is it any wonder they're disjointed and uneven? Looking forward to the REAL Season 7 to start in a couple weeks.

The best thing about this episode is that it finally gives us the welcome return of both Cisco and Frost. It's about damn time! I covered this last week, but it's worth a repeat— they really should have been present last week to say goodbye to Nash and the Wellses. I'm sure there were valid reasons for, but their absence really torpedoed Nash's death scene.

Although I enjoyed The Speed Of Thought for the most part, it may well go down in history as the most technobabble-heavy episode in the history of the show. Virtually every sentence uttered inside STAR Labs is a good 75% bullshit science. Behold:

Barry: "I know how to open a portal to the Mirrorverse."
Allegra: "Uh, what?"
Cisco: "Yeah, repeat that. For Allegra."
Barry: "All right, I’m sorry. Um… let me show you. Ramsey’s unique cells created a polar covalent bond with the molecules in Eva’s mirror portal. That’s why she needed his blood."
Cisco: "Right, it formed, like, a bio-friendly skin on the interdimensional barrier."
Allegra: "So we need Ramsey’s blood. We knew that."
Barry: "No, we don’t need it. His blood would have bonded with the electronegative particles and become dark matter photons. Those particles wouldn’t just stay on the mirror portal."
Cisco: "No, they wouldn’t. They’d attach themselves to Eva. Those photons are still on her. If we could collect them, we could open our portal. But it would take, like... years to develop a prototype that could do that."
Barry: "Not if we integrate the neural net in the Thinker’s chair, synced to a nanite bridge, fed into the Tachyon Enhancer’s non-reductive loop."

Holy cow! And I thought Star Trek: The Next Generation got carried away with its long swaths of technobabble! This episode makes that series hang its had in shame. If you understood any of Barry & Cisco's palaver, you're a better man (or woman!) than me!

Lastly, remember the end of Crisis On Infinite Earths, Part Five, when the heroes became the Arrowverse's Justice League? Barry even converted an old STAR Labs facility into the Hall Of Justice!

He also debuted a customized roundtable, where this new League could meet and plan strategies. It was all right out of the Super Friends cartoon, and it was awesome to finally see these elements in live action.

Annnnnnnd then we never saw any of this stuff again. So what the hell happened to all this? Where's the Justice League? Why haven't they ever teamed up since the Crisis? Why haven't we seen the Hall or the table again? 

What the hell was the point of introducing any of this if they never planned on ever using it?


The Plot:
At STAR Labs, Team Flash— including Cisco, who's finally returned— are mourning the death of Nash and all the other Wellses. Cisco places Nash's bandolier on a plinth and says they'll never be forgotten.

Joe tells Barry not to blame himself for Nash's death. Barry says it feels like his heart and emotions are his enemies' greatest weapon, as they constantly use them against him. If you recognize that sentiment is the theme of this episode, then go to the head of the class.

Allegra stares at the photo of Nash & her doppelgänger and mopes. Suddenly her laptop comes to life, as she somehow gets an email from Iris, who's still trapped in the Mirrorverse. Allegra reads the email, in which Iris invites Kamilla & Singh— who are both in the Mirrorverse as well— to meet her at in the Speed Lab at a specific time.

Meanwhile, Cisco's been busy since his return, as he's used Atlantean tech to create a device that'll open a portal into the Mirrorverse. Unfortunately it doesn't work. As Cisco tries to figure out what went wrong, Barry "sees" a complex formula in his mind that'll fix the device and writes it out on a board. Cisco's puzzled and unnerved by Barry's burst of brilliance.

Barry says in order to rescue their people from their Mirrorverse, they'll need to know their locations. Just then Allegra enters, and says that thanks to Iris' email, they now know exactly where everyone will be at a precise time.

Cisco realizes the Artificial Speed Force has also enhanced Barry's mental capacities, allowing him to analyze millions of calculations and probabilities in seconds. Cisco tests this theory with the Quantum Ball— a device that, when thrown, moves in completely random and unpredictable directions. He hurls it at Barry, who anticipates its every move and catches it.

Barry then announces he's figured out how to access the Mirroverse— but it'll require siphoning dark matter photons from Eva. Cisco says it might work, but it'll take days to create a device to do so. Barry cobbles one together while Cisco's talking, and predicts which Black Hole site Eva will strike next.

In the Mirrorverse, Iris finds Kamilla at their meeting place. Iris tells her she's slowly learning how to control the Mirrorverse. She says they need to find Singh and escape before their minds are destroyed by the backwards realm.

Eva shows up a Black Hole site, where she's confronted by three armed guards. She blasts one, causing the other two to hightail it out of there. Barry & Cisco watch from the shadows. Cisco warns Barry that even with his speed at 100%, he's still slower than Eva, who can move at the speed of light. Barry says he called in backup.

Just then Killer Frost arrives and blasts Eva. While she's distracted, Barry swoops in and drains the dark matter particles from Eva's body before she knows what happened. Eva then fires a ohotonic blast at Frost. Barry starts to save her, then hesitates and stops. Frost takes the full force of the blast and is knocked unconscious (there's a lot of that in this episode). Eva then ducks into a nearby reflective surface and flees.

Back at STAR, Cisco unsuccessfully attempts to treat Frost. He accuses Barry of deliberately letting her get hit. Barry coldly and emotionlessly admits this, claiming that saving Frost would have endangered the dark matter containment unit. He then uses his superspeed to whip up a cure for Frost.

Cisco protests, saying they need to test the cure first, but Barry administers it anyway. Frost wakes a few seconds later, shaken but otherwise OK. Cisco grumbles that Barry got lucky.

Team Flash then sees Eva on a local talk show (?), hosted by Arielle Atkins, whoever the hell that is. Barry analyzes the footage at superspeed and determines the real Eva died long ago, and all this time they've been dealing with a mirror duplicate. At the studio, Eva tells Arielle she brought a video clip to show how she's using science to better the world. Barry uses his super-smarts to hack into both McCulloch Tech and the TV station. He then plays the video we saw last week of the real Eva dying and a mirror clone being created.

Arielle freaks the hell out and accuses Eva of being a meta or a shapeshifter or worse. Eva panics and jumps into the nearest mirror. Cisco & Frost both scold Barry, saying his actions just made the already unstable Eva even worse. Barry calmly says it was all part of his plan, as Eva's now distracted and won't notice when they open a portal to the Mirrorverse.

Barry then activates Gideon The Helpful AI, and they determine they don't have enough dark matter photons to rescue everyone— they can either save Iris (who's been trapped longer and will take more resources to spring) or Kamilla & Singh together.

Barry tells Cisco, Frost & Allegra the situation, and says they should vote on who to save. The others are appalled at his callous attitude, especially when he votes for Iris. The rest claim they should rescue as many people as they can— or better yet, find a way to get everyone back. Barry realizes he has to act alone.

In the Mirrorverse, Iris & Kamilla make their way to STAR Labs. There they find Singh, who staggers toward them and collapses. Iris says he's in bad shape because he was shot with Eva's photonic raygun, rather than yanked into the realm as she was. Kamilla gulps and says she was hit with the ray too. She then promptly passes out and drops to the floor as well.

In the real world, Cisco tells Barry that Eobard Thawne used negative emotions to power his own Speed Force (Comic Book Science!). He says the Artificial Speed Force that Nash & Chester constructed works differently, as it uses an alloy that's robbing Barry of all emotion— positive and negative (even more Comic Book Science!). Barry doesn't see a problem with this, but Cisco says having emotions is what makes them human.

Cisco glances at what Barry's doing, and realizes he's planning to free Iris. Cisco says they'll find a way to save everyone like they always do, but Barry says Iris has knowledge about Eva that will give them a tactical advantage— meaning she's the logical choice. He says Kamilla and Singh are expendable, much to Cisco's horror.

Cisco then powers up some sort of high-tech shotgun and aims it at Barry. Frost and Allegra enter as well, surrounding him. Cisco tells Barry the others aren't expendable, and says he's going to give him his heart back by choice or force.

Barry springs into action, and Cisco shoots him with a dose of Velocity 0, which will supposedly suppress his powers. For some reason it has no effect (?), and Barry knocks Cisco & Allegra on their asses. He then hurls the Quantum Ball and zooms out of the Lab.

Frost injects herself with Velocity X, which gives her temporary speedster powers. She chases Barry through Central City, but ultimately he manages to knock her down. Barry taunts Frost, saying her speed's almost gone. She says running fast isn't the only power she has, and throws a Speed Force Lightning/Ice Blast combo at him, knocking him off balance.

Just then Allegra uses one of Nash's teleportation smoke bombs to arrive on the scene with Cisco. She throws another bomb, teleporting everyone back to STAR. Before they can incapacitate Barry though, the randomly bouncing Quantum Ball he threw earlier returns. It hits Cisco in the head and drops him. It then smacks into Allegra, causing her to fire a blast of UV energy at herself and Frost, knocking them both out (this plays out live just as confusingly as it reads).

Barry says this was all part of his plan. He then activates the portal to the Mirrorverse, where Iris is attempting to save Kamilla and Singh. Iris is overjoyed to see him standing on the other side, and asks her to help her with the others.

Barry says he's there for just her, not the others. Puzzled, she refuses to leave with out Kamilla and Singh. Barry turns up the power on the portal, which expands its reach, pulling Iris toward it. She resists, using her control over the Mirrorverse to destabilize the portal. Eventually she's yanked back into the real world.

Before Barry can congratulate himself, Iris begins convulsing and collapses. Barry admits he didn't see this outcome. Furious, he throws a bolt of lightning at the Artificial Speed Force generator. It shorts out, and his speed is pulled from his body (huh?).

Elsewhere, Eva sits in the corner of her office, rocking back & forth as she mutters "It's not my world" over and over. She then looks at herself in a mirror, smiles and says that it CAN be her world.

At CCPD, Officer Korber (who popped up several times in Season 6) is leaving for the night, when a pair of arms extend from a nearby mirror and grab her.

Cut to several years ago, back when Eobard Thawne confronted the original Harrison Wells. He uses a device to steal Wells' appearance, which kills him and leaves his body a desiccated husk. Thawne then buries Wells' body and zooms away. Sometime later, green energy erupts from the grave and forms itself into Harrison Wells.

• As the episode begins, Team Flash is gathered in what I assume must be the STAR Labs Memorial Room.

We then see they're holding a remembrance service, as Cisco as he solemnly places Nash's bandolier on a mannequin. Gosh, it's too bad he couldn't be bothered to show up last week to say goodbye to his friend in his final moments.

• At the service, Cisco tells the others, "This wall is nano-engraved with the names of everyone we've lost. So no matter how the timeline changes, they'll never be forgotten."

First of all, that was definitely a shot at Barry and his frequent history-altering shenanigans. 

Secondly, I think thee writing staff is confused about the world "nano." It literally means "one billionth," but can also mean "very small or minute."

So Cisco's saying the names are so small they can't be changed by time? Comic Book Science! Unfortunately this is just the first of many, MANY instances of nonsensical technobabble in this episode.

Also, I kinda doubt Nash ever had abs like the one on that dummy.

• The Memorial Room is filled with artifacts from various fallen team members and allies. Unfortunately we never get any closeup looks at the items on display. According to the Official Flash Wiki, the room contains:

— Harry Wells' glasses
— HR's drumsticks
— Sherloque's brandy bottle
— Captain Cold's goggles
— Jesse Wells' jacket
— Oliver Queen's Arrow mask
— Ronnie Raymond's Firestorm harness

The only item we see clearly is Nora West-Allen's XS jacket.

It's anyone's guess as to how Team Flash could possibly have obtained some of these artifacts. Like Nora's jacket, for example. She was wearing it when the timeline was altered and she was erased from existence! How the hell could her clothes exist if she was never born?

• Is it weird that Allegra keeps staring at this photo of Nash? I get that it's the only image she has left of him, and as such is important to her. But that's not Allegra in the photo! It's her doppelgänger Maya from Earth-719, who was Nash's protege and traveled the Multiverse with him! Seems like she ought to be creeped out by seeing him with a perfect copy of her.

• When Cisco returns from Atlantis, he builds a portal to the Mirrorverse. Later in the episode, a copy of this device is sitting inside the Mirror STAR Labs.

The Artificial Speed Forcer Generator is present and accounted for there as well. Wait... what? How the hell did all that stuff get there? Does everything that's added to the real STAR Labs
 get, er, reflected in the Mirrorverse version? 

How the heck does that happen? Did mirror versions of Team Flash construct these devices? Did they just magically appear? Or do the writers hope the audience doesn't think too hard about any of this?

• Cisco can't get his portal to work, and starts working on an equation to fix it. Suddenly Barry recites the complex calculation before Cisco has a chance to write it down. When he asks how he did that, Barry replies that he "saw" Cisco scribble it on a board. To me those words imply that Barry somehow looked into the future.

But that's not what's happening at all. Later on we find out that Barry's mind is moving so fast that he's calculating every conceivable possibility in his mind. Which is completely different from seeing the future. The writers could have clarified the dialogue here a bit better.

• The idea of Barry having speed-thinking has been actually brought up before— specifically in the Season 6 premiere Into The Void. In that episode, we get a rare glimpse of Team Flash's home life, as the characters have a cookout. Of course they end up talking shop, and have the following conversation:

Barry: "How's the MAC coming?"
Kamilla: "There's mac and cheese too?"
Caitlin: "No, the Mental Augmentation Chamber. Basically, it allows us to tap into the Speed Force to boost Barry's cognitive abilities. It would allow him to see every possible outcome to a scenario at the same time."
Kamilla: "So speed-thinking."
Barry: "Which means we'll be able to catch all the bad guys faster."

Looks like they were planting the seeds for this plot element a full year ago. Actually The Speed Of Thought was intended as the penultimate episode of Season 6, so it's simply paying off the setup in the premiere.

I still contend that Barry's had to have had some form of speed-thinking from the beginning. It'd be a necessary function of his very survival as a speedster. 

Imagine if he's tooling along through Central City at Mach 3 (2,532 mph), which is supposedly his top speed (depending on the season, episode & plot needs). Then imagine a truck pulls out in front of him. Without some form of super-quick thinking he'd plow right into the side of it and kill himself.

I suppose one could argue that I'm talking about reaction time here and not thought, but they seem like pretty similar functions to me.

• I gotta say, it was great seeing Frost back again this week! Fun fact: She wasn't originally supposed to be in this episode.

As we all know, Season 6 was cut short by the pandemic, so the final three episodes were relegated to the beginning of Season 7. When production shut down, actress Danielle Pannabaker was on maternity leave for the rest of the season. 

But by the time filming resumed late in 2020, she'd already had the kid, recovered and sent it off to boarding school. OK, maybe not that last part, but she was now free to return to the show and film the final two episodes of the Mirrorverse Saga. The writers then rejiggered the episodes to include her again. So for once something good came from Covid!

• Using his speed-thinking, Barry determines they need dark matter photons in order to spring Iris and the others from the Mirrorverse. Team Flash then confronts Eva, and Barry uses a device he constructed to extract the particles from her body.

When Eva attacks Frost, Barry just stands there and lets her get hit. When Cisco accuses him of deliberately endangering Frost's life, Barry explains, "There was a .0002% percent chance of the tachyon enhancer getting damaged in that scenario. I couldn't risk that.

I guess it never occurred to Mr. Speed Thinking that he could have simply removed the tachyon collector from his chest, handed it to Cisco and THEN rescued Frost. Jaysis!

• This is some pretty hardcore nitpicking, but whatever. Once Barry begins speed-thinking, he speaks like an android, no longer using contractions and using far more words than necessary.

Wouldn't it be just the opposite? Wouldn't he use fewer words in order to keep up with his rapidly racing thoughts? To quote Kevin from The Office, "Why use lot word when few word do trick?

Obviously the change in his speech is meant to demonstrate how he's losing all emotion, but still...

• Barry determines that Eva McCulloch died the night the Particle Accelerator exploded, and they've been battling a mirror duplicate. When Cisco doesn't believe this, Barry states, "I slept in the same bed with a mirror duplicate of Iris without knowing the difference."

Sigh... the show's never gonna deal with the fallout from that fact, is it? Think of all the drama that could generate. Barry cheated on his wife with an evil copy of her. That's gotta be worth a fight or three.

• Last week I discussed the Season 6 finale, which ended on a cliffhanger as Iris turned into a prism and disappeared, leaving Kamilla all alone in the Mirrorverse. Oddly enough, there was absolutely no follow up or resolution to any of this in the Season 7 premiere. In fact it was almost as if the writers forgot about it, or decided to alter the plot during the hiatus.

This week they pay some slight lip service to the puzzling cliffhanger, as Iris & Kamilla have this brief exchange: 

Kamilla: "Iris! Thank God. When you disappeared, I thought that neural dissonance sickness got you."
Iris: "Yeah, well, she (Eva) tried to use it against me, but I was able to fight her off. I think I’ve been in this place for so long that I’ve gained control over it. I think that’s how I was able to send you and Singh that message."

Well, that explained nothing! At least they sort of acknowledge what we saw on screen though.

I'm starting to believe this was another side effect of Season 6 being cut short by Covid. In its original context, Iris' disappearance was never meant to be a season-ending cliffhanger. But it was forced to become one after production was shut down. This made the scene seem MUCH more important than it really was.

• Eva goes on the Arielle Atkins show to promote McCulloch Tech or something. Barry then uses his hacking skills to play the clip of Eva dying and her mirror duplicate being created.

Arielle Atkins then IMMEDIATELY FLIPS THE HELL OUT, calling Eva a meta or worse and doing everything but unloading both barrels of a shotgun at her. Her over the top reaction came off as unintentionally hilarious.

A normal person would have probably watched the clip and reacted with confusion and mild curiosity, not called for torches & pitchforks.

• Very obviously the theme of this week's episode is emotion vs. logic. Oddly enough, all the cold, calculating decisions that Speed-Thinking Barry makes are consistently the right ones. The only time he flubs one is when he fails to factor human emotion into the equation.

If you'll recall, the same thing happened to The Thinker back in Season 4. Now that I think about it, this episode's fairly similar to his entire arc.

• I loved seeing the members of Team Flash band together and use their various powers to stop Barry. Even Allegra, who managed to be particularly useful this week, and much less annoying than usual. Not only did she use the crystal that Nash gave her in the Season 6 finale, but she used one of his teleportation smoke bombs as well.

• OK, I'm confused. During the showdown between Barry & Team Flash, Cisco shoots him (twice!) with Velocity 0, which is designed to temporarily dampen his speed. Immediately afterward though Barry continues zipping around the Lab, and even zooms out the building and down the street.

So does Velocity 0 suppress his speed or not? He was clearly hit with the serum, so why does he act like nothing happened as he flies through Central City? I've watched this scene twelve times and still don't get it. Am I missing something here?

• In the episode's best sequence, Frost injects herself with Velocity X, which temporarily makes her a speedster. I gotta say, I did NOT see that one coming! 

Frost is only the second non-speedster character to use a Velocity serum. The first was Eliza Harmon, aka Trajectory, in the Season 2 episode Trajectory.

As cool as it was though, this scene opens up a huge, industrial size can of Plot Worms. As fast as Barry is, there are many times when even his speed isn't enough to stop the Villain Of The Week. But if the rest of Team Flash can temporarily become speedsters whenever they want, then... why don't they? Few Big Bads would stand a chance against an entire squad of Flashes.

Based on what we learned in past episodes, Velocity X is supposedly addictive, so that's likely their excuse for not using it. But surely it'd be safe to use sparingly— say once every season finale.

• How cool (heh) was Barry & Frost's speedster case through Central City? I think my favorite part was when Frost threw up a quick ice wall, and Barry phases right through it! Awesome!

Still not sure how superspeed allows one to run up the side of a building or stick to the side of it, but whatever.

• So Frost is dead now, right? At one point during her superspeed chase, she falls five hundred feet and lands right on top of a car. I guess maybe we're supposed to believe that the Velocity X in her system gave her speed-healing and saved her?

There's just one problem with that theory. According to the Official Flash Wiki, Velocity X just makes people run fast. It doesn't give them other speedster benefits, like an aura to protect them from friction, or super fast healing abilities.

• To top off their battle, Frost summons all her power and unleashes a Speed Force Ice Lightning Bolt on Barry! That's definitely a term I never thought I'd ever type.

As amazing as it was, it didn't really seem to actually do much. I figured it'd encase him in a ball of crackling ice or something, but instead it just knocked him across the street.

• Barry ignores his teammates and opens the portal to rescue Iris from the Mirrorverse. Quite rightly she refuses to leave without Kamilla and Singh, so Barry ups the portal's power and forcibly pulls her through it.

Um... was it really necessary to use a stuntwoman for this scene? That clearly isn't Candace Patton being pulled two whole feet across the floor. I dunno if Patton refused to do the "stunt," or the producers were just being overly cautious and called in a professional.

• After Barry rescues Iris from the Mirrorverse, she promptly collapses and is near death. The coldly logical and emotionless Barry then throws a major hissy fit. He hurls a bolt of lightning at the Artificial Speed Force generator, shorting it out. Barry instantly doubles over in pain as the speed's sucked from his body. A couple things here...

Last season the Speed Force died, but Barry was still able to run his residual energy for months and months. This week he destroys the ASF generator and INSTANTLY loses his powers! Wait, what?

I suppose we could be generous here and say the Artificial Speed Force works differently than the real one, hence Barry loses his mojo much more quickly. I suppose we could say that, but I don't see why we should.

Secondly, when the speed energy's drawn from his body, it's a bright electric blue instead of its usual yellow color. Was that color snafu a mistake by the FX team, or does it have some actual meaning?

Lastly, doesn't it seem a slap in the face to destroy the ASF right after Nash and the other Wellses gave their lives to power it?

• Late in the third act, Eva sits in a corner & rocks herself, moaning, "This isn't my world, this isn't my world" over and over. Hey, I know how you feel, sister! I do & say the exact same thing in my house every night after work!

• In the final scene, a CCPD officer is leaving for the night, when a pair of arms extend from a nearby mirror and grab her.

At first I thought this hapless cop was just a random Victim Of The Week. Turns out we've seen her many times before. She's Officer Korber, who appeared several times in Season 6 in Into The Void, Love Is A Battlefield, Death Of The Speed Force and The Exorcism Of Nash Wells

Based on the preview for next week's episode, it appears Eva's building an army of mirror duplicates.

• In the tag scene, we see a flashback to the night several years ago when Eobard Thawne killed the ORIGINAL Harrison Wells and morphed into his form.

Jesus Christ! That image of Wells turning into a desiccated husk will be starring in my nightmares tonight!

At some point after this, we get a shot of Wells' shallow grave. Suddenly he's magically reconstituted, courtesy of the best special effects 1986 had to offer.

So what the hell's happening here? How'd he come back to life? Did the mental energy of all the Wellses who died in the Crisis go back in time and rebuild him? Did someone cast a spell over his grave? Is this a result of the Particle Accelerator explosion? Are these green sparkles the Swamp Thing's doing?

Honestly at this point I have no idea. I'm inclined to think it's something to do with the Speed Force, but its energy usually manifests itself as yellow, not green. I'm pretty sure this green stuff is something new that we've not seen before.

Also, thanks to this scene we now know what version of Harrison Wells we're getting in Season 7— the original! I think we've only seen the OG Wells in flashback form before, which means he's never met or interacted with Team Flash before! So that should be interesting. 

And unless I'm mistaken, this Wells also died before realizing his dream of building STAR Labs and the Particle Accelerator. That'll be a shock when he arrives in Central City and sees his dream's been realized without him. No doubt his first words will be, "Why's there a hole in the roof? Why doesn't someone use their superpowers to fix that?"

It's also a bit vague as to just when he's being resurrected. As filmed, it could either be seconds after he was killed years ago, or the present day. Stay tuned to find out which!

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