Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The Flash Season 8, Episode 12: Death Rises

This week on The Flash we get a slight bit of progress in the ongoing Deathstorm Saga, as the deadly fire demon goes on a rampage and gets thirsty for Caitlin (no, really!).

Unfortunately Death Rises feels a lot like a dreaded filler episode. Nothing much really happenes, as the characters all stand around rehashing the plot points that we're all very familiar with by now. 

I assume this was done because actor Robbie Amell agreed to come back for just two episodes. By cramming a filler episode in between his appearances, they were able to drag out the Deathstorm Saga for an extra week. Pret-tee sneaky, sis!

Despite the filler shenanigans, it still managed to be a relatively decent outing— just not a very exciting one.

I gotta say I'm growing very weary of the whole Iris Time Sickness plot at this point. For weeks now we've seen the exact same scene— Iris clutches her head in pain as her sickness flares up, Sue looks worried and Deon appears and says he doesn't know what's wrong with her.

This entire arc is virtually identical to the execrable Mirrorverse Saga in Season 6, in which Iris and Eva McCullough stood in the exact same room and did nothing but talk for weeks and weeks on end.

Supposedly Candace Patton (aka Iris) wanted some time off from the show (?), so I'm betting they filmed a crap-ton of these scenes early in the season, and are now doling them out a little at a time in each episode. That would explain why this whole arc seems completely disconnected from the rest of the show, like it's from a different show altogether.

I still think the writers are doing a simplified version of the "Iris Is Actually From The Future" storyline that appeared in The Flash comic back in the 1980s. There are rumors that Patton's chomping at the bit to leave the show, and sending her to the future would be the perfect way to write her off.

That would pretty much destroy the series though, as we'd then get no more "We Are The Flash" exclamations from Iris, and no more "Running Home To You" scenes between her and Barry.

Lastly, I just want to say that I feel bad that these reviews are coming out increasingly later as time goes on. Part of that's due to life— I have a full time job and a household to run, and there are only so many hours in a day.

But it also has to do with my annoying habit of gradually overcomplicating everything I do. As you may have noticed, these reviews have gradually become longer and more elaborate over the years. For example, my very first Flash review clocked in at a brisk 1,891 words. The most recent one was a ponderous 12,475! 

In addition, I'm now adding tons of screen shots, animated gifs and dialogue quotes. I've even started researching shooting locations! 

I need an editor to rein me in, stat!


The Plot:
Picking up right where we left off last week, Deathstorm appears before Caitlin, announcing that life is an aberration, and he's come to end it everywhere. He tells her she completes him as he grabs her by the shoulders, intent on incinerating her.

Caitlin cries out, and Flash arrives a split second later. He fires a lightning bolt at Deathstorm, causing him to drop Caitlin. Deathstorm blasts Flash across the room and flies off (He flies now? He flies now.).

Later in the STAR Labs Med Bay, Caitlin says she's lucky to be alive. She realizes Ronnie's most sincerly dead, and apologizes to Barry for not believing him. Team Flash asks her about Deathstorm, but she doesn't know who he is, where he comes from or why he seems to want her. 
Barry tells Frost & Allegra to keep Caitlin safe, while he tries to find Deathstorm.

Cecile enters STAR and violates Barry's privacy by saying she senses he's hurting. He tells her Iris' time sickness caused her to disappear, and no one knows where she is. Just then he gets a text from Sue, who just happens to say Iris is back. He speeds away to the loft.

Iris wonders how she survived Tinya's attack last week, and Barry theorizes that her sickness pulled her into the Still Force to protect her. Iris points out that the Still Force contains ALL time— past, present and future. She ominously says that when she was in it, she couldn't see her own future.

Just then Barry gets a Flash Alert from Kristen. He figures it must be serious if she's calling him, and Sue assures him she'll watch over Iris.

Flash arrives at CCPD, where the cops are inundated with calls about Deathstorm, who's gone on a killing rampage. Flash tells Kristen that Deathstorm feeds off of grief, and he doesn't know how to fight him.

Kristen's at a loss as to how to deal with such a meta threat, but Joe (who's in her office for no good reason) says he was in her position once and she'll do fine. Kristen orders the city locked down, and tells her officers not to engage Deathstorm if they spot him.

Back at STAR, Chester says he can no longer track the Fire Meta now that it's taken on Deathstorm's humanoid form. Barry wonders if Cecile's powers could help them locate him. Chester rigs up a technobabble device that'll synch his monitors with Cecile's mind and allow her to sense Deathstorm.

In the Med Lab, Caitlin blames herself for trying to get Ronnie back and inadvertently unleashing Deathstorm. Frost says it's not her fault, as Ronnie was her husband and she can't help still loving and missing him.

Back at the loft, Iris & Sue doze. Suddenly Deon appears, and Iris tells him she's getting worse. He says he's afraid her time sickness has affected him too, as he can no longer see the future inside the Still Force.

Deon says once he's back to full strength he'll try to find Tinya's mom (who Iris seemingly disintegrated a few episodes back). In the meantime, he creates some sort of time energy bubble and places it in Iris' chest, in order to track her when she disappeasrs. He then says something's wrong as he falls down and vanishes in a burst of energy.

Chester hooks up Cecile to his monitors, and tells her to try and locate any large pockets of grief that could attract Deathstorm. She senses one inside STAR Labs (the call's coming from inside the house!). Just then the lights go out, and Cecile's eyes turn all black as she's possessed by Deathstorm. The fire demon tells Barry they'll never be able to stop him.

Cecile reverts to normal, and says she could feel Deathstorm's determination. She says he won't ever stop till he gets what he wants— namely Caitlin.

Elsewhere in STAR, Allegra's walking through the halls when she sees her late cousin Esperanza. She figures it's Deathstorm messing with her, as the two trade barbs. They both blast each other simultaneously with their UV powers, as Allegra's knocked out.

Chester picks up the ruckus on the monitors, and Barry speeds to the scene. He finds Allegra on the floor, and no sign of Esperanza. Allegra says it was Deathstorm, and wonders why he's targeting her now.

We then get another repetitive Iris scene, as Sue tries to calm her down after Deon's disappearance. Suddenly Iris begins blinking in & out of existence, as Sue tells her to fight it. Eventually Iris manages to stabilize herself.

Joe (who seems to be wandering aimlessly in this episode) finds Barry moping in the Lounge. Barry frets that he doesn't know how to stop Deathstorm, and Joe gives him a Patented The CW Pep Talk®, saying he's stopped countless metas before, and he'll figure out how to do it again.

Back in the Med Lab, Caitlin dozes off while Frost sketches. Deathstorm appears and blasts Frost across the room, knocking her unconscious. He then grabs Caitlin and flies off with her.

Chester's monitors detect Deathstorm, and track him flying through the city with Caitlin. Barry chases after him, but the fire demon's too high to reach. Barry gets the bright idea to toss bolts of Speed Force Lightning ahead of him, and use them like stepping stones to run across the sky (!).

He reaches Deathstorm, but just as he's about to grab him the demon opens a portal and disappears inside it. Barry falls back to the ground, defeated.

Deathstorm takes Caitlin to an amusement park just outside Central City— which seems like an odd place for a "grief vampire" to go. He scans the crowd— actually finding a few grieving people— and incinerates them. We then see him absorbing their grief.

Caitlin tells Deathstorm to get it over with and kill her already. He says he's come to end his loneliness, as he intends to make her his bride (!). He cltches her and begins burning her with his black flame.

Chester detects the flames and Barry zooms to the scene. He finds several corpses, and sees Caitlin kneeling calmly on the ground. He asks what happened, and she says Deathstorm told her she's "not ready."

Back at STAR, Caitlin gives herself a physical and says her cells are in a state of constant regeneration or something, and she's currently not aging. She figures Deathstorm's trying to change her into a creature like himself.

Barry tells Chester & Allegra that when he chased Deathstorm, he got a brief glimpse inside his portal. He says it looked like the black hole that Chester absorbed a couple years ago. He figures Ronnie's grief somehow created the demon inside the singularity, and it's taken this long for it to travel back to our dimension.

Chester says he could modify the MAC (Mental Augmentation Chamber) to emit singularity particles, which they could use to defeat Deathstorm— but they'd need a human vessel to contain the energy. Frost volunteers, saying she was literally born to keep Caitlin safe.

Back at the hotel, Iris wakes and senses something watching her. She gets up to see what it is, and her ex Eddie Thawne steps out of the shadows, saying it's great to see her again.

• When Caitlin recovers from her assault, Team Flash gathers around and asks what the hell attacked her. She says "It calls itself Deathstorm."

Note that this name gets absolutely zero reaction out of Barry, which is odd. Way back in Season 2's Welcome To Earth-2, Barry, Cisco & Harry journeyed to that world in order to rescue Jessie Wells from the clutches of the evil Zoom. While there, they met Zoom's two enforcers— Killer Frost, and an evil version of Firestorm who called himself... Deathstorm.

This Deathstorm even killed the Earth-2 Joe in that episode! There's no way in hell Barry would forget a thing like that, which makes it all the more strange that he acted like he'd never heard the name before.

Did the producers not want to confuse things by bringing up a previous version of the character? Was the Earth-2 Deathstorm wiped out by the Crisis? Or did the writers simply forget any of this ever happened? I vote for the latter.

• Speaking of Killer Frost... I MUCH preferred her original Earth-2 appearance. She was downright hot (heh) in Welcome To Earth-2, and it's a shame they didn't use that look for the Earth Prime Frost.

• I know I keep harping on this, but I think it's worth mentioning. Back in Phantoms, Iris decided to take a trip with Sue to Coast City, and left Allegra in charge of CCC Media. Allegra's then spent every moment of every episode ever since hanging out at STAR Labs. I suppose it's possible she may be running the place remotely or scheduling Zoom calls with the staff, but it seems unlikely.

• Cecile shows up and tells Barry, "Look, from the second I walked into STAR Labs, I could feel how worried you are. But what I'm sensing, it's way more than just concern. You're hurting, badly. Hey, what's going on?"

Remember back in The Fire Next Time when Barry asked Cecile to read Jaco Birch's mind to find out if he was guilty? And remember how she got all hoity and "that wouldn't be ethical" on him, and refused to do so?

Welp, she's freely invaded the minds of each and every one of her friends and family every week since then. Heck, she does it at least TWICE in this episode alone— once right in front of Barry while he's looking at her. So which is it, Cecile? Is reading a person's mind without permission moral or not?

• At one point, Deathstorm— who feeds on human grief— attacks a man sitting at a bus stop, who's sobbing and holding a bouquet of flowers. 
I assume he must have planned a big night out and been shot down by his crush? That would generate disappointment more than grief though. Maybe he's gonna lay the flowers on someone's grave?

Whatever the victim's doing, we see that Deathstorm apparently has a flair for the theatrical. Instead of simply killing the poor guy where he stands, he flies him high into the air, incinerates him and then lets his charred corpse fall hundreds of feet below to the pavement! Ta-daaaa!

• At the loft, Barry gets an alert from Kristen— her first since he gave her his special Flash Signaler a couple episodes ago. He ignores her message though, saying he can't leave Iris alone. Bitch, Sue's standing five feet away from you! What the hell is she, chopped liver?

• Joe has literally nothing to do again this week, as he wanders from one set to another for no discernible reason. 

Ever since the writers had his character retire from the force, it's clear they have absolutely no idea what to do with him. Which is probably why Jesse L. Martin's announced he's leaving the show at the end of the season.

• Remember in the early days of the series when Barry would hide his secret identity by vibrating his face to make it blurry, along with altering his voice? Welp, the writers sure don't! 

I had to laugh at this scene in which Officer Korber enters Kristen's office and talks directly to the Flash. He doesn't make the slightest effort to conceal his true identity, and yet somehow she doesn't pick up on the fact that she's clearly talking to her co-worker Barry Allen. 

Maybe she actually does know and she's just playing along to be polite?

• The Flash has always featured its fair share of nonsensical technobabble, but they shoveled it on extra thick in this episode. Attend:

Allegra: "So wait, you want to use Cecile as, like, a Deathstorm compass?"
Barry: "Yeah, think about it. Deathstorm absorbs grief. Grief is an emotion."
Cecile: "My powers. My powers feel other people's emotions, even from a distance."
Chester: "If we can figure out a way to interface Cecile's empath powers with STAR's search systems, it would be like using a wireless neurogenic array synced with the Med Lab's synaptic monitoring relay!"

In other words, "If we can meld completely different branches of science by combining two incompatible pieces of technology, we can do the thing to move the plot along!"

• When gushing about his wireless neurogenic array, Chester utters another of his Black History Month oaths, saying, "Holy Paschal Beverly Randolph!"

As I've pointed out ad nauseam the past few weeks, I don't object to the idea of these exclamations— I'm bothered by the fact that they tend to be irrelevant, and have nothing to do with the current situation. For example, Paschal Beverly Randolph was a multiracial doctor, occultist, spiritualist and writer, who introduced the principles of erotic alchemy to North America (!).

If you can figure out what any of that has to do with hooking up Cecile to some psychic machine, I'll eat my hat!

I feel like the writers have a copy of The Big Book Of African-American Scientists, and just pull names from it at random and stick them into their scripts.

• While keeping Iris company, Sue reads a copy of Uncaged Desire.

We've actually seen this book many times before in the Arrowverse. It was written by Rebecca Silver, aka Mick Rory, aka Heat Wave of Legends Of Tomorrow fame, back when he was authoring romance novels. It appeared on The Flash as well, back in Season 5's The Flash And The Furious. In that episode, Barry was cooling his heels in the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail for reasons, and Sherloque Wells brought him a copy of the book to pass the time.

It looks like they may have dug up the original prop and handed it to Sue!

• Deon appears in the loft to help Iris. He states that as the Still Force, he can see everyone's future— except Iris.' He then looks worried, exclaims, "Yo, something's wrong" and vanishes in a cloud of temporal energy. 

So... I guess he must not have been able to see HIS own future either then, right? Else he'd have known he was about to disappear. Unless this is one of those deals where he knows the future but isn't allowed to change it, and just has to go with the flow. If that's the case though, then there'd be no advantage to being the Still Force— there'd be no free will and he'd be like the rest of us, being swept uncontrollably along the river of time.

• Once again, Deon very carefully and deliberately calls Iris by her name. No more referring to her "Mom," as he did back in Season 7. I'm still convinced this is due to the producers being blindsided by the overwhelmingly negative backlash to the whole "Barry & Iris Are The Four Forces' Parents" thing from last year— causing them to hurriedly pivot and send that idea into the cornfield where it belongs.

• In order to locate Deathstorm, Chester hooks up Cecile to his psychic wifi and tells her to "concentrate on any large pockets of grief." So all she has to do is look for any theaters playing The Last Jedi, amirite? Hi-YOOOOO!!!

• How do you feature an expensive CGI character like Deathstorm all through an episode when you have a limited FX budget? Why, by rarely ever showing him, that's how! 

In order to avoid rendering Deathstorm, the producers have him possess Cecile and speak through her. He takes the form of Allegra's cousin Esperanza, and Eddie Thawne (maybe) as well!

While this all makes good financial sense, I can't help but feel a bit cheated by it. We can look at Cecile any old time! Deathstorm's a cool looking character, and we want to see him, dammit!

• Allegra's confronted by Deathstorm, who appears as her late cousin Esperanza. To Allegra's credit, she's smart enough to realize it's not really her, and that the fire demon's just messing with her (unlike Chester, who was completely bamboozled when Deathstorm took the form of his dead dad).

The two of them then taunt each other in their native Spanish. I freely admit I don't speak Spanish, but it sounds to me like Allegra and Esperanza don't either! Their delivery sounds VERY stilted and awkward, like they both learned their lines phonetically. They don't sound like people conversing naturally.

• Barry retreats to the Lounge to sulk, as Joe enters and gives him a Patented The CW Pep Talk® (one of several in this episode). I thought we were gonna get another "Run, Barry, Run" in this scene, but it doesn't happen, as Joe stops just short of one:

Joe: "In due time, you will find a way to get the advantage over Deathstorm."
Barry: "And until that happens?"
Joe: "You do what you do best. Run... into the unknown and trust yourself."

Oooh, so close, but not far enough!

• OK, I'm VERY confused about the layout of STAR Labs. For years now, we've been seeing the characters strolling past displays that say "Level 600." In my mind I took that to mean the place is divided into at least 600 floors, most of which lie deep underground.

This week we finally get a glimpse of a different one— Level 200. As near as I can tell, this is the first time we've ever seen this particular floor. Don't get too excited though, as it looks exactly like all the others.

One would think that the two hundredth floor would be far underground, just like good ol' Level 600, right? Wrong! According to Chester's onscreen graphic, Level 200 appears to be located in the upper ring of the building, between two of the three pylons! What the hell?

When I saw that I thought, OK, maybe Team Flash thought it'd be cool to add a couple extra zeroes to the numbers, so Level 200 is really just the second floor.

But that's not possible either, because Chester looks at his readout and says, "Guys, I'm picking up a category-three spectral discharge, four levels beneath us!"

So somehow Level 200 is at the top of the building, and the Cortex is located four floors above it— which means it's either hovering outside, above the actual structure or it's crammed inside one of the narrow pylons! Neither seems particularly possible or likely.

As I said, none of this makes the slightest bit of sense.

• Wow, Deathstorm got back! I gotta admit, I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I saw this scene. Apparently when Deathstorm took on humanoid form, he decided to give himself a shapely ass while he was at it. Look at that thing! You could bounce a quarter off it!

• Deathstorm abducts Caitlin and flies off with her. Barry speeds after them, but Deathstorm's too high for him to reach. He then gets the bright idea to use his Speed Force energy as stepping stones to literally "ride the lightning" and hopscotch across the sky. It's actually a cool scene, but several things here:

First of all, the technobabble flows again, as Barry says:

Barry: "Chester, my boots can redirect most energy sources. Does that include currents equal to the kinetic output created when I run?"
Chester: "Uh, it should, and the force of those two equal energies would probably cancel each other out. It'd be like running into a brick wall."
Barry: "I'm counting on it."

Yeah, I don't know what any of that means either— other than his new magic boots can stand on lightning.

Secondly, I'm of two minds about this scene. It was indeed pretty darned awesome, and I love it when Barry figures out new and interesting ways to use his speed. On the other hand, the Flash is one of the most overpowered superheroes there is. The absolute LAST thing he needs right now is yet another goddamned power.

Lastly, now we know why there aren't a lot of FX in this episode— they blew this week's budget on the rights to Metallica's Ride The Lightning, which blares on the soundtrack while Barry's leapfrogging across the sky.

• Deathstorm opens a portal and steps through it with Caitlin into Ripley's Wild World. Seems odd that a demon who feeds on grief would head for an amusement park to find more food, as few people would head for such a place to wallow in sadness.

By the way, you may be wondering why people are milling around in a theme park when Kristen just placed Central City on lockdown. Actually this isn't a mistake— there's a line of dialogue from Chester in which he says Ripley's is "just outside the city."

• Despite the fun & happy setting, Deathstorm actually senses grief in many of the park's patrons, and incinerates them in order to absorb their emotions.

Note the guy in the background here, who's apparently just won a large stuffed animal. Even though he's literally fleeing for his life from Deathstorm, he absolutely refuses to drop his big purple dinosaur! He paid good money to win that thing, goddammit, and he's not about to lose it— even if a Fire Demon is murdering everyone around him!

• Not necessarily a mistake, but an observation: As soon as his victims are incinerated, their grief (I guess?) exits their bodies like jet-black, smoky souls— which Deathstorm then absorbs. This is the first time we've ever seen this happen after one of his kills. 

I suppose it's possible he's been doing this all along, just when we weren't looking.

• Barry arrives at the amusement park, where he finds Caitlin sitting in a pool of light, with Deathstorm nowhere to be seen.

Note the "Cincinnati Bud's Burger Co." food truck seen behind her. Clearly the director wants us to notice it, as it's VERY deliberately placed in the frame. It's been established that Central City's in Missouri— a good distance from Ohio— so there's no in-universe reason for it to be there.

Does this food truck belong to a friend on the writing staff? I don't think so, as I looked it up and couldn't find any business with that name. I guess the production team just made up a fictional food truck and gave it a puzzling name!

• Cecile does it again! 

After Deathstorm's attack, Barry takes Caitlin back to STAR. While there, Cecile just blatantly scans Caitlin's mind and says, "I'm sensing a massive amount of grief inside of you. It's... it's enough for an entire family."

Team Flash needs to band together and tell this witch to stay the hell out of their heads unless they specifically ASK her to invade their privacy.

• I'm assuming that since Deathstorm was created from the energy expelled when Ronnie died in the singularity, that the demon has at least some of his thoughts and feelings. This would explain his attraction to Caitlin, and why he wants to make her his bride. 

Caitlin actually steps right up to the edge of this notion, but never actually says it out loud, which I thought was odd.

• Barry says it's taken the entity seven years to travel through space to get back to Earth— and Caitlin. This triggers another of Chester's Black History Month exclamations, as he says, "Great Benjamin Banneker!"

Banneker was an African-American farmer from the 1700s who was self-educated in astronomy and mathematics. Eh, it's a pretty big stretch, but I'm willing to give 'em this one. It's slightly relevant, what with the whole astronomy thing and all.

• Chester suggests modifying the MAC (Mental Augmentation Chamber) to defeat Deathstorm, saying, "The M.A.C. saved my ass by absorbing the entire mass of black hole energy that I accidentally unleashed a couple years ago."

For some insane reason, we then cut to Allegra, who gives Chester this look. What's up with that? Is... is she somehow turned on by the fact that he accidentally absorbed a black hole or something? Talk about bizarre!

• What a difference a couple of weeks can make! 

Back in Reckless, Frost wanted to use herself as bait to trap the Fire Meta. Barry threw a HUGE hissy fit, saying it was too dangerous and forbid her try it. It took the combined Patented The CW Pep Talks® of ALL the members of Team Flash to finally convince him to let her do it.

Then in this episode, Chester says they can modify the MAC to emit energy that will kill Deathstorm, but they'll need a human vessel to contain all the cosmic energy. Frost volunteers for the dangerous mission, and this time Barry says, "Well that sound just fine."

What the hell? Why the difference?

• In the tag scene, Iris gets a visit from her ex Eddie Thawne (who died seven years ago).

So is this Deathstorm up to his shenanigans again, trying to manipulate her by taking Eddie's form? Or— since she's suffering from her time sickness— is this the real Eddie, and she inadvertently yanked him out of the past?

At this point it could go either way, and we'll have to wait till next week to find out which it is.

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