Friday, August 5, 2022

The Flash Season 8, Episode 20: Negative, Part Two

This week on The Flash, it's the big Season 8 finale!

So how was it? Welp, That was definitely an episode of The Flash alright! 

Sadly, Negative, Part Two was a jumbled and chaotic mess— one that was seemingly made up on the fly by the writers and actors as they desperately tried to ad-lib an ending. Nothing made much sense as the characters ran from one bewildering setpiece to another, giving the illusion that something was actually happening— even though the audience doesn't quite know what. How's that for a review!

The entire episode was an exercise in wasted potential— which seemed to be the theme of the season as a whole. Season 8 started out strong with the Armageddon "crossover," which curiously featured numerous characters from various Arrowverse shows that'd already been canceled.

The first half of Armageddon was promising, but it ultimately devolved into a murky, muddled mess that made little or no sense (sounds familiar!). 

Next up we had the Deathstorm arc. Deathstorm himself looked amazing, like he stepped right off the comic page. I had high hopes for his storyline, as it also started out strong. Unfortunately it also ultimately limping to the finish line.

The last third of the season took a dull and uninspired turn for the worse though, as it gave us the unwelcome introduction of the Negative Forces. Apparently the writers loved last season's nonsensical Positive Forces so much they insisted on giving us their evil counterparts (without explaining where they came from, of course).

Strangely enough Negative, Part Two bore a VERY strong resemblance to Heart Of The Matter, Part 2, the Season 7 finale that wrapped up the Godspeed arc. Both featured an expanded Team flash battling an evil, jacked-up SUPER speedster who was trying to rule the world. In fact it's almost like showrunner Eric Wallace realized he bungled the storyline the first time and decided on a do-over.

I think the biggest problem with the episode was Thawne, who returns for the twentieth or thirtieth time since the series began. This show is positively obsessed with the character, and their constant over-reliance on him borders on addiction. They can't keep going to this same well every time they need a villain— it dried up years ago!

The season wasn't a total loss though, as there were a few highlights.

There were numerous standalone episodes, all of which were pretty well done and reasonably enjoyable. In fact I liked most of these one & dones much better than the multi-episode story arcs, or "graphic novels" as Wallace insists on calling them.

The aftermath of Frost's untimely death was quite well done too.

Methinks it may be time to return to the standalone format!

For a while it was unclear whether the show would be renewed or not, so the producers supposedly structured this episode to serve as a SERIES finale if need be. Man, what a limp and lame wrap up THIS episode would have made! 

At one point during the big third act battle, Barry stops fighting Thawne and LITERALLY sits down in the middle of the street, which somehow defeats him. Holy cow! I cannot emphasize enough just how awful it would have been if this is how the series ended after eight years.

Speaking of renewal, it was announced this week that Season 9 of The Flash will be the last. It'll return for thirteen more episodes and then that's it. Sad, but ultimately I think that's for the best. Although I've enjoyed the show for the most part over the years, it's high time it ended. The writing's clearly gone wayyyyy downhill in the past few years, and the actors are starting to look visibly miserable, as it's evident they all want to move on to other projects.

I'll miss the show and getting to write about it, but all good things come to an eventual end.

SPOILERS, I GUESS.

The Plot:
Picking up right where Negative, Part One left off, Eobard's body has just split open and the Reverse-Flash has emerged from it. 
Meena screams in horror at the shocking sight.

Barry asks Thawne how he's still alive, since he saw his dead body earlier. He says the Negative Forces brought him back to life, as they were too weak as a team without their fourth member. He taunts Barry, saying that killing Nora Allen birthed the Flash, while killing Iris led to the rebirth of the Reverse-Flash.

Enraged, Barry blasts Thawne with his Speed Force Lightning. Thawne seems surprisingly hurt by this, as Barry pours on the power. Suddenly XS and Impulse zoom in from 2049, and beg Barry to stop before they kill Thawne. Barry finally stops his attack, and Thawne says if he doesn't kill him, he'll just murder his future kids. Impulse points out that the fact that they haven't been erased from the timeline means Iris must still be alive. While Barry contemplates this, Thawne zooms away.

Back at STAR Labs, Cecile senses that Barry & Meena are both hurting. Yeah, no sh*t Cecile! They both just saw their significant others murdered in the most horrible ways possible. Nora says she knows Iris is still alive, and they need to figure out how to save her. Barry still believes she's dead, and wants to find a way to enter the Negative Speed Force to confront Thawne. Bart & Nora beg him to let them handle it, but Barry refuses.

Elsewhere, Iris finds herself in a glowing blue version of the STAR Labs Lounge. She looks around for anyone else, but the place is empty. Suddenly a figure appears, and she sees it's Damien Darhk. He says they have a lot to talk about.

Back at STAR, Chester says he might be able to build a tachyon generator that would open a door into the Negative Speed Force. Barry tells him to get busy building some right away. Cecile senses he wants revenge against Thawne for killing Iris. Just then she hears a voice calling her name, and sees the positive version of Psych flickering in and out of reality. He tells her she's the only one who can bring back the Positive Forces.

Elsewhere, Thawne appears in a red-tinted version of the loft from his Armageddon timeline— the one where he and Iris were married. Just then the Negative Forces appear, and Thawne asks why they brought him back. They say they chose him because of his hate, which is why Eobard had to go. Thawne says he refuses to play their games, and starts to zoom off. Deon freezes him in time, and says they're going to transform him.

In the Lounge, Damien infodumps the convoluted subplot to Iris. He tells her she's inside the Time Stone— the one he gave to Joe at the end of Armageddon. He says what she's seeing is just a remnant of his original consciousness, as the real Damien is dead. He claims the Negative Forces infected her with her time sickness, and used her as an incubator to recreate a new Thawne.

He also points out that unlike him, she's not supposed to be dead. She still has something important to do, so she can leave the Stone— IF she can figure out how.

Back at STAR, Chester rigs three technobabble harnesses for Barry, Bart & Nora, so they can enter the Negative Speed Force. He activates them, and the three speedsters instantly double over in pain. Barry says they need to find another way.

Meena says Eobard would know what to do, but he's dead because of her cursed BLOC machine. She speeds off to Fast Track Labs to destroy it once and for all. Barry follows and stops her, saying they still need the device. He has her get into the BLOC and charge herself with Negative Speed Force energy, and then transfer it into him.

At the West home, Joe sits in his kitchen and frets over Iris. Suddenly Jay and Joan appear, fresh from 2049 (yet another time traveling speedster!). They say they followed Iris' particle stream (ewww...) across time, and it led them to Joe's house. Sure, why not.

Jay finds the Time Stone in a cabinet and asks where he got it. Joe says it was given to him by Damien Dahrk, who told him he might need it some day. The Stone begins glowing, and Joan somehow knows that Iris' consciousness is inside it. Joe wonders how they can get her out of the Stone.

Meanwhile, Cecile's somehow gotten permission to take Mona Taylor, aka Queen of the Royal Flush Gang, out of Iron Heights. Cecile, Allegra, Mona and Rosa Dillon (aka the Top) go the CCC Media offices, because the producers didn't want to build a new set. There Cecile tells Rosa and Mona (who are both psychic metas) to concentrate. Wait, didn't she already absorb their powers a few episodes back? So what good are they gonna be? What the hell is even happening on this show?

Anyway, the three manage to pool their powers (?) and cause Psych to appear. He says when Iris' time sickness spread to the Positive Forces, he used his energy to boost Cecile's powers, so that she could bring them all back. Sure, that might as well happen.

At STAR, Chester detects an energy surge at Fast Track Labs. Bart & Nora zoom him there, where they see Meena transferring her power into Barry.

Once Barry's all charged up, he disappears into the Negative Speed Force. There he finds Thawne, frozen in his Armageddon appartment. The Negative Forces appear and say they're helping Thawne go through some changes, in order to restore the cosmic balance or something. Negative Deon snaps his fingers and sends Barry back to the real world. He tells the others that the Negative Forces are transforming Thawne.

Just then Chester detects a burst of negative tachyons over Central City. Cut to downtown, where multicolored bolts of lightning strike the pavement and cause a flash (heh) of intense light. When the smoke clears, we see a black-suited Thawne, now transformed into the Negative Reverse-Flash. No, really!

Negative Reverse-Flash tells the fleeing crowd there's no point in running, and begins murdering people left and right with his energy blasts. Barry watches all this on the news (no idea how the reporters got there so quickly) and realizes Thawne now has the powers of ALL the Negative Forces combined. Why? Don't know!

Back in the Time Stone, Iris figures her unfinished business is Barry. Damien says she's right, and has to discover how to escape on her own. He says her connection to Barry is still there, and all she has to do is reignite it. She begins glowing with energy and disappears. That was easy!

Elsewhere, Thawne continues his rampage through the city. Barry, Bart, Nora and Meena zoom the crowds to safety, and then confront Thawne. They begin running circles around him and blast him with their lightning. Suddenly Thawne switches places with Bart, causing him to get blasted. He then uses Negative Deon's powers to send Nora and Meena a billion years back in time (?). Barry runs off, and Thawne chases after him.

At CCC Media, Psych tells Cecile and the others they have one chance to defeat the Negative Forces. He hands Cecile his purple mask and tells her to put it on. He explains that the mask will absorb her powers and transfer them into him. She puts it on and screams in pain. Suddenly the mask vanishes, and so does Psych (?).

Barry then confronts Thawne, who's now faster than he is. Thawne throws a lightning blast at Barry, but it stops in midair. The Positive Forces then appear, and tell Barry they're holding back the blast. They then join hands as their power flows into Barry— making him equally matched with Thawne.

Thawne says he's still stronger than Barry, and extends a couple of purple psychic tendrils from his back (which is part of Negative Psych's powers). Barry grabs one of the tendrils and uses it to hurl Thawne into a car. Yeah, that all happens.

Back at the West house, the Time Stone begins glowing and Iris suddenly appears. Joe's overjoyed to see her, and the two hug. They see a news report on the battle between Barry & Thawne, which is destroying the city. Iris says Barry's doing more harm than good, and asks Jay to zoom her downtown.

Barry and Thawne continue their battle. Iris and Jay arrive, and she tells Barry he has to end the fight in order to save Central City. Thawne says he'll never stop till one of them is dead. Yeah, that's the way battles to the death work!

Barry orders Jay to get Iris to safety, and tells Thawne he's tired of fighting. He then... sits down in the middle of the street (!). Yeah, that happens too. Thawne's confused, as is the audience. He fires a blast at Barry, but it goes right through him for some reason. Thawne hisses that he needs more power (what else is new?). The Negative Forces oblige, charging him with even more of their multicolored energy. 

Thawne then lets loose with a mighty wave of energy that sweeps through the city, destroying everything in its path. 

Barry slows his breathing like he's meditating, and suddenly the wave stops and reverses course, as time begins flowing backwards. I guess Barry's using Positive Deon's power to do this? 

The energy of the Negative Forces is evidently too much for Thawne to contain, and he screams in agony. He says it wasn't supposed to end this way as his body disintegrates. Don't worry, I'm sure he'll be back next season.

Barry finally stands, and we see his eyes are glowing with the power of ALL the Positive Forces. He snaps his fingers and brings back Meena and Nora from the past. They look up and see the multicolored energy of the Positive Forces roiling in the sky. Barry says it's the universe resetting itself. Because of course it is.

We then get a mega-wrap up, as all this season's dangling plot threads are sewn up. Joan confirms Iris' time sickness is finally gone. Gideon says there's no trace of Thawne anywhere in the timeline. Meena says the BLOC has stopped working, and Barry says it's because the Negative Speed Force is gone. Iris give Meena Eobard's yellow necktie, which they found in STAR Labs. She thanks them for everything and says to call if they ever need help.

Chester scans Cecile and says all her extra psychic powers are gone, and Rosa and Mona's have been restored. Team Flash toasts their success, and Cecile inadvertently displays some telekinesis, implying she may have kept a few residual powers after her glowup.

Flash brings Tinya Wazzo to CCC Media, where Iris reunites her with her mother Renee. She explains that once Positive Deon was cured, he rescued her from the time stream and brought her back to the real world.

Back at Caitlin's apartment, she's STILL in the Technobabble Chamber that she entered last week. It begins malfunctioning, and Chillblaine shuts it down. He opens the door and is shocked by what he sees inside. A woman's voice announces that she's a friend... she thinks.

At the loft, Barry and Iris engage in some gag-inducing patter about their intense love and how they're lightning rods for one another and all the usual hooey. Iris says the Negative Speed Force is still out there, looking for a new avatar. Barry says when that day comes they'll be ready for it.

2049:
We see an unknown lab full of equipment. A blue crystal sits on a desk, and suddenly begins glowing...

Thoughts:
• The episode begins right after the previous one, as Thawne tears his way out of Eobard's body and begins taunting Barry.

In the past, Barry's always had to run in order to build up a charge of Speed Force Lightning before releasing it as a blast. In this episode he just straight up fires at Thawne completely out of the blue, going all Super Saiyan on his ass. 

So why the change? Is he using a residual charge from last episode? Or did the writers forget he's not supposed to be able to do this?

• As Barry's trying to kill Thawne, Bart & Nora arrive from 2049 and plead with him to stop.

That's fine, as the whole "Stop Killing The Villain Or You'll Be No Better Than Him" thing has been a standard trope in comics since the beginning. My problem with the scene is... how the hell did the kids know the EXACT moment that Barry attacks Thawne in 2022? 

Yes, they saw the younger version of Iris disappear in 2049 as she was pulled back to 2022, but it's a big year. I don't see any way they could possibly know the precise moment to which she returned. I suppose we could be generous here and say the kids sensed and tracked her temporal trail back to the past, but they've never shown that kind of sensitivity before.

• So Barry attacks Thawne because he blames him for Iris' death. But why? Thawne's definitely a dick, but he had nothing to do with it! 
Negative Deon yanked Iris from the future and materialized her in front of Barry's deadly Speed Force Lightning blast. Thawne didn't even appear until AFTER she was killed. If he's gonna go after anyone, it should be Negative Deon, not Thawne.

• For some reason there's currently a lot of Cecile hate floating around fandom. Eh, I don't hate the character, but I do sometimes question why she gets as much screentime as she does. 

Like in this scene for example. We see Barry and Meena quietly having a discussion, as Cecile watches them from the next room. We then hear the "Cecile Telepathy Sound Effect," as she helpfully says, "They're both hurting."

Yeah, no sh*t, Cecile! Barry was just bamboozled into killing his own wife, while Meena watched in horror as Thawne literally tore his way out of her fiancé Eobard's body!

Her obvious declarations are starting to remind me of Counselor Troi on TNG— who was certainly one of the most useless characters in all of Trekdom.

• We then see Iris isn't dead after all, but standing in yet another weirdly lit dimension. Jaysis, this shot gave me definite Mirrorverse flashbacks! And that ain't a good thing!

• Iris discovers she's inside the Time Stone, where she encounters an "echo" of Damien Darhk. Several things here.

First of all, I totally called this! Well, sort of. Earlier this season in Armageddon, Part 5, Damien handed his Time Stone to Joe, saying, "It's a gift. Father to father. And I think you're gonna need that some day." 

At the time I said, "It's obvious from the big closeup we get of 'Chekhov's Time Stone' here that this scene's setting up a future storyline for Joe. One in which he needs to travel back (or maybe forward!) in time for some reason. Expect to see this return later in the season."

OK, so Joe didn't use it to travel through time like I predicted, but the Stone DID come back to play an important role in the show. 

Second, the idea of an "echo" of Damien inside the Stone was lifted directly from Star Trek: Generations. There, Picard entered a cosmic energy ribbon called the Nexus. Inside it he found a remnant of his pal Guinan, who advised him and showed him a way out of the supposedly inescapable realm.

Lastly, when Iris sees Damien she asks him if she's dead. He says, "No, you're not. What happened to you is far more interesting than that." Yeah, well, we'll be the judge of that, Damien! 

Narrator: "As it turns out, her plight was NOT far more interesting than death."

• Man, Cecile's really in love with that boob arrow necklace! She wears it every week!

• Cecile violates Barry's privacy again by reading his thoughts, and is shocked when she realizes he wants to enter the Negative Speed Force to kill Thawne. Did she really need telepathic powers to figure that out? He thinks Thawne killed Iris. It's only natural he'd want him to pay!

• Welcome to Exposition Theater, where dialogue is replaced with stilted explanations!

Iris: "Okay, so if I'm alive, then... where am I?"
Damien: "You're here inside my Time Stone."
Iris: "The talisman that you and Barry used to wipe out anachronisms during Armageddon."

Haw! I'm surprised she didn't start that incredibly awkward sentence with "As you know..."

• A couple weeks ago I mentioned that lately the show's seemingly jettisoned any semblance of pseudo science it once had, and replaced it with outright Harry Potter-type magic. Magic that allows literally anything to happen so the plot can progress. Case in point:

Damien:
(to Iris) "See, unlike me, you aren't supposed to be dead, which is why the moment that the Negative Forces annihilated your body, the stone spared you. It senses that you still have something important to do."

So the Time Stone is apparently sentient, has its own agency and can even spare people from death if it deems them worthy. Magic!

• It's always great to see John Wesley Shipp return as Jay Garrick. Heck, I'd watch a whole series just about him as an elder statesman speedster!

• When Jay and Joan appear in the West house, they tell Joe they've been following Iris' particle trail across the timestream. Which is apparently a thing they can do. More magic!

Joan: "Those particles that were left behind... they're Iris' consciousness, and now, I think they've somehow ended up inside the Stone."

Wait, what are these particles she's talking about? Iris was in 2049 when Negative Deon pulled her back to 2022. He then placed her square in the path of Barry's Speed Force Lightning blast, which killed her. After she died, her body dissolved into a mass of green particles, which then floated into Eobard's body and transformed him onto Thawne.

Are THOSE the particles that Joan's talking about? If so, they wouldn't have left a trail from 2049, as they didn't appear till 2022. Were there some other particles we didn't see? Did the writers read their own script?

• Cecile enlists the help of Rosa Dillon (aka The Top) and Mona Taylor (aka Queen of the Royal Flush Gang) to help her bring back the Positive Forces. A couple things here:

First of all, Mona was currently being held in Iron Heights Prison. Somehow Cecile managed to have her temporarily sprung. How'd a plain old attorney convince a judge to do that? Your guess is as good as any.

Second, Cecile stole Rosa and Mona's powers in the last couple of episodes (something the two of them even point out to her!). So I'm not sure what help she thinks they're going to be to her here.

• FINALLY! For the past month or so, Cecile's been "leveling up" and gaining new powers left and right, as the writers were seemingly turning her into freakin' Professor X.

I didn't have a problem with her glow up per se, but I did feel it was poor form for it to just happen, without even a hint of an explanation. We finally get the reason for it this week.

According to Positive Psych, Iris' time sickness spread to all the Positive Forces. In order to survive, they needed to "tether themselves to someone in this reality." Psych chose Cecile, due to her "boundless potential."

So even though the time sickness weakened him, he was still able to open her mind and secretly boost her powers so she could save the Positive Forces. So why didn't he slip her a little psychic explanation while he was at it, so she'd at least understand what was happening and why? Good question!

• The Negative Forces transform Thawne into a new avatar for the Negative Speed Force. He then appears in downtown Central City, as... get this... the NEGATIVE REVERSE-FLASH!

I love it. It's so utterly ridiculous it makes me smile.

Also wouldn't Negative Reverse-Flash be the OPPOSITE of the Reverse Flash? So technically he'd be the Flash then, right? I kid, I kid.

• I like the look of the Negative Reverse-Flash costume for the most part, what with its striated muscular system texture. There's just one major problem with it— the way the cowl's cut makes it look like Thawne has a big old double chin. Not a good look for a supervillain!

• Negative Reverse-Flash then goes on a rampage through downtown Central City. Wow, he doesn't pull any punches either, as he just straight up blasts and murders hundreds of people. No question about it, those citizens are dead!

• Amazingly, we then see Team Flash watching Thawne's murder spree live on TV, from the safety of Fast Track Labs— without lifting a collective finger. Are you freakin' kidding me?

Bart does take time to make a quip when he sees Thawne's new duds, asking, "Who's his new tailor? Satan?" Haw! It's funny because hundreds are dying!

And of course they watch Thawne on Channel 52, the only TV network in all the Arrowverse.

• For some reason, Negative Reverse-Flash has the power of ALL the Negative Forces. But... the whole idea of creating him was so the Negative Forces could reclaim their former strength. If they lend him their powers, won't that just make them weaker again?

I guess they're doing so Thawne can definitively defeat Barry, but... it still doesn't make a lot of sense. Especially when the Positive Forces pour all of their powers into Barry— making he and Thawne equal again.

• Go Go Power Rangers! There's really no other way to interpret this scene.

• Barry, Bart, Nora and Meena confront Negative Reverse-Flash in front of a large, garishly-lit edifice.

In reality the part of the building's played by the Vancouver Art Gallery. You can tell from the stone lions and unusually paved courtyard.

• Thawne makes quick work of the speedsters, blasting Bart and sending Nora and Meena a BILLION years back in time! Wow! A billion years into the past! That would have actually been cool to see the two of them struggling to survive in a prehistoric world. But no, seeing Barry sit on the ground and ignore Thawne was good too.

By the way, a billion years ago the atmosphere only contained about 2% oxygen, which isn't enough for a human to survive for more than a few minutes. So Nora and Meena should be dead.

• Positive Psych appears to get his powers back from Cecile. It's probably just me, but his purple & magenta costume reminds me of Gambit's from the X-Men. He's even wearing a brown trench coat, which was standard superhero issue in the 1990s!

• Positive Psych conjures up his old mask and tells Cecile to put it on, as it will then transfer all the powers she's absorbed into him. When she asks why he picked her for this task, he says:

Psych: "There's a reason you were given all these powers, Cecile. The powers you absorbed were enhanced by the one thing that I lack... your ability to care about people."

Holy crap, I spit out my drink when I heard that last bit! Jaysis, that was definitely the best line of the episode. Maybe even the whole season!

 • Barry & Thawne then begin an epic battle in the middle of town. At one point Thawne uses Negative Psych's powers to manifest a couple of purple tendrils from his back and tries to grab Barry with 'em. 

Methinks someone on the writing staff saw Spider-Man: No Way Home and really liked Doctor Octopus.

By the way, Psych first used his tendrils back in Season 7. There they looked much more electrical than the blubbery, phallic-looking ones Thawne conjures up.

• Barry then attacks Thawne, punching him across the city at superspeed. Thawne counters by 
using the Still Force to materialize what looks to be a WWII plane and drop it on Barry. OK, now that was pretty cool!

Note that both Barry and Thawne have all the powers of their respective teams of Forces at this point, and you can actually see them in action here. Thawne pulls the plane down with a burst of green Negative Still Force energy, apparently reaching into the past for a fighter plane. Barry then uses the blue energy of the Strength Force to catch the plane and toss it aside. He then disappears in a puff of purple energy, which I assume is the Sage Force. Not sure how psychic energy pertains to teleportation, but there you go.

• With Damien's encouragement, Iris is able to escape from the Time Stone. For some reason when she appears in the real world, the Stone vanishes. I guess the writers didn't want Joe having access to a functioning time travel device?

• Iris has Jay zoom her to the scene of the battle, where she tells Barry he has to stop fighting Thawne before the two of them destroy the city. Thawne then hisses, "She's right. We'll never stop, till one of us is dead!" Well, yeah. How else would it work?

Reminds me of the Harry Potter books' similar "Neither can live while the other survives."

• Barry then tries a novel strategy to defeat Thawne, by sitting down in the middle of the street and refusing to fight anymore! Because that's what you want to see in a superhero show— the characters taking a break and resting comfortably during a big battle. 

Once again, keep in mind that the show hadn't been officially renewed for a ninth season at the time this episode was written. Meaning THIS very well could have been the epic, last ever battle between Barry and Thawne. And it features Barry meditating in the middle of the street!

• Thawne then tries out a brand new power by blasting Negative Speed Force Lightning out of his feet— which acts as jets and effectively gives him the ability to fly! Dollars to donuts this ability's forgotten and never used by any speedster ever again— much like last season's Speed Force Lightsabers!

• Thawne fires a mighty blast of Negative Speed Force energy at Barry, but for some reason it passes harmlessly through him. ???

I think maybe Barry's doing a zen thing here, where by not fighting he uses Thawne's powers against him or something? Or maybe the Positive Forces are helping by canceling their evil counterparts' powers? I honestly don't know at this point. Much like the writers!

• When Thawne sees his attack isn't working, he calls on the Negative Forces to give him even MORE of their powers. They do so, but it's too much for his body to handle and he seemingly disintegrates.

YAWN! How many times have they used this same tired, hackneyed denouement on the show? Probably at least once per season!

• There were a lot of guest appearances in this episode (Jay Garrick, Damien Darhk, etc), but the REAL star this week were the Multicolored Lightning Effects Over Central City, which had a good fifteen or twenty minutes of screentime!

• OK, maybe I'm just dense, but I'm struggling to understand just what's supposed to be happening in this episode.

As near as I can tell, the Negative Forces decided they didn't want to share the universe with their Positive brethren. To that end, they somehow gave Iris a time sickness, apparently knowing she'd spread it to the Positive Forces and weaken them. 

The Negative Forces were also pissed off at Barry for inadvertently killing the Negative Speed Force, and wanted him dead as well.

The Negative Forces then cooked up a convoluted plan— they resurrected Thawne, reconnected him with the Negative Speed Force, and poured their combined powers into him as well. He'd then be strong enough to wipe out the Positive Forces and Barry too.

In order to counter this plan, the weakened Positive Forces leveled up Cecile so she could somehow save them (I think). Once they were restored, they put all their powers into Barry, so he'd be an even match for the souped-up Thawne and defeat him. Which is what happened.

Is that it? Did I get it right? Somehow I think my explanation makes more sense than what the writers actually came up with. 

• A few weeks back when the Negative Forces first appeared, I asked just how they came to be. 

If you'll recall, back in Season 7 Team Flash was trying to create an artificial Speed Force after the real one "died." Barry and Iris then accidentally created a new Speed Force through the Power Of Their Eternal Love. 

Unknown to them, they also spawned three other ones— the Still Force, the Strength Force and the Sage Force. Each of them then latched onto ordinary citizens, who then became the avatars for these powerful cosmic Forces.

For reasons, the Four Forces considered Barry and Iris to be their parents— literally, not figuratively!

So where'd the Negative Forces come from? Did Barry and Iris inadvertently create them as well, and we're just now finding out about it? It makes sense, right? If they created the Positive Forces, it follows they must have generated their negative counterparts as well. 

Unfortunately there's been no explanation for their existence so far, which seems like a pretty big oversight on the part of the writers. 

I assumed we'd finally get an answer to this important question in the season finale. Nope! Not a word! No confirmation that Barry and Iris spawned 'em, no line about the Negative Forces splitting off from the Positive ones— nothing!

We do get a microscopic hint as to their origin after Thawne implodes. Barry and the others look up and see numerous multicolored ribbons of energy floating in the sky. Nora asks what's happening, and Barry says it's the Universe resetting itself.

I'm not sure, but from that I think the writers were trying to suggest that the Universe needs constant balance. So when the Positive Forces were created, it took it upon itself to form Negative versions to counter them.

Note that there's little or nothing in the episode to back this up, as it's just me spitballing here. You can always tell a show's in good hands when the audience has to do the writer's job for them!

• Once Thawne's defeated yet again, we get the traditional season-ending wrapup.

Joan examines Iris and says all traces of her time sickness are gone. That was easy! She's been suffering from this temporal malady since the back end of Season 7, and suddenly she's cured through the Power Of Love or some such hooey. Actually I'm not sure how or why she was healed. I guess the Positive Forces cured her? Feh.

There's another "leveled up" as Chester scans Cecile and says all her extra powers are gone and she's back to normal. Cecile tells him she's gonna miss being leveled up. 

She then gestures and causes a coffee cup to fly across the room into her hand, implying she still has some residual powers. That'll come in handy, since they seem determined to make her part of Team Flash.

There's also a throwaway line about Rosa and Mona getting their powers back (courtesy of Psych, I guess).

The Flash then reunites Tinya Wazzo with her estranged mom Renee, who's now out of the Still Force. I still don't understand why Tinya was on the show this season in the first place. Are they gonna make her a member of Team Flash next season? If not, then what the hell was the point of featuring this character on the show?

And over at Caitlin's place, we see she's STILL inside the technobabble chamber, which she entered in the previous episode (!). Suddenly the chamber malfunctions, and Chillblaine rips open the door. He's shocked by who or what he sees inside. 

Apparently whatever's inside is none of our goddamned business, as the audience doesn't get to see it. I guess we'll find out what's going on next season.

I have no idea where they're going with his particular storyline, unless the chamber's created an unholy genetic combination of both Caitlin and Frost?

• Back in Into The Still Force, Chester had a scare when someone seemingly used one of his online inventions to blow up a building. It ended up being an accident, and he assumed the crisis was over. As he left his lab, we saw a Mystery Hacker secretly download all his files.

So what happened with that? Did the writers forget about that little subplot? Apparently so, as it's never addressed or mentioned again. Maybe they're saving it for Season 9?

• Iris tells Barry the Negative Speed Force still exists and will be searching for a new avatar. Barry says they'll be ready for it when it comes.

We then cut to 2049 (what the hell is it about that year?), where the camera pans across a lab full of equipment. It stops on a glowing blue crystal as the screen fades to black.

I assumed this was a callback to an object or character from a previous episode that I'd forgotten about over the years. I did a little research, and it turns out it's not, as no one else knew what it was either.

Most fans agree that this crystal's foreshadowing an appearance by the villainous Cobalt Blue. In the comics he was Malcolm Thawne, a secret twin brother of Barry Allen (it's a long and complicated story, so don't ask). He can generate a powerful blue flame to fire blasts, form energy constructs or give him superspeed (of course). 

From what I gather Malcolm is also the adopted brother of Eddie Thawne, meaning if he does appear on the show he'll probably be played by actor Rick Cosnett. So we have that to look forward to.

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