Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Flash Season 9, Episode 4: The Mask Of The Red Death, Part 1

This week on The Flash, the Red Death Saga continues with a reasonably competent episode. Hey, these days that's about the best we can ask for on this show!

While The Mask Of The Red Death, Part 1 is fairly well written, there's still a lot of sloppy plotting on display. For example, I'm still puzzled as to just what Red Death's ultimate plan is, as her motivation seems to change from scene to scene.

I'm also growing weary of Joe & Cecile's argument over whether or not to leave Central City. First Joe wants to go and Cecile doesn't, then by the end of the episode they completely swap positions. It's like watching a tennis match.

And the whole of fandom is fed up with the interminable Chester/Allegra storyline, in which the two grown-ass adults inexplicably act like awkward lovesick teens who've never experienced a relationship before. These scenes are cringeworthy, absurd and downright unwatchable. Yet showrunner Eric Wallace seems determined to double down on them.

This week we also learn the origin of Red Death, and why she seems to hate the Flash so much. Unfortunately the producers choose to reveal this info through expository dialogue, rather than actually showing it to us. What the hell? Is this a budgetary thing? Or a result of this final season's truncated episode count? Whatever the reason, it was disappointing, as whenever I watch a superhero show I always want to HEAR about the action instead of actually SEEING it.

On a similar note, in the past I've complained about the show's tendency to drag out storylines longer than necessary, resulting in them crawling along at a snail's pace. That's why I can't believe I'm saying this, but the whole Red Death Saga is moving wayyyyyy too fast.

For example, we're only four episodes in and Red Death's already revealing her backstory to Iris, and her master plan is foiled in the third act (spoilers!)! Those are both things that shouldn't happen until we're at least nine or ten episodes in. Again, I assume this accelerated pace is due to the shortened season. It ends up being a determent here instead of an advantage, as Red Death's arc has no time to breathe.

One last thing about Red Death. In the comic, the character is the Earth-52 Batman who goes crazy for reasons, steals the Flash's powers and becomes and unhinged evil speedster who wants to eliminate crime by murdering anyone who breaks the law.

Thanks to a misguided decree by Warner Bros., there's no real Batman in the Arrowverse— which forced the producers to turn Batwoman into Red Death instead.

I get the feeling the creative team was afraid the audience wouldn't accept this though, because in this episode they go out of their way to have Red Death spout numerous Batman lines from various print and media. 

These repurposed lines go way beyond simple homage though, as it feels like the writers are using them to try and legitimize Red Death to the fans.

OK, that's enough intro, on with the complaining!


The Plot:
At Red Death's warehouse hideout, Chillblaine's busy building the new Cosmic Treadmill(which looks just like the old ones we've seen). Red Death enters to check on his progress. He says the device will need a massive energy source, and asks how she plans on powering it. She says to leave that to her and zooms off.

At the Loft, Barry tells Iris he fears this latest evil speedster in town is the new Avatar of the Negative Speed Force. 
He worries this new villain will upset the balance of the other Forces again (oh god, don't bring them back on the show), and wants to prevent them from being corrupted by their powers like Thawne was (seems a bit late for that!). He also wonders why the new speedster didn't kill him last week when he had the chance. 

Meanwhile, Iris continues trying to find Ryan Wilder (aka Batwoman), who disappeared from Gotham weeks ago. She figures her disappearance is related to the WayneTech weapons the Bad Rogues have been supplied with (what a brilliant hypothesis!).

At the West House, Joe's reading a story to Baby Jenna, who actually appears this week (!). She's no longer a baby, as she's grown into a toddler since the last time she appeared on the show. Cecile comes home and sees a real estate listing on the table, and asks what the hell's going on. Joe's still wanting to move out of Central City, and says this house would be perfect for their family. Cecile reminds him that in addition to her Team Flash duties, she has a law practice as well (even though we never see her in court) and refuses to consider moving.

At STAR Labs, Chester tells his online pal wookielover77 that he and Allegra aren't talking. Oy. Barry enters and says Gideon's detected a temporal signature, and it may be the new evil speedster.

Cut to a Central City plaza, where Red Death appears and causes the panicked citizens to run for their lives. The Flash zooms to the scene and asks to talk things out. Red Death says it's too late for that, and produces Roy G. Bivolo, aka the Rainbow Raider. His eyes glow, causing Barry to collapse and cower in terror. He eventually passes out from fear (I guess?).

Red Death then hisses that there shall be darkness, and releases an EM pulse that knocks out the power all over the city.

Barry wakes in Red Death's warehouse, chained to a platform and wearing meta dampening cuffs. The Bad Rogues (Boomerang 2.0, The Fiddler, Murmur, Bivolo and Chillblaine) enter and taunt Barry. Boomerang 2.0 starts to remove Barry's cowl and reveal his secret identity. Chillblaine— feeling guilty for betraying Team Flash— warns them against it as he claims the cowl's boobytrapped (it's not).

Back at STAR, Allegra can't locate Barry due to the power outage, and figures he's been captured by the Bad Rogues. Khione suggests calling the Good Rogues for help, and Chester says he can do so on his CB radio. Really? What year is this?

At the warehouse, Red Death zooms in and orders Chillblaine back to work on the Treadmill. Barry pleads with the villain not to use it, as it could irreparably damage the timeline. He tells Red Death the Negative Speed Force is fueling his hatred. Red Death denies this, and says the Flash is only part of his plan, as he's going after Barry's "lightning rod" next. Horrified, Barry realizes he's talking about Iris.

Cut to the Loft, where Iris hears a knock at the door. She opens it and sees an injured Ryan Wilder, who's reportedly been missing from Gotham for weeks. Iris asks what happened, and she says she was driving into Central City when the EMP hit and killed her car. Then Red Death appeared, attacked and left her for dead.

Ryan also claims the villain stole her utility belt, and Iris says that must be how the Bad Rogues all have WayneTech weapons. Ryan vows to go after Red Death as soon as possible to get her revenge.

Meanwhile the Good Rogues (Hartley, Goldface and Jaco) arrive at STAR (having gotten Chester's message). Hartley uses a hi-tech tracker of his own design to scan for Barry's meta signature or something, but comes up with bupkiss. Goldface figures Red Death slapped meta dampener cuffs on the Flash, meaning it'll be impossible to find him.

At the warehouse, Flash warns Red Death that the Negative Speed Force will upset the balance of the other forces. Red Death then removes her helmet, revealing there's nothing inside it. She says she's far more powerful than the Negative Speed Force ever was. Barry realizes she's using artificial speed, which is why she needs him to power her Cosmic Treadmill.

Back at the Loft, Ryan is listening to her conversation with Barry. Iris mentions that Barry's teamed up with the Good Rogues— who are all former criminals— to fight Red Death. Ryan angrily says there's no such thing as a reformed crook. Iris realizes something isn't right and pulls a gun on Ryan, asking who she really is.

We then get a lengthy expository infodump, as Ryan explains she's from another timeline, where she and Iris are best friends. She says in her world there was no Batman, so Thomas and Martha Wayne adopted her before being gunned down by criminals. She swore to protect Gotham at all costs, but was losing the battle. She then studied her world's Flash, gave herself artificial speed and used it to eliminate crime by killing everyone who broke the law.

Flash 2.0 then freed his Rogues from prison and led them against her. She says she tried to hide in the Speed Force, but it rejected her and spit her out into this timeline. She needs the Cosmic Treadmill to get back to her own timeline.

Elsewhere, Joe tells Cecile why he wants to move (again). He says his job as a cop prevented him from being there for Iris and Wally, and he wants a normal childhood for Jenna.

At the warehouse, Chillblaine offers Barry some water. Barry asks why he's allied himself with Red Death, and of course the answer is to bring back Frost. Barry says Chillblaine's a member of Team Flash (since when?) and everyone makes mistakes or something. Just like he thought Red Death was the new Negative Speed Force Avatar— a mistake which could destroy the world.

Meanwhile, Ryan tells Iris she wants her to convince Barry 2.0 to help her. Iris asks why she doesn't ask her counterpart for help. She says she can't because that Iris is dead. Apparently she "accidentally" killed her while battling the other Flash.

Iris doesn't believe her, and figures Ryan wants to take her to her timeline in order to somehow kill her Flash. Ryan sighs and says she hoped they could do things the easy way. She then summons her armor, which somehow flies piece by piece into the Loft and fastens itself to her body, revealing to Iris that she's Red Death.

Red Death grabs Iris and zooms her to the warehouse. She tells Flash she'll kill Iris if he doesn't get on the Treadmill. Flash agrees, and Chillblaine deactivates his meta cuffs.

Flash steps up onto the Cosmic Treadmill and begins running, powering it up. Chillblaine monitors some sort of readout on a tablet.

For some reason the powered-up Treadmill causes the skies over Central City to turn red (again!), and lightning stabs down from the clouds. The panicked citizens dodge the lightning as they flee for their lives.

At the West home, Jenna looks out the window. Suddenly it's shattered by lightning, causing hundreds of glass shards head to right toward her. Suddenly they freeze in midair, as we see Cecile somehow had time to stop them with her telekinetic powers. Joe snatches up Jenna, and Cecile says she senses their neighbors are in trouble. She rushes off to help them.

Now that Barry's ditched the meta dampener cuffs, Team Flash is free to sense him. They detect him at the warehouse, and Allegra tells the Good Rogues she can teleport them there.

Iris watches as Barry's literally being run to death. She tells Chillblaine he doesn't have to do this and still has a choice. Red Death says he's still her bitch, as she's promised to bring back Frost when they're done here. Chillblaine struggles with his conscience, and finally realizes Barry & Iris are right. He overloads the Treadmill, causing it to explode. It throws Barry backwards and hits Red Death with a blast of energy, knocking her out.

Iris helps Barry up, just as the Bad Rogues stroll in. Barry says he's too drained to run, so Chillblaine tells them to escape while he holds off the Rogues.

Just then Allegra and the Good Rogues teleport in. They grab Barry and Iris, just as Red Death starts to wake. Barry yells for Chillblaine to join them, but he's overwhelmed by the Bad Rogues. Goldface says there's no time to save him, and Allegra teleports them all back to STAR.

Barry's upset that they left Chillblaine for dead. Khione overhears and says they have to go rescue him— even though he's the one who wanted to erase her from existence a few weeks back. Iris says Red Death's trapped in this timeline again, and her she'll be out for revenge.

In the storyline that no one cares about and just won't end, Allegra tells Chester she's ready to talk about their awful relationship. Amazingly he says he's too occupied with Team Flash business, and hopes maybe their timing will be right "some day."

Back at the West house, Cecile says Joe's right and they need to get out of Central City. Inexplicably, he says seeing her saving the neighborhood made him realize their place is here. Jesus Christ, people! Make up your damn minds!

Back at the warehouse, Red Death surveys the remains of her Cosmic Treadmill and freaks the hell out, throwing an epic tantrum just like a toddler. She hisses that she'll destroy Flash's world and bring the war to him.

• As the episode opens, Chillblaine's putting the finishing touches on Red Death's Cosmic Treadmill. Strangely enough, as he puts the finishing touches on it he asks her what's gonna power the thing.

Does that sound right? How the heck can he build a machine without knowing what it runs on? If I was building the very first car, wouldn't "power source" be pretty high on the list of things I'd need to know?

• Chillblaine smarts off to Red Death, causing her to threaten him— resulting in a look of genuine fear crossing his face.

This is where turning Ryan Wilder into Red Death really goes off the rails for the producers. The cold hard truth is actress Javicia Leslie just doesn't have the screen presence or gravitas to pull off a character like this. I'm sure she's probably fine in the right role, but this definitely ain't it.

By the way, what's up with the white streak in Ryan's hair? I never watched Batwoman, so I'm wondering if that was a thing on her show, or if they added it here to make her seem more evil or something.

• As I've pointed out the past few weeks, the comic version of Red Death was the Earth-52 Batman. He went crazy for reasons, stole the Flash's powers and became an evil vigilante speedster.

Unfortunately there's no (current) Batman in the Arrowverse, so the writers were forced to improvise here and plug Batwoman into the role.

In order to try and justify this decision, they give her a bunch of Batman's classic lines in this episode. For example, when Red Death is trying to intimidate Chillblaine, she says:

Red Death: "You're all the same, aren't you? Criminals... a superstitious and cowardly lot, quivering like mice in their little holes, easy prey for the bad."

Of course in the comics, Bruce Wayne famously quipped that "Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot," to explain why he chose a bat theme to fight crime.

• Barry & Iris discuss Red Death and are convinced "he's" the new Avatar of the Negative Speed Force, and is being corrupted by it like Meena Dhawan and Eobard Thawne were.

The audience knows that's not true, but the characters seem determined to prove it for some reason. It's like Barry & Iris are acting out their own separate plot in a completely different episode. Definitely some odd writing going on there.

• Jesse L. Martin (aka Joe) makes the third of his five contractually obligated appearances this week, leaving just two more for the entire season.

• Ho. Lee. Crap! At long, long, LONG last, this episode gives us a real, honest to goodness, not a dream appearance of the oft-mentioned but rarely if ever seen Baby Jenna! Who's most definitely not a baby anymore, but a five year old!

I was beginning to think we'd never see her again! The last time she appeared in the flesh was in Season 6's A Girl Named Sue, over three years ago! I honestly thought the writers either forgot about her or used the Crisis to retcon her out of existence!

• Cecile comes home from the office, embraces her daughter and says, "Jenna Marie West, did you get taller while I was gone? You're not supposed to do that!"

OK, that was clearly the writers throwing a wink and a nod to the audience, acknowledging the fact that they know it's been years since this kid was seen onscreen!

• Cecile flips out when she finds a real estate flyer on the table, and realizes Joe's been shopping for houses outside of Central City behind her back.

I dunno where this house is (other than it's two hours away from Central City), but $375,000 seems kind of steep for tiny bungalow with only two bedrooms. At least where I'm from! The median house price in Kansas City, Missouri (the Arrowverse equivalent of Central City) is current $225,000. 

This particular property has an acre lot though, so that might have jacked up the price a bit.

• At STAR Labs, Chester chats with his old online pal wookieelover77 about his "relationship" with Allegra. I'm gonna do a deep dive here, so you might want to grab a snack and get comfortable.

As you're probably aware, wookieelover77 is an Unseen Character— one who's regularly mentioned, often affects the plot but never actually appears on camera.

He made his first "appearance" back in Season 6's Into The Void, where we just saw his name on Chester's screen during one of his live streams.

He popped up again last season in Into The Still Force. He had a bit more to do there, as he ended up secretly downloading some advanced tech plans that Chester naively posted online. He then attempted to use said tech to provide free unlimited hot water to the residents of a Central City halfway house. 

Unfortunately wookieelover's actions ended in disaster, as he inadvertently burned down the building, causing millions in property damage and nearly killing the residents!

Of course because this is The Flash, there were zero consequences for his actions, all because he felt bad about what he'd done. 

In reality wookieelover77 would be guilty of willful destruction of property, reckless endangerment, attempted murder (or involuntary manslaughter at the very least) and probably more charges I can't think of right now. The owners of the building would likely sue him for damages as well. The fact that it was an accident doesn't matter— in the eyes of the law he's still guilty!

By the way, on a related note:

Back at the end of Into The Still Force, we saw someone secretly hack into Chester's computer and download more of his secret and potentially dangerous hi-tech plans.

Clearly this short scene was setup for a future storyline. But who did the downloading? Was it wookieelover77 again? Or someone more insidious? 

Welp, apparently it's none of our business! According to showrunner Eric Wallace, he'd planned on resolving this particular little storyline in Season 9, but the truncated episode count (thirteen instead of the usual twenty two) put the kibosh on that idea. It's now officially a dangling plot thread that'll never be sewn up.

Not that it was all that terribly intriguing, mind you— but it's still frustrating when the show sets up things and then abandons them.

• Red Death appears at a Central City plaza and sends the citizens fleeing, hoping to draw out the Flash.

The part of the unnamed plaza is played by the Centennial Fountain at the Queen Elizabeth Theater in downtown Vancouver. You know, I'm actually gonna miss looking up the various shooting locations once the show's over!

• Barry zooms to the plaza and tries reasoning with Red Death. She growls, "I am Vengeance. I am the Night. I am the Red Death."

Once again, they're putting a famous Batman's words in her mouth. In the Batman: The Animated Series episode Nothing To Fear, Batman says "I am Vengeance. I am the Night. I am Batman!"

• There's some really choppy editing in this scene, where Red Death produces Roy G. Bivolo (aka the Rainbow Raider) seemingly out of nowhere. Seriously, it's like a magic trick— one second Red Death's standing alone in a completely empty plaza with nothing around her, and the next second Bivolo suddenly comes out from behind her.

While it's definitely sloppy filmmaking, it isn't necessarily a mistake. As we've seen in the past few episode, Boomerang 2.0 and The Fiddler can teleport at will, courtesy of advanced tech handed out by Red Death. Apparently she gave Bivolo a teleport device as well.

• Bivolo's eyes glow as he attacks Barry, causing him to experience incapacitating terror.

Bivolo/Rainbow Raider first appeared wayyyy back in Season 1's Flash Vs. Arrow, which was the Arrowverse's first attempt at a crossover. He appeared again in Rogue Air, but hasn't been seen since (he's been mentioned many times over the seasons though).

Oddly enough, Hartley Rathaway once recruited Bivolo for his own little team of Rogues! And now they're on opposite sides in this episode.

• As part of her revenge plot, Red Death unleashes a massive EMP that knocks out the power all over Central City. It'd do more than that! An Electromagnetic Pulse actually fries any kind of electronic device that isn't properly shielded— permanently! It even works on the wiring in homes! 

This would be a catastrophic disaster for the city, causing millions, if not billions in damage. It'd take months, and maybe even years to replace every electrical component and fully restore power to the city. So how much do you want to be that next week the power will be back on, like nothing every happened?

• Chester's so impressed by the power of the EMP that he momentarily forgets how to speak properly, saying, "That was one of the strongest electromagnetic pulses ever recorded outside of a NU-QUE-LAR event."

Yeah, it's "nu-clee-ar," Chester. You'd think a big-brained tech guru like him oughta would know that. Eh, he just flubbed a line, no need for a retake.

• Fortunately for Iris and the Wests, there's still plenty of light streaming into their homes even after the power's knocked out.

OK, I get it, it's a TV show and we can't be staring at a black sceeen. It's just that when the power goes out at night in MY house I can't see sh*t without a flashlight!

• Barry wakes in Red Death's warehouse, chained up and wearing meta dampening cuffs. He asks Bivolo why he's aligned himself with the Bad Rogues, and he says it's because the Flash let him rot for nine months in the Pipeline— aka the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail I've been ranting about for the past nine years.

Which perfectly confirms my suspicions that Team Flash regularly used a private facility to illegally hold metacriminals without the benefit of due process or a trial!

• When this particular version of Murmur appeared last week, I assumed she used sign language to "speak" because her lips were sewn shut (like the version of the character seen over on Arrow). Oddly enough in this episode, the Bad Rogues sign what THEY'RE saying when in her presence. So... is she actually a deaf-mute? Not being able to hear seems like it'd be a really big disadvantage for a villain.

• At the warehouse, Red Death barks orders to the Bad Rogues:

Red Death: "Blaine, get back to work. The rest of you, guard the entrances."

At first I thought she was abbreviating Chillblaine's name, which sounded weird. Turns out I'd forgotten his real name is Mark Blaine, so never mind.

• Back at STAR, Chester utters another of his Black History Month oaths, saying, "Sweet Otis Boykin."

As usual, I'd never heard of the subject of his adoration. But Boykin was actually a pretty big deal in the world of electrical engineering. He invented the capacitor and resistor, as well as the pacemaker! Chester's commenting on the EMP here, so his shoutout to Boykin actually makes sense!

• With Barry missing and the power out, Team Flash realizes they need to call the Good Rogues for help:

Allegra: "Wait, are you saying we need to call Barry's Rogue Squad?"
Chester: "I could use our CB radio to send out a distress call at 160 hertz. Hartley uses that frequency with his crew."

Wow, STAR Labs is equipped with a CB radio? And Hartley has one too that he regularly monitors? I thought those things went out with powdered wigs!

• I dunno guys... it's tough to take Red Death seriously when she's noticeably shorter than the Flash. And she's wearing heels, yet!

• When Red Death is monologuing to Barry about going after Iris, it looks for all the world like he yawns!

Clearly Grant Gustin's attempting to act like he's trying to catch his breath here, but it just didn't work.

• Ryan Wilder then shows up at the Loft for no good reason. There she tells Iris she was driving to Central City when the EMP hit, and it shorted out her car and burned her arm. 

Her arm really is burned, as we clearly see Iris bandage it. So it appears Ryan deliberately injured herself to make her story more believable! I'm not sure whether to be impressed or terrified of her!

• Ryan tells Iris she was beaten by Red Death & left for dead. She then crawled back to the Batcave, where Luke Fox told her Team Flash was looking for her, so she hightailed it to Central City (instead of contacting them, I guess). Iris becomes suspicious when she realizes Ryan made it from Gotham to Central City in a day. Ryan jokes that her car "drives really fast."

I'll say! It's been implied that in the Arrowverse, Gotham is somewhere in New Jersey, while Central City is located in Missouri (probably near Kansas City.) That's a distance of over a thousand miles!

Theoretically it's possible to drive that far in a day, but it's unlikely in reality. Especially when you factor in bathroom breaks, refueling stops and especially traffic.

• Iris then marvels at how even though Ryan's injured, she wants to get back out there and track down Red Death. Ryan replies, "Well, everybody's got their limits. I ignore mine."

This is yet another repurposed Batman line. In 1993's Detective Comics #663, Batman says, "All men have limits. They learn what they are and then learn not to exceed them. I ignore mine."

• The Good Rogues (Hartley, Goldface and Jaco) get Chester's message and arrive at STAR Labs. Hooray! I was happy to see them show up again, as the three of them are MUCH more interesting and entertaining than anyone on the real Team Flash!

• At the warehouse, Red Death taunts Flash by saying she's gonna attack his "lightning rod." Flash then begs him to leave Iris alone.

Did Red Death know Barry's secret identity over in her timeline? If not, then Barry just outed himself to her!

• Barry tells Red Death that the Negative Speed Force is corrupting her and turning her evil. Thing is, Barry's literally SHOUTING all this to her at the top of his lungs, becoming more hysterical and histrionic by the second. His words might hold a little more weight for her if he calmed the hell down a bit!

• Red Death then proves she's not powered by the Negative Speed Force by removing her helmet and revealing there's nothing inside her armor (!). I gotta admit that was pretty cool, but... I'm not sure how it proves she somehow created her own artificial speed.

By the way, the reveal that Ryan's controlling her Red Death armor from afar is a swipe, er, I mean an homage to Iron Man 3. Of all the Marvel movies they could have stolen from, they had to pick one of the worst in the entire MCU.

• Barry realizes Red Death captured him to fuel her Cosmic Treadmill, because it can only be powered by organic speed, not artificial. Sure, why not? 

It's a freakin' treadmill that generates energy when someone runs on it, so I don't see how the type of speed could possibly matter. Let's just accept it and move on though, or we'll be here all day. Comic Book Science!

• Back at the Loft, Ryan monitors her armor's conversation with Barry, courtesy of a Bluetooth-like device (how she's making the suit talk is anyone's guess). 

Amazingly, Iris— who's supposedly a crack investigative reporter— doesn't seem to notice the tech in her guest's ear.

• Iris finally realizes this Ryan's a fake and pulls a gun on her. So how'd she figure it out? With cream! Iris pours her a cup of coffee, and Ryan 2.0 strolls over the the fridge and pulls out a bottle of cream. This makes Iris realize she's dealing with an imposter, because the real Ryan has never been in the Loft before.

OK, that may be, but... where the hell else would the cream be? That's not exactly a telltale sign.

To Iris' credit, she does confirm her suspicions & trip her up by mentioning how Ryan's mother was killed by the Royal Flush Gang, when it was really the Wonderland Gang who did the deed. Still, the cream seems to have been the smoking gun here. How bizarre.

• Last week I predicted that the Ryan Wilder inside the Red Death armor wasn't the same one who starred in the Batwoman series. I said there was no way the producers would have the guts to take a major character like her and turn her evil.

Annnnd, I was right. The Ryan seen here is indeed not the one we know, as she's from a different timeline.

So what happened to the real Ryan Wilder, who went missing in Gotham a couple weeks ago? It's pretty obvious that Ryan 2.0 abducted her, and is holding her hostage in some secret location. I predict she'll reemerge at the end of this arc.

• We then get a VERY lengthy scene in which Ryan 2.0 infodumps her backstory to Iris, saying she's from another timeline where the Flash is the world's greatest villain. She claims she and the Flash were once friends, and she studied his powers and learned to generate her own speed to permanently ELIMINATE all crime in Gotham. But then the Flash became "jealous" of her powers and tried to stop her, so she hid in the Speed Force. Unfortunately it rejected her and spit her out in this timeline.

Iris doesn't buy any of this and says it's more likely the other Flash tried to STOP Ryan 2.0 and prevent her from committing genocide. She also finds out to her horror that Ryan 2.0 "accidentally" killed the Iris from her timeline.

It's an interesting tale, and one I'd like to have seen. Too bad the producers apparently never learned the old "Show, Don't Tell" rule of visual media. I cannot emphasize enough how disappointing it is to just hear about Ryan 2.0's activities in this other timeline, rather than see them.

I'm assuming the producers took this massive shortcut due to the truncated episode count of this final season. If this had been a normal one, I'm convinced we would have actually gotten to see Ryan 2.0's timeline instead of just hearing her blather about it.

• Great confusion seems to surround Ryan 2.0's place of origin. She tells Iris she's from an alternate timeline— one that's quite different from the Prime one we see on the show each week. For example, in this other timeline, she decided to end crime by simply wiping out all criminals, and fought the Flash when he opposed her. 

She also said there was no Batman in her timeline, so Thomas & Martha Wayne adopted her. She then became Batwoman after they were killed. That implies that this alternate timeline has been around for decades— at least as long as she's been alive.

That contradicts the way timelines usually work on the show. When Barry messed with the past and created Flashpoint, it altered the Prime timeline— it didn't create a second one running parallel to it.

Ryan 2.0 also keeps talking about getting back to her "world," not timeline. Just how would she go about that? How does one jump back and forth between timelines, when there's only a single malleable one?

It sounds like she's talking about multiversal worlds here, like Earth-2 or Earth-19. But that can't be, because the Crisis wiped out all the extra Earths (it didn't, but the characters don't know that).

Methinks the original plan was for Ryan 2.0 to come from Earth-95 or whatever, but someone on the writing staff remembered they said the multiverse is gone, so they had to hurriedly change the script to say "alternate timeline" instead. 

• During Ryan 2.0's interminable monologue, she explains her plan to Iris by stating, "With Flash's power, I could put a criminal behind bars before they even thought of committing a crime."

Wait, what? So... is Ryan 2.0 somehow a telepath now, in addition to being a speedster? Like one of the Pre-Cogs from Minority Report, who read people's minds and tattled on them before they actually robbed or murdered? That's pretty much what she's saying here, though there doesn't seem to be any evidence of it in this episode.

I'm also confused as to how copying the Flash's speed would give her psychic powers.

Maybe what the writers are trying to say here is she was profiling, and using her speed to round up "undesirables" before they committed a crime?

• I'm puzzled by Red Death's motivation so far.

At the end of Wednesday Ever After, Boomerang 2.0 asks her what their next move is. She says, "The Flash is never truly alone, but once I'm done with him, he will be." To me this implies she hates the Flash and plans on eliminating his loved ones.

Then in the final moments of Hear No Evil, Red Death finally takes physical form, walks out on a balcony and announces, "Central City, The Flash disgraced me. Now all of you will pay the price, and justice will be served." Apparently she's now turned her attention from the Flash to his home.

In this episode she's switched goals again, and now wants to get back to her own timeline to dish out vengeance to her own Flash. When Barry destroys her means of getting home, she pivots yet again, saying, "The Flash won't let me go back to my world, so I'll take his. But this time, we will bring the war to him!"

So exactly what is Red Death trying to achieve in this story arc? Good question! It depends on which episode she's in. At this point I don't think the writers know what the hell she's trying to accomplish either.

• Red Death's M.O. in her own timeline was to eliminate crime in Gotham by wiping out ALL criminals. So once she's stuck in this timeline, how does she plan on getting back? By recruiting a team of criminals to help her. Sure, why not.

• Iris says she figured out Ryan 2.0's story was a lie by "red teaming" it. She explains that in journalism, whenever someone writes a high profile story, the editors gather a team of other reporters to try and poke holes in it.

Believe it or not, that's an actual thing! Red teaming is used in lots of other fields as well, like computer programming and even in the military.

• Once her cover story's blown, Ryan 2.0 attacks Iris and appropriates yet another Batman line, saying, "You wanna get nuts? C'mon... let's get nuts!"

That line was made famous by Michael Keaton in the 1989 Batman film.

• Ryan 2.0 then summons her Red Death armor to the Loft, where it assembles itself on her body.

It's a very cool looking scene, especially for a TV budget. But once again, they cribbed it directly from the worst Iron Man movie in existence (the third one).

Plus, I know I'm gettin' into the weeds here, but how exactly does any of this work? Does each piece of armor have its own form of propulsion and fuel source, as well as a navigation system? That's some pretty damn impressive technology! Especially for the little pieces, like the knee and elbow pads!

An even better question— how the hell do all these parts enter the Loft? Did they magically phase through the walls? Or did the hand armor politely open the door and let the other pieces in?

By the way, look at that face Javicia Leslie makes right before the armor starts flying in. She is HAMMING it up here!

• Look out, Barry! That's not just a knife Murmur's threatening you with— it's a WayneTech Nanoparticle Knife! One that makes mechanical whirring sounds when it's swung around!

• Red Death returns to the warehouse with Iris in tow, and threatens to kill her unless Flash powers the Cosmic Treadmill. Barry pleads with her to leave Iris alone, prompting her to make this expression.

Just a note to the producers and to Javicia Leslie here— this is NOT the kind of face that's gonna inspire fear or intimidate anyone.

• Barry then climbs onto the Cosmic Treadmill and starts running. A couple things here:

First of all, as he runs we see his Speed Force "contrail" streaming out behind him. Wait a minute... that doesn't seem right, does it? He always leaves a lightning trail when he zooms through the streets, but he's not actually moving here— he's just running in place. So the lightning shouldn't be trailing out away from him.

In fact this early episode gets it exactly right, as he's running on a different Cosmic Treadmill and his lightning just envelops his body. 

Second, seeing him run on the Treadmill conjures up images of the Earth-90 Flash sacrificing himself on a similar one back in Crisis On Infinite Earths. Plus his running on this contraption somehow generates red skies and lots of lightning, again just like in Crisis.

This would have been the perfect time to address this headline that we've been seeing for the past nine years, and finally incorporate it into an episode. Of course that doesn't happen, as the producers are desperately hoping we all forget about this. I guess maybe Crisis really did put this element to rest once and for all.

• There's some more really choppy editing in the scene with Cecile & Jenna at the West house. The red lightning shatters a window, threatening to shred Jenna to ribbons. Somehow Cecile instantly moves clear across the room and holds the shards back with her telekinesis.

There's no way in hell she could have moved that far in less than a second, except through the power of bad editing.

• During the storm there's a nice little moment between Joe and Jenna, as they look out the window at the carnage (all unseen, of course) caused by the Cosmic Treadmill. Joe tells his daughter everything's gonna be OK, as he reassuringly strokes her shoulder with his thumb. It's exactly the kind of thing a dad would do to calm their terrified child. Well done!

• Team Flash finally pinpoints Barry's location, so the Good Rogues can rescue him. Unfortunately the EMP knocked out all the cars in the city, meaning it'll take hours to reach him. Allegra says she can teleport them in an instant.

If you'll recall, back when Nash Wells was on the show, he used teleporting "smoke bombs" of his own design to zip from one place to another. He then gifted his supply of them to Allegra before he sacrificed himself. Apparently he left her quite a hefty stockpile of them, as she's been using 'em for the past two years and still hasn't run out.

Maybe Chester figured out a way to replicate them, I dunno.

• Back at the warehouse, Barry's literally running himself to death on the Cosmic Treadmill. Chillblaine watches in horror, then finally redeems himself by reversing the polarity of the neutron flow and shorting out the Treadmill. This frees Barry but somehow overloads Red Death's artificial speed, knocking her out. Comic Book Science again!

Chillblaine's reversal, while welcome, really wasn't much of a surprise here, since his mug appears in the opening titles. They wouldn't place an actual villain in the credits, so...

• Allegra and the Good Rogues then teleport in, grab Barry & Iris and yoink back out. Unfortunately they're forced to leave Chillblaine behind.

This was a VERY cool scene, as it's all from Barry's POV. We see the Bad Rogues attacking Chillblaine, there's a puff of blue smoke and then we're in STAR Labs again. Awesome! I don't think we've ever seen a shot like that on the show before. Good work, FX Team!

• Back at STAR, Khione— who hasn't had anything to do all episode— hears about Chillblaine being left behind. She then says they have to save him, because "everyone's part of the world and we're all connected" or some New Age hooey. Barry says, "Khione's right— we can't lose anyone else."

It sounds for all the world in this scene like Barry flubs his line and calls her "Caitlin" instead of Khione. Heck, Closed Captioning even said it was "Caitlin." I watched the scene about twenty times, and he slurs her name when he speaks it, but I'm convinced he really did say Khione.

• We then get what the audience has all been clamoring for— another Chester/Allegra relationship scene.

Allegra finally tells Chester she's ready to rumble with him, but incredibly he's the one who blows her off this time, saying the moment isn't right.

Jesus Jetskiing Christ On A Cracker, someone please, please end these scenes. The only reason they exist is because showrunner Eric Wallace created the Allegra character in The Flash comic, and this is the only thing he can think of for her to do on the show.

• Last week I predicted that the writers would take the Joe Wants To Leave Central City And Cecile Doesn't Conflict and draw it out for the entire season, and we'd see the two of them ride off into the sunset in the series finale.

Welp, it looks like I was wrong about that. After all the red skies chaos, Cecile admits that Joe was right about Central City being dangerous, and agrees they should move. But then Joe inexplicably relents and says they should stay after all. So now I'm really confused.

• Jenna shows Cecile a picture she drew of her— complete with a blue superhero costume. Is this some foreshadowing here? Is Cecile gonna start wearing a costume as she becomes the Arrowverse version of Jean Grey?

• Back at the warehouse, Ryan 2.0 then surveys the shattered remains of her Cosmic Treadmill. A couple things here:

First off, she hisses that since the Flash has prevented her from returning to her own world, she'll destroy his. But... doesn't she live here now too? Where's she gonna keep all her stuff if this world's gone?

I guess maybe by "destroy his world" she meant "kill his loved ones and everything he holds dear." It's honestly unclear at this point though.

Secondly, Ryan 2.0 goes all out here, bugging her eyes and shrieking her lines like a spoiled child who's been denied something. 
In that regard she's a lot like Kylo Ren from the Star Wars Sequels. Mayne they should call her Kylo Red?

In the hands of a better actor, this scenery chewing could have been something special. As I've said before, Javicia Leslie is probably fine in the right role, but she just doesn't have the acting chops to pull off a character like this.

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