Friday, June 23, 2023

The Flash Season 9, Episode 10: A New World, Part One

Before we begin, apologies for the incredible lateness of this review. The episode aired darned near two months ago! I won't bore you with all the sordid minutiae of my life, so let's just say there's a lot going on right now that delayed any blog posting. 

Never fear though, I WILL eventually review the final four episodes! I've come this far, so I'm not gonna quit when the finish line's within sight!

This week on The Flash, we enter the home stretch as the final story arc begins. Only three more episodes left after this one!

This has been an extremely poor season so far, filled with terrible scripts and baffling episodes that didn't feature Barry at all. Which is why I was honestly surprised that A New World, Part One is actually kind of... not awful. In fact I'd go so far as to say it comes dangerously close to being good. Well, good as far as later day Flash episodes are concerned.

I'm confident that'll all change soon though. That seems to be the pattern with every multipart storyline cooked up by showrunner Eric Wallace. They always start out strong, but end up crapping the bed as each subsequent installment is exponentially worse. I have no doubt history will repeat itself here.

This week's episode features a couple of notable returns, as Eddie Thawne and the Matt Letscher version of Eobard Thawne both make welcome appearances.

And therein lies one of the problems in this installment. We know this final arc features the Arrowverse debut of comic book villain Cobalt Blue— who's supposedly somehow either Eddie Thawne or a lookalike. All well and good, but then what the hell is Thawne doing here then? His involvement, while welcome, seems pointless and moot.

The two evil speedsters don't even seem to be working together against Barry, and in fact don't even share any scenes! So why give the episode two unrelated villains? It's like the two of them are in completely separate episodes. 

Maybe I'm just jumping the gun here, and subsequent episodes will clear things up and tie these disparate plotlines together (I'm not holding my breath though). 

All that said, it was nice to see Matt Letscher return as Thawne.

The confusion doesn't end there though, as it extends to Barry as well. He gets pulled back in time to the night of his mother's death, but... we never find out who, what or WHY this happens. Again, I'm hoping the next three episodes will explain this. 

Speaking of Nora's death, this episode goes back to that particular well yet again. Jesus Christ, the show's revisited that event at least once per season for the past nine years now! I get that it was a traumatic event in Barry's life, but for corn's sake, get over it already! Even Batman hasn't obsessed over his parent's death as much as Barry's done.

But hey, at least Barry's actually the focus of this episode, and gets the bulk of the screentime. That's more than I can say about most of the episodes this season. What a novel concept— featuring the main character in his own show!


The Plot:
Get comfortable, kids— it's complicated!

We open at the West house, except Joe doesn't seem to be living there anymore.. The home's decorated with blue roses, and a man (who's face is hidden from us) wearing a blue suit hums I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues as he gets ready for work. Gosh, I wonder if they're hinting that this Mystery Man is really Flash comic villain Cobalt Blue?

The Mystery Man goes to work at Mercury Labs, where he puts on his security badge that reads "Dr. Malcolm Gilmore." We finally see his face, and he looks exactly like Eddie Thawne from Season 1. Gasp!

We then check in with all the side characters for no good reason. Chester makes a new superhero costume for Allegra and fails spectacularly, as it looks utterly ridiculous. We also see a riveting scene in which Joe cooks breakfast for Cecile, who deigns to visit her family for the weekend. Khione's apparently now living in Caitlin & Frost's old apartment, and writes journal entries to the two of them, as well as to Chillblaine (?). Feel free to ignore all these scenes, as they have absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with the plot.

At the Loft, we see there's apparently been a big time jump since the previous episode, as Iris appears to be close to her due date. Barry's set up meta-dampeners to "baby proof" the apartment and keep Infant Nora from prematurely using her powers. Iris gets a notification that her Red Death article was just nominated for a Pulitzer. exactly as Barry's Map Book foretold.

Just then Barry's surrounded by crackling blue energy and vanishes. He appears somewhere in downtown Central City, but doesn't recognize anything. He sees it's the year 2000, and realizes he's somehow gone back in time again!

Stranded in the past with no money or ID, Barry goes to CCPD. There he spots a Joe, who — despite the fact that it's 2000— doesn't look a day younger. He tells Joe he needs his help.

Joe asks Barry's name, but he says he can't tell him that. He says he needs help finding Dr. Tina McGee, but can't say why. Joe's frustrated, but senses that Barry's sincere and automatically trusts him. He says Barry's gonna have to trust him as well, and provide him at least a name.

Just then Barry sees the calendar on Joe's desk, and realizes it's March 18, 2000— the day his mother Nora's murdered by Eobard Thawne. Panicked, he runs out of CCPD (at normal speed).

Outside, Barry jusssst happens to see his parents Henry & Nora standing across the street. He watches them for a while, and finally makes the decision to go and talk to them. Before he can though, he's mowed down by a speedster with red lightning.

Henry & Nora rush over to help the unconscious Barry. Nora notes he looks just like her father (???).

Barry wakes in a hospital bed, being treated by Henry (who's of course a doctor). They ask his name, and he hesitates a second before saying it's "Bart." The two are incredibly nice to him, and offer to help however they can. In fact their kindness borders on mania, as they seem positively obsessed with this stranger they just met. 
Barry thanks them for their trouble and tried to leave, but stumbles and falls. Nora says he's probably starved, and insists on taking him out to eat.

Elsewhere, Joe investigates the scene where Barry was attacked, thinking it was a hit & run accident. He hears a voice call his name, and sees a blue crystal lying on the ground. He picks it up (hey, isn't this a crime scene?) and his eyes suddenly glow blue (which is the international sign that someone's been possessed).

Henry & Nora take Barry to Zatara's pizzeria, where they offer to let him stay at their home (!). Jaysis, what is it with these two? Who does that? Quite rightly this unnerves Barry, and he says he has to go.

He exits the restaurant and runs into his nemesis Eobard Thawne. He moves to kill Thawne by phasing his hand into his heart, but stops when he realizes what that would do to the timeline. Barry asks why he brought him to the past, but Thawne says he had nothing to do with it.

Cut to O'Shaughnessy's Pub, where Thawne takes Barry out for a drink (???). He's loving the situation, as Barry faces an impossible decision— do nothing and allow Thawne to kill his younger self, or stop him and destroy the timeline. He also admits that while he didn't bring him back in time, he DID orchestrate his meeting with Henry & Nora— just to mess with him.

Barry returns to the hospital, where Henry & Nora are surprised to see him. He tells them his parents are dead, and he always wondered what he'd say if he had one more day with them. Nora says he can say whatever it is to them. He tells them he loves them both, and will always carry their light inside him. Henry & Nora tell Barry that his parents would be proud of him, and wish him well as they leave.

Barry then hears a voice calling his name, and follows it to the hospital's basement. There he finds Joe, who says he recognizes Barry and knows he's somehow become stuck in the past. Relieved, he opens up to Joe, but quickly realizes something's off.

Joe announces he's really the Negative Speed Force, and says Barry will pay for what he's done. Barry starts to fight back, but realizes he'll hurt Joe if he does. Negative Joe fires energy blasts at Barry, who narrowly avoids them. The attack shakes the hospital, threatening to bring it down. Detective Singh orders an evacuation of all patients.

Eventually Barry closes his eyes and thinks happy thoughts of Iris and Baby Nora. This somehow causes a blast of Speed Force Lightning to hit Negative Joe, causing him to drop the blue crystal. It hits the ground and vanishes.

Joe reverts to normal, and Barry zooms him back to his patrol car. Joe comes to, confused as to what the hell just happened (much like the audience!).

Barry then zooms across town to his childhood home, and sees Thawne standing outside. Thawne recounts his origin, and how his life was ruined by the Flash. Barry apologizes for inadvertently hurting him, and says Thawne can still have a better life... if he simply walks away.

Thawne actually looks like he's considering it for a few seconds, but eventually rejects Barry's offer. He runs into the house and starts zooming around the living room, intending to kill Young Barry— just as he did way back in Season 1.

Barry enters and sees his past self watching the scene unfold, and start to act. Barry looks at his past self and motions for him to stop. He then zooms Young Barry out of the house and deposits him in the street. 

Undefeated, Thawne then turns his attention to Nora and kills her. He then tries running back to the future, but finds he can't as he's used up his speed or something. Barry confronts him and thanks Thawne for giving him the opportunity to spend one last day with his parents.

Of course this sends Thawne into a rage, as he vows to destroy Barry's life. Suddenly Barry's enveloped in blue energy again and vanishes.

Cut to Mercury Labs, where Malcolm Gilmore is working late. A sudden storm blows up, complete with red skies (again?). Suddenly a bolt of lightning crashes through the window, striking Malcolm and throwing him across the room. As he lies unconscious on the floor, his body crackles with red Negative Speed Force energy. A folder appears on the floor, as Malcolm wakes. He looks through the folder, and says it's a police report on the death of Eddie Thawne.

• Get used to this bouquet of fake blue roses. I have a feeling we're gonna be seeing it a lot over the next month.

• During the cold open we're treated to a montage of a Mystery Man getting ready for work. A couple things here:

Note that pretty much everything in this sequence is blue. The Mystery Man wears a blue suit & tie, he chows down on a handful of blueberries and he even hums Elton John's I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues

Even though we're not supposed to know it yet, the Big Bad for this final story arc is Cobalt Blue— an evil speedster from the comics. So all the blue stuff here is a VERY on the nose nod to that. Subtle!

Also, this Mystery Man apparently lives in Joe West's house— I'd recognize that interior set anywhere. 

How can that be? Isn't Cecile still living there, along with her new border Allegra? Does the Mystery Man live on another Earth in the Multiverse? Or does this scene take place in 2049 (the only future year that seemingly exists on this show)? 

My guess is that they used the West home set because the show couldn't afford to build an elaborate new one just for a single scene. Whatever the reason for it, it's apparently none of our business, as it's never addressed.

• We then cut to an establishing shot of Mercury Labs, where the Mystery Man works. 

The place has undergone some major changes since it first appeared in Season 1's The Man In The Yellow Suit, but they seem to have settled on this look for it now. Unlike most buildings in Central City, this one isn't based in Vancouver. I'm pretty sure it's a fully CGI creation.

• Inside Mercury Labs, we finally see the Mystery Man's face, and he turns out to be— Eddie Thawne. GASP! 

Except this can't be Eddie, as he died way back in the Season 1 finale. His security badge reads "Malcolm Gilmore," so I have no idea what the hell's going on here just yet.

• As I said above, we've known for a while now that the final Big Bad of the series would be Cobalt Blue. So who the heck is he?

As with most comic book characters, he has an extremely convoluted backstory that'd take a good 50,000 words to adequately describe. So I'll try and be brief.

Basically he's Malcolm Thawne, who's secretly an unknown twin brother of Barry Allen (!). It seems Charlene Thawne and Nora Allen both went into labor at the same time and in the same hospital. A drunken doctor named Gilmore (!!) tended to the two women. Charlene's baby was stillborn, while Nora had twins. For reasons, Gilmore secretly replaced Charlene's dead child with one of Nora's (without her knowledge).

The members of the Thawne family were all inexplicably able to conjure up a blue flame that could heal people (?), and used this power as conmen and grifters. Malcolm eventually discovered the truth about his origin, and killed Dr. Gilmore for giving him to the Thawnes.

Malcolm envied his brother Barry, who seemingly had a much better life than him. He even witnessed the accident that gave Barry his speed, and grew to hate him, believing he was living the life he should have had.

Eventually Malcolm learned to generate the blue flame, and used it to steal speed from the Flash. He then whipped up a costume and called himself Cobalt Blue.

It's clear that the writers are taking bits and pieces of this origin story and Frankensteining them into a new Arrowverse version of Cobalt Blue. They took Malcolm's first name and mashed it together with Dr. Gilmore's, and seemingly ditched the whole blue energy thing altogether. More importantly it looks like they've dumped the idea of Malcolm/Eddie being Barry's secret twin— which is most definitely a good thing.

• We then waste a good chunk of the runtime by catching up with the various members of Team Flash. Note that every one of these scenes is absolutely pointless, as none of them contribute to the plot in any way whatsoever.

The first subplot involves Chester & Allegra. If you'll recall, a few episodes back she was worried that people might see her using her powers in public and figure out she's a meta. Last week Chester gifted her with a facial transmorgrifier pendant that would conceal her identity (before the device was ultimately destroyed).

Why's Allegra worrying about her identity in the first place? Take a look at this front page from the Central City Picture News— it's of Allegra, with her face completely obscured by her light powers. So why doesn't she just generate a dazzling light around her head whenever she goes out to fight crime? Problem solved!

Also, based on this scene it seems the Picture News is apparently still in business. Is Central City really big enough to support TWO newspapers? That may be the most unrealistic thing on the entire show!

• Now that the facial transmorgrifier's been destroyed, Chester decides to surprise Allegra by whipping up a brand new crimefighting costume for her. 

OK, I get that this outfit is supposed to be comedically awful, but the costume designers went wayyyyy overboard here. There's no way in hell a rational adult in the real world would come up with an abomination like this and say, "Yes! This is a suitable gift for my girlfriend and she'll love it."

• Thanks, Opening Credits, for ruining the surprise appearances of Michelle Harrison, Matt Letscher and John Wesley Shipp! It's so much better to find out well in advance that they're in the episode, rather than be delighted when they unexpectedly pop up on screen.

OK, I know the SAG rules require everyone to be listed in the credits, but this still pisses me off every time they do it.

• Cecile then finds time in her busy schedule to spend a couple of hours with her (common law) husband Joe in his new home, and goes on and on about how great it is to see him:

Cecile: "It feels so good to be home."
Joe: "Oh, new place ain't so bad."
Cecile: "No, it's not about that. It's not about the place. It's you. It's you and Jenna. You're my home. And these weekends, they mean everything!"

Yeah, can it already, Cecile. Back in The Mask Of The Red Death, Part 2, I went on a lengthy rant about the fact that Cecile chose to stay in Central City and play superhero, while Joe & Baby Jenna left for a quieter life in the country.

I said this arrangement made Cecile look like a narcissistic monster, who cared far more about her career than her own family. She's needlessly putting a strain on her (common law) marriage, and will miss out on dozens of milestones in her daughter's life— all for her own personal glory. I can't believe how badly the writers botched this storyline, as it made Cecile look like a terrible mother and a huge asshole. 

By the way, What's Jesse L. Martin doing here? According to multiple sources, he contractually agreed to appear in five episodes in this final season. This scene marks his fifth & presumably last appearance of the season. So does that mean he's not gonna show up in the freakin' SERIES finale? If not, then what the hell?

• Cut to yet another pointless scene (this time at Caitlin & Frost's old apartment), as Khione turns into a blue vapor, slips under the door and then reconstitutes herself. Sure, that might as well be a thing that can happen. When the hell did she develop that handy little ability?

This sequence gets even more bizarre, as Khione begins writing journal entries to Caitlin and Frost. For no good reason I can see, this scene's shot with all these weird vignettes of the entries she's writing, accompanied by her voiceover narration and overlaid with classical music.

It looks and feels for all the world like someone writing to their betrothed during the Civil War. Any second I expected her to write, "My dearest love, how goes the War Of Northern Aggression?"

They've never done anything remotely like his before, and the whole interlude feels like it came from some other show.

To make things even more strange, Khione ends this writing session by staring straight into the camera and saying how much she misses Chillblaine.  Wait, what?

I assume this is supposed to be some sort of therapy for her— you know, writing out what she's feeling to help her deal with her emotions or some such crap. But none of it makes any sense. Despite sharing a body with Caitlin and Frost (kind of?), she never once met either of them. How can you miss someone you never knew?

And I really don't understand her sudden longing for Chillblaine, considering he originally wanted to erase her from existence and then spent weeks recreating the plot of Vertigo as he tried to turn her into his dead girlfriend. So of course it's perfectly normal for her to suddenly pine for him. Girls love it when guys emotionally manipulate them, right?

• Over at the Loft, we see there's apparently been a BIG time jump between episodes, as Iris looks like she's ready to pop any second. So does that mean the show's jumped ahead to 2024? The year Barry's scheduled to "Vanish In Crisis," as foretold by the infamous newspaper headline we've been seeing for the past nine years?

• At the Loft, Barry sets up meta-dampeners to prevent Baby Nora from zooming around the place. 

Eh, that's fine I guess, but... won't that prevent HIM from using HIS powers in the apartment as well? What if an evil meta attacks him at home?

• Barry's then surrounded by blue energy and inexplicably vanishes, appearing back in the year 2000. A couple things here:

First of all, who brought him back to the past and why? Smart money would say it was Eobard Thawne, who's the Big Bad of this episode. But he denies having anything to do with it, and I have no real reason to doubt him.

The next likely candidate would be the Negative Speed Force, but I can't think of any good reason for it to yank Barry back in time either. 

Once again, apparently whoever or whatever did it is none of our goddamned business, as it's never explained. Hopefully all will be revealed next week. 

Secondly, as Barry wanders around in the past, he's gawked at by various passers-by. Just what the hell are they staring at? It's not like he's wearing a futuristic silver jumpsuit. His outfit is pretty basic, and looks EXACTLY like what everyone else is wearing in the year 2000!

Lastly, check out the street in which Barry first appears in the past.

It's actually the rear of the Queen Elizabeth Theater in downtown Vancouver.

• Barry then zooms down the street, trying to open a breach back to 2023 (or maybe 2024). Unfortunately the Speed Force rejects him or something, and he ends up crashing into the back of a laundry van (that's labeled Gambi Cleaners).

This is a fun little callback to Pilot, in which Barry tested his newfound speed, lost control and crashed into the back of an identical Gambi Cleaners van!

Note that the same thing happened to Barry's future daughter Nora back in Season 5's Godspeed. Nora tested her speedster powers as well, and crashed into the back of a Gambi & Sons laundry truck. Those Gambis just can't catch a break!

By the way, in the comics, Paul Gambi was a tailor who whipped up costumes for the Flash's Rogues Gallery.

• Stranded in the past with no money or ID, Barry goes to CCPD for help. There he meets the 2000 version of Detective Singh, who's sporting a truly awful wig in a futile attempt to make him look younger.

Barry asks to see Joe, and is allowed to walk deep into the police station, completely unescorted. Yeah, there's no way that would ever happen in real life.

Barry then meets Joe, who, unlike Detective Singh, looks exactly the same as he does in 2023 (or maybe 2024)—even though he's over twenty years younger here. I guess the show couldn't afford two bad wigs this week?

Despite them dropping the ball on the age thing, I liked this scene quite a bit, as Barry tries asking Joe for help without revealing too much to him. It was a nice moment between the two of them, as Joe clearly recognized something familiar about Barry— never realizing he was looking at his future foster son. Clearly Joe sensed something good and decent in him, which made him want to help Barry.

• Barry glances at Joe's desk calendar, and his blood freezes when he sees it's Saturday, March 18, 2000— the day his mother was killed by Eobard Thawne. Quite rightly he freaks out and runs from the police station. 

I checked and yes, March 18, 2000 really was a Saturday. Well done, writers!

• By the way, right after this episode aired, there was a lot of online chatter from fans who were angry that Barry was thrown back to the year 2000, but didn't warn anyone about the 9/11 attacks. Are you freakin' kidding me?

This has to be the dumbest complaint I've ever heard. Even if he did try to tell someone about it, who'd believe him? And second, if this show's taught us anything, it's that trying to change the past— even with the best of intentions— only leads to disaster. Nobody knows that better than Barry at this point.

• As always, the overhead shots of Central City are actually Portland, Oregon. Even though the show's filmed in Vancouver. Confusing!

• Barry tries calling Professor Martin Stein for help— on a pay phone, which was still a thing back in 2000. If you'll recall, back in Pilot Professor Stein was protesting the STAR Labs Particle Accelerator when it exploded, fusing him and Ronnie Raymond into Firestorm.

Unfortunately Stein doesn't believe Barry's claim that he's come from the future and hangs up.

Too bad we didn't get an actual appearance by Stein here, but hey, I'll take even a voice cameo. I loved that Stein announced to Barry he was hanging up on him rather than just doing it! Perfectly in keeping with his polite and uptight personality!

• Barry then just happens to spot his parents Henry & Nora walking down the street. A couple things here:

First of all, his parents stop to get coffee from Jitters, which was apparently in business back in 2000.

Second, it's been established in pervious episodes that Central City has an unlikely population of 14 MILLION people (making it more populous than New York City and LA combined!). I'll leave it to you to decide how likely it is that Barry would run into his own parents there.

• Barry starts to approach his Henry & Nora, but is attacked by a super fast something, which totally isn't Eobard Thawne (wink wink). He collapses in the middle of the street, where he's rescued by his parents. Nora takes one look at the comatose Barry and says, "My goodness. Henry, he looks just like my father!"

What an odd thing for someone to say in a crisis like that! I mean sure, maybe he does, but it just seems weird to me.

To be fair, Nora actually said the same thing to Barry when he time traveled to this date (AGAIN!) in the Season 1 finale Fast Enough.

• As always, the Central City Medical Center is actually a piece of video clip art. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as that's what clip art's for!

• Barry wakes in the hospital, where he finds his parents taking care of him— without realizing he's really their son. The writers really went all out here to make Henry & Nora the nicest people possible, turning them into saint-like figures. 

Actually I think they went a little overboard with them, as the two become positively OBSESSED with taking care of this total stranger they found lying in the street. They even offer to let Barry stay in their home till he gets back on his feet. Who the hell does that? Their behavior is downright bizarre, and they end up looking more like stalkers than good samaritans.

I suppose I could be generous here and say they sense something of their son in this random stranger. I suppose I could say that, but I don't see why I should.

• Nora asks Barry his name, and he pauses a second before saying "Bart."

This is similar to Cause And Effect, in which he lost his memories and told his parents his name was Bart.

• Joe & Singh have a chat at the site of Barry's hit & run. For some reason this has mushroomed into a major operation, as they have the entire street cordoned off, complete with at least four police cars present. Seems a bit of overkill to me— especially since there was no vehicle involved in the alleged hit & run. Literally all that happened is Barry fell down in the street!

Since I've become obsessed with tracking down the show's shooting locations, the spot where Joe sets up his unnecessary roadblock...

Is actually the exterior of the Vancouver Central Public Library, located at 775 Hamilton Street. I'm really gonna miss looking up all these filming locations once the show's over!

• Joe then sees a glowing blue Jolly Rancher Of Doom, er, I mean a glowing blue crystal on the ground and hears it call his name (!). Of course he immediately does what any professional would do in that situation— he picks it up and instantly becomes possessed by it.

Kudos I guess for at least puting a rubber glove around it before picking it up— even if it didn't make any difference.

Earlier in the year when it was announced that Cobalt Blue would be the final Big Bad of the series, I was somewhat intrigued. I know absolutely nothing about the character in the comics, but was looking forward to seeing a cool new villain on the show. 

Imagine my disappointment then when I saw this scene. I hope THIS isn't how they're gonna portray Cobalt Blue in this final arc— by just having him possess the show's various regulars. If that's their plan, then why even bother?

• Cut to the Allens treating Barry to dinner at Zatara's Italian Restaurant.

In the comics, Zatara was a Golden Age character who first appeared wayyyyy back in 1938. He was a stage magician who was actually capable of performing real magic, and fought crime with his abilities. His daughter was Zatana, who had similar powers and became a member of the Justice League.

His name drop here was pure fan service of course, but I don't quite understand it. Neither Zatara nor Zatana have ever appeared in the Arrowverse, making this reference a bit puzzling. I guess the writer must be a big fan of Golden Age magician characters.

• So where was Young Barry during the bulk of this episode? We know he's around, since Thawne's planning to kill him later in the day. He can't be in school, since it's a Saturday— did Henry & Nora leave him home alone? That's pretty convenient, as it prevents 2023 Barry from running into his younger self!

• Barry makes a hasty exit from the restaurant, and runs into his nemesis Eobard Thawne. Specifically the Matt Letscher version of Thawne, which makes perfect sense since it's the year 2000 and he's the one who tried to kill Young Barry and ended up murdering Nora Allen instead.

As always, it's great to see Letscher back in the role again. Tom Cavanaugh was fine as Thawne, but it never made any sense for him to play the part virtually every single time the character popped up.

• Incredibly, Thawne takes Barry out for a beer, to kill time before he kills him as a child. That doesn't make any sense, but let's just roll with it or we'll be here all day. They have their little chat at O'Shaughnessy's Pub, which apparently existed back in 2000. Get a good look at the place (including the inside that doesn't match the outside), as this may well be the last time we ever see it.

Sadly, the real life location in Vancouver was knocked down in late 2022.

• When Barry first encountered Thawne, he accused him of bringing him back in time. Thawne flat out denied this. Then later at the pub, Thawne says he orchestrated Barry's meeting with his parents, in order to torture him. Wait, what?

It sounds like Thawne's contradicting himself, saying he did and didn't manipulate events. But after watching the relevant scenes a couple times I realized he's telling the truth.

Thawne actually DIDN'T bring Barry to the year 2000. But once Barry showed up, he DID arrange his meeting with Henry & Nora. Got it.

Of course once again this begs the question: If Thawne didn't pull Barry back in time, then who or what did?

• I gotta say, I enjoyed the Barry/Thawne pub scene quite a bit. Barry quickly realizes it's a hopeless situation— if he stops Thawne he'll wreck the timeline again, but if he does nothing, then his mother will die and his father sent off to prison. Either way, he's screwed. Thawne knows this and relishes the situation to the fullest.

Both actors are at the top of their game here, and they play the scene wonderfully. Kudos!

• Cut to Henry and Nora, still wishing they could have done more to help Bart, er, I mean Barry.

The first time I saw this scene I thought the two of them were sitting in their home. But when I watched it a second time I realized they're still chilling in the hospital room where Henry treated Barry after his hit & run! What the hell? Why would they hang around in this empty hospital room, long after Barry left it?

And again, why are the two of them so positively obsessed with this stranger they've known for an hour at most? They've gone way beyond "concerned citizens" at this point, and are starting to become downright creepy.

They remind me of Seinfeld's Close Talker, who was determined to show Morty & Helen a good time in New York, despite the fact he'd never met them before.

• Barry encounters Joe (who's possessed by the Negative Speed Force) in the basement of the hospital. Joe says he recognizes Barry and knows that he's stuck in 2000, and tells him everything's gonna be fine now. Barry disagrees, saying, "No, it's not. Look, I can't make contact with the Speed Force." Wait, what?

How could Barry use his speed all through this episode if he can't access the Speed Force? Is this a repeat of Season 6, when the Speed Force died but Barry still had a finite amount of power left?

Or is he saying he just can't communicate with the Speed Force? If it's the latter, they could have clarified that a bit.

• Negative Joe fires a blast of energy at Barry, which hurls him backwards down a hospital hallway and right through TWO layers of drywall!

So Barry's dead then, right? Speed healing or not, no one could withstand that amount of force!

• Negative Joe's attack on Barry is felt all over the hospital. As the patients and visitors panic, a doctor takes charge and orders an evacuation. 

This doctor turns out to be Rachel Rosso— mother of Ramsey Rosso, aka Bloodwork. Since it's currently the year 2000, she hasn't yet got sick and died, causing her son to become unhinged and turn into a supervillain.

Rachel then tells her staff there's a Code Green, and orders them to evacuate the hospital. Code Green typically means there's an emergency situation, which could be anything from an unruly and dangerous patient to an incoming wave of casualties from a natural disaster. So she actually used it correctly here. Well done, writers!

• Barry faces a quandary when he realizes he can't attack the Negative Speed Force, as doing so would kill Joe. At one point Negative Joe tries to kill Barry by strangling him and zapping him with lightning. 

Barry struggles a bit and then gets and idea. He goes full Zen and stops fighting altogether, as he calmly begins thinking of all people most important to him— namely Iris and Baby Nora. This wave of love charges him up and gives him the strength to blast Negative Joe with Speed Force Lightning. This actually drives the Negative Speed Force right out of Joe's body! 


Are you fracking kidding me with this? How many times are they gonna use this Love Conquers All trope on this goddamned show? It's been going on all season, as Barry's barely done anything, preferring to kill his enemies with kindness. He did it in Season 8's Negative, Part Two as well, when he sat down in the middle of the street and refused to fight Thawne. 

Because of course that's exactly what people want to see in a superhero show— zero superhero action! 

To be fair, the whole pacifist thing is a perfectly valid (if stupid) storytelling choice on the part of the writers— if used once. Twice, tops. But they can't just keep using it over and over every f*cking week! That's beyond lazy writing right there.

• Barry's defense against Negative Joe results in a massive explosion of both positive and negative Speed Force lightning, which washes over Detective Singh. I guess all that bizarre energy didn't have any sort of affect on him, huh? Lucky him!

• Once Joe's knocked out, he drops the giant glowing Jolly Rancher, er, I mean the Negative Speed Force Crystal. Apparently that's all it took for him to no longer be possessed. Barry sees the crystal and of course starts to pick it up. Unfortunately (or I guess fortunately for him!) it vanishes before he can do so.

So what the hell's going on here?

If you'll recall, we first saw it at the tail end of the Season 8 finale (Negative, Part Two). Back then it mysteriously appeared inside a lab somewhere— in the year 2049 (!). 

Nothing about this object makes the least bit of sense. Where'd it come from? Unclear. Whose lab did it appear in? Don't know. Why'd it show up at all? Don't know that either. 

Whatever it was, it was obvious that it was meant to set up Cobalt Blue as the Big Bad of Season 9. But now here we are and we still don't know any more about the crystal than we did last year. 

Even worse, as I said the crystal first appeared in 2049. Yet suddenly in this episode it's wreaking havoc back in the year 2000! Whoops!  Did the crystal decide there wasn't anyone worth possessing in the future, so it time traveled to the past? 

Methinks the writers changed their plans for this story arc, and hoped we'd forget all about the whole 2049 thing. Nice try, guys!

• Amazingly, as near as I can tell we never find out who pulled Barry back in time to the night of his mother's murder, or more importantly, why.

As I said earlier, Thawne insists he had nothing to do with it, and I have no reason to doubt him. I assume then it must have been the Negative Speed Force that did it? But again, why? The whole trip back to 2000 ends up being a blessing in disguise for Barry, as it gives him a chance to say goodbye to his parents. Surely the Negative Speed Force would have no interest in helping him get closure like that? 

As it stands, I don't know why anything in this episode happened. And I don't think the writers do either. Such is the writing on The Flash these days. Don't think, just watch.

• We get a number of "Run, Barry, Runs" in this episode, but they're all either instances Barry hears in his head, or flashbacks to the night Nora was killed. As such I don't know that they should be added to the Official Run, Barry, Run Counter.

• Like clockwork, Thawne shows up in front of the Allen home, intent on killing Young Barry. 2023 (or maybe 2024) Barry then zooms to the scene and confronts Thawne. Amazingly, Barry actually tries to "save" him through the Power Of Love, telling Thawne he doesn't have to go through with it and can simply walk away. 

What the hell was Barry's endgame here? He KNOWS he can't interfere in the events of this night or he'll cause another Flashpoint. But if he managed to talk Thawne out of murdering Nora, that'd change the past as well. So I don't get what he was trying to accomplish here.

• During their confrontation outside the Allen home, Thawne recounts the reason he hates Barry so much. 

It's been a long time since I heard Thawne's origin story, so I forgot just how... stupid it is. Born in 2151, Thawne was a lifelong fan of the Flash— so much so that he figured out how to become a speedster just like him. Just as he was about to save a group of people and reveal himself to the world, the Flash swooped in and rescued them instead. The Flash then got all the credit for the save. According to Thawne this event "ruined" his life, and from that moment on he dedicated himself to destroying the Flash. 

That's it? He's all pissy because an already-established superhero got the glory instead of him? Jaysis. What is he, five years old?

• The fateful moment then arrives, as Thawne tries to kill Young Barry.

This scene's played out many, many times on the show over the years, and unfortunately it's gotten more and more complicated as the series has gone on. I'm gonna try (and likely fail) to make sense of it and recap it here. 

As originally presented, Nora Allen sits helpless in the middle of her living room as red & yellow energy circles her. Young Barry looks on, horrified. His father Henry grabs him and yells, "Run, Barry, Run!" Young Barry then inexplicably finds himself standing outside the house and down the street. When he runs back home, he sees his mother's been killed by Thawne and his father blamed for the murder.

It didn't take long before this scene was altered though...

The first change came in the 2015 episode Fast Enough, when Barry decided to revisit the night his mother died. He travels back to 2000, and sees his mother once again circled by red & yellow energy streaks.

2015 Barry watches from the wings as all this unfolds.

Just as he's about to save his mother, he notices a future version of himself standing on the other side of the room, motioning for him to stay put. We then realize the red & yellow energy streaks zipping around Nora are actually Future Barry and Thawne fighting one another as superspeed. 

Future Flash then saves Young Barry by zooming him out of the house. This prompts Thawne to stab Nora instead and speed off. 2015 Barry then enters the room and holds his mother as she dies in his arms.

We get another MAJOR change in 2016, in the Season 2 finale The Race Of His Life. 2016 Barry— upset after Zoom killed his father Henry— decides to take matters into his own hands. He goes back to the night his mother was killed by Thawne, determined to change history. He tackles Thawne and prevents him from killing Nora. He looks over and sees the 2015 version of himself observing all this before fading away. He then takes Thawne to prison.

Then in the Season 3 premiere Flashpoint, 2016 Barry returns to his present. He's happy to see his actions have created a new "Flashpoint" timeline— one in which his parents are alive and well and his life is seemingly perfect. Unfortunately cracks begin to show in this new reality, as the lives of his friends have all changed drastically for the worst.

2016 Barry then decides to try and undo Flashpoint and restore the timeline. He frees Thawne from prison and the two return to 2000 (again!). There they watch as Season 2 Barry stops Thawne from killing Nora, and zoom him off to the hoosegow. 2016 Barry then tells Thawne to do what has to be done, and the evil speedster kills Nora yet again. 

2016 Barry returns to his present, to see the timeline's been reset, more or less back to normal. As a result of all this, he learns speedsters aren't gods and to leave the timeline be.

Whew! Everybody got all that? OK, let's move on.

As I said, Nora Allen's death is a complicated and confusing mess, one that only got worse as the show went on. Barry's revisited the event so many times that it feels like there should be fifteen or twenty versions of himself crammed into the living room and watching it. Heck, back in Season 5 or 6 he and his future daughter Nora even went back to observe the situation from afar!

Amazingly in this episode, they make yet another change to the scene!

We see Nora surrounded by energy in the living room as always. 2015 Barry watches from the wings. Just as he's about to stop Thawne, he looks over and sees 2023/4 Barry— the one from this episode— who motions for him to stay put and not interfere.

2023/4 Barry then zooms his younger self out in the street, and things play out as they always have. Thawne kills Nora instead, then tries to run back to his own time period, but finds he's stuck in the past.

As you can see, they've pulled a pretty major retcon here. In the past, it was strongly implied that it was 2016 Barry who ordered 2015 Barry not to interfere. It was hard to tell though, because he was vibrating and looked blurry and indistinct (because the producers didn't want to spring for a new suit for one short scene!).

In this episode we see the second Barry was the 2023/4 version all along. And we know this because he's no longer blurry and is wearing the current suit.

Do I think the producers intended on the second Barry to be the Season 9 version all along? No. No I do not. But it was necessary for this episode, so they just changed it and hoped everyone would forget about all the previous iterations of this scene. 

• So Barry saves his younger self and Thawne kills Nora. Afterwards, Thawne asks why Barry seems so contented:

Thawne: "I don't understand. You saved yourself and let me kill her instead. Why?"
Barry: "I had no choice."
Thawne: "Killing your mother... it's a fixed point. You knew this was gonna happen. And now I'm stuck here in a hell where I get to watch you grow up and become the hero that I should have been! I swear... even if I have to tear the universe apart, I will find a way to destroy you and everyone you love! Because from this moment forward, my life's work will be finding ways to kill you."
Barry: "I know. And this night tortured me for decades. Not anymore. Because today I got to see my parents one last time and feel how much they loved me."
Thawne: "This is the worst night of your life."
Barry: "I know it. And today brought me the peace I've been looking for ever since. I have you to thank for that, Eobard, and I'll always be grateful."

Of course Barry's Moment Of Zen drives Thawne into a rage, pushing him even further into insanity. 

This was hands down the best part of the episode, as it was wonderfully written and brilliantly acted. So why couldn't the entire season have been like this?

• We then catch up with Malcolm Gilmore, as he's hard at work in some sort of futuristic lab. Wait, what?

OK, if Malcolm is really somehow Eddie (and there's no reason for him to be in this episode if it's NOT him), then how the hell is he a scientist? Eddie was a cop. There's not a lot of overlap between those two professions. Was Eddie somehow resurrected, adopted a new identity, went to night school and started a new career?

• The skies outside Eddie's lab turn red, and he's hit by a bolt of lightning and thrown backwards into a rack of chemicals. Note that this EXACTLY mirrors the way Barry got his powers back in Pilot.

• The unconscious Eddie then crackles with what I have to assume is Speed Force energy. Although if he's really supposed to be Cobalt Blue, shouldn't his lightning be that color instead of red? Is this Negative Speed Force energy?

• For no good reason I can think of, a folder suddenly appears on the floor of Malcolm's lab. He opens it and sees it's a police report on Eddie Thawne's death. Malcolm reads it and says, "Who the hell is Eddie Thawne?"

So... where'd this folder come from? Did the lightning conjure it up? I'm honestly getting really tired of trying to figure out what the hell's happening in this episode.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter