Why are we doing this? Why do we continue watching this show? Seriously. What is there on The Flash that is worth an hour a week?
It isn’t the effects.
They’re fine; probably the most consistent part of the show, but not so amazing that they make up for all of the rest of The Flash‘s failings. Sometimes there are some real winners. King Shark comes to mind. He looked great and he continues to be the high watermark for what the CW is capable of producing.
Unfortunately, when the rest of the show isn’t up to par, the limitations of a suboptimal budget show through. A dynamic computer generated Savitar becomes a guy in a plastic suit. Every single big action sequence takes place in the dark of night. Shots of Barry running through Central City are reused. The impossible becomes predictable.
And it doesn’t help Flash that since its creation, the bar for TV effects has been raised significantly. Game of Thrones and its 8 million dollar an episode budget are staging theater quality battle sequences and have managed to scare up three CGI dragons. The Netflix’s Daredevil assembled what remains the best single shot hallway brawl across all the different media. Even Agents of SHIELD managed to pull off not only a convincing TV Ghost Rider but a cinematic one. Seriously. This is a shot from the finale. It’s gorgeous.
And you can’t blame The Flash for being at the middle of the pack. The CW clearly isn’t dishing out seven-figure episodes every week. But when the writing is falling apart, The Flash can’t survive off of effects alone, especially in a world where the rest of the landscape is putting out content that rivals film. Speaking of writing…
It sure as hell isn’t the writing.
I don’t know what happened here.
The Flash was never The Wire but it wasn’t Days of Our Lives either. It was somewhere in between, leaning away from the latter. Familiar plots were lifted by clever dialogue. Cisco and Caitlin went back and forth with one-liners and puns. Eddie was charmingly awkward around his partner/father in law. Best of all, the villains were snappy. Captain Cold, The Trickster, and Reverse Flash had dynamic personalities. They sparred. They quipped. Everyone felt like they knew what they were doing.
All of these good things have vanished and been replaced with mopey protagonists and one-note villains. Since everyone from Barry to Caitlin to Wally has had something terrible happen to them, as an attempt to raise the stakes, they spend entire episodes whining about how no one understands them. Every character issue is resolved by someone taking someone else into a hallway and believing in them. It’s boring.
And don’t get me started on the villains. Remember how they used to be entertaining? Remember when they all had something going on under the surface? Well, Thawne is dead. Cold is on another show and also dead. Trickster is busy making the biggest movie on the planet. That has left us with two main antagonists whose entire arc is that they went cRaAAaYyyYyaaAzZZzZeeEeeEEEee and decided they had to kill everyone because of how crazy they are. Even when it seems like the villains may have something deeper going on, they turn on the crazy and make a big weapon to destroy the universe.
Everyone is also a moron now. Barry can’t remember which powers he has unless someone tells him what they are. Cisco can teleport and he almost never does, even though it would solve almost every problem on the show. Caitlin is evil unless she isn’t. People wait around for villains to kill them. Speedsters are still an issue even though there exist in this universe power dampener fields, Nanites Courtesy Of Ray Palmer That Deliver A High-Frequency Pulse That Disables Speed, and a villain who automatically makes speedsters slow. Time travel breaks the entire universe and Barry can’t stop doing it. Everyone is constantly fooled by holograms.
Characters that make mistakes are one thing but characters that don’t learn from those mistakes are unbearable.
It isn’t the plot. There is no way that it’s the plot. The plot is the worst part.
The ENTIRE BACK HALF OF THE SEASON is building to a confrontation between Barry and Savitar over the life of Iris West. Two questions were posed: “Who is Savitar?” and “Can Barry stop him?” The answer to the first question was painfully obvious far before it was actually revealed, so all fans really had to work with was the second question. Would Barry be able to save the love of his life from himself?
We get to Infantino Street, the scene of the pre-crime, and the team has put together a plan. There is clearly another plan going on behind the scenes, which many fans were able to deduce, but the plan on the surface went like this.
- Barry meets Savitar in the park.
- Barry shoots Savitar with a Speedforce gun.
- Savitar gets trapped in the Speedforce.
- Everyone gets ice cream (except Savitar).
The first part of the plan executed perfectly. Savitar was right where everyone expected he would be. Then Barry grabbed the Speedforce bazooka and went all Ghostbusters on Savitar. But…it didn’t work. Savitar was able to shrug the Speedforce blast off. What gives?
Well it turns out that Savitar had the Philosopher’s Stone from waaaaaay earlier in the season and, wouldn’t you know it, the Philosopher’s Stone is made of calcified Speedforce energy so it beats Speedforce bazookas. Huh?
At no point was it established that Savitar HAD the Philosopher’s Stone, nor was the Stone’s Speedforce canceling ability even kind of hinted at. That line was basically the writers saying “Hey, we realized that we wrote ourselves into a corner with the whole “Iris death prophecy” and then into ANOTHER corner with the bazooka, so how about this? The gun doesn’t work because it doesn’t. Nothing that happened in the last few episodes matters. Does that work?”
And there are hundreds of examples of the internal logic of the show making no sense. When needed, Harry’s face switching device switches two entire bodies, even when they aren’t near each other. Iris is able to shoot Savitar with a gun. Sometimes Savitar has all of Barry’s memories but doesn’t. When Savitar disappears, things go back to normal but Wally retains his speed. Barry is able to phase through Savitar’s suit, even though he was never able to before. Caitlin is able to control her Killer Frostyness without any explanation. Characters constantly appear and disappear when it is inconvenient for them to be around i.e. Wally and Jay during the final fight. The plot holes are big enough to open a STAR Labs museum in, which I’m forgetting, does that exist anymore? Does anyone have a day job besides Barry, Joe, and Julian?
And there are explanations for some of these issues. Maybe Barry didn’t want to phase through the suit. Maybe Savitar was too weak to dodge a bullet. But the fact that the show doesn’t clear those issues up means that it doesn’t care about the plot being comprehensible. It just wants to get from Point A to Point B, and that’s a mess.
It isn’t Season 4.
We get it. The Thinker is going to be the bad guy. It won’t be another speedster. Good call. That is legitimately promising. But what about Barry?
At the end of the finale, he sacrificed himself to live in the Speedforce forever. His mom literally appeared out of a portal and walked Barry into heaven. But if you believe for a second that Barry won’t be back by the second or third episode, I have a wormhole to sell you. This show has no lasting consequences. Wells’ die or leave and then come back with minor character changes. Barry’s dad dies and then BOOM, Earth 3 Jay Garrick looks exactly like Barry’s father and will fill that role from now on. Iris unconvincingly fake died for a week. A WEEK!
And oh yeah, Barry has died and gone to Speedforce before. Midway through Season 2, he attempted to recreate the accident that gave him his powers and evaporated. Only after everyone believed in Barry more than ever before, were Cisco and Iris able to pull him out. Why isn’t that going to happen again? What’s stopping them?
You can at least hope that when Barry does come back he won’t be as whiny, but I wouldn’t. Every time Barry goes to the speedforce, he comes back a new man, full of faith and optimism. But then, after an episode or tw, the happiness is beaten out of Barry and he turns back into what we’re used to. Like Savitar, The Flash is stuck in a bunch of loops. The same things happen over and over again and once you’ve seen the same episode for the hundredth time, you start to see the seams. It seems like the only way to fix things is by breaking the loop.
It’s fitting that this episode is called “Finish Line” because I think I’m done. Yeah. It’s a pity but I’m pretty sure I’m done with The Flash.
At least Agents of SHIELD got renewed.