Season Five of The Flash ended on a serious downbeat, as the future was rewritten and Nora/XS was erased from the present. It was a shocking surprise, and an unexpected end to the season. It was also yet another loss of a loved one for Barry, who really seriously should start considering therapy in the near future. Unlike a lot of shows more or less ignoring the gap in time between seasons, Flash almost has a “What I Did During My Summer Vacation” feel as they check in with their various friends and allies.
“Into the Void” starts seconds after the season finale last time, with a teary scene for Barry and Iris as they go to the Time Vault and see Nora’s final message shorting out and causing problems. After this happens, we get a “4 Months Later” tag to move along to the current season with some new problems.
One thing that really never played right for me last season was Cisco wanting to give up his Vibe powers. It came out of nowhere and seemed very out of character. One of the reasons for this was that Carlos Valdes supposedly wanted more time to work on other projects, like live theater. Instead, he’s a major part of this episode, playing tech support for Flash as Kamilla cheers the speedster hero on. There’s evidently a strange plague of dopplegangers manifesting in the city at random, and Flash has been helping corral those as they pop up.
In the kind of nice, relaxed scene so many of these shows are lacking, the major characters get together for a cookout at the West home, which was nice to see, although I don’t know why Joe and Iris have matching hats. The only one missing is Ralph, who we hear is working a missing persons case out of town. There’s talk of a new gadget Cisco has been working on, and Barry is getting kind of pushy about getting back to work, which is harshing the mellow of the scene. Joe makes sure Iris and Barry are ok after their loss, and the answers don’t really sound healthy to me. The party gets broken up as people dash off to do various things, which is going to be very entertaining when Cisco comes back from getting his beer to find everyone gone. Joe comments that everyone ate but no one stuck around to clean up. Maybe Cisco is about to get drafted for that.
Caitlin’s excuse to leave was a funeral, which is hard to top, really. The mother of an old friend that we’ve never heard of has passed after a fight with cancer, and the eulogy introduces us to Dr. Ramsey Rosso, played by Sendhil Ramamurthy, best known as Mohinder from Heroes. Whatever else is going on, the man has a great speaking voice. He thanks Caitlin for coming, and says they should catch up. He also notes that her hands are very cold, and Killer Frost almost slips out. Iris is at a dump after finding out her father threw out some boxes. She gets her jacket from her brief time as a speedster, but then a freak mini-black hole opens up (don’t you hate it when that happens?) and nearly sucks in the understanding dump worker who is letting her rummage around at night and even knows where she should look. She helps save him, but loses her just-reclaimed treasure. In the follow up, Barry checks on her, she makes up a story, and Cisco hates being in garbage. His data confirms it was somehow a black hole. Throughout this show, the weird black holes seem to be really selective about what they pull in and what they ignore. I suspect Neil deGrasse Tyson would have an aneurism if he watched this episode. We never do find out what happened with the alarm that pulled Barry away from the cookout.
In the Cortex, Barry is working with Cisco and Caitlin to try and figure out how to deal with the black hole issue. Caitlin and Cisco are pointing out some problems, and Barry is ridiculously, determinedly, upbeat. This gets broken up by the return of Ralph, decked out in a tux and making James Bond jokes, namedropping both something important from his comic book version and another of DC’s fictional cities. There’s a comment that Ralph is unusually devoted to this case, and Caitlin is going to see Ramsey later. Joe’s new office is already a mess, although he’s pulling one of those “I know where everything is” attitudes, and seems to be able to back it up. Iris collects some files, because why wouldn’t a police captain give case files to a reporter, and she is stricken for a moment when she sees a newspaper clipping about Flash and XS.
Shockingly, Caitlin and Ramsey meet up at Jitters. Maybe if the universes merge in Crisis, they’ll be more places to eat in town. Ramsey has a lot to say, little of it good, and Caitlin is disappointed in her friend. After he makes a dramatic exit, another black hole strikes. It nearly sucks Caitlin in, and her calls for Killer Frost are ignored. What someone with cold powers was going to do against a black hole, I’m not sure, but Flash makes a great last-minute rescue. Returning to STAR, Caitlin is shaken up by her brush with death, and Barry’s relentless optimism starts seeming a bit odd. They try and figure out what’s going on, and we’re introduced to Chester P Runk, a minor character from the comics who appeared a bit like this story at first, eventually becoming an ally and friend of the Wally West Flash. The information Iris digs up makes them wonder how they’re going to beat a black hole. Of all the options available, Caitlin has Ralph help her with a checkup, and they find nothing wrong with her, while Caitlin muses about other times she’s had Frost-failure and Ralph forms a theory.
Ramsey keeps displaying perfectly normal, healthy behavior, setting up a weapons deal at his mother’s grave. Cecile and Iris go to see Chester, who is catatonic aside from some twitches. The interview doesn’t really get anywhere, as you’d expect, but Cecile’s telepathy helps her pick up on what’s bothering Iris. There’s some heavy emotion that somehow leads Iris to a breakthrough on what’s going on with Chester. Just as Cisco comes up with a way to deal with a black hole, Iris bursts in and tells them why they can’t. Again out of character, Cisco mentions some dark options, and Barry flips out. Ralph tricks Caitlin into meeting him alone, and ends up chatting with Killer Frost. He has some good insight to offer her that surprises her. Barry and Iris talk on the balcony, admit their coping mechanisms aren’t really working, and share some sadness until there’s another, bigger, black hole, this one threatening the city, sort of.
There’s a lot of techno-babble and some really questionable science, even for comic books. Naturally, the solution involves Barry running really fast, and Cisco playing some great Queen music (the show shelled out some for their soundtrack here). Among the glitches in the scene are Joe’s tie showing a black-hole defying ability, and Elongated Man and Killer Frost beating Flash to the scene. That used to be explainable by Vibe’s powers, but that’s not a thing anymore (boo, hiss). Eventually, the day is saved, the black hole doesn’t eat the city, and things seem to stabilize.
In assorted wrap ups, Chester will be out of action for a while but is ok with it, Caitlin and Killer Frost come to a new understanding that Ralph’s going to help with, and Ramsey goes further down the supervillain path (which he is in the comics). Cisco is already making comments about missing his powers, and there’s an amusing line that’s a nod to both when the show airs and an amazing after credit scene in a big movie.
Our final scene is a doozy. Barry and Iris talk about their loss and dealing with it, and Barry shows her something nice he did for her. This gets interrupted by more alarms, and a hell of a downer as an uninvited, unexpected visitor brings all kinds of bad news and sets up for the big story coming down the pike. It’s not a happy note to end on.
What I liked: It’s great to see the crew again. I like that they’re at least touching on something important that’s been missing from Ralph’s story so far. Chester was a good character in the comics and I hope he gets a good treatment here. The end scene was ominous, but well done. I enjoyed the new Caitlin/Killer Frost dynamic. This is our first episode in a while without a Wells, and, while Tom Cavanagh gives amazing performances, I was ok with the break. I enjoyed the cookout, and it was nice to see Kamilla again.
What I didn’t: I’m a bit confused about the dropped Barry alarm he went to answer. The “science” in this episode was even more out there than usual. I mentioned the bits with Joe’s tie and the heroes without movement powers beating the Fastest Man Alive to the disaster scene. There were more than enough drama flakes. I get everyone be worried about how Barry and Iris are dealing with Nora’s loss, but Joe lost a granddaughter, and everyone else a friend and teammate, and no one seems to care? I really didn’t like depowering Cisco, and now even he seems to be starting to regret it. He’s also acting a bit out of character again.
It was a decent kick off for the season. I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5.