Flash: Pay the Piper


Look who’s back (as if the title wasn’t a clue)

At one point, The Flash was my favorite of the CW shows. This season hasn’t quite lived up to what’s gone before, in my opinion. I’m really not a fan of the Ballad of Mirror Iris, and I still utterly fail to understand the decision, either by the writers or the character, to remove Vibe’s powers. I’m also not loving Barry’s ongoing energy crisis. They have an uphill fight to win me back in “Pay the Piper.”

The show opens with Joe off in Witness Protection, getting an unexpected visit from Barry. How Barry found him, and how he got there if his powers are on the blink, never comes up. Barry tells Joe about the assorted bad news about Iris, and Joe provides his usual calm and reassurance. I do give them points for this, because it would have been easy to make a big drama point about Joe blaming Barry, and that doesn’t happen. Back at STAR, things are very tense as Barry brings everyone up to (lack of) speed about the mirror impostors. Cecile plays peacemaker when everyone starts snapping at each other, and they get some new tasks. Even in the wake of Cecile’s talk, Allegra still doesn’t want anything to do with Nash. There’s a bit more of Barry being mopey, and then we see Iris in the Mirror World leaving him a journal.

At STAR, Allegra has a few sudden insights, about her perception and her job. Her talk with Barry gets interrupted by the sudden appearance of yet another Godspeed. The villain batters the two heroes around and seems to be draining Barry’s remaining power until Nash drives him off. In the aftermath, Allegra continues to snub Nash. Let it go already, woman, there are enough problems here today. The team debates what to do next as Nash brings up the ongoing joke that is STAR security (no, really, just walk right in everyone) and there’s more bickering. After everyone sort of calms down, there’s a lot of brainstorming, which leads to needing expert help from Hartley Rathaway, the Pied Piper. Cisco, with his constant Crisis-change research, has unearthed the reason for Piper’s renewed enmity, and I have to say, it doesn’t really track with Chester’s reaction to it being mentioned before. But they need to win Piper’s help to beat Godspeed, and now they have a new side-quest: curing Piper’s henchman Roderick of wounds sustained in an early battle with the Flash that Barry doesn’t even remember, since he technically didn’t live through that fight. Crisis history is fun!

Having been summoned via text, Ralph goes to visit Frost, who is still dealing with her injuries form earlier this season (a clever way to hide that Danielle Panabaker, who plays Caitlin/Frost, was very pregnant when this was filmed). She has a lot of worries about going to see Caitlin’s mom, Carla, for treatment, and Ralph doesn’t handle this as well as the self-professed life coach probably should. Showing the weird on-again, off-again nature of his power problems, Flash goes to find Piper and offers his help after a fight that lasts long enough for the genius villain to notice and comment on the power flickers. After some pleading, technobabble, and a revelation, Piper cautiously agrees to work with the heroes. In the Mirror World, Iris finds Kamilla, who is trying to escape, and they have an initial misunderstanding. Iris proves it’s really her by questionable means, since the fake Iris obviously knew a lot of details. I’m also not clear on how the bartender/photographer knows how to run all sorts of experiments on her own at STAR. I guess science is contagious on this show? Kamilla has an idea or two to try and get them out of their prison, but Iris is having some issues related to being here too long and runs away.

Piper is very snarky at STAR, renewing his earlier (before the series started) rivalry with Cisco. After a lot of talking, they start their new plan to cure Roderick the thug. Things don’t go as planned, and everything seems to fall apart. Later, Barry goes back to obsessively working on the artificial Speed Force project. Nash interrupts him and makes him confront some of his emotional issues. In the midst of this, Barry figures out something important. Elsewhere, Cisco is hard at work on a gadget and has some setbacks. He about gives up until he gets a rousing pep-talk from Cecile, who is almost as good at that as Joe. In the Mirror World, Kamilla finds Iris and they have another talk, and agree on a plan of action. This is one of several times Singh gets mentioned, but he’s never seen this episode. Armed with his new insight, Barry goes to talk to Piper, who is inexplicably still at STAR after his earlier dramatic threats and storming out. Barry does his best to show Piper he understands what he’s going through, and they get interrupted by an alert from Cicso. Going to the Cortex, we see that Godspeed has struck down the earlier versions of himself that are imprisoned at Iron Heights.

Further cementing his villain status, Godspeed races through Central City, grabbing hostages and making demands of Flash. Ignoring the wise suggestions about calling CCPD or ARGUS, Flash races out to meet his foe and they battle throughout the city. Finally, reluctantly, Piper agrees to help (how he got to the spot the people with superspeed raced to just after them is probably another detail we’re not supposed to think about). Their combined forces prevail, and Godspeed’s defeat gives them something they need for a different issue. There’s no real progress on any of the major issues plaguing the good guys, but they do get a happy ending for a newer problem. Caitlin and Ralph make up from their earlier spat, and have a good scene together. Piper and Roderick take their leave, and Piper gives Barry some words of encouragement. In turn, Barry goes to the Cortex and gives a pretty good speech. Between them, they come up with another new idea to follow, and Cisco needs to go pretty far out of the way to get what he needs: Atlantis. This is the second reference to the lost continent this season, and finally a reference, even if indirectly, to the last of the “big seven” Justice Leaguers. The final scene I don’t quite get. Eva wakes up in some kind high-tech neon coffin like a cyber-vampire, and announces her ongoing vengeance.


What I liked: The reference to Atlantis gives me hope we might eventually see Aquaman, or at least some of the related characters. They finally remembered Allegra has powers, which was good. I like the increased positive role Cecile is taking on in Joe’s absence. Nash’s talk with Barry was good, and I liked the second of the Ralph/Caitlin scenes.


What I didn’t: Flash used to be the bright spot in the somewhat dark Arrowverse. They seem to have lost that. I’m getting tired of the team bickering with each other, sniping at each other. I mentioned above the various subplots I’m not enjoying, like Barry’s power issues, the Mirror Universe bit, and the Allegra/Nash feud. I don’t get how Piper got to the battle so fast, how Kamilla is suddenly a scientist, or some of the leaps of logic on this show.


I’ll give this a low 3 out of 5. I hope the show gets back to where it used to be.