The various disruptions from COIVD are continuing, as “Central City Strong,” which was supposed to be the season seven premier, ends up being the fourth episode after various production delays. An old foe returns, there’s assorted chaos and unexpected events, and someone finally gets some help they’ve arguably needed for a long time now. It’s an interesting mix of events to try and adapt to.
We start off with Iris returning home, and Barry, clearly enjoying having his powers back, setting up a surprise for her. She comments he’s essentially been spoiling her, and they have a nice, romantic moment. There’s an unexpected event but, for once, it doesn’t necessitate Barry suiting up and zipping off. We do see some lingering issues from last episode, that our happy couple misses. Another rare event: we see that Central City is actually rebuilding from Mirror Monarch’s attack last episode, not miraculously repaired between shows. The news covers the efforts, we see just about all of Team Flash there volunteering, and Flash stops by for a tv interview. There’s yet another passing reference to Kord Industries (a big background player in the Arrowverse by now, although the owner, Ted Kord/Blue Beetle, keeps not appearing for rights issues), and Caitlin shows up referencing Frost’s legal issues (foreshadowing that oddly doesn’t come up again this episode), and a big headache. On a tv show, that’s never a good thing.
Over at the Citizen, Iris is gushing about her own work, which is never a good look. She asks Allegra for an honest opinion, and gets more than she bargained for. There’s also a passing reference to the difficulties the paper is having after being under the control of Mirror-Iris. I guess her duplicate didn’t have a head for business. At the construction site we saw earlier, a nameless volunteer has a run-in with the villainous Abra Kadabra. That rarely goes well for anyone. Abra is played by David Dastmalchian, who seems to have found his niche as entertainingly crazed killer, playing a similar, if non-powered, role over on MacGyver.
Abra leaves a mess behind, which means the next day Barry as a CSI tech, Cisco as metahuman consultant, and Chunk as intern have work to do. Joe is also there, and they try and figure out the mystery of a dead body and a strange object left behind. Chunk makes a lot of geek references while trying to puzzle this out, and they come up with a few theories that don’t quite fit what’s going on. While Flash scours the city for clues, Iris attends a support group for victims of the recent mirror invasion. It doesn’t go as she expected, and she ends up ducking out early.
Back at STAR, Cisco and Chester geek out over Star Wars, which is very appropriate. They talk about Jitters, which is happening so much it’s starting to feel like product placement for a place that doesn’t actually exist. They get an alert about Abra showing up again, and the Flash and the new version of Vibe show up to fight him. The restraint cuffs don’t actually hold him (I think their success rate is well under 50% at best), and things turn ugly for a moment until they get backup from their Frosty friend in the nick of time. Abra babbles a bit about their future, his past, and even gives Vibe 2.0 a new name, much to the dismay of Team Flash’s naming czar.
In the aftermath of the fight, ARGUS shows up to take Abra and his new creation into custody. Cisco meets a new ARGUS agent who is Cisco’s opposite number in many ways, and Frost wanders up after, still complaining about her headache. She did manage to snag a souvenir from Abra, and hands it over to Cisco for a small price. That price is more tests, but Cisco finds nothing, which sets off an entertaining argument between Caitlin and Frost. You’ve likely heard that magicians are masters of misdirection. Well, Abra is very familiar with the term, and it turns out ARGUS custody is exactly where he wants to be. The magician from the future turns the tables on a bully of a guard and sets his plan into motion.
Iris is wrestling with an enemy many writers know well when Barry shows up with more plans for another romantic trip. Iris, getting concerned by now, presses him to find out what’s going on, and he finally reveals some of the guilt he’s been wrestling with since the Mirror Iris incident. This meaningful conversation gets interrupted when Barry gets an alert about Abra’s escape, and has to go deal with it, thankfully with Iris’ blessing. She turns back to her foe as Flash fights Abra, and the madman from the future drops some interesting hints about the motivation for his current rampage. He also reveals at least part of his plan, and it’s an ugly one. Part of the villain monologue is possible because he has some weird trap around Barry, which I guess the speedster forgot he could phase through.
Regrouping at STAR, the team figures out at least some of what Abra is up to, although not why. Antimatter is part of his doomsday device, which naturally brings up the Crisis, but Cisco reassures everyone this isn’t quite that bad, although it’s enough to destroy Central City. There’s also a reference to Nth Metal, which is what Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s wings are made out of, at least in the comics. Caitlin tries to reassure Barry when he blames himself for the danger the city is in, but he’s not in the mood to listen and stalks off to brood. I guess someone has to take that over in the wake of Oliver’s passing. Iris finds him and they have a talk about trauma, the mirror duplicates, and what they should do next. In the midst of her reassurances, Iris gives Barry an idea, and he figures out Abra’s motivation for this latest attack. Cisco, meanwhile, has played with the gizmo Frost stole from Abra, and figures out what it is, which carries some surprising history, as well as references to some Arrow characters. Barry returns after his inspiration and says he knows what Abra is doing now.
Speeding all over the city, the Flash finally finds Abra, intent on setting off his big bomb and destroying everything, ranting in classic villain style. Abra’s gloating takes a hit when Flash proves that he understands why the villain is on this rampage and it harkens back to the changes from Crisis (the gift that keeps on giving). Flash shares his own loss of Oliver (fool that I am, when he started that speech I thought he was going to reference the Flash of Earth 90) to show he does, in fact, understand what Abra’s going through. As is often the case on this show, words and good vibes accomplish what fists and powers might not have, and Abra stands down. So all’s well that ends well, right? Not exactly…
Abra and Flash have a talk about their losses and what to do next, when there’s suddenly an earthquake, like at the top of the show. A confused Abra protests that he’s not doing it, when suddenly some big ugly monster appears out of nowhere. It essentially eats the bomb that would have wiped out the city, beats Flash, kills Abra Kadabra, and then wanders off. This leads to more somber regrouping at STAR as they try and figure out what to do next. Iris goes to a support group that she’s probably needed for quite some time, which is a good step and supported by Allegra. We get a new subplot and comic relief as Cisco complains about Chunk beating him at Fortnite, and then Caitlin has a new development to show him that almost literally makes him fall off his chair.
What I liked: David Dastmalchian does a fantastic crazy villain. I’m so glad Flash’s powers are back and they didn’t keep dragging that story out. The nod to Oliver was nice. Iris getting some help is probably good for everyone, although at this point, I’d argue Barry at the very least needs it, too. I really do wonder if they’ll ever iron out the Ted Kord/Blue Beetle issues and let him show up instead of just mentioning his company (trivia fact- Ray Palmer on Arrow and then Legends was originally supposed to be Ted Kord, but those pesky rights issues…). I’m intrigued by the development in the final scene.
What I didn’t: One of the things hero movies and shows in general, and the Arrowverse especially, needs to get over is killing the villains. Part of a hero’s mythos is their rogues gallery, and you can’t build that up if you keep killing them off. So really, Arrowverse, MCU, knock it off already. I was hoping that, since Crisis gave them a chance to undo all that, they’d stop it, but here we go again. If they’re just going to slap him in a suit and make him a lower powered version of what he was, why take Cisco’s powers in the first place? That never made any sense to me.
There were, in my opinion, a few flaws, but an overall good episode. I’ll give this a 3 out of 5.