This season’s CW shows have been kind of uneven in my opinion. Batwoman has been surprisingly good, and Superman and Lois has been fantastic. The Legends are their usual loveable screw up selves, Black Lightning is grim if good, but both Flash and Supergirl have been below their usual level. This week’s Flash felt both padded and overly soap operatic, and not at all “Timeless.”
Last episode ended with the great surprise of Speed Force Nora (sounds like a hurricane) suddenly and shockingly killing Alexa, the host for the Strength Force. Barry and Iris are both stunned and displeased, while Nora is perfectly ok with her sudden homicide (force-icide?) and goes on a self-justifying rant, although she also doesn’t seem to feel the need to justify herself. So I’m not sure why she bothered. After some threats and explanations, Nora runs off, leaving Barry and Iris trying to figure out what to do next.
The team regroups, and Caitlin bemoans the day they’ve had, with Frost going to prison and now Alexa’s death. It’s an understandable sentiment, but if it’s the same day, it makes me wonder why Chester is now suddenly around, and wasn’t for the events of last episode. Barry blames himself, Iris tries to talk him around, and there’s some discussion about Nora’s claims. Chester runs some tests that seem to back up what Nora said. Apparently having had enough for now, Cisco leaves to have lunch? Coffee? Something or other with Kamilla, bringing her up to date on the mess with Nora. Kamilla has time to talk about possibly needing to leave Central for her career before Cisco gets called back to STAR for more chaos around Nora’s new mission.
After staying up all night, which may explain what follows, Barry has come to the decision that the best way to handle the mess with the Forces is to go back in time and change things. Because that’s always worked so well before. Everyone else thinks this as bad an idea as I do, with Cisco being the most vocal about it. Oddly, while she was around earlier, this is about the point where Caitlin vanishes for most of the rest of the episode. With so many important things being discussed, you’d think someone who had been around since the beginning would get a say, but she’s pretty much gone. Barry pushes ahead on this idea so much that Iris ends up walking away from the whole affair. Not only does Iris leave, she gets Kamilla and Allegra to help out with her own plan, which involves using a new toy Kamilla got from Cisco to keep her safe. So she is, of course, using it in the exact opposite of the way he intended.
Barry, Cisco, and Chester science geek over Barry’s new idea, and try and work out details. Chester makes a random comment that gives Barry something new to follow up on. This brings Barry to Starling City before the name change to recruit “Timeless” Wells, currently the last Wells standing. Barry and Wells return and start doing more pseudo-science stuff with Chester and Cisco. It takes some convincing, but Cisco reluctantly agrees to keep helping for now. Iris and company keep trying to find Nora, and then decide their methodology is flawed and that going off of hunches and gut feelings is better than using actual science.
The team at STAR keeps working on the gizmo Barry needs for his Bad Idea, and Chester nervously insists on new tests. This turns out to be a good thing, because suddenly Deon, avatar of the Still Force shows up. I’m still not sure what “still” has to do with time control, or how time powers let you teleport, but here we are. Deon struts around, increasingly slipping into villain mode, as he somehow divines Barry’s plan. I guess time travel lets you read minds, too? Barry tries to reason with him, which doesn’t work at all. Deon ramps up the threats and attitude, and then sabotages the project. Fortunately, Chester’s nervous self-doubt let him save a key piece of the item. After a lot more talk about the morality of the Bad Idea, Cisco walks away, too. Let’s take stock here, Barry. Your wife and your best friend have both said this isn’t good, and feel so strongly about it they won’t help you. Maybe it’s time to rethink this? Iris’ team goes to the old Allen house, which is somehow still empty and not sold so someone has been paying taxes on it for decades, get a big clue on the way in that something isn’t right, but either ignore it or miss the significance of it. Then again, the show doesn’t really explain it either. It really feels like a scene got cut somewhere in here.
When in doubt, Barry seeks guidance from Joe, and this is what he does next. Joe has a very odd reaction to the situation, and makes an interesting, if strained, analogy to parenting. Barry isn’t sure about this, but Joe is his usual soulful, persuasive self. Iris and company go up to Barry’s old room, and find out Nora is not here, but Psych is. There was a somewhat rational explanation for Nora possibly being in the house. Why Psych is there makes no real sense to me, and they never get around to explaining it. We don’t get to see what nightmares Psych puts Allegra and Kamilla through (although we get some audio clues), but Iris’ involves some serious in-law issues.
The STAR crew assesses the damage to the harness, and then get unexpected help when Cisco returns, grudgingly helping because he trusts Barry. When they finally get all the pieces lined up, Wells takes Barry back to the night the Forces were created (which still needs a LOT of explanation), nods to himself, and we see some of what we saw earlier in the season. Barry speeds them up to the roof to get in position to collect the energy to undo all this. Iris does her usual job of trying to talk down the villain, and her theory seems to be in direct opposition to what the others are saying. Did the Forces possess people and take them over? Did they create these people? Are the people avatars of the Forces in some way? The episode seems to deliver some really mixed messages about how all this works. Iris does manage to at least impress Psych. In the recent past, Barry steps into the massive energy display, which starts affecting all the Forces in the present. But, Barry changes his mind about uncreating the Forces because there’s a pretty lightshow. Or something.
Returning to the present, or going back to the future if you prefer, Barry talks to the others about his plan changing. He and Iris make up, and they talk about the spectacle of creation that he witnessed changing Barry’s mind. They continue the odd parenting metaphor that Joe started, and then the building shakes. This is when things get even odder. Caitlin drifts back into the story (welcome back), and Alexa, despite being dead for however long, is still in the medbay. Barry and Iris touching hands manages to bring her back to life, which I’d think would be problematic for someone hosting an out of control, vastly powerful being, but everyone seems to think this is a good thing.
Wells, having done his part to help out, is going back to his idyl in the past to relive his life with last wife, which still sounds kind of morbid to me. Cisco and he part in a nice scene. Cisco then gets together with Kamilla, and the two come to a mutual realization that’s going to change the future of the show. The very last thing we see is Speed Force Nora confronting Deon the Still Force. He tries to look tough, but it’s sort of entertaining seeing a high school jock scared of an older woman like that. It’s not looking great for him, although we’ve seen that apparently the Force avatars dying doesn’t necessarily stick.
What I liked: Joe remains a font of calm and warm wisdom, and may be the most balanced character on the show. I don’t always agree with his conclusions, but really, who wouldn’t want someone like this on their side? Wells coming back was nice, and the Starling/Star City change was a good touch. Cisco creating a new gadget to protect Kamilla was an absolutely perfect character moment for him, as was both he and Iris walking away from Barry’s scheme.
What I didn’t: The episode didn’t go anywhere. Barry had this big epiphany near the end that essentially meant we’re back to where the episode started. The logic of the Forces and their avatars doesn’t seem to hold together. I really don’t like where things are going for Wells or Cisco, although I know this is due to elements outside the show. I don’t get why Psych was in the Allen house, why the place is empty, or what the deal was with what the Citizen crew saw outside it.
This episode felt padded, drawn out, and kind of like they were treading water. I’m worried about the future of the show, and the Arrowverse in general. I’m giving this one a 2.5 out of 5 and hoping they get it together for the rest of the season