After a brief revision to last season’s finale, this episode skips ahead four months, missing the summer where everyone recovered or reacted to last season’s upheaval. So instead of seeing Barry (Grant Gustin) moping all summer, instead he’s just faking enthusiasm to mask the mope. He and Iris (Candice Patton) are still mourning the loss of adult daughter from the future Nora, who got wiped out when she changed the timeline. Only they’re not talking to anyone about it so it’s festering. It’s the only subplot in the episode with any… maturity. Even though it’s very soapy, it’s big, serious, and potentially searching… but “Flash” isn’t a show to do too serious or potentially searching. Especially not this “Flash.”
The episode plays like a “Star Trek: TOS” Season 3 episode where everyone is playing caricatures of themselves. Joe (Jesse L. Martin, who’s very active, which is good) blathering about how it’s his city too as he confronts a black hole appearing over the city. Carlos Valdes is a lot more fun as Cisco without the superpowers. Danielle Panabaker meets the season’s potential big bad (the handsome and charming Sendhil Ramamurthy) and finds out he’s a creep before dating him the whole season, so at least she’s not getting that plot again. For the third or fourth time. Gustin’s aging nicely, giving him a weathered, tired look for the character, though everyone’s chemistry is at an all-time low. Other than Hartley Sawyer, who’s got enthusiasm and bad jokes.
And, for whatever reason, it’s nice to have Danielle Nicolet hanging around the team. They need a mom.
That chemistry thing is a problem with Gustin and Patton, who—once again—seem like strangers. The show’s always done a bad job dealing with their transition from step-siblings only he had a crush on her for years to dating and then married only it’s preordained in the future—they’re way too chaste and at this point, it’s yet another liability.
The big problem, if it’s a problem, is the show plays like a live action Saturday morning cartoon of the early eighties Cary Bates comics. Only without much emphasis on the special effects spectacular. There is one really cool, albeit absurd, song accompaniment, but the action sequence itself is lackluster. Maybe it’s Gregory Smith’s direction. Maybe it’s just the show running out of steam.
It’s like the show wants to avoid anything actually difficult—like Gustin taking over leading the team, especially with the team all out of juice.
The ending tease of the upcoming Crisis crossover is a fail. If LaMonica Garrett was the best audition for the role of the Monitor, doomsayer of the multiverse, I’m curious to see who didn’t get the part. Though at least “Legends” last season had the tiniest bit of fun with him. Otherwise there’s no fun.
It’s going to be a long slog to the crossover.