The Flash recap: The real Speed Force is love
The Flash is a very sappy show — endearingly so. It's a show where any problem can be solved with a pep talk; enemies become allies more often than not; Jesse L. Martin spends half his screen time on the verge of tears; the phrase "Run, Barry, run" is poignant whenever it's spoken; an overly sentimental song like "Running Home to You" is referenced constantly and sincerely without any trace of irony. The Flash wears its gushy heart on its sleeve, and I love it for that. It's a necessary force in these cynical times. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that love — and not weird, comic booky science — was the key to Barry regaining his speed and saving the day in tonight's climactic episode, "Mother." Not only was it unsurprising, but it was perfectly fitting.
"Mother" marks the end of the Eva McCulloch/Mirror Mistress Monarch arc, or Graphic Novel #2. This episode, like season 7's first two, was supposed to air at the end of last season, but that wasn't possible because The Flash, like other TV shows and movies, had to shut down production due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, this is the episode we were supposed to get almost a year ago. To be honest, that unavoidable distance from the majority of the arc is felt throughout the episode (I'm looking forward to rewatching "Graphic Novel #2" completely as a whole later), but that didn't stop "Mother" from being pretty entertaining and moving, despite one nagging issue.
We begin where last week's episode left off: Team Flash regains consciousness in the speed lab and finds a Barry kneeling over a seizing Iris, whose body reacted negatively to being forced out of the Mirrorverse. Even though Barry is back to normal, the situation seems pretty hopeless at first because Barry is speed-less once again as Eva's mirror doppelgängers invade Central City, and Iris is unconscious in the infirmary because her brainwaves are all messed up. The Eva McCulloch arc was specifically designed to spotlight Candice Patton, a phenomenal actress who hasn't always been given material that matched her talent, so it was kind of weird that she spent like half of the arc's conclusion unconscious. It would've been nice if the show had found a way to dramatize what was going on in Iris' brain following her traumatic return to the real world.
Eva briefly abducts Barry and proposes they team up to fix this world, which humans have failed and her mirror doppelgängers will hopefully save. During their conversation, Eva critiques Barry for not doing enough to lead humans toward a better path. "Why haven't you done the work that really matters? Why haven't you made this world a better place? Because you can't. I can, and I will. I'm not human. I'm something better," says Eva. Even though Barry turns down her offer to lead people in the Mirrorverse, I hope that the show revisits this quote and explores the ways it affects how Barry operates as the Flash going forward.
As I mentioned, all seems lost — but then a beacon of hope arrives in the form of the newly reconstituted Harrison Wells. Harrison explains that the universe likely created him so that there was some cosmic Wellsian balance after the rest of the Wellses died, and then he gives Barry some much-needed advice to regain his speed. He reminds Barry that he was the Paragon of Love during the Crisis and urges him to "run toward love." The Flash season 6 did a great job of meaningfully incorporating the crossover into its stories, and this development is yet another indicator of that. I love (sorry, not sorry) that the show didn't forget Barry was the Paragon of Love.
Harrison's advice ends up working. When Barry visits Iris, their hands spark in the same way they did when she found out he was the Flash in season 1, which means there's still some Speed Force left in Iris' body. "Our love is just as strong as the lightning bolt that struck me years ago," says Barry, in one of the show's sappiest yet effective lines. So, a newly awakened Iris touches the fusion sphere as Barry starts running around the speed lab — and boom, Barry's speed returns. This was not only a beautiful way of emphasizing how central Barry and Iris' relationship is to the show, but it also put a button on the Nora arc from season 5. Barry and Iris began the season mourning their daughter's death, and here her memory — specifically her purple and yellow lightning — helped them find their way forward. (Plus, I'm pretty sure that's who Iris was talking to when she said "We need you" during the process.)
With his speed back, Barry and Team Flash venture out to face Eva, who changed her name to Mirror Monarch. The show tries to capture the chaos of Eva's invasion with quick cuts to like two or three people running in panic around Central City, but that doesn't help hide the fact that the show couldn't go as big as it normally would in a finale because of the pandemic. To be fair, though, the spectacle doesn't even matter in this episode because violence isn't the key to defeating Eva; appealing to her heart and humanity is. Iris shows up at the fight and urges Eva to see how what she's doing is hurting people, the opposite of what she hoped. In classic The Flash fashion, Iris gets through to her, Eva abandons her body-snatching plot, and Barry and Iris take Eva's hands and help send her mirror-minions back to their world and bring everyone else back. (While all of this was going on, Joe was seriously considering going into the Mirrorverse with Cecile, who was abducted and replaced by her dopplegänger.) Even though it would've been great if Patton had more to do in the first half of the episode, it was very cool that she got to save the day.
With Eva back in the Mirrorverse, Harrison decides it's time for him to leave because he can travel to any point in time and he wants to go find his Tess, the love of his life that Thawne murdered many years age. "I now have a choice of moving forward from this point without her or going back to her… I'm going to relive those 4 years we had together over and over until I'm out of time," he says, which is very sweet. I found myself relating to Cisco in this moment because Cisco didn't understand why he was already missing someone he had just met, and so did I. Cavanagh breathes such unique life into each incarnation of Wells that you can't help but become attached to them, and that was very much the case with this one. Luckily, I suspect this isn't the last time we'll see him. In fact, it looks as though the Flash may need his help because colorful lightning bolts fill the sky when Barry regains his speed, indicating we may have another particle accelerator situation on our hands.
Wall of Weird:
- Elsewhere in this episode, Sue showed up with Ralph, whose face was melted in an explosion to hide the fact that Hartley Sawyer was fired from the show. At the end of the episode, Sue and Ralph, who was wearing a helmet that was helping heal his face, left Team Flash to take down more Black Hole-like organizations around the country.
- Harrison Wells definitely noticed the lightning spreading out across the city, right? The camera lingered on his face for a while during the scene.
After the success of Arrow, Barry Allen (a.k.a. the Flash) gets his own CW treatment in this comic-themed spin-off.