Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Flash develops a super-speed brain as the end of the Mirrorverse arc looms

Grant Gustin
Grant Gustin
Photo: The CW

It’s difficult to think of “The Speed Of Thought” as anything but the penultimate episode of season six. While that’s not technically true, the episode has all the weight and impact of a late-season outing, with the wrap-up to the Mirrorverse arc presumably on deck for next week.

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The hour opens with a tribute to the lost Wellses, at which Cisco is mysteriously now present. This only makes the end of last week’s episode feel like more of a missed opportunity, as there doesn’t appear to be any good reason Cisco wasn’t present at Nash’s death...but as we’ll soon learn, the Wells mourning is a bit premature anyway. In any event, Cisco has been working on a portal to the Mirrorverse, but has run into technical problems. In the ensuing spew of techno-babble, it becomes clear that Barry’s thoughts are now traveling at super-speed. He’s figured out the problem, which is that they need to know the location of the three people trapped in the Mirrorverse in order to pull them out.

Somehow Allegra intercepts a message from Iris to Kamilla and Singh telling them to meet her in the Speed Lab. (Is it ever explained how Allegra got this message, aside from the power of plot convenience?) Barry, whose brainpower is increasing exponentially thanks to the Artificial Speed Force, is able to predict where Eva will strike next, so he and Cisco set out on a mission to steal dark matter particles from her with the tachyon enhancer. When Frost shows up to act as a distraction, Barry allows her to be injured rather than risk the slight chance of damage to the tech they need to breach the Mirrorverse. This is Cisco’s first clue that something is going very wrong with Barry Allen.

Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes
Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes
Photo: The CW

Yes, it’s the old sci-fi trope wherein enhanced intelligence results in reduced humanity, but I’ll give it a pass this time given Cisco’s explanation that it’s basically his fault for designing the AFS to generate no emotional fallout. Since this is The Flash, the theme is driven home right from the start, with Joe’s comment that team’s strength lies not in its superpowers but its humanity and heart. Barry’s always been driven by emotion, for better and (often) for worse, so it’s both refreshing and unsettling to watch as Gustin slowly drains the usual Barry-isms from his performance until there’s nothing left but cold calculation. Even Barry’s decision to save Iris instead of the other two, which at first suggests he’s still motivated foremost by love, is revealed to be a rational, unfeeling choice based on the duration of her stay in the mirror dimension.

This can only be leading one place—well, two places, actually. The first is a battle between Team Flash and its leader, with Cisco, Frost, and Allegra squaring off against Barry and temporarily disabling him with a blast of Velocity Zero. That doesn’t last long, however, and Barry is quickly able to get the upper hand using the Quantum Ball, the movements of which he is able to predict. What he is unable to predict are the emotional responses of his teammates, notably Cisco, who tells him he would never have made a choice between Iris and the others despite what Barry’s simulation suggests, and Iris, who resists his efforts to pull her out of the Mirrorverse at the expense of Kamilla and Singh.

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That outcome is no surprise to anyone who’s seen a handful of Star Trek episodes (and how is it that Cisco got through this whole episode without ever making a Spock reference?), nor is Barry’s “What have I done?” moment once he’s dragged Iris through the portal. The superhero who never really thought things through has finally thought too much, and he shuts down the Artificial Speed Force, getting zapped for his trouble. As the final showdown looms, pretty much all of Team Flash is unconscious, but help may be on the way in the form of an old friend who’s usually a lot better at the whole thinking thing.

Stray observations

  • Yes, if you noticed Tom Cavanagh’s name is still in the opening credits, there’s a payoff at episode’s end. We flash back to the night Thawne stole the original Harrison Wells’ identity and left him dead and buried. But in a shimmering of tachyons or dark matter or some other sparkly particles, there is a resurrection. It looks like Team Flash won’t be Wells-less for long.
  • Eva isn’t dealing well with the revelation that she’s a mirror duplicate, especially when that news is transmitted to the world by the Flash. Judging by the scene at CCPD, her final plan may be to replace everyone in the real world with their mirror duplicate.
  • A highlight this week: Frost injecting herself with Velocity X and racing the Flash through the city. That felt particularly true to the spirit of the comics in a good way.
  • I really thought Iris and Kamilla leaving up the giant graffiti message revealing their destination would turn out to be a colossal mistake, but nothing came of that.
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