“Heart Of The Matter, Part 1" is another busy episode, but it’s more streamlined than the past couple have been. The focus is on the ever-expanding Allen family, with Barry and Iris meeting the latest timeline’s version of their future children, Nora and Bart. Fortunately, Nora is still played by Jessica Parker Kennedy, while Jordan Fisher’s take on Bart is reminiscent of the Ezra Miller version of the Flash from the movies. (For a portion of the audience that probably means he’s super-annoying, but he didn’t grate on me as I was half-expecting him to.) If their presence along with a dozen Godspeed clones wasn’t enough to make this the most speedster-saturated episode ever (it is the 150th, after all), John Wesley Shipp is on hand as Jay Garrick, whose powers have been restored with the rebirth of the Speed Force.
The result is one of the stronger episodes of this seventh season, though not without its flaws. Nora and Bart (a.k.a. Impulse) have arrived in the present by chasing August Heart to the Flash Museum in 2049 and following him onto the cosmic treadmill. The version of August Heart in the present day has no memory or powers, but his dozen Godspeed clones are still causing havoc in the city. Chester has a plan to stop them using his father’s solar encryption engine, but he needs Allegra to power it up and doesn’t know why she’s moping around STAR Labs unable to conjure up the energy he needs.
Barry’s impulsive decision to power up the device with his lightning backfires when he ends up infusing the Godspeeds with a fresh dose of Speed Force. When Nora gets hurt and Bart admits that August Heart is his version of Thawne in the future, Barry goes full Speed Dad and forbids the kids from helping him in the field. He still needs backup, which the re-powered Jay Garrick is ready to supply, but he’s ambushed by Godspeed clones setting a trap for Bart. It seems Uncle Jay is Bart’s primary mentor, who he’s already seen killed in front of him once. This spurs a soliloquy from Barry about the curse of the Allen family and how they’re doomed to witness their loved ones dying before their eyes, which...I mean, he may have a point there.
Living up to his moniker, Impulse zips off to rescue Jay once Chester is able to determine his location and ends up getting zapped by multiple Godspeeds for his trouble. Barry and Nora race to the rescue, but they appear to be overpowered until Cisco shows up in full Mecha-Vibe gear and zaps the Godspeeds. (This was a pleasant surprise, as the CW usually reveals these guest appearances ahead of time, but if news of Carlos Valdes returning for the finale leaked, I missed it.)
With Bart in a coma and no more speedsters in reserve (Wally is evidently somewhere on the astral plane), how to defeat the Godspeed clones? Project Barry’s consciousness into the mind of the amnesiac August Heart so that he can come face-to-face with the real Godspeed. In this mindscape, Barry finds the real Heart awaiting him on a throne, but their showdown will have to wait for next week.
It’s an effective set-up for the finale, even if the return of Iris is as baffling as her initial disappearance was. (It really feels like something the writers scrambled for at the last minute based on Candice Patton’s availability.) If nothing else, we learn that the Allen family penchant for pep talks has not skipped a generation. The ongoing subplots are less effective, however. At least Allegra’s angst over her cousin’s death ties into the main storyline via her inability to generate any energy but ultraviolet light. The side quest of Joe West and Kristen Kramer, however, feels more irrelevant with each passing week. Joe is bothered by Kramer’s unwillingness to confront the fact that Adam said he watched her die, but it’s hard to see how much further this can be developed given that there’s only an hour left in the season. Their only tie-in to the main storyline is seeing a line of cars leaving Central City, followed by a pair of Godspeeds fighting it out on their car hood.
With this truncated season, it feels like we’ve gotten a half-dozen episodes squeezed into these last three. The irony, of course, is that earlier seasons stretched their Big Bad arcs over too many episodes. Somewhere in the Speed Force, there must be a happy medium.
- The wisdom of Jay Garrick: “Sometimes you have to take your hat off.”
- Sadly, I will be on vacation and off the grid when the season finale airs next week, but you’ll be in the capable hands of Jarrod Jones for part two of “Heart Of The Matter.”