From Speed Force shenanigans to sinister metahumans who just need a proper heart-to-heart, Barry Allen has certainly been no stranger to obstacles during his seven-year sprint through The Flash. For season seven, however, the biggest obstacles came from our very real Earth-Prime. For one, the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the seemingly unstoppable CW-verse, causing the Scarlet Speedster’s sixth season to come to an abrupt halt. Then the series had to say goodbye—and in one case, was forced to give an unceremonious boot—to three of its main cast members: Hartley Sawyer, the Elongated Man; Carlos Valdes, once Vibe, then Mecha-Vibe; and Tom Cavanagh, Harrison Wells of Earth-1 to infinity and, most crucially, the series’ main nemesis, the Reverse-Flash. Going in, what should have felt like a dauntless marathon into The Flash’s seventh season was feeling more like a trudge.
But the one constant of The Flash is and will always be: whenever the going gets tough, Team Flash rallies. Or, at least, they’ll try until their plucky hearts give out. “Heart Of The Matter, Part 2,” co-written by Eric Wallace & Kelly Wheeler, and directed by Marcus Stokes, works overtime to make sure the Flash faithful are left with a smile of their faces. And, cooing Bart Allen (Jordan Fisher) on the mic and a schmaltzy renewal of vows between Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candice Patton) notwithstanding, the attempt winds up being a mad scramble.
That’s par for a series that has often juggled far more characters and subplots than it probably should. But despite the conspicuous absence of Ralph Dibny and later, the still-hard-to-accept exit of both Vibe and Wells, The Flash made the most out of a precarious situation and promoted supporting players like Brandon McKnight’s Chester P. Runk and Kayla Compton’s Allegra Garcia to full-time members of Team Flash. The new kids at S.T.A.R. Labs both received strong character-focused episodes and the show has even hinted at some kind of romance down the road. (Or maybe that’s just me? Fire away in the comments telling me I’m crazy.) As for series regular and eternal ray of sunshine Cecile Horton (Danielle Nicolet), she ran up against the Psycho Pirate (kinda) and came out on top. Even though the absences of longtime Flash-mainstays stung (some far more than others), The Flash made abundantly clear, especially with this finale, that family is the one element that can’t trip Barry Allen up.
The show, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. After kicking off with a three-episode finale/epilogue for Season Six (which was perfectly acceptable, given the circumstances), Season Seven broke itself up into two “Graphic Novel” storyarcs, truncated versions of the 22-episode (23 in some seasons) epics from The Flash’s glory days of yore, meant to dazzle the senses and build towards what was clearly meant to be an epic finale this week. Between a god-war between the various universal forces (given predictably human, CW-adorable forms), a vibrant interlude bye-bye for Carlos Valdes, and the sudden appearance of one Bart Allen, aka Impulse, the season has been, I don’t think it’s controversial to say, a chaotic whirlwind. More charitably, it’s been a mixed bag. So how’s the finale?
“Heart Of The Matter, Part 2" feels like manic catharsis after a season that’s been forced to rebuild its own house before it can move on to a brave (and bold!) new world. Picking up from last week’s cliffhanger, where Bart Allen got his spritely comeuppance after facing off with the many clones of surprise-baddie Godspeed (Karan Oberoi), Barry and Iris are faced with the possibility that their future-kids, Impulse and X-S (Jessica Parker Kennedy), might be stranded in the present with them, courtesy of Godspeed’s disruption of the Speed Force. (Which, naturally, is given Barry’s-mom form by Michelle Harrison.) It’s the latest, and most abrupt, of several lingering plot threads from this season that don’t get addressed this week (more on that in the Stray Observations), an actual mercy considering how packed the episode actually is.
Because of the season’s many story arcs, “Heart Of The Matter, Part 2” juggles a lot, yet it ties things up with the most colorful and superheroic Flash Family team-up yet. Allegra and Chester get their licks in, too, with the SEE device putting the hurt on Godspeed, however briefly, and they finally have a much-needed hug. John Wesley Shipp pops in for yet another encore (following his meta-farewell in Crisis On Infinite Earths) as Jay Garrick, inspiring Bart to chill out for three consecutive seconds and let his parents handle the Godspeed threat. X-S gets to throw around her speed whips and Iris dusts off her speedster threads from Season Four for a quick run-around before the episode tosses her in the Speed Force to page, of all people, Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash.
Yes, Tom Cavanagh makes a proper eleventh-hour appearance as The Flash’s prime-time heavy to join in on a climactic lightning-saber battle with Barry and Godspeed. It’s a preposterous three minutes of television, sure, but it’s also a nice alternative to the tired races and vibrating hand-axes that The Flash typically dangles in front of us. This “Duel of the Race” works for the episode’s close, particularly when we begin to think about the future of The Flash, and what Karan Oberoi’s August Heart/Godspeed represents to the show.
Oberoi is an appropriately maniacal speedster villain, more energetic and boisterous than Hunter Zolomon and far more engaging than the alt-emo Savitar from season three. The best part about Oberoi’s performance is that he leans into the fanatical edge of Godspeed, vamping on his cathedral altar and exuding actual menace in what has been an especially squishy season of The Flash. (“Let me enlighten you,” Heart bellows to Barry in the first moments of the episode. A villain monologue rarely starts with so much brio.) While Cecile coached August to find the strength to confront what he really is, what Godspeed really is is a bad dude, and in a show where villains are but one pep talk away from redemption, Godspeed represents a potential changing of the guard.
Godspeed will keep in Iron Heights for now. But in the meantime, we have season seven of The Flash to look back on, a season beset with complications and over-eager attempts to right a ship that never really set a definitive course after season one. Such is the nature of never-ending battles. But if Barry Allen and Team Flash can find a way out of their frequent scrapes by simply hoping and loving, then perhaps tapping into a bit of wit and smarts and actual danger might make the seasons to come a bit more solid. Maybe even coherent.
- Yes, I know! I am not Scott Von Doviak, who posts regular Flash dispatches for The AV Club. I’d like to thank both Scott and my editor, Danette Chavez, for letting me vent my pent-up CW angst in time for this finale. I hope I was up to the task. (I’m currently writing about Star Wars: The Bad Batch for the site if you suddenly feel the urge to read more of my word count-demolishing stuff.)
- I don’t want to be that guy, show, but when it comes to ongoing superhero series, issues (or episodes in this regard) are collected in trade paperbacks, not “graphic novels.”
- In case you were curious, the “Zauriel Cathedral” (on Morrison Avenue, yet!) references the DC-canonical angel Zauriel, introduced in JLA issues #6-7. You… should definitely check those issues out.
- I can listen to John Wesley Shipp call Barry “kid” every day for the rest of my life.
- Frost: “You’re not actually gonna—” Mecha-Vibe: “Oh, I’m gonna.” I am really going to miss Carlos Valdes. Even though the show permanently ruined graphic T-shirts for him, his convivial presence on The Flash was one of the major reasons I kept tuning in. Farewell to those locks, those wisecracks, the Cisco.
- Just a thought: if the show needs a new wise-cracking superhero member for Team Flash, may I cordially submit Booster Gold? He’s a time-traveler, has a snarky robot friend named Skeets (who should be voiced by David Hyde Pierce; just saying), has roots in the Superman mythology (finally, crossovers with Superman & Lois!), and could bring in Blue Beetle for good measure.
- Among this season’s plot “wait and see”s: whether or not Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) will return to this post as the CCPD’s chief of police (it’s possible, considering how squirrely chain of command works in the Arrowverse); whether or not Sue Dearbon (Natalie Dreyfus) will drag a “changed” Ralph back into the works; whether or not Iris is actually pregnant (strange this subplot didn’t get addressed this week); and the inevitable return of Mark “Chillblaine” Blaine, not to mention his obnoxiously perfect abs.
- So, what did you think, group? Are you anticipating more Chillblaine in season eight? Will the Reverse-Flash return sooner than we think? Is The Flash on its way to getting back on track, at long last? Let’s go nuts in the comments below.