NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
Just when Team Flash appeared to be getting a grip on their new, post-Crisis reality, the Arrowverse finds yet another way to pull the rug out from under them. Even the anticipated return of Cisco and Wally does little to remedy the hair-raising new circumstances for Barry and co., as, “Death of the Speed Force” deals with exactly that– The sudden death of the Speed Force. Worse still is that yet another new metahuman threat has surfaced in Central City to boot, putting an old spin on a classic Flash villain, while Nash finally discovers the truth about what’s haunting him.
There’s quite a lot of exciting events in this episode, and all in all, “Death of the Speed Force” is a strong offering for The Flash, presenting more interesting new circumstances for the heroes, even if the latest villain-of-the-week feels like yet another disposable distraction, despite her creative hook. After Wally returns to Central City by bailing out a failing helicopter, only to later find one of its passengers dead at CC Jitters after a bout of localized accelerated aging, Barry and the newly-returned Cisco come to the conclusion that the victim’s kinetic energy was entirely returned to a potential state, thus slowing her until she aged a hundred years in a split second. This is because the show’s latest metahuman criminal is a new incarnation of The Turtle, who can drain kinetic energy with localized force fields that she can freely project. This sounds very weird on paper, but at least it makes for a creative baddie, even if this new Turtle is still disappointingly shallow and forgettable as a villain-of-the-week.
That’s fine and good though, since this episode has another big story hook anyway. Naturally, the reason why Wally has suddenly returned to Central City also has something to do with the weird disturbances in Barry’s powers, which have been occurring ever since the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Sure enough, when Wally leads Barry into the Speed Force using a new consciousness-projection power that Wally learned on his travels, Barry learns that the Speed Force has become infected with some form of hostile energy, and is dying. This leaves Wally furious about Barry refusing to contact him after noticing that his powers were wonky, and leads to a bit of a spat between the two speedsters, as Barry struggles to figure out what went wrong. The cause of the problem is indeed Barry’s indirect fault as well, since the energy used from the Spectre is what ultimately destroys the Speed Force, meaning that Barry killed the source of his speed through trying to save his universe during Crisis. It’s a very effective tragic irony.
This Speed Force death made for an exceptional character conflict that really fired on all cylinders, even if Wally’s initial reaction to Barry’s shiftiness is a bit over-the-top. Despite that though, the two men discovering that they’re being threatened with permanently losing their speed makes for a poignant and nicely challenging moment, with both having to come to terms with the situation from opposite directions. Since Wally has a much more in-tune relationship with the Speed Force after his time of spiritual training, he suddenly has to come to grips with being cut off from his source of spiritual centering. Likewise, Barry must now try and figure out what having to retire as a superhero might mean for his future. This issue is made worse by ‘Iris’ encouraging Barry to give up his speed too, though as we obviously know, that’s not the real Iris.
The fake Iris also took some interesting turns this week, despite her storyline not occupying a large chunk of this episode. We see early on when Eva gets emotionally distraught in the mirror world for example that the fake Iris is directly controlled by Eva to some extent, nicely deepening the mystery behind Eva’s powers, and how they may eventually be wielded against Team Flash. Shortly afterward, Kamilla also gets told by ‘Iris’ to delete an innocent photo that she takes of her and Wally at the Citizen office, which thankfully fails. Since the camera found a weird filter, it refuses to delete the photo, which is a tad unrealistic, but I suppose there are less believable ways to advance the plot. In any case, after Kamilla sees that ‘Iris’ has a strange mirror texture in the photo, she learns the hard way that ‘Iris’ is a fake, only to be hit with the Mirror Gun and sent to who-knows-where. I guess this could mean that Kamilla is about to get dumped into the mirror world with Eva and the real Iris, but either way, I imagine that Cisco won’t be happy when he finds out that his girlfriend is missing.
Speaking of Cisco, he already has plenty of reasons to be unhappy, despite finally returning to his friends this week. After having to admit that he failed to chase down Turtle 2, the criminal he’s been attempting to get more intelligence on for weeks (despite also dropping some delightful teases that Aquaman and Atlantis now exist off-screen on Earth-Prime), Cisco ends up blowing off Nash and refusing Caitlin’s help, leading to concern from Caitlin at least. Yeah, Caitlin is out again this week for whatever reason, not Frost. Anyway, after Cisco goes to apologize to Nash, he’s instead surprised to find that Nash has been possessed by the ‘ghost’ of Eobard Thawne! As viewers no doubt suspected, Thawne was indeed haunting Nash this whole time, despite the fact that any doppelgangers on Earth-Prime should have died from neurological degeneration at this point (a theory that was recently confirmed on Batwoman). Fortunately though, Cecile manages to save Cisco from a thankfully de-powered Thawne, whereupon Thawne, as Nash, gets thrown in the Pipeline, declaring that he can’t wait to kill Barry and his friends soon.
The creepy return for Thawne is exciting enough, but the fact that the fake Iris made a big move against one of Team Flash’s friends, while exposing another vulnerability in Eva’s mysterious plans, also presents lots to look forward to from this new story pod for The Flash. “Death of the Speed Force” also presents an interesting new challenge for Barry at least, since Wally once again leaves town after Turtle 2 is inevitably arrested during the climax, leaving Barry to have to ration his speed on his own terms. Barry does however get inspired by Thawne to build his own artificial Speed Force (this is a rather ridiculous story element from last season that I’m amazed The Flash is revisiting again), so inevitably, the Speed Force’s destruction will eventually be effectively ‘reversed’, especially since we can’t have a Flash show without The Flash. Still, the character material throughout this episode is nonetheless strong, providing an effective, if short-lived return for Wally, while the brewing threats to Team Flash continue to stir in the background, right as Barry is facing the prospect of permanently losing his powers.
- Barry and Wally having to cope with the Speed Force's destruction
- Thawne's dramatic return
- The fake Iris' deception being rumbled, at Kamilla's expense
- Turtle 2 being another disposable villain-of-the-week