NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
Well, I can’t say I’m all that surprised that The Flash fumbled the ultimate conclusion to its battle against Eva McCulloch this week, a battle that was originally supposed to serve as the end of the show’s previous season, before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic retroactively shortened it last year. “Mother” is hopefully the final Season 7 episode to stumble through the narrative quagmire left by Season 6’s premature conclusion, and considering that Season 6’s ultimate final product was the best season of The Flash in years, it’s disappointing and frustrating to see the series once again struggling to pull its story threads together for a satisfying conclusion.
As great an arch-villain as she initially was, Eva’s story arc has officially fallen apart at this point. Between Eva’s overwhelming power as ‘Mirror Monarch’ (a revision to her male counterpart, Evan McCulloch’s identity as the second Mirror Master of DC Comics lore), and the controversial destruction of the Speed Force in the wake of The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event, The Flash continues to write itself into some really tight corners. The series couldn’t even stick with Barry’s Artificial Speed Force for that matter, forcing the writers to pull out another solution to restore Barry’s speed, one that feels pretty head-scratching and ridiculous, even by the standards of this show, and the Arrowverse at large!
Then there’s the elephant in the room that I finally have no choice but to address; Hartley Sawyer’s infamous firing from the role of Ralph Dibny/Elongated Man, in the wake of offensive tweets that he posted about a decade ago. I’m not going to get into how justified or unjustified that move was here, but either way, Ralph needs to either be written out or recast, and for the time being, we need to address that. Fortunately, Natalie Dreyfuss is able to return for this episode as Sue Dearbon, providing an excuse for Ralph to be conveniently blown up and disfigured after finding decisive evidence that proves Sue’s innocence in the murder of Joseph Carver. Well, I guess that’s the end of the Sue mystery, isn’t it? So, I suppose we’re going with just writing these two characters out of the show at this point, which, in fairness, is probably the least bad option for Ralph’s and Sue’s characters right now.
As for the climactic battle against Eva, it does manage a few decent ideas, and at least provides a fair chunk of spectacle, at least, by CW standards anyway. After Eva starts replacing every citizen in Central City with a mirror duplicate, she pledges to remake the world in her image. With Barry having destroyed the Artificial Speed Force as well, he’s left without any speed whatsoever, essentially guaranteeing Eva a victory in her campaign to replace everyone on Earth with a duplicate. With Central City left in chaos, and facing no other option, Barry thus has no choice but to consider that Eva has won… Until he’s visited by the freshly-resurrected Harrison Wells from the Pre-Crisis Earth-1!
The last remaining Wells in the live-action DC Multiverse also comes with the added perk of containing thoughts and memories from every other Wells incarnation, including Nash and Harry, giving both Cisco and Allegra some degree of closure. Wells also helps Barry come up with the idea to substitute an organic host for the artificial catalyst from before, leading him to be inspired by the fact that Iris appears to have residual Speed Force energy. Thus, Barry literally, “Runs toward love”, which completely restores his speed and makes him The Flash again, even while the Speed Force is supposedly dead. Yeah, this is pretty much total bullshit. Not only is Barry being powered by Iris’ love a cringe-inducing level of cheesy, even for the Arrowverse, but it also cements the fact that destroying the Speed Force in any DC Universe doesn’t make sense to begin with. As Cisco points out, the Speed Force is a fundamental building block behind any DC Universe, governing time, motion and both potential and kinetic energy. Reality would literally cease to function without it, and this is no doubt why The Flash had to come up with such an absurd excuse to restore Barry’s speed, hastily sweeping away another otherwise interesting conflict from the show’s Eva McCulloch arc.
Like I said though, at least some of the final confrontation with Eva has some decent action beats, as Cisco and Frost join Barry to try and fight off Eva’s mirror duplicates, complete with Cisco brandishing an all-new, tech-based Vibe suit! I guess Cisco giving up his metahuman powers, only to get them back through technical means here, is yet another retcon that we can throw onto The Flash’s growing pile. Regardless, Eva continues to insist that she’s the only one that can fix the world, all while a mirror duplicate of Cecile tries to tempt Joe into joining the MirrorVerse… All of which amounts to nothing when Iris simply discourages Eva from conquering the planet with a simple pep talk. Take a shot. Actually, down the bottle in this case, because this is a laughably stupid, horribly contrived way to end a major conflict against a key arch-villain. Granted, I don’t hate the idea of Eva not being a true villain in the end, but Iris might as well have waved a magic wand that impossibly solves every conflict left over from Season 6, from Eva’s mirror duplicates to Sue’s framing to Kamilla and Singh being trapped in the MirrorVerse.
Oh yeah, Kamilla and Singh just fall back into the real world as if nothing happened, right before Eva conveniently takes away Iris’ Deus Ex Machina powers, at which point Eva just quietly returns to the MirrorVerse of her own accord. Really? That’s the best that The Flash can do when it comes to wrapping up the battle against ‘Mirror Monarch’? Like I said, it’s symptomatic of The Flash writing itself into too many corners, even before the COVID-19 pandemic and Hartley Sawyer’s firing played further havoc with the show’s writing. As laudable as it is that Season 6 shot for the stars in terms of its villain ambitions, the lacklustre ending to the battle against Eva definitively indicates that Season 7 should pull back on some of these ideas. Speculation appears to indicate that Chillblaine, who is more or less set to serve as an obscure successor to Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold (whom I doubt we’ll ever see in the Arrowverse again), might be The Flash’s next major recurring villain this season, assuming that Godspeed is left on the bench. If that’s the case, I’d be in favour of it, because The Flash feels like it could benefit from a less eldritch arch-villain at this point.
“Mother” marks a frustratingly weak conclusion to the battle against Eva McCulloch, even if it’s easy to understand that many outside elements were working against this climactic episode. The Flash has done so much aggressive pivoting to try and get around the COVID-19 pandemic, losing Hartley Sawyer, and now having to awkwardly wriggle itself out of its big narrative swings like destroying the Speed Force and eliminating every Wells in the live-action DC Multiverse, that it was practically guaranteed the final battle with Eva would be a clumsy, disappointing mess. After all of the effort to resurrect the original Earth-1 Wells to boot, he doesn’t even stick around! Instead, he goes off to perpetually live his four years with his wife on a loop, before the show teases that Iris’ Speed Force connection is about to provoke another threat, likely Godspeed. I think we’re overdue for some serious answers to this show’s long-running Godspeed mystery, and, I never thought I would say this, but I actually feel ready to just pit Barry against another god-like evil speedster.
Or Chillblaine. Chillblaine would work too. Anything but more over-powered supernatural threats that just end up being compromised by last-minute writing changes and unpredictable CW scheduling.