NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
Ohhh boy, this is awkward. The Flash has spent most of its current season stuck in a story arc that, frankly, hasn’t always made a ton of sense, and unfortunately, its ultimate conclusion here leaves the most to be desired. “Family Matters, Part 2” struggles to wrap up a two-part storyline that already had a bit of a shaky start last week, while also aiming to tie up the conflict with the other Forces created from Barry’s and Iris’ love. Yeah, it never sounds smarter or more dignified, no matter how many times I say it or type it. Anyway, there’s something of a climactic confrontation with Nora here, which concludes by setting up another overall pivot for The Flash’s Season 7 arc, but it’s so clumsy, contrived and frustrating that it quickly grows tedious and unfulfilling to watch. Oh, and that’s not even considering yet another infuriating Frost/Chillblaine subplot that really doesn’t need to be here!
Yeah, The Flash already got bored with Frost being in prison for life, apparently. Instead, Iron Heights’ metahuman wing is conveniently struck by some unstable Sage Force lightning, because I guess that’s a thing now, which allows several metahuman villains to escape back into Central City, including Chillblaine. Frost however stalks Chillblaine into a break-in at Ivo Labs, at which point the two fight for a bit, and then Frost later moves back in with Caitlin at the end of this episode. Uh, are we missing a scene here? Oh, but it gets better. Apparently, because Frost helped people on the news (we never see this, so we just have to take her word for it), and The Flash put in a good word, her life sentence is magically reversed, and she’s just put on probation. Well what the hell was the point of Frost being incarcerated in the first place then?! This subplot is terrible, not just because it brings back Chillblaine, one of the worst DC Comics character adaptations that The Flash has come up with in quite some time, but also because it completely undoes the one legitimately great Frost storyline that this season has delivered at this point, just a few episodes later!
This idea of ‘bottle conflicts’ that don’t amount to anything was also frustratingly present throughout much of the core storytelling this week to boot. It’s painfully obvious that the writers had no idea how to logically stop the threat of Nora and the other Forces, so this episode tries to throw at least three different climax ideas into the mix, without adequately realizing any of them. The storyline literally flip-flops between scenes as to whether Nora is the villain, or the other Forces are villains, which I assume is meant to create a morally ambiguous conflict for Barry, as he faces the prospect of having to ‘sacrifice’ his children in order to save Central City from destruction. On paper, this idea is awesome. In execution, it’s half-baked and frustrating, especially when the narrative frustratingly wimps out of Barry having to make a truly difficult choice here!
Even Deon’s earlier betrayal, and the apparent death of Iris, Alexa and Bashir, is immediately undone and amounts to nothing! Instead, Bashir conveniently pulls a new Sage Force power out of his ass at the very start of this episode, which apparently creates a death illusion so potent that it even fools Nora. This is pretty unbelievable, to say the least, especially when it relies on Nora’s isotopic-sensing powers just magically not working for a few moments. Regardless, Barry and Iris stash Alexa and Bashir in the past, during the point when the Speed Force was dead, which, admittedly, is not a bad idea. That said, this solid plan is ultimately ruined by Bashir convincing Alexa to ditch the hiding spot and confront Nora directly, for literally no reason beyond moving the plot forward. Well, so much for the ‘dead zone’ solution!
At the same time, Barry finds Deon, who I guess is no longer teamed up with Nora (?), and ultimately fails to stop him from confronting Nora himself, at which point, Deon is quickly knocked out and incapacitated at S.T.A.R. Labs. All the while, the cosmic manifestation of the Forces duel over Central City, which now threatens to engulf all of existence somehow? What the hell is even happening anymore?! This narrative very quickly undoes itself with its blatant lack of an exit strategy, as the other Forces and their avatars simply bounce around and change allegiances at the whims of the script, without much rhyme or reason to this climactic conflict.
It’s really a shame, because there are some genuinely cool moments during the climactic confrontation with Nora. Yeah, I guess Nora is ultimately made the real villain here, even though there’s a point where Barry is convinced that the other Forces are the villains. Yeah, this episode is not well-written at all. In any case, Nora pulls the other Forces’ avatars into a Speed Force dimension for a frustratingly brief melee, which is pretty great, if also noticeably constrained by its tight CW budget. Even so, Deon ultimately shows Nora the future she’s creating, where she’s lonely and without any other sentient life on Earth-Prime, at which point she collapses into a crying fit, and Alexa tells her she can be part of a family. Oh, good, yet another major conflict on The Flash that’s solved with a simple pep talk, and it’s an arch-villain-level threat to boot, just like Mirror Monarch! Down the bottle!
Amidst all this clumsy narrative chaos, another legitimately good idea manages to slip into the writing here, even if it’s also contrived and forced along for the most part. Joe witnesses Cecile being attacked and rendered temporarily comatose by a bolt of Sage Force lightning (how?!?!), at which point he starts to feel inadequate and helpless, on account of recently leaving the CCPD. Not only is this a great conflict for Joe, but it even leads into a genuinely inspiring moment for Barry and Iris, one that finally convinces them that they’re ready to be parents to an actual biological child. Yep, that’s what all of this Force nonsense was building up to, apparently; Barry and Iris deciding that they want to have kids now. After Barry then runs really fast to stop the apocalyptic Force storm (sure, who even cares anymore?), the other Forces ultimately go to repair the ‘dead zone’ in the Speed Force dimension, which somehow greatly enhances Barry’s speed (no doubt in preparation for his eventual confrontation with the true Godspeed), while also promising to, “Bring light” to the citizens of the world… Somehow. I’ve got nothing.
“Family Matters, Part 2” is a very frustrating low point for The Flash, one that somehow turned out even worse than the botched Mirror Monarch climax from the start of this season! Barry’s climactic confrontation with Nora and the other Forces is a non-sensical mess, and while it does lead to some legitimately promising development regarding Barry and Iris starting a true family of their own, it’s also painfully obvious that the show had no idea how to logically wrap up the whole mess of the ‘Force Wars’. The fact that Frost’s dramatic life imprisonment at Iron Heights has already been undone is even more insulting, especially as the series keeps trying to force her into an already tedious and unnecessary romance with the insufferable Chillblaine! It’s a good thing that The Flash is ready to pivot to another major ‘graphic novel’ story arc at this point, because the series really needs to go back to the drawing board before its next major conflict. Hopefully the fact that the show is taking an extra week off ahead of Cisco’s and Kamilla’s big farewell episode is an indication that it’s done exactly that.
The Flash heavily botches its climax to the 'Force Wars' this week, as Barry struggles through a non-sensical effort to save Central City, while Frost inexplicably ducks her prison sentence to pursue Chillblaine.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Joe struggling with not being a cop anymore
Barry and Iris being inspired by Joe to start a family
Initially promising hook of Barry having to choose between the Forces and Central City
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Confused, non-sensical final battle between the Forces
The narrative wimps out of having true stakes
Terrible Frost subplot that inexplicably reverses her life sentence