NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
It’s genuinely surreal to think that the Arrowverse is about to end. This fan-favourite DC TV franchise has been on the air for over a decade, since 2012 in fact, and while DC’s movie and TV focus has meandered and been very uneven over these past eleven years, the Arrowverse has generally persisted as a reliable, if very imperfect shared live-action universe for a solid chunk of DC’s heroes and villains. Say what you will about the Arrowverse’s flaws as well, but it also made television history with some of the biggest, most ambitious crossovers imaginable, even incorporating shows from other networks, as well as some of DC’s movies, most notably in the case of landmark five-series crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths. As contentious as more recent Arrowverse seasons have been for many DC fans, this continuity’s impact on both television and the DC Multiverse can’t be overstated.
For better or worse, the Arrowverse’s final run (pun not intended) is also being delivered by its most successful show, The Flash, now beginning its ninth and final season. With Superman & Lois being retroactively moved into its own self-contained universe at the end of last season, despite originally being planned for the Arrowverse as a Supergirl spin-off, The Flash is left to tie up every loose end left dangling across six separate shows, five of which have now wrapped. This is on top of The Flash having to wrap up its own specific plotline, as Barry and Team Flash face off against a climactic batch of villains for the fate of Central City, and the Arrowverse at large, once again.
This really is the end of an era, and yet, it’s tough to deny that, for all its success as the Arrowverse’s longest-running and most successful show, The Flash also feels incredibly tired by its ninth season. The fundamental character of The Flash will no doubt move on to bigger things from here, particularly with an unrelated The Flash movie starring Ezra Miller hitting theatres this June, but as far as the Arrowverse’s rendition of the Scarlet Speedster goes, he’s more or less out of challenges at this point. Barry has come into his own as a superhero, groomed an entire team of allies to fight alongside him, become a worldwide phenomenon in the Arrowverse’s world, defeated numerous villains both big and small in scope, learned how to properly respect his dominion over time, ushered in all-new universal forces, married his true love, met and fought alongside his future children as adults, and even served as the main ambassador to Arrowverse heroes formerly from other universes, like Supergirl and Black Lightning. What else is there for him to do?
Honestly, even this show doesn’t seem sure anymore. That’s why it’s a bit of a let-down to see The Flash’s final season begin with so many tired story ideas. “Wednesday Ever After” bases itself around Barry and Iris becoming trapped in an ill-defined time loop, an event so mundane and unimpressive to both of them by this point that they pretty much meet it with a shrug. That could have been funny, but the series doesn’t really move far beyond the conceit of Barry and Iris no longer being surprised by time anomalies. Hell, Barry has even begun looking for yet more loopholes to manipulate the future, because he’s still unbelievably terrified of losing Iris, and thus, his future children. Oh, come on, we’re doing this again?!
The idea of Barry being tempted by taking peeks at his and Iris’ own future without intervention, and cataloguing it as a way to ensure a future where they both live happily ever after and grow old together, has genuine potential, in concept. It’s frustrating however that the series doesn’t do much with this idea. Iris makes the argument that Barry should stop messing with time, again, and just allow the future to happen, again. We’ve been over this already! It just feels like Barry and Iris don’t have anywhere else to go as characters in this universe anymore. Barry is still re-learning the same tired lessons, and Iris is still being a wet blanket whose main character trait is stating the obvious.
“It just feels like Barry and Iris don’t have anywhere else to go as characters in this universe anymore.”
Fortunately, there are a few decent ideas that still manage to peek through here. The introduction of a second Captain Boomerang for example, a runt of a criminal who is clearly being given his tech by a much more dangerous enemy, is something with promise for this season. Likewise, the final reveal of Captain Boomerang being masterminded by a new arch-villain called the Red Death, a speedster who sports a Batman Family emblem, and appears to be an evil version of the Arrowverse’s Batwoman, is also kind of exciting, even if Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow might have made for a more logical and satisfying Red Death host, being the OG Arrowverse hero and all. Finally, Danielle Panabaker’s mysterious new character could be interesting, after she confirms at the end of this season premiere that she’s no longer Caitlin Snow or Killer Frost. I guess we find out who she is next week, but considering that Jon Cor’s Chillblaine is now a series regular for The Flash’s final season, I’m guessing that Panabaker’s new character is going to be fairly important.
Outside of that though, The Flash is still falling back too much on the same played-out, uninteresting character dynamics. Chester and Allegra finally solidify their romance after Barry saves Central City from a nuke detonated by Captain Boomerang, but that lands with a thud, because these two still barely have chemistry, and their romance still feels too forced. Likewise, Joe’s shocking declaration that he wants to leave Central City, right when Cecile is becoming one of Team Flash’s most indispensable heroes, feels completely non-sensical. It was probably inevitable, mind you, because poor Jesse L. Martin has struggled to perform on this series for years now, especially after a recent injury, but if The Flash is in its final season anyway, what does it matter? Frankly, it feels like Joe only wants to get out of dodge so that Barry and Iris can snag the West house, and the show’s planned future timeline can stay intact. Or, I guess that would be the theory, but Iris already made changes to the future by rejecting a CatCo buyout offer that she was supposed to accept in Barry’s documented timeline, instead buying out Coast City’s struggling newspaper (RIP to the many teased Green Lantern storylines for the Arrowverse), so who knows what implications that ultimately has. Actually, on that note, isn’t Iris technically the one that’s guilty of messing with time in this case?!
I would have liked if The Flash was able to recapture its incredible early momentum from its first two seasons for the start of its final bow this year, but no such luck. Rather than kick off one last creative haymaker for the Arrowverse, “Wednesday Ever After” simply proves more than ever that The Flash is overdue for retirement, and it should probably take its entire shared TV universe with it. That’s really disappointing, even with the looming promise of James Gunn’s imminently-rebooting DCU that aspires to almost entirely unite DC’s movies and TV shows, a la Marvel’s ultra-successful MCU franchise, something that’s inevitably going to replace the long-flagging Arrowverse with a far superior premium TV catalogue. The Arrowverse may have made record-setting landmark television once upon a time, but sadly, this TV franchise is now a relic, and that leaves The Flash in a very uphill position for its final thirteen episodes. Obviously, there’s still time to surprise viewers with a truly satisfying conclusion for both The Flash and the Arrowverse at large, but it’s likely prudent that enduring fans adjust their expectations for the Arrowverse’s last hurrah.
- Barry trying to catalogue the future without intervening is a promising hook
- Danielle Panabaker breaking from both Caitlin and Frost is interesting
- Captain Boomerang and Red Death are intriguing new villains
- Barry and Iris arguing over time is very played-out
- Chester/Allegra romance remains too forced
- Joe suddenly wanting to leave Central City feels illogical
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