The Flash has just two episodes left. This is the show’s last chance to leave us with a positive impression of the last nine years. But instead of that, let’s do another episode of The Flash in which its main character is relegated to little more than a cameo appearance. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 9, Episode 11, “A New World, Part Two.”
“A New World, Part Two”
Team Flash works together to figure out how to protect Barry (Grant Gustin), all while being very careful who they trust. Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) is skeptical of the plan after an unsuccessful attempt. Khione’s (Danielle Panabaker) confidence in Chester (Brandon McKnight) enables him to convince Cecile to try one more time.
Starting off on the right foot
One step forward, two steps back. Is this really how we want to spend our time in the final season of The Flash? With the star absent and stories focused on secondary characters? It seems like for every episode we get about Barry Allen, we have to trudge through another about the rest of the cast mostly doing nothing.
Last week marked two great episodes in a row; after the excellent one-night-only return of the Green Arrow, we went all the way back to the night of the Reverse-Flash’s murder of Nora Allen. Barry was able to get closure with his parents and even with Eobard Thawne, sort of. Meanwhile, the show started this mystery with Malcolm Gilmore, who looks exactly like Eddie Thawne. This week we get about five minutes with Barry, and the show immediately stumbles.
Two Left Feet
It’s not that there isn’t anything cool going on here–there are a few storylines and they have the beginnings of a good story. Malcolm, having found the file of the dead Eddie Thawne, is continuing to look for answers. Khione is exploring her new powers, finding them terrifying and wondrous in equal parts. While all this is going on, something is stalking Team Flash, trying to take them out one member at a time.
The sections with the Negative Speed Force stalking the team are the worst parts of the episode. I love the horror element, and some of the best superhero stories use horror as a backdrop, giving the hero something truly terrible to overcome. The horror elements here are poorly implemented and don’t quite land most of the time. It slows everything else down. A lot of that boils down to the writers’ insistence on using Mark Chillblaine as a mole for a third time. It isn’t the character’s fault this time–he’s possessed. Sure, okay. But the writers could’ve done something else, and it feels this season like they’re actively resisting that in some cases, and instead just putting “previously owned” parts of Flash episodes together in different ways and hoping we won’t notice.
Khione is almost there
Khione, meanwhile, has the potential for an interesting story. She reveals this week that she’s essentially a goddess, as her name suggests. She’s a conduit through which life flows both ways, giving life to two people dying of asphyxiation early in the episode, and literally turning Mark to dust later in the episode–before reconstituting him a moment later. This story feels like it could, in an earlier season and with writers less afraid to get weird, connect to DC Comics concepts like the Green and the Red–the spiritual realms of plants and animals, respectively. Swamp Thing was just starting to get into the stuff with the Green right before it was unceremoniously canceled 3 episodes before the end of the season. Titans connected Beast Boy to the Red in what ended up being the best episode of that show’s final season. Instead, Khione is just a generic goddess generically connected to the idea of life and nature.
Malcolm in the Middling Storyline
Malcolm/Eddie’s story is the most intriguing part of this arc thus far, but I’m left a little confused. Malcolm Gilmore is supposedly in the year 2049, and I see people talking about him like that’s a fact. But when he stumbles into the Central City Police station, everyone there is looking at them like they’re seeing a ghost. He talks to the captain of the police, a relatively young woman, who says she was just a rookie when Eddie was a veteran. People forget about old employees after just a few years–even ones who die pretty tragically. People change jobs. If Eddie really died 35-plus years earlier, how would this woman have known him? It doesn’t seem like they’re in an alternate universe, and it doesn’t seem like they’re in the year 2049 either.
This has the potential to be a really interesting storyline, but again, these questions are pulling it down at every turn. Do the writers not know what story they’re telling? Did the showrunners cheap out on making the future look any different from the present (at least give us some of those terrible transparent monitors and bright white walls that shows like to use as shorthand for this stuff)?
Barry does show up for a few minutes. It’s not nearly enough, though, and so we end up with three almost-good storylines that are just more confusing than anything else. The Flash has consistently been at its best when the story is focused on Barry and The Flash. So why do they keep wandering off the path?