Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Carlos Valdes
Carlos Valdes
Photo: Katie Yu (The CW)
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When you’ve reviewed almost every episode of a series over the course of six seasons, it’s inevitable that certain issues will arise time and again. The pep talk has been a part of The Flash since the beginning, and I’ve certainly had occasion to complain about its overuse as a narrative device before now...but holy smokes, I didn’t know how good I had it until this week’s episode aired. In one stretch between commercial breaks we got four pep talks in a row, with more to come later in the hour. (Incredibly, none of them involve Joe West, who is only seen briefly at the beginning, still in witness protection.) If you need that many, it probably means there’s not a whole lot of pep to be found, and that’s certainly true of “Pay The Piper,” a glum, listless episode that turns out to be, thanks to coronavirus lockdown, the penultimate one of the season.

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Godspeed both is and isn’t a new speedster—we met him last season, or several versions of him, none of which were the real deal. It turns out this one isn’t either, but he has a different brand of sonic super-speed power that suggests the Pied Piper, Hartley Rathaway, may be of help in defeating him. In this post-Crisis reality, however, Hartley is back to hating the Flash for accidentally causing his right-hand man Roderick to lose control of his molecules, putting him in a constant vibratory state. Team Flash offers to help restore Roderick in exchange for Hartley’s assistant in defeating Godspeed.

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Both Cisco and Barry are distracted with other projects, and neither is having much success. Cisco, having learned that he’s been shacked up with a mirror version of his girlfriend for the past month, is trying to figure out a way to pierce the dimensional barrier to the mirrorverse, while Barry is still trying to build an artificial speed force. Nash has a plan to heal Roderick involving the combination of UV light and helium, but no plan on The Flash can ever work the first time, and this one is no exception. Nothing is going right, which means it’s time for a record-setting series of heart-to-hearts.

Nash tells Barry to forgive himself. Cecile tells Cisco he’s still a hero, despite giving up the Vibe powers that would really, really come in handy now. (Seriously, I’m still mad about what a terrible idea giving them up was.) In the Mirror STAR Labs, Kamilla tells Iris to trust herself despite her neural dissonance. Barry finds Hartley, who blames himself for Roderick’s situation (as was pretty clear from the start, Roderick is not just his henchman, but his boyfriend), and tells him to be the man Roderick fell for. “Thanks, Oprah,” Hartley quips, putting his finger on the big problem with this episode. It’s just one long group therapy session, with one exception.

Victoria Park
Victoria Park
Photo: Shane Harvey (The CW)

The showdown between the Flash and Godspeed is the first super-speed action in I can’t remember how long, and a welcome but all-too-brief reminder that we’re watching a superhero show here. I’d almost forgotten how fun it could to watch Barry zip around the city, up and down buildings, lightning flashing all the way. He and Hartley “cross the streams,” combining speed and sound to knock Godspeed out of commission, and use the sonic fluid that passes for his blood to restore Roderick. After this interlude, however, it’s back to the pep talks. Ralph helps Frost find the confidence she needs to see her mother. Hartley tells Barry it’s not enough to forgive himself, he has to believe the world he wants is possible. And finally, Barry gives Team Flash the big “all we need is love” speech in preparation for their showdown with Eva.

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It’s a forgettable downer of an episode, all the more so because it’s setting up next week’s season finale, which it was never supposed to do. Because of the production shutdown, the final three planned episodes were never shot, so don’t expect much in the way of resolution next week. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Grant Gustin notes that “a lot more than usual is left unfinished,” so there’s not much reason to believe Iris will be rescued from the mirrorverse in the next episode. Here’s hoping it’s at least a lot more fun than this one.

Stray observations

  • Frost receives her “Dib-ploma” from Ralph’s life coach school, and proves that sometimes old-school filmmaking techniques still work as Danielle Panabaker’s baby bump is hidden by big pillows throughout her scenes.
  • Eva doesn’t even appear this week until the tag scene, which doesn’t amount to much besides announcing that she’s made it back into the real world.
  • Cisco is going to Atlantis? Now that sounds like fun. Too bad we probably aren’t going to see it for a long time.
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My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.

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