The Flash Season 7 Premiere Tries To Do A Little Too Much, But A Good Start
After the CW crossover event Crisis On Infinite Earths, most of the Arrowverse (or CWVerse) shows had a tough time going onward. Essentially, they had an Avengers: Endgame-level story and then tried to tell their individual stories that couldn’t help but feel “less epic.” Then, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down their seasons early, cutting off those stories just as they ascended to their climax. With the season 7 premiere of The Flash, this is the first time we truly get to see one of those stories continue. However, through no fault of anyone’s, this episode feels disjointed, frantically paced, and ultimately unsatisfying. This episode also features the end of a character that has been around since the first season of the show (kind of).
Team Flash has a lot of problems to address: Barry losing his speed, Iris trapped in the Mirrorverse, the new Mirror Master raising hell, the villainous terrorist organization Black Hole, the whole Sue Dearborn side-plot, Cisco and Caitlin being gone, and the “new” members of the team stepping up. It’s a lot.
There were some things that “helped.” For example, since Hartley Sawyer was fired from the flash for insensitive tweets, Ralph and Sue went into hiding and we may not hear from them again. The Mirror Master and Black Hole plots were always meant to intertwine. Still, it feels like The Flash season 7 premiere is trying to do the work of three or four episodes in one. Thus, this meant that the sheer volume of different stories worked against connecting to any one of them. This show is still one of the best in the CW/DC arsenal, but this premiere couldn’t overcome the odds stacked against it.
Spoilers to follow.
Where The Flash Season 7 Premiere Missed the Mark
Image via Warner Bros. TV
In the context of the realities of the pandemic, it feels nit-picky to harp on the failings I found in this episode. As I mentioned above, it definitely feels like A-, B-, and C-stories from about three different episodes were all shoved into this one. This caused some to feel extraneous. For example, it’s always a delight to see Jesse L. Martin’s Joe West and his wife Cecile Horton, played by Danielle Nicolet. However, the story about Cecile expanding her empathic powers felt superfluous. Yes, it did get a crucial plot-point to the heroes, but both that and her personal discovery felt rushed.
Similarly, my least-favorite plotline from last season persisted without much advancement. Candice Patton’s Iris West is still stuck in the mirrorverse, running in circles trying to escape. Separating Barry and Iris is a great tension point, as these two make each other better. Yet, other than sidelining her, it’s unclear what the point of all this mirror-stuff is. Perhaps I am being unfair because of my personal distaste for the story, but it’s time for Iris to get back to the real world.
Lastly, the integration of Brandon McKnight’s Chester P. Runk and Kayla Compton’s Allegra Garcia into Team Flash also didn’t get the space it deserved. Barry is left alone with only these two and Tom Cavanaugh’s latest iteration of Harrison Wells, Nash. (More on him later.) Grant Gustin did a fantastic job playing up the emotional tension of being a Flash without speed, leading a team he’s not familiar with. Yet, since a lot of their initial bonding in this dynamic happens off-screen (while Barry is in cryo-stasis?) happens off-screen. Hopefully, subsequent episodes will give the new Team Flash the space they need to tell these characters’ stories in a more complete way.
Where The Flash Season 7 Premiere Succeeded
Image via Warner Bros. TV
To be clear, my complaint about Allegra and Chester above is one based in the idea that we didn’t get enough with them. Chester especially is a big (pun intended) character from the comics. So, while I also miss Carlos Valdes and Danielle Panabaker, their characters’ absences serve the story better than Iris’s. Having Barry slowly losing his powers while separated from his closest friends (and his wife) is good for the story. Gustin’s performance (at least as Barry Allen) is impressive. He stays the Barry we know while also being desperate and lost. It’s a tiny needle to thread, but he does it well.
Similarly, Candice Patton’s performances are excellent as well. While the substance of the Mirroverse storyline doesn’t resonate with me, watching her convey Iris confronting darker past versions of herself is magnetic. If anything, this should have been the storyline throughout this Mirroverse diversion. Also, Victoria Park’s Kamilla Hwang is not in the episode, but apparently, she and Iris are emailing each other in the Mirrorverse. It feels like things are finally coming to a climax. While it does make for great tension, let’s hope The Flash refrains from splitting up Iris and Barry in the future. One need only look at Superman & Lois to see how there can be plenty of tension in a story without falling back on tired romance tropes.
Finally, the sequence where Barry gets his speed back is a great VFX sequence for TV. Folks love to compare the CG effects in films to TV. However, DC/CW series do a fantastic job in telling VFX-heavy stories that look good on a TV budget and schedule. Even though getting to that point felt a little arduous at times, the sequence was pure comic book fan bait.
All of the Wells Deserved Better
Image via Warner Bros. TV
The major headline out of The Flash season 7 premiere is the death of Nash Wells (and, subsequently, all of the Wells-es). After the crisis, the denizens of Earth-Prime believe the multiverse has collapsed. Through some sci-fi magic, the “essence” of all past versions of Harrison Wells live on in Nash. The episode builds up to his eventual sacrifice, but again suffers because it all feels so rushed.
A sequence in the middle of the episode, where the Wells’ essences are transferred into Barry, suffered as well. The scene in which Gustin does his imiations of Cavanaugh’s various versions of the character is humorous but fell flat for me. Showrunner Eric Wallace told TVLine.com that this sequence was shortened. So, this likely would have happened over its own episode, a much better fit than sandwiched between heavily emotional arcs. Yet, when Cavanaugh himself cycles through the personalities as the Wells-es sacrifice themselves, it’s a much better fit. Cavanaugh isn’t going anywhere, especially since we know the Reverse Flash is returning. Yet, if this is the last time we see a “Harrison Wells” on the show, having that character’s last line being “Run Barry, run” is very fitting.
One good thing about the industry shutdown is that it will allow Panabaker to return to the series earlier than expected. So, she’ll be back soon as will Valdes. This season of The Flash will be great, but the premiere and the next episode will have to wrap up last season’s stories first.
The Flash airs on the CW on Wednesdays and streams on their site the next day.
What did you think of The Flash season 7 premiere? Share your thoughts, reactions, and hopes for what’s next in the comments below.
Featured image via CW.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.