Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Flash 7x02 Review: "The Speed of Thought" (Think Fast!) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

“The Speed of Thought”
Original Airdate: March 9, 2021

The lesson we all have to take away from this week’s episode of The Flash is that Barry’s primary strength is his heart and the love he has for the people around him. We’re on season seven of this show and that has literally been the defining attribute of this character since his introduction, but fine. Making another episode revolving around this concept is totally fine. Hey, show — maybe next week you’ll tell us that Barry Allen has super speed!


“The Speed of Thought” begins with a memorial service for the Wellses we’ve lost along the way (i.e., all of them). “Why does it always seem like for us to win, some of us have to lose?” Cisco asks, to which I answer: shoddy writing for the sake of drama. Even Joe has something to say about the Wellses, tying it up by declaring humanity and love as the team’s greatest weapon against darkness. It’s our first hint at this week’s “mind vs. emotion” theme, which gets hammered home when Barry questions whether his love for the people around him might be a weakness. Joe tells Barry he’s not to blame for losing Wells, but of course Barry blames himself! He’s the hero of the story and all heroes have to be full of angst. Does anyone remember when this show used to be so bright and lovable that I equated Barry with a puppy gif every episode? Those were the days.

The little memorial service disperses. Cisco shows off his “dud” of a portal to the Mirrorverse, which he built using technology from Atlantis but can’t get to work. As he starts running through ideas about why or how the portal could be functional enough to rescue their friends, Barry suddenly gets a flash of everything Cisco is about to write on the presentation board and spoils Cisco’s own thoughts for him.

Okay, this show knows that being able to think fast doesn't automatically grant you knowledge of everything in existence, right? Like if I could think at super speed, I might be able to recite Pink Floyd lyrics with great rapidity or rattle off fun facts about Star Trek: The Original Series (my areas of expertise) but no matter how fast I think, I won't be able to build a rocket to the moon because I don't know how to build a rocket to the moon. Barry doesn't speed-read every book in existence or download the entirety of the internet into his brain, he just suddenly knows things. There's a reason why Cisco and Caitlin/Frost have places on Team Flash — it's because they fill in knowledge gaps for Barry. Granted, they often have fuzzy limitations on what their particular fields of study pertain to depending on what the plot needs, but the point is that Barry doesn't know some stuff. Yet, for this episode, he knows all the stuff. Why?

Well, I suspect the show is trying to give us a contrasting path of some sort: Barry is so smart! He can solve all the problems with absolute efficiency! But alas, he simply is not Barry without his gooey nougat center, and no amount of data analysis can replace his heart. Except, again, the audience knows this. Creating a scenario in which it seems like Barry trading in his inherent puppy-ness (however bereft we've been of the True Puppyness of Barry Allen in recent, angstier seasons) would be the answer to all Team Flash's problems is a pointless endeavor because we already know there is no situation in which Barry not being fundamentally Barry turns out to be the correct path to follow. This whole episode is like a magician telling the audience that the disappearance trick is all just mirrors at the start of the show and then continuing to go through the whole rigmarole anyway.

It all plays out exactly as one would expect: Barry, Cisco, and rotating members of Team Flash have fun with Barry’s new power (although Cisco, to his credit, immediately declares him “freaky”) and they get enough out of Barry to conceivably solve the Mirroverse Portal situation. After that, it’s a steady decline for Barry’s emotions until he’s just an emotionless robot that Cisco feels he has to stop before something awful happens. And then something awful happens, proving once and for all that heart is the real power and not at all a weakness Barry should want to get rid of.

Also, Cisco proves Barry has fast-thinking powers by throwing a “Quantum Ball” (trademark pending) in a room full of dangerous scientific equipment and getting Barry to predict what objects it bounces off of. Is prescience a side effect of being able to think fast? How? I suppose Barry’s complete knowledge of all science and math that came with his fast thinking allows him to determine the angle of the ball based off... the sound of it hitting a pole, or something.

Although Cisco gets a hint of things to come when Barry refuses to save Caitlin from Eva because it would result in an astronomically low chance of breaking the tachyon device they’re using to get the Mirrorverse Portal to work, the danger isn’t really solidified until Barry decides he needs to rescue Iris and leave Kamilla and Chief Singh to rot in the Mirrorverse. And not because Barry loves Iris despite his dive into emotionlessness, either — no, he wants to save Iris purely because she’d have the most information on Eva.

Barry arrives at his conclusion to save Iris over the others by thought-experimenting a scenario in which he asks the team to vote to save either Iris or Kamilla and Singh, and concludes that they would all vote for the latter. Of course, this is faulty from the start since there’s no way the others would vote to literally let people die — something Cisco brings up to Barry shortly before pulling a speed-dampener on him when Barry’s plan is revealed. A tussle between Barry, Cisco, Allegra, and Frost commences but ultimately ends with Barry using the Quantum Ball introduced earlier to knock everyone else out.

This leaves Barry free to proceed with getting Iris out of the Mirrorverse. The Mirrorverse portal works and opens up right where Iris is trying to drag the fainted Kamilla and Singh (it was a whole thing — their eyes glowed silver) to the medical lab. Iris, because she’s great, wants to help Kamilla and Singh through the portal first but Barry insists it can only be her. She fights against him, which causes some technical issues, but does eventually get yanked into the real world... only to pass out and have a seizure.

Barry is reawakened to his emotions upon seeing the love of his life in terrible shape (and maybe a little bit because Iris defied all Robo-Barry’s logical predictions and gave him that “does not compute” crisis they used to fight robots more than once on Star Trek: The Original Series). He looks around and sees everyone who could potentially help him passed out on the floor due to his own logic-driven actions. Man, it’s almost like this show wants us to think that Barry’s heart and emotions are key to his effectiveness as a hero and attempts to do away with them for the sake of logic ends in tragedy. I totally didn’t see that moral coming.

Other Things:

  • Cisco has protected the Wells memorial from timeline changes, which seems like something he should really apply to more than just a cubbyhole in a wall at S.T.A.R Labs.
  • Eva’s plot this episode: Robo-Barry broadcasted that video of real Eva dying we saw last episode, sending her into an emotional and mental spiral that ends with everyone in the world knowing she’s not the real Eva.
  • Eva has the absolute ugliest supervillain costume. I know that’s not a priority but it just needed saying.
  • Why do people who become emotionless robots obsessed with efficiency never use contractions? Contractions are efficient!
  • How does this episode have so many ending beats? After the ending with Barry, we cut to Eva decided to make “this” world hers or whatever, then we cut to a CCPD office getting pulled through a mirror on an elevator, and then it’s a flashback to when Eobard Thawne stole Harrison Wells’s identity and buried his body in a remarkably rectangular shallow grave. Some green dust (what is this, Smallville?) sparkles on top of the grave and Harrison Wells comes back to life. I have no idea what’s going on.


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