Monday, March 13, 2023

The Flash 9x05 Review: "The Mask of the Red Death, Part 2" (Rather Rushed) [Contributor: Deborah M]

“The Mask of the Red Death, Part 2”
Original Airdate: March 8, 2023

Welcome to the second part of this inexplicable two-parter, which wraps up what I thought could have been the season-long arc for the truncated final season of The Flash. If I needed any confirmation that this show’s pacing issues were alive and well, realizing they’re trying to fit their “Graphic Novel” split season storytelling technique (with interlude filler episodes and everything!) into thirteen episodes? Confirmation galore. I already complained last week about how they did a disservice to the Ryan character and deflated the whole Red Death storyline by not letting us get to know her first, so I’ll try to keep that to a minimum this time around.


The theme for this episode is “everyone matters,” which is a kind of spiritual sequel to last week’s episode theme of second chances. Everyone gets second chances because everyone matters, see? So while the episode begins with Red Death taking over the city with red lightning, the episode actually begins with Team Flash and the Team Flash Rogues arguing over whether or not to rescue Mark, who is found to be still alive and being held captive in Red Death’s warehouse.

Khione is the one who wins everyone over in favor of rescuing Mark, since she’s powerless and like, a month old but still brave enough to volunteer to go get him. That inspires everyone else and they head to Red Death’s hideout to find Mark in bad shape. Also, it’s a trap. Of course it is. They get Mark, but Red Death shows up to zap away the rest of Barry’s speed. She also reveals how she has the psychic power to create thousands of copies of her suit around the world. She’s using them to be “judge, jury, and executioner” for anyone who breaks the law.

Okay, I lied when I said I wouldn’t complain about the plotting around Ryan/Red Death during this review. I can’t help it. The way the show has laid out this storyline is absolutely baffling. She’s obsessed with getting rid of criminals — what drove her to this? She seemed to have been working with heroes in her own universe, did a switch just flip to make her okay with murdering people left and right? It’s a zero-to-sixty situation and a lot gets left at the starting line. I think the writers figured they could get away with it by making alt-Ryan crazy, but that’s such a bad shortcut for storytelling. I mean, kudos to Javicia Leslie for playing Crazy Ryan well, but a decent performance does not a compelling villain make. 

Sigh. It turns out Red Death is able to generate so many psychic copies of her suit to do her bidding because she’s partnered with Gorilla Grodd, who turned bitter toward Barry after Crisis erased his little superintelligent gorilla kingdom. What, is Barry supposed to check up on everyone he’s ever encountered to make sure the multiverse collapse didn’t negatively affect them? Barry has made many, many, many mistakes in his time as a superhero, but failing to predict how reality falls when it folds in on itself cannot be one of them. Yeah, maybe he should’ve zipped over to Africa to say hi to Grodd at some point during the last three years, but the dude’s been busy. Give him a break.

Team Flash and the Team Flash Rogues reconvene after this bombshell discovery of Grodd’s alliance and the Rogues all peace out in order to be with their loved ones while the world ends. Inexplicably, Barry takes this as a sign he was wrong to see the good in them, just as he was wrong to see the good in Grodd, and it takes a pep talk from Joe to get him thinking along more positive lines. Barry goes to talk to Grodd.

Grodd, I love that you’re making an appearance in The Flash’s final season because your existence is ridiculous and everything I adore about comics, but what are you doing, buddy? Red Death talks to you and you decide to help her take over the world with killer robots; Barry talks to you and you decide to stop helping her take over the world with killer robots. You’re the psychic gorilla version of Dean Pelton at the end of Community’s “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” episode.

Barry gets his speed back from Grodd because, and I quote: “Three years ago I gave a spark of my Speed Force to a sentient gorilla, and it was still inside his mind this whole time.” Man, I love comic book content. Where else do you get sentences like that? He heads off to fight Red Death, who is winning until the Rogues show up to help him out again. I gotta say, while the bulk of this storyline was a mess, I do really like the Team Flash Rogues. They’re easily my favorite parts of these episodes and I hope we get to see them all again before the end. 

Anyway, the final person to show up and help in the fight is Ryan from this timeline, suited up as Batwoman. She’s pretty cool. It’s a shame we didn’t really get to know her within this show, but she does chat with Iris a bit so maybe they’ll become friends and she’ll show up again? Meanwhile, Red Death gets her armor taken away and she’s carted off to Iron Heights. Thankfully, this comic book universe knows how to legally handle duplicates from another timeline so the good Ryan is in the clear.

In the end, Joe decides he’s moving out of Central City (and “out to the country” that’s only a couple hours away — where is Central City supposed to be, again?) with Jenna and Cecile will visit on weekends, so they throw a going away party for him to say goodbye. It’s all very happy and the big finale is that Khione reveals that Iris is pregnant months earlier than she’s supposed to be. 

Everyone is very quick to accept Khione’s diagnosis of Iris’s pregnancy as fact. Hey, guys, as far as you all are aware, Khione has no meta powers and should not know anything about Iris being pregnant. Do you want to take a trip to the drugstore before you start celebrating, maybe? Ah, who am I kidding. The script says Iris is pregnant so she’s pregnant.

See you next time!

Other Things:

  • Goldface calls Mark “Chill-lame” and “Six-Pack Blondie” which only endears him to me further.
  • I encourage everyone to look up the comics version of Red Death. Much creepier, sadder backstory.
  • Actual Ryan: “Is it always this crazy?” All the Rogues, shrugging: “It’s a Wednesday!” Cue freeze frame. Audience applause. Tune in next week for more episodes of Team Flash: Roguin’. Filmed in front of a live studio audience.
  • Chester and Allegra finally get together. Great! Why did that take so many episodes?
  • If Iris is pregnant early, there’s technically no way their kid(s) are going to be the ones we know. We are all one-in-a-billion chances of existence and if timing is off by so much as a minute we cease to be, and become someone else entirely. Isn’t that interesting to think about?


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