Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Flash 6x07 Review: "The Last Temptation of Barry Allen, Pt. 1" (Never Trust Evil Goo) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

“The Last Temptation of Barry Allen, Pt. 1”
Original Airdate: November 26, 2019

Crisis is barreling toward us and, since The Flash takes a key role in the whole thing, we’ve fallen into some serious drama territory in the lead-up to the crossover event. As evidenced by the title, this week is the first half of a two-parter focused on Barry’s inner struggle with the death that virtually the entire multiverse is saying will be his destiny. He’s put on a strong front so far, but since “The Last Temptation of Barry Allen” pushes the focus on Barry’s internal struggle, it’s harder for him to hide how very much he does not want to die. The result of that dip into Barry’s psyche? A rather trippy episode that — again! — is phenomenally well-acted and, at times, more like a horror movie than a silly comic book show.


We open on the continuation of the fight between Ramsey Rosso and Ralph that was left on a cliffhanger last week. After some metahuman scuffling, it looks like Ralph gets the upper hand on Bloodwork, but then he makes the critical error of gloating about that upper hand and loses it. Ralph, I’ve said it to Barry and I’ll say it to you: Don’t. Gloat. At. The. Villains. When you seem to have won and you take time to rub it in the villain’s face, guess what happens? The villain stabs you with dark matter blood goo!

Killer Frost arrives just after Ramsey leaves and finds Ralph unconscious, which makes me wonder how everyone on Team Flash automatically knew it was Ramsey who attacked Ralph. Frost lets Caitlin take over for a bit so she can come up with a way to save Ralph, and the method she arrives at is a blood transfusion between him and Barry. Barry’s speed healing can repair cell damage, and now I’m wondering if that’s always been the case. Has anyone on Team Flash tested Barry’s blood for the sort of cure that sent Ramsey on his path toward villainy in the first place?

The transfusion between Barry and Ralph leads us down the psychological rabbit hole of the episode, since a small bit of Bloodwork’s evil goo-blood ended up in the transfer and is trying to take Barry over. The first manifestation of this is Ramsey himself — looking a lot less gross — appearing in Barry’s home, asking questions about the upcoming Crisis. One of the questions is whether or not he was seen at all in the visions of the future Barry experienced, but Barry says he was not.

Later, Barry is visited by the other side of this opposing struggle between good and evil: the Speed Force, using the form of Barry’s mother. That’s when Barry gets the explanation of what’s actually going on. Ramsey wants to take control of Barry and bend him to his will, but Barry seems adamant that Ramsey will lose. Let’s see how that plays out, everyone!

Ramsey reappears and plays Barry like a fiddle. Apropos, since he’s the stand-in for the devil, here. Ramsey starts with the false normalcy of Barry’s friends and family sitting down to a nice home-cooked meal, everyone acting as if Barry’s already fought off and won against the Bloodwork infection and had just been sleeping the rest of his fever away on Joe and Cecile’s couch. This quickly morphs into one of the most nightmarish sequences I have ever witnessed on primetime network television, as Ramsey arrives with a goo-filled lasagna and everyone at the table starts chowing down on what looks like viscous oil. When Barry understandably starts freaking out, Ramsey says he’s just there to eat and offer Barry “a gift.” Barry questions what Ramsey could possibly have to offer him, and everyone at the dinner table turns to Barry with black-stained mouths and says in unison, “Everything.” Thanks for those nightmares, show.

But wait — there’s more creepy ahead! Well, creepy and really, really sad. Ramsey teleports Barry to the time vault where the newspaper article written about his future disappearance is hanging and taunts Barry with how little effort he’s put into trying to stop that fate from coming to pass. Then Barry ends up in a room of gravestones bearing names of people Barry has known and lost, including Nora and Henry Allen, Eddie Thawne, Martin Stein, and the future Nora West-Allen.

That last gravestone transitions us to a nursery, where Baby Nora is laying in a crib. Barry is thrilled to see his daughter but when he tries to reach in and pick her up, his hands pass right through her. When the nursery disappears, Barry is left in a red-lit black void, where phantoms of people (Ralph, Iris, Joe, and Eobard Thawne) tell Barry how everyone will die and the city will burn without him there to save it. And wow, I know this is probably the third or fourth time this season I’ve applauded the acting on this show, but I have to do it again anyway: Grant Gustin is incredible in this entire pseudo-dream sequence. He buffets between rage and sadness and desperation so expertly, you can really see the psychological pressure that drives Barry toward Ramsey’s promises.

The Speed Force shows up again to act as another weight in the other direction, but Barry seems too far tempted for the Speed Force’s argument to sway him away from Ramsey, who is promising not only a life after the Crisis but also what essentially amounts to immortality and the ability for Barry to heal the people around him.

We get a struggle for Barry’s soul, with the Speed Force fighting to keep Barry from taking Ramsey’s deal and Ramsey dangling the possibility of Barry getting to live a life without Crisis cutting it all short, and while a part of me understands how desirable all that must be for Barry another part of me wonders how he can possibly fall for what is an obvious trap.

But fall for it he does! When Barry awakens from his fever, all seems right with the world — until Iris notices there’s something off about her husband, and Barry goes all evil black goo zombie and runs off. He finds and bows down to Ramsey, who is fully embracing his identity as a supervillain.

Next episode, I guess we’ll be dealing with Barry as a mindless goo zombie.

Other Things:
  • I felt like there was something off about the Barry and Iris plots this episode. Every time we returned to the real world, it sort of diminished Barry’s struggle against Ramsey. I think I would have preferred if this whole episode had focused on Barry’s trippy trip into his psyche, so that Iris’s struggle with writing her article about Barry’s disappearance could be saved for an episode where Iris could be the A-plot and shine a little more. That said, I suppose it’s emotionally fitting that both halves of the West-Allen couple spends their time coming to grips with Barry’s future demise in the same episode.
  • “Barry’s identity cannot be exposed,” Iris says to Allegra, as if the entire universe isn’t humoring Barry about his obvious secret identity.
  • Oh, I forgot about Barry being called “The Streak” way back when. Man, that was a terrible superhero moniker.
  • “Soon, the entire world will embrace — Bloodwork!” It’s really hard to make your villainous declaration sound suitably dramatic when your villain name is also a noun. Ramsey sounds like he’s going to force everyone to love diagnostic testing.


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