Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Flash 6x17 Review: "Liberation" (I Want to Break Free) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Liberation”
Original Airdate: April 28, 2020

This week on The Flash: Barry finally manages to arrive at the conclusion that his wife is not his wife. Cecile kind of saves the day via feelings. Barry and Iris’s epic love story thrives despite the barrier of parallel dimensions. So many mirrors are broken, I can’t even calculate how many years of bad luck these people are getting. Onward!

SELF-REFLECTION


We begin with a test run of Team Flash’s personal Speed Force, directed by Cisco, Barry, and — for some reason — Ralph. They turn it on and after some dramatic build up, a brief flash of anti-gravity around a cup of coffee, and a lot of beeping, the machine... does nothing. Nada. Worried looks all around, but it’s clear this little scene was really just there to remind the audience that the personal Speed Force powered by love is a thing that will happen eventually.

Speaking of love: Cecile is trying to get Barry and Iris to reconnect, but Barry seems all sad and dejected and refuses to see his wife. Later on, we learn that this is because Barry has taken over Joe and Cecile’s living room in order to set up a “My Wife is Not My Wife” crazy person workspace, complete with boxes of files and crazy person whiteboard diagrams (well, since it’s a TV show they’re actually those transparent boards so you can film the actors drawing on them from the other side, but the crazy person whiteboard genre is inclusive of the transparent board as well).

When Cecile comes home to find this setup, Barry launches into a rant about how Iris can’t be the real Iris. He brings up her sudden fluency in Italian, her new tendency to break bottles over men’s heads (honestly, I wouldn’t put that one past the real Iris), and — most importantly — the delicious pancakes she made. Barry’s top theories include shapeshifters, plastoids, and Martians (of the J’onn J’onzz variety) and Grant Gustin delivers this whole speed-talking speech in a way that is both unhinged and hilarious. He even does that broad gesturing thing that people do when they’re making crazy rambling rants in front of crazy person whiteboard diagrams.

Cecile isn’t buying it. She’s also probably wondering if getting in the middle of this fractured relationship is really the best idea, considering she’s just come from a confusing conversation with Mirror Iris and now Barry’s going full crazytownbananapants on her. Oh, Cecile. Being the emotional linchpin of this group is going to drive you as bonkers as Barry, there.

In the mirror world, the real Iris is desperate to escape and get back to her normal life. She’s moved past bright ideas and just wants to channel The Who’s Tommy and smash the mirror. Eva freaks out and storms away, then as Iris is taking a swing at the mirror she notices a button. She presses it (because of course she does) and it opens the mirror, revealing a room with a series of mirror shards on the walls.

The mirror shards display the events of the Mirrorverse plot arc, from Iris getting sucked through by Eva to everything Mirror Iris has done and how Eva has been at the center of it all. It also comes with a high-pitched, pain-inducing screeching noise that sends Iris into the fetal position on the floor, where she is found by Eva and carted off, the fa├žade of friendliness over.

Meanwhile, Mirror Iris, Mirror Kamilla, and Mirror Singh are all doing Eva’s bidding, but Mirror Iris seems unsure. She clearly does have some humanity in her, while the other two doppelgangers are much more robotic and subservient to Eva’s wishes. And what do Eva’s wishes ultimately lead to? Releasing Ramsey Rosso from his big glass case of evil! Oh, wow, I can’t believe the Bloodwork storyline happened this season. It feels like half a lifetime and one pandemic ago.

Before the Mirror Trio can get their plot on track, Mirror Iris has to deal with her not-husband. Barry and Cecile broke into Iris’s computer at the Citizen office and found the photo Kamilla took of Mirror Iris going all reflecty (why would Mirror Iris save that to her harddrive?) and has roped Team Flash into a confrontation with her. Barry uses a scanner to reveal Mirror Iris as a mirror-person, but it doesn’t work. Instead, Mirror Iris turns the scanner on Barry and reveals him to be a mirror-person! Gasp!

By the way, the show hilariously does nothing to explain how Mirror Iris flipped the scanner’s reading. We get a brief flashback where Eva warns the Iris duplicate that Barry is onto her and she has a plan, but that’s it. Not even an attempt at technobabble for plausibility.

Barry got cuffed and thrown into a holding cell, but he isn’t there for long. Cecile, still acting as the emotional go-between for these two crazy kids, has sensed enough of both Barry and Mirror Iris’s emotions to see that Barry is telling the truth and Mirror Iris is hiding something. She was also the one who connected the dots between all the mirror stuff, Joseph Carver, and Black Hole. Wow, Cecile is really doing all the work these days, huh?

While Barry was in his cell, the doppelgangers set Rosso/Bloodwork free. Mirror Kamilla sacrificed herself to do so, feeling nothing for life but an urge to do as Eva wishes. In contrast, Mirror Iris flat-out tells Bloodwork she wants to live. Bloodwork causes some chaos, gives the Mirrors the blood they needed, then returns to his cell again. He says that he knows he wouldn’t make it far, and he’s playing a “long game” for a better chance at freedom.

Barry speeds to his apartment, which seems unnecessary given that he doesn’t know there’s a ticking clock on events and everyone keeps banging on about his dwindling speed powers. He asks Mirror Iris where his real wife is and she gives a weird little smile, then throws the Bloodwork blood at the mirror she’d been using to talk to Eva. She goes full T-1000 and turns her arms into metallic swords, attacking Barry.

Not being at full power, Barry takes a serious beating from Mirror Iris. Back in the mirror, Eva has turned Iris — who is tied to a chair — so she can watch her doppelganger attack her husband. Mirror Iris attacks Barry through mirrors, which are now all over their living room. There’s a mirror above them, which she breaks and, through the falling shards, stabs Barry in the torso. Ow.

As Barry lies writhing in pain, Mirror Iris taunts him and man, Candice Patton should play a villain in something because she is incredibly good at that evil taunting thing. Just as she’s about to deal a final blow, Real Iris gets Eva to start freaking out about her feelings about Carver and the freakout echoes in Mirror Iris. Barry figures out that there’s a connection going on, and tells Mirror Iris there’s still a part of Iris in her and she can break free from Eva if she tries. He says she has to fight for her survival, and has to choose it — which she does, telling Barry to go fight for Iris. Before she can get any real actualization out of her break from Eva, though, she begins to glow and shatter. Mirror Iris looks at Barry, her face splintering, and tells him, “I feel alive,” before breaking into little mirror pieces.

After destroying what was probably her greatest creation, Eva finally exits the mirror. She hits Barry with another mirror shard and promptly apologizes, then tells him she has no desire to kill him — he’s wounded, speedless, can’t heal, and as long as he stays out of her way, she’s not bothered. Gotta say, I really like whenever this show pulls in the more ambiguous villains. Significantly better than the “gotta go fast” ones we get as an alternative.

Still separated in different realities, Barry and Iris make heartfelt speeches that the other can’t hear. They’re so in sync their words line up into one cohesive declaration of love and devotion as Barry promises to get Iris back and Iris promises to find her way back to him. It’s pretty sweet.

Other Things:

  • Take a drink every time you read the word “mirror” in this review. Wait. No, don’t. I can’t be held responsible for that level of inebriation.
  • The Cisco, Ralph, and Caitlin story did not belong in this episode. It was like, two scenes long.
  • “Run, Iris. Run!” says Rosso. Hey, now. I don’t think you’ve earned that callback.

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