Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Flash 7x04 Review: "Central City Strong" (Everyone Needs Therapy) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

“Central City Strong”
Original Airdate: March 23, 2021

Now that the leftover plot from last season is over, The Flash’s seventh season has officially — narratively — started. A lot of this week’s episode deals with the emotional, mental, and foundational aftermath of Eva’s destructive Mirrorverse takeover. It’s a bit weird that, for I think the first time ever, the show is digging deep into the shared trauma of living in a city that’s undergone a supernatural attack and it’s doing so after the actions of a villain our heroes just... let go without punishment.

I wonder if this plot is coming now because the writers of the show took a look at the real-world events of the past year and thought, “Hey, maybe having a whole population immediately bounce back after large-scale harrowing experiences isn’t exactly realistic?”


The episode opens in the West-Allen loft, which I feel like we haven’t seen in forever. Barry has apparently been showering Iris with romantic gifts ever since the Eva situation settled down, and tonight it’s a candlelit dinner. They’re briefly interrupted by what Barry dismisses as an earthquake, but through the window we see multi-colored lightning in the sky that looks like the multicolored lightning that shot out when the Speedforce was restored last week.

The next day, a news anchor is reporting on the aftermath of Eva and the earthquake. “Central City Strong” is the campaign for the city’s rebuilding process as well as the name of the episode. By the way, that slogan is repeated so frequently over the course of the episode it started feeling like I was being inducted into a cult. Team Flash is helping the Central City Strong rebuilding efforts and Caitlin complains of a headache, which on TV means something important and/or terrible will happen to her before the hour is over.

A good deal of the emotional thread of the episode is carried by Iris, who is writing terrible articles for the Citizen instead of using her voice to reach out to others who were mirror-swiped because she’s stifling all her own trauma in an unhealthy way. Iris visits with a Mirrorverse Survivors meeting and listens to other people’s stories but avoids telling her own, and it’s clear that not dealing with what she went through is doing a number on her. Honestly, Iris has been through so much stuff — foretold death, the meeting and loss of her child from the future, dead loved ones, husband stuck in an alternate dimension, etc. — she is way overdue for therapy. In fact, all of Team Flash should probably be in therapy. Hey, The Flash, normalize going to therapy!

The metahuman villain of the week also ties into the “dealing with trauma” theme. Our main antagonist is Abra Kadabra, the magician-themed villain we first saw in season 3 (holy moly, that was so long ago!) who’s actually from the future. When he first appears on screen to kill an unsuspecting civilian wearing a “Central City Strong” shirt, he declares that his victim should be terrified because he’s the greatest magician of all time. Are magicians different in the 64th Century, Mr. Kadabra? Because no one is even mildly afraid of magicians. Saying someone should be terrified because you’re the greatest magician is like saying someone should be devastated because pink is a color. The correlation between those things starts at zero and ends at zero.

Anyway, remember the fact that Abra Kadabra kills this random guy, leaving a corpse full of half-embedded playing cards for CCPD to find in the next scene. Along with the corpse is a weird obelisk with an aura of time travel and when Kadabra shows up again later, both the villain and the obelisk are confiscated by A.R.G.U.S, much to Cisco’s frustration.

This all turns out to be a part of Kadabra’s villainous plan, as he overpowers his A.R.G.U.S guard and escapes captivity. When Barry shows up to stop him, Kadabra says that way back during their first encounter, Barry told him to find hope. Well, he did and then lost that hope, leaving him a man with nothing left to lose. He says that he’s going to make Central City “disappear,” and then disappears himself — along with three of those mysterious obelisks.

Kadabra teleports around Central City, creating an antimatter bomb out of the obelisks via kinetic energy gained by said teleportation. According to the technobabble readings, this could completely wipe Central City off the map! Barry guilts about letting Kadabra into A.R.G.U.S and allowing him to get his hands on the material for the antimatter bomb. I know Barry guilting about stuff is kind of his thing now, but he’s aware that he can’t predict the future, right? And that A.R.G.U.S showed up and took Kadabra from CCPD without his input?

After a conversation between Barry and Iris in which Barry admits he’s been feeling guilty about not recognizing Mirror Iris as an imposter and all his romantic trips to tropical locations and candlelit dinners have been an expression of that guilt, he gets the clue for what’s driving Kadabra’s revenge. What’s that in the air? It’s the lingering odor of Crisis!

Yeah, Barry figures out that Kadabra clearly lost someone in Crisis he loved enough to send him on a murder spiral and he goes to confront him about it. Not to fight, though — to talk. Kadabra has a hologram of himself, happy with his wife and child, and he tells Barry how the memories slowly came to him through dreams before solidifying and making it apparent he’d lost something he would never get back. Barry commiserates by saying he lost someone in Crisis too, someone “like a brother” to him. Is he talking about Oliver? Really, Barry? Oliver Queen was like a brother to you? Maybe like... an emotionally distant step-brother who’s always a real drag at the family barbecue.

Barry asks Kadabra how he thinks his family would feel knowing he took out a whole city on their behalf, and mentions that getting through trauma is tough but necessary. Iris, who’s been listening in over comms, is probably thinking about her avoidance of dealing with her own trauma and is struck by Barry’s words. See? Talking stuff out is good! Go to therapy! Kadabra abandons his quest for revenge and wonders what he might do next. Uhhh... This shouldn’t be a fork in the road of life situation, Barry. In the wise words of Troy Barnes on Community: “Take him to the police. He murdered someone.”

Before I can further question Barry’s bizarre “forgive and forget” mentality regarding actual cold-blooded killers, an angry giant metahuman storms in and straight-up eats the antimatter bomb. Kadabra says this is “impossible,” and then not much else after the giant tosses him aside like a ragdoll. The giant stomps and growls and nearly crushes Barry to death before moving on, confusing everyone.

At yet another mini-memorial session with Team Flash, everyone mourns Abra Kadabra because he didn’t destroy the city so that made him good at the time of his death. But... Kadabra killed a dude with playing cards! Do you know how painful death by playing cards would be? Really, really painful! Ugh, you guys are weird.

Having learned his lesson about using his guilt to drive dramatic romantic actions, Barry instead invites his wife to go home and “eat a frozen pizza on the couch.” You should warm the pizza up first, Barry. Iris has other stuff on her mind, though — namely, the speech she’s planning on giving to the Mirrorverse survivors club as her first step toward working through her own experiences. The speech is really great and when she finishes, she decides she wants to reach people on a “deeper level” than just writing an article about what she went through. Hopefully this means Iris has a good emotionally-driven storyline to work this season.

Before the episode’s over, we get the payoff for Caitlin’s headache: somehow, she and Frost have been separated from each other. Frost is excited! Caitlin is worried.

Other Things:

  • I am really loving the nerd-duo thing that Cisco and Chester P. Runk have going on, by the way.
  • Abra Kadabra’s knowledge from the future: Cisco gets named “Mecha-Vibe” and he announces that Barry will eventually face the wrath of “the Chronarch,” which is just... awful. Awful name. Cisco would be ashamed. Also, Google tells me it’s a fishing reel which makes it extra stupid.
  • Apparently Barry speeding into rooms is called “f-thwooming.”
  • I get how Kadabra regained his memories of Crisis, but how did he get hologram video of a world that didn’t exist?


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