Monday, May 9, 2022

The Flash 8x13 Review: "Death Falls" (Grief Ghosts) [Contributor: Deborah M]


“Death Falls”
Original Airdate: May 4, 2022

This week, The Flash’s Deathstorm storyline comes to an end, as one would suspect with that episode title. “Death Falls” has a lot working for it, not the least of which being the fact that all the characters are finally involved in the same storyline. It’s also got some psychological horror elements that make certain scenes adequately creepy and a fairly straightforward plan that avoids the meandering plot contrivances that this show tends to use as episode padding. 

We’re going to ignore the part where knowing the title of the next episode, again, spoils what happens in this one a little bit. Hey, The Flash writers, you know you guys release these episode titles well ahead of air time, right? So maybe stop giving away the game in them?

OH HEY THE HAUNTING THEME CONTINUES!

Starting where we left off last episode: Eddie’s back! Eddie, Ronnie — anyone else with a double-consonant-y name gonna make a return from the dead? Anyway, this not-really-Eddie is creepy and can heat a tea kettle with his hands and if you thought this might’ve been a result of Iris’s time sickness playing with her past, surprise! It’s actually a Deathstorm trick, finally pulling Iris into the main storyline she’s been apart from since it started.

All of Team Flash is getting Deathstorm ghosts. Chester’s dad reappears, Allegra is paid a visit by Esperanza, and Barry gets a visit from his mother. Frost is the only one who gets the actual Deathstorm instead, and he tells her the reason why she has no grief ghost is because she’s not a real person and can’t feel actual emotions, only echoes of Caitlin’s emotions. I can’t quite figure out the logic of him doing this, because if it’s to make her fall into despair and stop fighting him it fails as soon as it works. I guess the writers just needed her to have an arc for the episode, which makes sense, considering.

Chester and Allegra escape their ghosts by running into Chester’s lab. The door seals behind them, trapping them together in a room with a titanium door and a rapidly rising temperature that could kill them both. Barry, who was visiting the Time Vault when his ghost-mom appeared, also gets trapped inside. Iris and Sue’s attempt at escape is immediately thwarted by a door that’s too hot to touch, so they’re trapped as well.

Wobbly-zoomy camera movements play with our sense of reality and stability as Barry is confronted by his ghost-mom on all the ways his family ends in tragedy. She’s really harping on Iris dying, adding a little “your children will never exist” into the mix to spice things up, and tells Barry his true legacy isn’t heroism, it’s heartbreak. Barry isn’t buying what ghost-mom is selling, though, so after an impassioned speech about how his heartbreak keeps him fighting, the Deathstorm apparition just crams his head full of tragic images until he screams.

Ghost-Eddie is taking a more creepy approach with Iris, lamenting the fact that real Eddie’s death was rendered meaningless by the writers’ fixation on beating the dead horse that is Eobard Thawne. Eddie’s declaration that Iris’s death will also be pointless gets interrupted when he senses happiness coming off Sue, who had managed to hit a panic button earlier that called Joe, who arrives and shoots the false Eddie. Their upper hand lasts about a second before Joe and Sue are hit with grief ghosts we don’t get to see, making them the final two sources of grief Deathstorm needed to turn Caitlin into his bride. If he just needed two more people, why’d they have to be people from Team Flash? Couldn’t he have picked any two randos in the city?

Even after Frost’s boyfriend Mark (with the awful nickname of Chillblaine, which I don’t want to use but can’t help mentioning because “Mark” is too generic for anyone to remember) helps prep the MAC for turning Frost into an anti-Deathstorm, the transformation seems to fail. Frost thinks it’s because she’s not really alive and the MAC only works on living people with real emotions. Mark disagrees, insisting that Frost is guarded because she feels so much — especially for Caitlin. 

Then he gets an idea for fixing the transformation by having Frost talk to the catatonic Caitlin about how she’s feeling. Faced with the idea of potentially losing Caitlin, that grief triggers Frost’s transformation into Hellfrost. Her new color scheme is black. Cool.

Meanwhile, everyone else is being tormented by Deathstorm ghosts. Chester and Allegra are succumbing to the heat in the room, and Chester’s ghost-dad taunts him by saying he and Allegra are going to watch each other die. Barry is losing the fight against the barrage of tragedy his ghost-mom is inflicting on him. At the West-Allen loft, the creepy Eddie develops a gunshot wound, and then Iris develops a gunshot wound, and he talks about her future dying with her. These scenes with the grief ghosts are getting quick descriptions, but they’re actually pretty good — the stuff with Iris and Eddie especially, which is a refreshing change from all Iris’s scenes being so hard to care about during this whole Deathstorm arc. Without her being a participant in the plotline literally everyone else is involved in, it just looked like the writers forgot she was a part of the show and had to tack on a quick “Iris has time sickness!” scene to make up for it. Those never made up for anything, but the Iris scenes in this episode kind of do.

It seems like Deathstorm is winning until Frost/Hellfrost blasts away all the ghosts with her new cryo-flame powers. Team Flash (minus Iris still) reconvenes at S.T.A.R. Labs to enact the last effort against Deathstorm, with newly-created Hellfrost being the primary offense and Barry remaining ready for backup. Mark learns that Barry is the Flash and is actually pretty endearing in how cool he finds the whole Team Flash setup. Barry just does a cute little shrug when Mark connects the dots, because he’s learning that the “secret” part of his secret identity is merely a fa├žade.

Deathstorm shows up to make a creepy speech at Caitlin, but it’s not Caitlin — it’s Frost, taking Caitlin’s form with that face-changer device we haven’t seen in a few seasons. Way to go on remembering convenient tech, show writers. Frost grabs Deathstorm and they have a fast CGI fire battle in the sky for a bit before landing on the ground, where Frost yanks off Deathstorm’s quantum splicer then sucks up all his energy.

It’s all post-victory smiles until Frost collapses, apparently overwhelmed by the power she got from Deathstorm. Caitlin stabilizes Frost just long enough for Frost’s normal look to return, but then she crashes and she can’t bring her back. Frost is gone. The show does a weird thing where we see Frost die, but then it cuts to everyone on the team not knowing Frost is dead yet, which I think slightly undercuts the emotional impact of the audience learning that she’s gone. Maybe it’s the world’s most depressing attempt at situational irony?

Caitlin and Barry deliver the news of Frost’s death and everyone comforts each other, with Caitlin and Mark crying the hardest. It’s an effective scene, especially when Cecile — the empath — realizes that Caitlin is crying alone and runs over to hold her.

Other Things:

  • I get it was probably a thing with staging, but it’s weird that neither Iris nor Sue were sleeping in the bed that presumably exists in the West-Allen loft and were instead sleeping on the least comfortable looking living room furniture ever. 
  • Rick Cosnett was uniquely creepy as ghost-Eddie in this episode. Great job, dude.
  • Chester and Allegra being trapped together in a boiling room, about to die and comforting each other in their last moments would’ve been a perfect time for those two to finally kiss and we got nothin’. It’s like these writers have never read a fanfic before.

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