Friday, July 15, 2022

The Flash 8x20 Review: "Negative, Part Two" (Finale Frustrations) [Contributor: Deborah M]

“Negative, Part Two”
Original Airdate: June 29, 2022

It’s finale time again! “Negative, Part Two” is as convoluted and haphazard a finale as one would expect from a season full of vague explanations and looming questions lacking satisfactory answers. All the bad habits this show has developed over the years make an appearance, from confusing motivations to convenient character flaws to developments that stretch the suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. It’s definitely not the positive outro we got last season, which makes me respect that finale a whole lot more.


We start where we left off last week, with the newly-resurrected Reverse Flash and... wait. I know Tom Cavanagh is a decent actor. He’s been fine during most of his run on this show. But what in the world is he doing in this opening scene? Not only do we get growl-acting and William Shatner-esque pauses, but also incomprehensible hand gestures, all of which is really distracting for what should be a tense and emotional moment. I just needed to point this out, because it’s weird.

Anyway, Thawne explains how the Negative Forces chose him to replace the Negative Speed Force and mocks killing both Barry’s mom and Iris. Of course, Barry flips out and attacks Thawne, only backing down with the arrival of Nora and Bart to tell Barry that killing Thawne would make him “just as bad as” the time-traveling mass murderer who has openly admitted that his only goal in life is to make Barry and everyone associated with Barry miserable. 

I’ve beat this drum before, but: no, Barry would not be “just as bad” as Thawne if he killed him. Thawne has proven time and time again that he cannot be contained in a jail and he cannot be changed for the better. While I don’t believe even killing him would solve the problem of this man-shaped bad penny, the fact that the characters refuse to see it as an option is frankly ridiculous. Doubly ridiculous is the idea that Barry killing him would be on equal ground with all Thawne’s past, present, and future crimes. This is a thing the characters bring up not because it’s a moral hard line — Joe has surely killed criminals in his role as a police officer, do Nora and Bart think he’s the same as a time-traveling serial killer? I doubt it! — but because the writers can’t think of another way to keep Eobard Thawne around except by having the characters refuse to kill him. This isn’t about ethics, it’s about poor writing.

Thawne disappears in a burst of black-white nega-sparkles, leaving everyone to convene for an angry meeting of Team Flash in the next scene. Before we go, though: a quick bit of kudos to Kausar Mohammed, the actress playing Meena, for clearly portraying “the love of my life just got his face torn off in front of me” while every other person in the scene focuses on Barry and Barry’s anger instead. Poor Meena’s pain gets almost no consideration despite her love for Eobard being paralleled to Barry and Iris’s love, so it’s good the actress got to give something.

Barry still wants to kill Thawne because he’s absolutely certain that Iris is dead. Yeah, Barry Allen — whose relationship with Iris has been consistent stubborn denial of anything telling them they can’t be together — has immediately given up on ever getting his wife back. Nope. She’s just dead to him now and he’s moved on to revenge. Barry, you know “acceptance” is supposed to be the last stage of grief, right? Not the first? I think Barry might be getting grief confused with having a drinking problem.

Of course Iris isn’t actually dead. She was saved by the Time Stone used by Damien Darhk during the Armageddon storyline at the beginning of this season, delivering her to an echo of an erased timeline, and — hey! Damien Darhk is here! Aw, buddy, I’m as glad to see you as I am annoyed to have to type your name. That stray ‘h’ is just never where my instincts expect it to be.

Darhk is around to be amusing and deliver some exposition on what’s been happening with this convoluted season. Although, since all he does is say that Iris’s time sickness was her being used as an incubator for the new Negative Speed Force avatar and she’s determined enough to defy death, I probably shouldn’t call it exposition. That word has connotations of excessive detail and Darhk’s explanation tells us virtually nothing about how any of this was possible or why it worked. Anyway, Iris also doesn’t feel connected to Barry anymore, which I suppose explains why Barry went full-tilt into despair and revenge — still, even in The Flash’s universe most people don’t feel a supernatural connection to their loved ones and manage to have a little hope.

Iris isn’t the only one visiting deleted timelines! Thawne appears in a static version of that deleted timeline where he and Iris were together. The Negative Forces show up, Tom Cavanagh continues to make weird acting decisions (more incomprehensible arm movements, plus it looks like someone bet him he couldn’t say all his lines without moving his lips and Cavanagh plays to win) and then the Negative Forces turn him into the Negative Speed Force avatar.

Back in the real world, Cecile tries to talk some sense into Barry but is interrupted by a staticky call for help from Bashir, the severely weakened Sage Force. No, it is not adequately explained why time sickness utterly debilitates the Forces while the Negative Forces losing one-fourth of their team only makes them angry and still capable of creating an avatar for a Negative Speed Force that doesn’t exist anymore. We just have to accept it.

Barry, Nora, and Bart try traveling to the Negative Speed Force but the devices fail. Frustrated, Meena zips off in anger to destroy the machine she and Eobard created because she thinks it’s all the machine’s fault, even though I’m pretty sure Eobard would’ve been killed no matter what because of the whole timeline thing. Barry talks her down and asks her to share her speed with him, since she taps into the Negative Speed Force. Why wasn’t she your first option?

All this Negative Speed Force travel stuff culminates in a short scene in which Barry gets there and the Negative Forces show up to blame him for causing all the problems when he cut Thawne off from his speed. Something, something, destroying the Negative Speed Force avatar means Barry “upset the balance” — oh please, the original versions of you guys didn’t even exist until last season! What are you talking about, “the balance”? You’re the ill-conceived creations of a writer’s room running on fumes! “Balance?” I’d “balance” the lot of you into an active volcano.

Thawne’s transformation into an avatar finishes and he gets plopped in the middle of town with a new black suit and a penchant for killing folks at random. Barry, Nora, Bart, and Meena confront him, but Thawne quickly zaps the other three into the past in order to face Barry alone. 

Meanwhile, Cecile has her own thing going on as she tries to strengthen Bashir with the begrudging help of those psychic metas whose powers she accidentally stole. They all do a little seance to call Bashir to them, and Bashir gives Cecile his mask to wear in order to reabsorb her powers and transfer them to him, restoring him and (for some reason) the rest of the Forces. I suspect the original plan was to get one member of Team Flash to help an associated Force, but that obviously fell through so… yeah. Just one needs to be helped and they’re all fine now.

The Forces arrive at the fight between Barry and Thawne, do a glowy thing where they all get absorbed by Barry and give him equal power to Thawne, leading to a drag-out fight that nearly levels the city. Iris “reignites” the spark between her and Barry, which gets her out of the Time Stone and revived in the real world. Jay Garrick zips her to the speedster fight, just in time to talk some sense into Barry about collateral damage, so Barry takes the pacifist option and... meditates Thawne to death? There’s some vague hand-wave explanation about Thawne’s thirst for power leading to his destruction, but yeah. Barry wins the fight by meditating. Thawne is ostensibly dead, but I have no faith he’ll stay that way.

We’ve arrived at the denouement, with Barry and Iris contemplating the inevitable return of a Negative Speed Force avatar while we get an ominous shot of a glowing blue crystal on June 29, 2049. Welp. That’s a problem for the future, I guess. Bye for now, everyone!

Other Things:

  • Caitlin’s plotline: unknown! We don’t see Frost or Caitlin, but Mark looks terrified and confused by whatever comes out of that regeneration chamber.
  • “This is a nice office.” Bashir can join Damien Darhk as the only levity in this episode.
  • “Who’s his new tailor? Satan?!” Okay, there’s also Bart.
  • “It was all ‘aster’ — no ‘dis’.” “I don’t even know what that means.” Let. Grant. Gustin. Do. More. Comedy!


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