While Arrow is solely focused on the upcoming Crisis, The Flash is still an ongoing show. The dual storylines of the disgusting villain Bloodwork and Team Flash’s preparation for the Crisis have had to compete for time thus far, but the final pair of episodes brings the two together as Ramsey Rosso forces Barry to ask himself if he’s truly ready to give himself over to saving the world. Spoilers follow for The Flash season 6, episode 7, “The Last Temptation of Barry Allen, Pt. 1.”
“The Last Temptation of Barry Allen, Pt. 1”
The name of the episode itself is telling. While we’re in some doubt about Barry’s fate in the upcoming Crisis, Barry himself knows he’s going to die – that he must die for the world to be saved. The episode’s title places Barry in the role of a martyr who must give everything to save everyone but himself.
A frightening encounter between Ralph Dibny and Ramsey Rosso leaves Ralph on the edge of life and death. In hopes of saving him, Barry gives Ralph a blood transfusion. In the process, he exposes himself to the infection burning away inside Ralph’s veins.
See things how I see them
We then find out how powerful Rosso has become in a very short time. Once home, Barry begins to have visions of Rosso talking to him, pushing him to accept the power he’s offering. Rosso proposes saving the world, curing all illness through his metahuman blood.
It’s at this point that most of the episode shifts into straight-up horror with looming camera angles and long shots of empty spaces. Barry is trapped in a nightmare as his body tries to fight Rosso’s infection. The Speed Force speaks to Barry directly for the first time in quite a while, once again taking the form of his mother. The Speed Force and the Rosso’s infection battle it out for Barry’s soul.
In one particularly gross scene, Barry sits down to dinner with his family and friends, watching them frantically gorging themselves on food. Rosso walks around the corner and cuts into a casserole that bleeds Rosso’s viscous black blood. And then suddenly, everyone is grinning charcoal smiles and drooling black blood. It’s gag-inducing body horror-type stuff.
Barry’s mental state degrades throughout the episode as Rosso’s powerful infection plays with his mind and seemingly ignores his speed healing. While Barry has put on a brave face for Iris and his other loved ones, all of this shows us how difficult Barry’s situation is. He has to leave behind his family, his friends, his future child, and everything else – so that all of those things might continue living.
Barry sobs over his future daughter’s bed, unable to touch her. He sees a vision of himself using Rosso’s blood to revive a dead woman. Rosso is persuasive. His mind resides in his very blood, and that means a droplet of his blood is enough to see all of someone’s secrets.
Barry fights back against the infection, and we see the Speed Force and Rosso’s blood each claiming half of his body. And then, Barry wins. It’s over.
Only, this is a horror story, not a hero story, and Iris quickly realizes that the Barry she’s talking to out in the real world isn’t her Barry.
The image of Barry, grinning that charcoal smile with eyes turned black, is haunting. This episode is gross and unnerving in all the right ways. Kudos to Sendhil Ramamurthy for a compelling villain performance, too.
In the background, Iris and her small team at odds, too. Iris wants to chase down any leads about Allegra’s cousin, while Allegra knows – thanks to Nash Wells – all about Barry, the Flash, and the coming Crisis – and knows that Iris should be paying attention to her husband and his last hours.
After a few episodes focused on other characters, it’s good to be back with Barry, hurtling toward the crisis. This episode does a great job of letting us literally get inside Barry’s head to see things from his point of view. He knows what he has to do, but doesn’t yet believe it. He’s trying to fake it until he makes it. Rosso preys on that. It’s exciting and, for an Arrowverse show, pretty scary. I can’t wait to see how it resolves.