The Flash was one of many, many shows in 2020 that ended suddenly, without a proper season finale to leave us satisfied for the next season. Instead, we got a cliffhanger with lots of slick editing. The show could pick up where the finale left off, or it could rush through the ending the team had planned to get onto season 7 proper. Spoilers follow for The Flash, Season 7, episode 1, “All’s Wells That Ends Wells.”
“All’s Wells That Ends Wells”
Instead of amputating the previous season, the team behind the series has shown surprising restraint. Season 6 ended suddenly, and they did a surprisingly good job of turning what was meant to be the end of “act 2” into a finale. It worked well enough that it almost felt planned, and it’s hard not to wonder if it actually ended up benefitting the show despite the unfortunate circumstances around it. This week, the team does the same thing, turning what should’ve been a mid-season episode into something that feels like the beginning of a season after a long hiatus. It’s weird, to be sure, but it works surprisingly well.
So where were we when things left off? Let’s recap. Barry was almost completely drained of his speed even as Eva escaped the Mirrorverse and left Iris in there along with Camilla and Police Captain Singh. Nash Wells was seeing visions of other Wells (Wellses? Hobbitses?). There are other plot threads hanging yet, but these are the ones that the show is most interested in–and that I was most curious about as I dip back in.
Tom Cavanaugh is awesome
Each season of The Flash has seen Tom Cavanaugh’s role shift. He always acts as a foil to and advisor for Barry Allen, but in sometimes very different ways. He’s played Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne, Harry Wells, H.R. Wells, Sherloque Wells, and Nash Wells, in addition to a dozen or more one-shot multiversal goof-off versions of the character. Nash Wells, a sort of Indiana Jones for the multiverse, became Pariah during the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, meant to witness the destruction of the multiverse. When the heroes including Barry stopped the total destruction of existence, though, the many Wells collapsed into Nash. As the sixth season recovered from Crisis, Nash’s visions began to manifest.
This all comes to a head this week as it turns out that the last bits of multiversal energy bouncing around inside Nash are the key to making Barry’s artificial Speed Force work. That’s right, another Wells has to die. More accurately, all the Wells, who live simultaneously inside Nash, have to die. This storyline is definitely the main thrust of the episode, and it works mainly thanks to Tom Cavanaugh’s consistently excellent performance as whichever Wells he’s playing and the chemistry he and Grant Gustin have built together over the last six seasons.
I know technically that Wells is never truly dead, and from a more meta perspective, he’s listed as a series regular for Season 7 of The Flash; showrunner Eric Wallace has also said right-out that we’ll be seeing Wells in a new way. Are we going to get holographic Nash Wells a la Quantum Leap? Despite that knowledge, this storyline worked well on me, working well on an emotional level.
Meanwhile, in Central City…
Elsewhere, Iris is still stuck in the Mirrorverse. It’s hard to tell at this point if this is giving actor Candice Patton a chance to flex her acting chops without the other actors around to get in the way, or if the show is cordoning her off in her own separate scenes, without anyone else around to play off of. Like Barry’s lack of speed, this story is played out enough that it feels like it needs to end really soon.
Cecile Horton has become the character that I didn’t think I’d like but find myself always enjoying. This week she goes up against Top, who lost her boyfriend–the original Mirror Master–in a battle with the new Mirror Master, Eva McCulloch. Top and Cecile are both empathic metas, and Top uses her power to mess with Cecile’s head and amplify her doubt. Cecile’s powers usually don’t get CGI of any kind; it’s just actors making head-hurty faces. But this week she picks up the ability to push emotions from Top and turns the feeling back around on her, seemingly amplified.
All of this culminates in Barry finally getting his speed back at the cost of Nash Wells’ Earthly existence, and the show rewards us with a great action sequence that has Barry stopping a sabotaged stealth jet from exploding over Central City. Seemingly, The Flash is back on The Flash. Barry feels like a superhero to match, too. He’s serious when it counts but has an upbeat, positive attitude that better matches what we expect of the character than the sad, frustrated character he’s played far too often on the show.
Another thing this episode does well is show us how some of the other members of Team Flash can contribute. Chester P. Runk joined early last season, but didn’t have much to do. With Cisco away, Chester is STAR Labs’ resident genius. Meanwhile, Allegra has to stand in for Iris and Killer Frost as both a moral center and troubled metahuman. I’ve enjoyed these characters before, but this week it feels like they’re both getting the attention they deserve. With Hartley Sawyer’s Ralph Dibny out of the picture, giving each character something important to do is going to be crucial.
This episode genuinely feels like a season opener, and I’m excited to see what it means for the show this year. The new artificial Speed Force is sure to have side effects, but I hope they don’t become a central aspect of the show. It’s fine to do stories about how Flash’s speed can’t fix everything, but the writers seem to go back to this well frequently and for long drinks. Despite my excitement, I’m still a little reserved. I love Flash, and I love The Flash, but the show has had two truly bad seasons, and only one really good season in my personal opinion–the other hover somewhere in the middle. Showrunner Wallace says that this is the year that Barry has to start stepping into the legend he’s to become, and I hope that bodes well for the show.
The Flash airs on The CW on Tuesdays at 7 PM CST.