The Flash -- "Mother" -- Image Number: FLA703fg_0006r.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Candice Patton as Iris West - Allen and Grant Gustin as The Flash -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved

When you’re making TV week by week, you have to roll with the punches. On old soaps, sometimes someone would have to pinch-hit for another actor for a day, and a voiceover would say “so and so is playing the part David on today’s episode.” The Flash got a whole flurry of punches to roll with. The show stopped production early when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and then lost a major cast member when some problematic tweets from Hartley Sawyer made the news. The sixth season ended on a cliffhanger that prominently featured a now-dumped cast member, leaving us wondering how the story surrounding the second Mirror Master, Eva McCulloch, would play out. Well, sometimes you roll with the punches, sometimes you get punched. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 7, Episode 3, “Mother.”

“Mother”

It’s hard to blame The Flash for this, but it’s just as hard not to be disappointed in what amounts to a disappointing conclusion to the previous season’s story. As the episode opens, Barry is waking up from his time as a boring supergenius, in tears as he sees what he’s done, the Speed Force generator busted behind him. Meanwhile, Eva McCulloch is growing more and more powerful, replacing citizens of Central City with clones of themselves.

This part works! The visual effects for the mirror hands are still creepy as heck, and whenever a character narrowly avoids them, I breathe a sigh of relief. The mirror clones idea is a neat one, and the first half of this storyline played it well with a slow burn of Reverse Iris slowly revealing her true nature to Barry by way of small changes to behavior. Part of this episode has Joe West and Cecile Horton trapped in the police station, besieged by one mirror clone and in danger of being captured themselves. It’s tense and sad and a little scary.

It’s tougher to say the same for the rest of the episode.

Bottomless Wells

Despite having said goodbye to Wellses a thousand times and having devoted a whole episode to a tearful goodbye just two weeks ago, we get yet another Wells. This time, it’s the one Eobard Thawne killed in Season 1. Apparently, when Nash gave his multiversal particles to the Speed Force generator, the parts of Earth-Prime’s original Wells were left over. Now we have this Wells who can teleport, knows everything the previous Wellses knew, and whose future is, at this point in the episode, indeterminate. Based on past experience, it seems like we have our new Wells, right?

Wells arrives at Star Labs as Team Flash is scrambling to figure out what to do; this Wells, he tells Barry to “Run, run towards love.” Oh no, is this what we’re doing? Are we doing this?

We’re doing it. Barry goes to sit by Iris’ bedside after bringing her back from the Mirrorverse. When their hands touch, there’s a literal spark, and then a montage of some of their crucial moments. Iris is Barry’s Lightning Rod, right? Cut to Barry explaining that the Speed Force is living on inside Iris, somehow. She walks in, puts her hands on the magic Speed Force Ball, and powers it up. Since it’s powered with Love, it won’t turn Barry into an emotionless husk like the previous one did. Nothing about this makes sense even by comic book logic.

Team Flash confronts Eva; they fight for a while, but Iris shows up with her Mirrorverse powers and shuts Eva down.  Barry and Iris talk Eva down, and she realizes she can’t control her clones. Barry, Iris, and Eva hold hands and defeat the mirror clones together. Eva, now the Mirror Monarch, decides she’ll retreat to the Mirrorverse to create a world made of love.

The real superpower is the friends we made along the way

The fight that precedes this moment has much better CGI than last week’s Frost/Flash fight, and Barry gets to do some pretty rad Flash stuff. Last week’s CGI was definitely the result of budget-cutting for this episode.

I can’t help but think that the writers wrote themselves into a corner. Eva is faster than Flash. Almost every seasonal big bad Barry has fought–Reverse Flash, Zoom, Savitar, the Thinker, and now Eva–have been faster than Barry. Even Kid Flash is technically faster than Barry last we checked. My name is Barry Allen and he is the seventh fastest person alive. When your answer is to literally defeat the enemy with “Love,” it feels like you’re out of answers. I don’t know if that’s how the writers feel, but that’s what it looks like from the outside. It’s a disappointing end to Mirror Monarch, and it feels like Team Flash is letting her off easy after all the gnarly stuff she’s done. She should be in metaprison.

Its okay to recast a character, Greg Berlanti

Another truly disappointing ending belongs to Ralph Dibny. With Sawyer gone, the show has a conundrum of a similar style and smaller scale than what Batwoman is working with this season. What do we do with this character who no longer has its attached actor? And instead of doing anything interesting, they make the most disappointing possible play.

Sue and Ralph show up at Star Labs, but Ralph apparently got scorched in an explosion, and it screwed up his elasticity, so we get this big jiggly, foamy boy in a costume that somewhat resembles the Elongated Man. They take him off to fix him and what comes back is a regular-shaped person, but in a facemask that splits the difference evenly between “Olympic fencer” and “Daft Punk cosplayer.” He even has a robot voice. He’s healing inside the suit, allegedly.

Why is the CW allergic to recasting people that they won’t even recast a character who can literally shapeshift? They could even keep the story: his DNA got screwed up in the explosion, and now he’s stuck with a different face and body shape. Do some stunt casting, have someone famous play him for a week to play him off. Instead, the farewell to this character is a dumb joke. Again, this feels lazy, and almost like a jab at Sawyer. “You screwed up, so we ruined your character.”

Maybe the next story will be better

With Eva gone to the Mirrorverse and all of her captured people back, Team Flash can rest. That means, apparently, that this new-old Wells has to go. He disappears in a cloud of green lights to time travel to his wife, explaining that he lives in all times at once, not unlike Dr. Manhattan. We had this big tearful goodbye to a Wells last week, and now this new Wells shows up for one week. What are they doing here?

This all feels like a result of the coronavirus interrupting everything and forcing all of these shifts, but even so, the showrunners had months to come up with more interesting answers than “love is the real superpower” and “take this, Sawyer.” I know the whole point of The Flash is that all the speed in the world can’t solve every problem, but maybe, just once, speed could be the answer. Like, just once.

I love The Flash. I’m really struggling with CW’s The Flash.

The Flash airs on The CW on Tuesday at 7 PM CST.