The Flash -- "Central City Strong" -- Image Number: FLA704a_0360r.jpg -- Pictured: David Dastmalchian as Abra Kadabra -- Photo: Katie Yu/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved

After the end of a big storyline, you need a chance to come down from the drama, right? What better way to do that than with a villain-of-the-week episode! As both Team Flash and Central City try to recover from the invasion by the Mirror Monarch, an old enemy shows up to give Flash a headache and make him think about what really anti-matters. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 7, Episode 7, “Central City Strong.”

“Central City Strong”

If you think about what it would be like to live in a place like Metropolis, Gotham City, or Central City, it’s not hard to imagine that it would be traumatic. How many world-ending events has that poor city been through? Even Barry and Iris are struggling this time, though. Eva not only split them up for weeks, but tricked Barry into trusting a mirror clone of Iris while Iris watched in a weird supervillain cuckolding twist.

Everything is not OK

Now that Eva is gone, they’re trying to pretend things are normal. Now that Barry not only has his speed back but is faster than ever, he’s whisking Iris away on day-long vacations all over the world, probably even taking her to Italy for pasta. Iris, meanwhile, is trying to tell the story of Eva McCulloch’s terrifying invasion of the city and struggling to even interview other citizens without flashing back to previous events.

While I definitely don’t want superhero shows to be all about trauma and realism, it feels like believable trauma is often overlooked in favor of melodramatic stuff, like Tony Stark having panic attacks that he solves completely during the course of a movie.

Dave’s back!

While the events of a superheroic world don’t stop for trauma, I like that the show is pausing to say, hey, these events messed these people up, and then linger on the idea that maybe they have some work to do to get through it.

But while Barry and Iris are trying to process, the villain Abra Kadabra returns, once again played by actor David Dastmalchian, The Suicide Squad‘s Polka-Dot Man. What he’s actually up to is pretty irrelevant. He goes through a bunch of illusion and misdirection to get captured by ARGUS, allowing him to get his hands on an anti-matter bomb, which he’ll use to blow up Central City to teach Flash a lesson. It turns out that this Abra Kadabra began to experience pre-Crisis memories, where he had a loving family, and once he realized what happened, blamed Flash for surviving when his family died.

Flash talks him down, explaining that he and many others lost people during Crisis in exactly the same way. I’m not 100% sure on how this works with Abra Kadabra being from the 64th century–how did Crisis cause him to lose people over 4,000 years later? Anyway, moments after Flash talks him down, a huge monster in a leotard appears and absorbs the energy of the anti-matter bomb that was meant to destroy a whole city, nearly crushes Flash, and then leaps off into the sky.

Forces

This being is almost certainly an avatar of another cosmic force not unlike the Speed Force. This is the Strength Force at work, and we’ll likely see the Sage Force and Still Force before too long. In the comics, this is all part of the Flash War storyline, which has Reverse Flash engineering a situation that forces Barry to unlock these forces so that he can access them and use them against the speedster. The four colors of lightning appearing over Central City this week and last certainly seem to suggest that.

This is a really ambitious, wild storyline for the CW to try to tackle, and I’m eager to see how it goes down. I’m worried–The Flash has been pretty frustrating lately. But at the same time, I like that the writers are taking chances and going after something weird that might be hard to explain to a prime-time viewing audience.

It also suggests that instead of a single big bad, we’ll have multiple bads, with at least one for each of the other Forces, but possibly more as other past villains come back wielding the new power they’re accessing.

An improvement

It’s very nice of Dastmalchian to slum it on the CW once more. He’s been in the MCU and he’ll soon be in the DC Cinematic Universe. He’s big time comics now. Abra Kadabra is a fun villain that makes for a good episode like this every now and again.

I raised a big plot issue above, but ultimately I enjoyed the episode. It’s a transitional episode between the previous storyline and this new Cosmic Forces storyline. We get to revisit a fun character and see the heroes tangle with their feelings in a grounded way. The show is leaning way too hard on Barry’s heart being his superpower, but that’s also the kind of hammy writing I expect from a superhero story anyway. It’s definitely an improvement over recent episodes.