The Flash -- "Enemy At the Gates" -- Image Number: FLA715a_0103r.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/The Flash and Brandon McKnight as Chester P. Runk -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.Photo Credit: Bettina Strauss

It’s hard to tell sometimes if I notice certain things because I review television shows every week or because certain shows are much worse at disguising those things than they used to be. There’s a good way to work around an actor being away for an episode, and this ain’t it. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 7, Episode 15, “Enemy at the Gates.”

“Enemy at the Gates”

It feels like the writers working on The Flash are kind of adrift right now. They’re without a storyline, and the show has been wandering for a while now. The last couple of episodes worked as character-driven ones, but this one is kind of a mess.

Godspeed, the mysterious speedster in white, is back–in fact, half a dozen Godspeeds are back, and they’re trying to drain Barry of his speed once and for all.

Barry dreams up a visit from his daughter, Nora, and that leads him to the obvious conclusion that Iris must be pregnant. He spends the entire episode trying to protect Iris.

Iris Missing

Here’s the thing: Candice Patton isn’t in this episode for even a second. She’s just not there for whatever reason. A scheduling issue, contract dispute, out sick–it’s anyone’s guess. She’s gone. And so instead we get lots of talk about Iris, and a handful of scenes of Barry having one-way conversations with an absent Iris. The show doesn’t have to have every character in every episode, but this one seems like it’s clearly working around Patton’s absence and struggling to do so.

Elsewhere in the episode, the Godspeeds chase Barry back to Star Labs and start punching at the force field around the building. Star Labs is like the size of a stadium and now it has a force field around it. How are they paying for that real estate in the middle of a city? Maybe the constant metahuman threat means property values are way down.

Anyway–Caitlin is trying to operate on the former assassin and Allegra’s cousin, Esperanza, and Chester is trying to figure out a way to counter the onslaught of Godspeeds. Eventually, though, the villains breakthrough and the team is forced to fight the speedsters within the confines of Star Labs itself.

They have some success before Barry has to run away again. While the Godspeeds are trying to steal his powers, another squad of Godspeeds shows up to stop them.

What is even happening?

Next on The Flash

Yes, I get it–the show is setting up the next arc. The next arc has Barry’s son debuting and Nora returning. Both they and Godspeed are from the future. Godspeed has been a recurring annoyance since early in Season 5. But they don’t feel at all coherent here, and right now, it feels like the show is just throwing Godspeed at a problem they aren’t sure how to deal with, rather than setting up something to come. At this point, I just want to know what the plan is with Godspeed–I’m no longer on the hook, I’m just bored and want to be done with it.

Also on the villain front, Frost has a big showdown with Chillblaine. The writers seem to really want this relationship to work. And while Frost herself is an enjoyable character–and a bit of a salve for how much Panabaker is underused as Caitlin–Chillblaine just isn’t. He’s good-looking, sure, but the show isn’t giving the actor or character anything to work with. He has no hook as a character, no pathos or driving ideal. He’s just a guy who is nice sometimes, mean others, and has fabulous abs. That’s the whole character. You can’t make a TV show out of that.

Where’s everyone else?

Similarly, the writers are now trying to get us on board with Chester P. Runk and Allegra Garcia becoming a couple. They’ve had a handful of stolen glances, but haven’t done anything major to actually bond them. They’ve just shared a little bit of trauma, without having anything in the way of alone time or unifying storylines.

Finally, Joe West is working with Kristen Kramer to find the person who sabotaged her military unit’s mission and got most of them killed–her brother–and it ends with the car blowing up. It’s meant to be a cliffhanger, but there’s absolutely no doubt that Joe isn’t dead. The whole thing feels like something out of a 90s TV show. It’s just cheesy.

None of this is exciting or interesting. The CW is willing to play with season length for its shows. Supergirl Season 6 is 20 episodes, Legends of Tomorrow Season 6 is 15.  Batwoman Season 2 was 18. Traditionally, shows were tied to these 13-episode halves to make up a 26-episode season. But that’s no longer the case, clearly. So why is The Flash packed with so much filler that does nothing to add to the story nor improve the characters in any meaningful way?