The big bad for The Flash’s second arc of Season 8 revealed itself last week: Deathstorm. The otherworldly entity is leaving charred corpses all over Central City, and seems to have an eye for Caitlin Snow, despite saying that it is not, in fact, her late husband Ronnie. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 8, Episode 12, “Death Rises.”
With a new Meta terrorizing the city, Joe (Jesse L. Martin) lends a hand to the local authorities, meanwhile Barry (Grant Gustin) gets an assist from Cecille (Danielle Nicolet) who helps to track the mass murderer.
The Flash has struggled to make compelling TV for a while now, but this season has had more strong moments than the last few seasons combined. This week’s episode has one of my favorite needle drops in the show’s entire eight-season run, and it’s exactly the kind of speedster bulls*** that I keep showing up for.
Team Flash goes hunting
Flash, his team, and the Central City Police are all on the hunt for Deathstorm, which is an interdimensional entity borne of a singularity, that wants nothing more than to consume grief by burning through those coping with it. Or it’s a Norwegian black metal band. One of those things.
Much of the episode is focused on the team’s one-sided battle against the ethereal menace, and on just how little they know about what to do to respond to it. It seems to not just be one step ahead of them, but it can be anywhere, any time. Since the thing feeds on negative emotion, Barry gets the bright idea to track it by amplifying Cecile’s empath abilities (remember, every member of Team Flash must become a metahuman at some point), but instead of them finding Deathstorm, Deathstorm uses it like a lightning rod to find them.
The key for this storyline to stay engaging while making sure it doesn’t feel like yet another countdown to destruction for the team. They’ve done plenty of these “I’m going to exterminate all of you on day X” storylines, just the same way that they’ve done plenty of “Barry isn’t the fastest man alive, actually” storylines. The countdown stories don’t work like the writers want; instead of feeling like ominous warnings hanging over the team’s heads, they make the team look passive and reactive. If the team can stay active and aggressive, and the writers can keep the reveals coming, then it could make for a fun storyline.
Get your air guitar tuned and ready
It’ll still be silly, to be clear, but that’s not a bad thing. Deathstorm–which is, again, an otherworldly entity–informs Caitlin that while she’s not yet ready, he wishes for her to be his bride; that’s classic comic-book supervillain stuff, and it’s just awesome. The best part, though, comes when Flash is chasing Deathstorm, who flies up into the sky to get away. Barry tells Chester that it’s time for him to, quote, “Ride the Lightning,” at which point Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning” plays and Barry begins to ascend into the sky by skipping off lightning bolts he’s throwing in front of him.
It’s almost as good as the time they used the Flash Gordon theme for a season-opener needle drop, and it is, of course, Speed Force silliness. Marvel and DC alike have made up dozens of powers for their heroes over the years, only to retcon them in a reboot or take them away in a major story event, and I’m sure Flash can or has been able to run on lightning at some point in the comics; it’s all but guaranteed.
It’s fun to see powers like this come to life on television, and it lends a feeling of real fun to the proceedings. The Flash has a harder time getting me stoked for its stories than it did years ago when it premiered, but stuff like this is genuinely fun. It’s unabashedly silly fun that elevates the show. Too many superhero stories focus on their heroes having “cool” powers all the time, and at the expense of “fun” powers.
Stick the landing, please
We’re still very much in the middle act of all of this; we know who the villain is, we know what they’re capable of, but we have let to learn why, or what our heroes can do. I’ve said it before, but the big key here will be making all of this stuff land. That’s often where Flash struggles. We get great setups followed by disappointing story climaxes. So, Flash, don’t beef this one. And good lord, writers, give Iris something to do other than worry and wait.