Since the very beginning of The Flash, the Speed Force and Negative Speed Force have played important roles in some major story arcs. Last season introduced the Still, Strength, and Sage Forces. Now, it’s time to meet their Negative equivalents. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 8, Episode 19, “Negative, Part One.”
“Negative, Part One”
The Flash (Grant Gustin) and team are in for the fight of their lives, meanwhile, Iris (Candice Patton) discovers the cause of her time sickness.
The Iris Report
We have to wonder if there was a secret war going on over at The CW between Candice Patton and the backstage crew of The Flash. The showrunners have increasingly downplayed her character, Iris West-Allen, in recent seasons; she spent almost an entire season in a mirror universe and is just now unstuck from the Still Force, kind of. We get our first scenes with Iris in quite a while in this episode, but if anything they only confirm the theories that her days were numbered at one time.
Iris suddenly appears in 2049, interrupting Nora and Bart’s gaming session (still living in the condo their parents bought in 2018), only to discover that the Still Force is holding her there. In that first scene, she falls into a coma and remains that way for most of the episode–until the Still Force pulls her back to 2022 and into the path of Barry’s lightning bolt, killing her. Is she really dead? It’s hard to say. But for the show to leave her out for most of the season, bring her back, put her into a coma, wake her up, and then kill her in the course of a single episode seems really telling.
The Negative Forces
The rest of the episode is actually quite enjoyable. The Flash works with help from new speedster Fast Track (Meena) and her partner, a seemingly-reformed Eobard Thawne, to fight the other forces. Meena even transfers some of her power to Thawne, who dons the show’s classic yellow-to-black Reverse-Flash outfit from earlier in the series, and they go to work fighting the Negative Forces.
Everyone fighting in this episode is weakened somehow. Barry is running on fumes and the Negative Speed Forces are furious that he disconnected Thawne from the Speed Force, causing them to weaken. Team Flash gets its butt kicked for most of the episode, while the Negative Still Force version of Deon is working behind the scenes. The original Eobard, still locked up in Lian Yu, talks face to face with him, only to end up a blackened husk on the ground.
Later, though, just when Team Flash seems to be getting an upper hand, the reformed Eobard starts to scream and pull at his face. He pulls his own face/off to reveal the Eobard we know and love in his bright-yellow suit, now reconnected with the Negative Speed Force.
Reverse-Flash Makes Everything Better
We try not to recount the plot of these episodes in too much detail here, but there are a lot of machinations going on in the background, and that’s kind of exactly the fun part of this. The Flash is at its best when Barry is facing off against Eobard, and it turns out this whole season has been about Eobard’s long-game plan to ruin Barry’s life. And while this season hasn’t been perfect, it’s pretty clear now why I’ve enjoyed this season more than a lot of other recent seasons of this show. It wasn’t just about pending doom like they so often are, it was about all that scheming.
Tom Cavanagh and Grant Gustin have great chemistry. For as much as the writers have struggled with making other villains like Mirror Monarch and Cicada work, they really seem to understand what makes Reverse-Flash tick, and that makes every storyline with these two characters absolutely sing. Reverse-Flash is such a powerful force on this show that he makes the Still, Strength, and Sage forces better just by working with them.
A Flash story without Iris was hard to imagine, but the real world does weird things to live-action productions. Now that she has officially signed on to another season, perhaps things will calm down with her character a bit. It’s hard to tell what Season 9 looks like right now, but I’m absolutely anticipating the Season 8 finale in ways I wasn’t anticipating the previous four.