The Flash 8×20 Review – The Oldest Rivalry

The Flash -- "Negative, Part Two" -- Image Number: FLA820fg_0010r.jpg -- Pictured: Grant Gustin as The Flash -- Photo: The CW -- 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

While Harrison Wells is no longer a member of Team Flash, the man who wears his face continues to haunt our hero, making every attempt to destroy his life at any cost. This is his biggest play yet. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 8, Episode 20, “Negative, Part Two.”

“Negative, Part Two”

With The Flash (Grant Gustin) still reeling from everything that just happened, the rest of the team rallies to support him when he needs it the most.

The Flash Season 8, for its various issues, is probably my favorite since probably Season 1. This season focused in on some of the show’s best parts–namely the undying rivalry between Flash and Reverse-Flash, and brought back elements like the Still, Sage, and Speed forces to both give those characters more weight and to make Reverse-Flash a more fearsome character.

Iris in the Stone

Photo: The CW — 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

In Part One of this two-part finale, Reverse-Flash and the Negative Forces (my favorite DC cover band) tricked Barry into killing his own wife, Iris West-Allen, just moments after she came to understand the nature of the time sickness she’s been dealing with since the beginning of the season. Her death released the Negative Forces that had been gestating inside of her (there are a lot of subplots about iris having multiple children in this show).

There’s a lot going on in this episode–time travelers, time stones, lightning, a new suit–it’s hard to keep track of. While the show has largely neglected Iris this season, her role in this episode actually matters, though it’s still contingent on her, again, being a mother, and on her being stuck in an alternate dimension. When Thawne killed Iris, it sent her essence into the Time Stone that Damien Darhk gave Joe at the end of the Armageddon arc. So next time we see Iris, she’s talking to none other than the big bad of Arrow season 4, and a contender for the world’s best dad.

Of all the characters in the Arrowverse, Darhk is one to whom continuity has been kindest. He’s had a slow, organic shift from being unabashedly evil to being a concerned (but evil) father, to being good to be a good father. When he talks to Iris, he gives off those Dad Vibes. I never would’ve guessed I’d look so forward to seeing Damien pop up throughout the Arrowverse and be so excited to see him back when he was the villain of Arrow‘s regrettable Season 4.

Back in Black

Meanwhile, Eobard Thawne has discarded his classic yellow suit for a new black number with all kinds of muscle striations. This suit is not a great fit for actor Tom Cavanagh. Despite having a chinstrap (a lesson the showrunners learned during Season 5), it doesn’t complement Cavanagh’s build at all. The Reverse-Flash outfit wasn’t great, but it still worked. This suit just doesn’t work. A version of this same suit but built out of the same material would probably look a lot better.

The fight that ensues between Barry and Thawne is enjoyable, though; Barry is in rough shape emotionally, and Thawne thinks he’s won, so it’s a destructive battle that threatens to do more harm than good no matter who wins. The Positive and Negative Forces are backing both of their respective speedsters, giving both of the speedsters all kinds of new powers. At one point, Thawne manifests an airplane from the Still Force and drops it on Barry, who catches it with the help of the Strength Force, and throws it aside.

Lightning Rods

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In the end, Iris escapes the time stone by focusing on Barry the same way he would focus on her in previous battles and is back in time to stop Barry from making any irreversible mistakes. Instead of fighting Eobard, Barry sits down and meditates. Thawne sends a city-destroying shockwave out, but Barry harnesses the four forces to rewind time, undoing the damage and redirecting it back into Thawne himself. It feels right for Barry to finally defeat Thawne once and for all by refusing to fight him on Thawne’s terms. Thawne, it would seem, is gone for good–and Tom Cavangh is done with The Flash as a result, too.

By focusing on Flash and Reverse-Flash for the season’s biggest parts, the show was able to boil things down to simpler emotions and motivations. The sci-fi babble and soap opera plot shifting that so often makes this stuff difficult to stomach falls into the background. Tom Cavanagh is a great villain, and has been fun to watch since day one, and I never would’ve imagined we’d get so many storylines centered on a character like Reverse-Flash.

You’re the real heroes

With that said, as much as I enjoyed this episode and season, it wasn’t without its flaws. For every moment that built up a character, there was another that didn’t bring anything to the show. Having Iris be MIA for so long only hurt her character. The Flash really struggles with what to do with non-superpowered characters, and so we end up with Cecile Horton, Attorney at Law, mother, and super-psychic, and Chester P. Runk heading into battle with a few gadgets.

It doesn’t work as well as a show like Legends of Tomorrow where every character is part of the crew, or like Arrow where anyone with combat training can stand alongside the main character. Barry’s powers increased manifold this season, putting him at close to the nearly godlike level that he’s at in the comic books, and it puts everyone else way behind him when it comes to the superhero stuff.

Time Kids

Photo: The CW — 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Further, I really hope that after this season, the show puts Barry’s kids on ice for a while. For a show with major themes about how time travel screws things up, Barry’s future children visit as if they’ve moved from the suburbs into the city, not like they’re from the year 2049. Even if it means we don’t get more Jay Garrick–seeing John Wesley Shipp visit is always a treat–I’m okay with it. They rarely add anything strong to the plot at this point, even if Nora’s first arc was enjoyable.

There was a lot to enjoy this season compared to the previous few, and it leaves me wondering what The Flash will do next season without its awesome villain to make Barry miserable. For now though, we got one last satisfying arc out of him.