A last-minute cameo isn’t enough to save this five-part storyline, but it does help give the finale a bit more energy, leaving a better impression as we move into the final run of The Flash. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 9, Episode 05, “The Mask of the Red Death, Part Two.”
“The Mask of the Red Death, Part Two”
As the Red Death wreaks havoc on Central City, Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candice Patton) come up with a plan and turn to Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) for help. Barry is faced with what he thinks was his greatest mistake, and the Red Death’s greatest success. Khione (Danielle Panabaker) wants to help Team Flash, but Barry can’t risk losing her. Joe (Jesse L. Martin) gives Barry a very much needed pep talk.
Will They Won’t They
While the fun stuff is happening elsewhere in Central City, the show is still trying to wrap up as many characters’ storylines as it can but is taking a lot of time doing it. Joe and Cecile are still talking about their future in the final minutes of this story arc, and flipping back and forth between leaving and staying in the city before landing on the answer of “both.”
With so little time left on the show, it feels weird to spend so much effort on these characters’ stories that just aren’t working, and ultimately they take away from the more entertaining parts of the story.
The details of the Red Death story aren’t that interesting–there’s a trap, it works, Barry thinks everything is going to hell, and they come up with a half-cooked solution that ends up working out.
The half-cooked solution is that, when Barry last encountered Grodd, he gave the telepathic gorilla a spark of his Speed Force to help him establish a society for the other sentient apes. The Red Death has been using Grodd’s telepathy to channel herself all around the planet to mete out her extreme version of justice, and by persuading Grodd to help him, Barry not only gets his speed back but disrupts Red Death’s plans. This whole segment of the plot moves quickly and just trusts us to accept that it all works out–it feels breezier than even a lot of Flash storylines I can remember.
Back in Central City, though, Barry and Reverse-Batwoman come face to face. The speedster battle that ensues is actually a lot of fun. The VFX are acceptable for a CW show, and the show has fully embraced what a bunch of nonsense the Speed Force really is–Barry generates a Speed Force shield to deflect Red Death’s Speed Force-enhanced Batarangs, and then Red Death swings on a Speed Force rope to kick Flash out of his run. I’ve always enjoyed the overhead drone-shot-style sections where The Flash and his speedster nemesis fight all over the city as we watch from high above. These are generally just long enough to get the idea across without feeling like a cop-out, while not relying too heavily on that just-good-enough CGI to carry the fights.
The show follows the standard Power Rangers plot where things get worse and worse for the hero until they team up with all their buddies to finally defeat the villain. When the Red Death has Barry on the ropes again, the (good) Rogues show up and disrupt things just long enough for someone else to get into position–the real Ryan Wilder, in proper Batwoman getup.
These are the moments where superhero stories can really thrive. Even though Batwoman’s show struggled to find a voice, Javicia Leslie still did a great job elevating the material and seeing her once again, and probably for the last time, as Ryan Wilder feels like a microcosmic version of the Avengers: Endgame “on your left” moment.
It’s a feel-good ending to a storyline that has been full of eye-rolling moments and extraneous-feeling characters all over the place.