The Flash 9×12 Review – Penultimate

Photo: Justine Yeung/The CW -- © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

One of the funny things about Barry being the fastest man alive is that he’s still perpetually late for basically everything. That should be relegated to the fiction of the story, though, and not to its pacing. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 9, Episode 12, “A New World, Part Three.”

“A New World, Part Three”

Team Flash works together to figure out how to protect Barry (Grant Gustin), all while being very careful who they trust. Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) is skeptical of the plan after an unsuccessful attempt. Khione’s (Danielle Panabaker) confidence in Chester (Brandon McKnight) enables him to convince Cecile to try one more time.

Rushing the Fastest Man Alive

This week brings us to the second-to-last episode of The Flash and it’s wild to think the show feels this badly paced this close to the end. This arc marks the return of Eddie Thawne, from the very first season of the show. After Barry was stuck in the year 2000 for the first episode and appeared in the present at the very end of the previous one, Barry now finds himself in the year 2049. Thankfully, he’s actually present in this episode. I almost thought they’d have him sit out the final arc.

There’s a lot going on here. There’s a negative speed force crystal that everyone seems compelled to touch, and it turns them into a jerk/murderer as long as it protrudes obviously from their palm. After Eddie has a close run-in with it, Barry shows up and saves him.

It becomes apparent pretty quickly that they’re setting Eddie up for a big heel turn here, where he goes from being the self-sacrificing hero we lost in Season 1 to the person that would eventually become an ancestor of Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash, bringing the show full circle and ensuring that the beginning of the show can happen.

Budgetary Concerns

Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW — © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

But where this all feels like it should be a Barry-centric story with little appearances from characters like Nora (his daughter), the other Nora (his mother), and the other, other Nora (the Speed Force), we spend tons of time with the rest of the crew. The show’s heavy use of time travel has always conflicted with its second-stringer broadcast budget, and nowhere is it more apparent than in this episode.

The show has always struggled with making its 2049 scenes feel futuristic, but here we meet Team Flash 26 years later, and none of them look any different. Iris has some cool gray streaks in her hair, but Cecile, Chester, and Allegra all look the same, and they’re all still in Central City, still underneath the particle accelerator. The only way you know it’s different are the hamfisted lines that tell you that Chuck and Allegra are married, that things have happened, et cetera, and that these scenes have a weird color palette that feels like it had the contrast turned up and the brightness turned down.

The parts with Barry and Eddie feel better, but they’re still rough, too. Eddie is a confused but good guy at the beginning of the episode, and he’s totally unhinged by the end of it–which is just a few hours in their world’s time, really. The showrunners only gave themselves four episodes to do this arc, and then were so interested in giving us the “what’s Eddie doing here” mystery that they didn’t leave themselves enough time to develop him. This arc feels like it should’ve been a few episodes longer–more proof that the episodes directly preceding it were unnecessary.

Future Melodrama

Photo: Justine Yeung/The CW — © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

At one point, Team Flash 2023 decides to see if they can project Cecile’s empath consciousness forward in time to 2049 so that she can warn Team Flash 2049 and find 2023 Barry. We don’t have to worry about 2049 Barry showing up here, because the show reminds us a dozen times that he’s away in outer space in the Watchtower–the Justice League’s Earth-orbiting headquarters. But when Cecile jumps forward (which, really? Can anyone on the team NOT time travel?) she quickly finds out that future Cecile has only been home twice in the last six months and instantly faints because Joe and Jenna are so important to her.

This is the end of the endgame here. After next week, there is no more Flash TV show. And so instead of focusing on the central idea of Eddie’s turn toward darkness and beginning the Thawne family line, we’re spending time with Chuck giving Cecile a pep talk in the break room so that she can body-jump to 2049 again without also jumping into an existential crisis.

And this is a shame, because the parts that work are great. Daughter-Nora plays a big role in the episode as she ends up under the Negative Speed Force crystal’s control; Jessica Parker Kennedy seems to have fun with the part, turning her cute-fun persona into something more like a brat. She and Barry have a speed battle in Central City, and it’s one of the better CGI battles in the show in a while.

Evil Eddie

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Also worth tuning in for is Rick Cosnett’s return as Eddie. We met him briefly in the first episode of this arc, and for a while longer last week, but he is this episode’s true main character. Again, Eddie’s turn feels about as rushed as Anakin’s in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but at least it’s fun. As the resident straight man to all of the superhero wackiness in season 1, he didn’t get much time to overact. He always had to be the normal guy.

Now he gets to play a resurrected, body-swapped version of this character being driven insane by a spooky voice in his head. Cosnett eats it up and gives it his all. If there’s anyone we can excuse for the rocky pacing of this arc, it’s him. He made the most of the writing given to him, and I’m thrilled he’s here.

It’s just that Eddie seems to be a very scared, but well-meaning person as the episode starts, but pushing him seems to take almost no work on the part of the Speed Force crystal. It’s pretty much like “man, it sucks that he married your girlfriend and stuff huh” and Eddie begins losing the willpower match almost immediately and is soon creeping on Iris.

The next episode of The Flash is also the very last episode. Like any other episode, it’s a one-hour affair, probably with ads. So we have 45 minutes to resolve this Speed Force crystal problem and give the show and its cast a worthy send-off. It just doesn’t seem possible. We spent so much time worrying about whether Cecile would move out to the sticks with Joe that we’re going to get a half-assed finale to a nine-year-long series that closes out one of the biggest experiments in modern television.