Review: THE FLASH 5×22 – “LEGACY”
[Editor’s Note: Review May Contain Spoilers]
Director: Gregory Smith
Writers: Todd Helbing and Eric Wallace
Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker, Hartley Sawyer, Danielle Nicolet, Jessica Parker-Kennedy Jesse L. Martin, Tom Cavanaugh, Chris Klein, Patrick Sabongui, Sarah Carter, Victoria Park, Islie Hirvonen
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
As Team Flash struggles with the implications of the only option available to stop Cicada, Nora wrestles with guilt over her role in the state of affairs; Cisco contemplates a normal life with Camilla and without Vibe; The Reverse-Flash escapes and whose agenda has long-lasting consequences to the Allen family.
Like Arrow, the season finale of The Flash was bittersweet and tinged with tragedy. Most of all, it foreshadowed a crisis – THE crisis – on the horizon.
Having Ralph make the sacrifice play was necessary to demonstrate the volatility of “the Mirror Gun.” It made no sense to just make this device only able to affect inanimate objects whose properties it shared. The effects of this discombobulated state of Ralph were amazing and creepy. It’s all in the face and the mouth, twisted out of shape, yet trying to convey his reasons. It also adds to the tension to keep him unable to reveal Thawne’s true agenda, and opened the window for Sherloque to pick up the pieces and establish these facts. The writers were clever to throw in humor to Ralph’s physical damage via backwards speech. He’s okay on the surface while things are still in reverse order internally. Earning the respect of the master detective and becoming a better sleuth in his own right was necessary to push the Elongated Man’s character arc forward. The acknowledgment of the original pre-Flashpoint timeline in his exhange with Thawne was clever and short. Hartley really had some quality material to work with this year. It was the final push he needed to move from deadbeat, perverted PI to a true, competent sleuth/superhero. The foreshadowing of Ralph’s personal life was properly teased with the name of his next client. No spoilers.
Cicada II, although the ultimate tool to ensure Thawne’s escape, was enhanced by the hallucinated appearance of Orlun Dwyer, the first Cicada. You can see the psychosis that Grace has brought on herself. She killed her uncle and, since she didn’t instantly become dust when his last breath, her uncle’s death was part of her timeline. It is our understanding that she woke up alone and never knew why. Given her mutation and psychosis while comatose, she’d had years of negative influence from Dwyer’s recycled anti-metahuman rants in her ear to mould her into this monster. And now, as an adult, her subconscious is perpetuating that cycle through her personal idealized image of her uncle. She has essentially become her own worst enemy without even realizing it. She is as much a victim of Dwyer’s hate as his victims. The key difference in her threat level is she has time travel on her side. In a way she is the flipside of Nora in that she’s trying to honor her uncle’s memory but from a very dark, obsessive place.
The writers were right to make the end result – the adult Grace – irredeemable with her lack of empathy in the body count she’s mounted this season. There isn’t one ounce of humanity in her; she does not once try to assimilate into the modern day as cover. She secludes herself in the woods, cut off from civilization and distraction like a hermit. All she has is her mission and nothing else. Having her steal her younger self from the hospital creates a mirror image of her uncle visiting her in the hospital during his “crusade.” What could have ended with Dwyer taking the cure and regaining his humanity she prolongs with her actions. The writing team created a Cicada that was much colder than the original, and keeping Klein around for the adult Grace’s earworm gives the viewers insight as to where this is coming from. Sarah does a fantastic job in her “death” scene. As opposed to a regular scream of fear, she delivers a rage-filled, primal roar in defiance of her defeat and fate’s decree. There would be more empathy for her if not for how she killed the two people that cared for her without hesitation. Overall, the choice of actress and her approach complimented the writing this year. What began with what could’ve been a fill-in turned into a strong female antagonist that almost eclipsed her male counterpart.
As to the younger Grace, a conclusion to her story was just as necessary as the final blow to her adult self. Having Nora go back in to repair the emotional damage was necessary given it began with the two of them. They could’ve stuck her with the cure, but instead maintained its precedence as a choice. Having two versions of her uncle – Cicada and Orlun – works in that Chris shows that divide through the difference in voice. In a metaphysical sense, it’s the spirit of her real uncle that is fighting for Grace’s soul. And in the end Grace makes the right decision to leave rage behind. Islie has a great future as a child actress; she has played a trusting little girl and an angry, hurt child in the same breath and made her waking up with the right frame of mind a huge, welcomed sigh of relief. The best moment is when young Grace and adult Grace stare at each other as the cure undoes the shrapnel’s effects. You see the difference in temperament and perspective. In a way you can also see sympathy in young Grace’s eyes because she sees the pain and loneliness in her younger self. Excellent performance this year.
The way the writers led up to the eventual fate of Nora West-Allen was smart in that they framed her final message to her parents as the intro into the episode following the recap. This episode addressed the mistakes she had made, both with Thawne and with Grace. Good idea to have Barry again impart advice from Jay Garrick to Nora; it gives the character the motivation to own her mistakes and try her best to amend them. The final fight with Thawne – EXCELLENT IMPROVEMENT IN YOUR SPEED RUNNING, JESSICA! – alongside her dad shows how much she has learned, and sadly the consequences of the Faustian deal she made. That moment she had Thawne at her mercy was the most emotional. It began with the two of them and now it was only going to end with only one. Seeing Nora suddenly start to evaporate like Grace was also a callback to the first season’s finale that saw Thawne vanish. What makes that moment work is that the writers stretch out the changes to the timeline caused by the destruction of the dagger across the final segments of the finale. They are at once unexpected and, in the case of Nora, undeserved and tragic. Still, the character decides to not grasp at the Negative Speed Force for salvation and focuses on her dad’s advice. Candice and Jessica delivered powerful emotion in that final embrace with Grant. The final video message to Barry and Iris worked well as a framework for the epilogue and allowed Jessica’s character the chance to say goodbye. It also demonstrates the level of maturity and wisdom Nora had gained this past year and a sense of closure for the girl who never knew her father or her legacy. (Kudos also to Joe getting promoted to Captain and Singh revealing he’s always known Barry was The Flash.)
With the announcement of Carlos Valdes exiting the series, Cisco’s storyline had to be tied off in some way. Fans expected him taking the cure he had created this year as the way he left the team. However, the writing team brilliantly layered his reasons beyond that. His decision to follow Caitlin’s advice and tell Camilla he’s Vibe was mature and well-thought out. And the writers finally gave him a break by having Camilla’s background in comics allow her to understand. What made that moment surprising was how effortless the truth flowed from Cisco. Not everyone can do that, carrying that large a burden, so, as they say in the UK, good on you, mate. What also prompts his choice to take his cure was a hidden challenge by his former mentor, The Reverse-Flash, during the final battle. Thawne was proud of his surrogate “son” in how extraordinary he had become. Cisco removing his powers willingly was also owning his responding how he was extraordinary without them. Fan service was paid by having it be Caitlin assisting her best friend in his decision. These two have worked together since first appearing in the second season of Arrow as guest stars, and their characters have grown in fantastic, unexpected ways. The familial love between them is keenly felt, and Cisco’s is conveyed in Killer Frost finally getting her yet-to-be revealed suit. It was the best way for Cisco Ramon to leave by saying there was something in the workshop for Caitlin. You got that sense of finality as the camera slowed on his departure, and maintain that pace showing him walking from Jitters with Camilla. Cisco was the heart of geek culture on the show and best source of humor through his interactions with EVERY Wells that walked into the Cortex. Those qualities carried the series as much as Barry’s exploits. His own subplots – accepting his powers, losing his brother because of Flashpoint, Caitlin’s heel turn as Killer Frost – chronicled his evolution as a character and a hero. He made up the original trinity in this show, so his absence will be keenly felt. Especially by this journalist. Good luck to both Carlos and Cisco. Hope to see you in the future.
The Reverse-Flash. Eobard Thawne. Five years after the start of the series, he still delivers an impact to both Team Flash and the audience as the master manipulator. Tom Cavanaugh did a superb job as always and he even pulled double duty this year as the new Wells. What made his return this year work was the level of surprise, from his involvement in Nora’s intervention to his hidden agenda. The costume designers were smart to not only avoid a redesign of his suit but show echoes of it in his prison garb. The dagger glowing on his chest, and the singe marks it left behind, was even a reverse lightning bolt. He plotted an entire escape from the death penalty in the scope of an hour. Excellent show of his returned speed by killing those guards. But his vileness lies in his lack of care for the collateral damage to the timeline. And that damage includes his protégé. Grant and Tom have fantastic energy in the role of mortal enemies as they do as friends. Once again he had weaseled his way into Barry’s life and arm twisted things in his favor. Telling a vanishing Nora that she could never save her father was a twist of the knife needed to send Barry at his throat. The final fight with Team Flash was poignant in that the last time it was only Barry throwing the punches. The choreography of the team working in unison emphasized Barry’s true strength of family that overpower Thawne on a physical level. It demonstrated the level of growth they’d achieved up till this point. The strength of the writing for Thawne lies in his consistent use of misdirection and Catch-22’s. The strongest of the latter, of course, is the final fate of Nora; either she goes into the Negative Speed Force to survive the changes to the timeline, or she ceases to exist. Barry loses a daughter, or Thawne gains one in spirit, poisoned by his power. (From a storytelling point of view, it reveals how The Reverse-Flash, in general, remains a walking paradox as opposed to what everyone believed and keeps his story fresh.) And in any of those scenarios, he wins. Nostalgia again comes back in how his conveyance to his affection for Nora mirrors his words to Cisco. The viewers feel the revulsion and rage alongside Barry at this man’s “reverse” sense of family. For a villain that spent a bulk of the season locked in a cage, that final confrontation was worth the wait. Best of all, Thawne teased The Crisis before he escaped.
The best shock of the night was the teaser to Crisis on Infinite Earths as the final adjustment to the timeline. Thanks to The Reverse-Flash, Barry not only lost a daughter, but his ultimate fate has been moved up to next fall. That headline has dangled over everyone’s head from the end of the first pilot and it’s fitting it be the final scene of the fifth season’s finale.
The addition of eyeliner on Tom’s peepers in Iron Heights was unnecessary and redundant. With the rasp and dialogue he seemed menacing enough. Plus it conflicted with how he’s looked for the entire season and vanished in the final fight scenes. Also, why was Kimberly Williams-Paisley on the credits when she didn’t even appear once on-camera? If an actress is credited, and her scene is ultimately cut, doors flying open on their own doesn’t count.
Five seasons. Five years. 5 out of 5. Hands down. The strongest, most emotional episode of the season that was worth the wait. All of the cast were on their A-Game as were the writers and effects. Jessica and Carlos, you will be missed, and I think everyone will be looking forward to what lies next season given it’s Crisis year in the fall. This is the second time this week an Arrowverse episode conclusion has made me cry, and that is what the writing has to do. You have to engage the fan emotionally and intellectually in order to evoke a strong reaction. This week accomplished that, as did this season. The writing team made the fans love and value Nora West-Allen in the short time you got to know her. Her storyline began as tragic, but ended in a heroic fashion, so she embodied her father’s legacy as intended. Jessica Parker-Kennedy was the right choice for this role; she captured the sweetness, heartache, and humor that the writing demanded. I may have given her grief for her running, which was fixed in time, but her dramatic and comedic performance always shined. Good work everybody. Have a great summer!