Review: The Flash 6×07 – “The Last Temptation of Barry Allen, Pt. 1”
Director: Chad Lowe
Writers: Jonathan Butler and Gabriel Gaza
Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker, Hartley Sawyer, Danielle Nicolet, Tom Cavanaugh, Jesse L. Martin, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Michelle Harrison, Victoria Park, Kayla Compton
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
A mysterious, hallucinogenic contagion tests Barry’s convictions; Iris uncovers a massive conspiracy.
Sendhil and Grant’s battle of the soul holds The Flash 6×07. The cunning of Ramsey Rosso to make Elongated Man a Trojan horse was brilliant in that shows the lengths to which he’s willing to go. Dan DiDio said it best when he remarked how in every comic, the good guy has to win every time while the bad guy only has to win once. The opening battle between Bloodwork and EM was eye candy for fans of Ralph Dibny, and to think it was only the warmup to the true fight that was brilliantly framed within the confines of Barry’s apartment. Sendhil’s delivery is magnetic and chilling; his character is so convinced that he is destined to defeat death to the point where he turns his back on his Hippocratic oath. His notions of immortality and healing are warped and horrific. The prosthetic work on Bloodwork’s final look are appropriately terrifying to look at. The dinner scene in which everyone winds up with Rosso’s blood in them via that lasagna is foreboding and a terrifying prospect. What is that exactly they’re putting in their mouths? It perfectly contradicts how Ramsey sees himself and projects himself in Barry’s mind. It is ironic that in trying to beat a disease he has become one, and, like a parasite, systematically. breaks down Barry’s emotional defences despite his best efforts. Like every great villain, he is the hero of his own story, and what makes his argument so compelling is that there are elements of truth. The villains that stand out in this series – Reverse-Flash, Zoom, The Thinker, and so on – is that they have something of Barry in them only to a certain point. Ramsey’s refusal to accept his own mortality has twisted him into something ugly, while Barry’s nobility and selflessness has moulded him into a hero. However, as Rosso proves, he’s only human and his resolve can only last so long.
Grant Gustin’s performance this episode is perfect in that it’s a gradual tearing down of his resolve. The decision of seeing him become more sweaty and ill as the episode neared his climax perfectly conveyed the strain Rosso was having on his body and his will. The writing projects a complete 180 of the motif of the doubtful hero finding his courage. What makes Barry a hero and The Flash are challenged by an internal battle between good and evil. The return of Michelle Harrison as The Speed Force brings back the events of season 2’s “Runaway Dinosaur” episode. Barry had temporarily found closure with his past, and his time in the Speed Force at the end of the third season gave him peace of mind. It is very appropriate to have Michelle and Grant’s conversation take place in Barry’s childhood room. Having Barry’s acceptance of his fate ripped away by a few misplaced words by the Speed Force contradicts the inner peace this vision of his mother succeeded in providing the last time. Barry’s emotional breakdown and lashing out at the source of his power is so powerful in its relatability. He has given so much, gained so much, become so much, and now The Speed Force expects him to throw it all away? His perception of the Speed Force as a reassuring presence becoming his enemy is a gradual degradation that finally culminates in that horrific tug of war depicted below. The battle for Barry’s soul will make The Flash 6×07 stand out among one of the best chapters this series has offered yet.
The shock value of Barry completely giving in to Rosso was strengthened by the oddly clean tie-up to a very emotional battle. Everyone at S.T.A.R. Labs finds his behaviour very off-putting until they throw in that nod to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The look of Barry with those black eyes and black teeth makes fans cry “NO!” in outrage at Rosso’s victory. I like the motif of Barry’s lightning now being black; it’s a callback to the DC Rebirth story that introduced Bloodwork. During that time Barry was infected by the Negative Speed Force, which produced a similar physical appearance that Barry displayed at the end of the episode. It’s the perfect way to convey that The Fastest Man Alive has been poisoned and turned. With his ultimate sacrifice on the horizon, making him a threat to Central City is a brilliant counterpoint to the legacy Barry has built.
The only weakness to this episode was the Team Citizen. It seemed like filler seeing Iris, Camilla, and Allegra chase after a story that had zero to do with the main plot. The same went for Nash Wells’ tearing down that wall. It just diverted from the main plot. Allegra’s revelation about her knowledge of Barry’s ID could have been reserved for a later episode.
I give this a 5 out of 5 in spite of the flaw. The Flash 6×07 a truly powerful episode in that this tapped into religious imagery – i.e. The Last Supper – and challenged the tenets that make Barry Allen who he is. Grant delivered a truly inspiring performance as a man broken down by a living disease. Sendhil’s Ramsey Rosso is evolving into a compelling villain and I look forward to seeing how this ends next week.