Review: The Flash 7×03 – “Mother
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: David McWhirter
Writers: Eric Wallace and Kristen Kim
Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Daniele Nicolet, Kayla Compton, Brandon McKnight, Efrat Dor, Tom Cavanaugh, Jesse L. Martin, Patrick Sabongul
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
The final battle with Eva McColluch comes as Barry is once again powerless, Iris remains comatose, and unexpected faces join the fray.
What would have been the season finale last year pulled no punches and appropriately tied off subplots left unresolved by the pandemic. Let’s get to what would’ve been the review of last year’s season finale, now The Flash 7×03.
The cliffhanger from last week was dealt with properly, with Team Flash initially hesitant to trust their leader after being knocked out by Speed Thinker Barry. However, the writers were clever to not let this overshadow the entire episode, pointing out through Cisco they’ve all been in Barry’s shoes before. Regardless, seeing Barry become disheartened and putting down his ring demonstrated his level of guilt. He acknowledges his actions rather than run from them (no pun intended).
What works in the resolution to the problem of the Artificial Speed Force brilliantly pays homage to the first season, his title as Paragon of Love in The Crisis, and the bond Barry and Iris share. “We are The Flash” is keenly felt, yet unspoken (probably because of all the memes from season four), since Barry and Iris’s love is what reignites The ASF. As Barry in the comics is the engine that powers The Speed Force, the CW now puts forth it’s now a joint effort. This feels more like a victory as opposed to Nash Wells’s sacrifice. Speaking of the Speed Force, that multicolored electrical storm in the final scene leaves open possibilities. The Speed Force storm of season three’s finale paralleled the comic’s story of multiple people becoming speedsters, although it was ultimately the Speed Force throwing a tantrum. But could this be where we’re going with season seven? Or are we going into another direction? Time will tell.
Eva’s journey as a villain is elevated to cultist status. Efrat’s scenes with Grant serve to both remind the audience of the previous season’s big bad Bloodwork and parallels the mental battle between the two when she brings Barry into the Mirrorverse. The slow pace of her buildup was what Ramsay Rosso should have been, as well as the surprise factor. From prisoner to mastermind, she is one onion that has been peeled away one layer at a time. The surprise factor that she was not even human has severed her tenuous concern for humanity simultaneously lost her own. Self-convinced that she knows what is best for the world, Eva’s “body snatcher” agenda becomes very omnipresent, as the scenes of either duplicates of her or reflections reaching out to grab unsightly victims demonstrate.
Knowing full well of the cognitive dissonance effect on the human mind due to prolonged imprisonment, she no longer cares. No one is safe, especially when all reflective surfaces become instant threats. Even the CCPD is under siege by Eva’s insane plan, as Joe and Cecile are the only ones left. The creative team focuses on establishing her maternal bond with her mirror duplicates, hence the title of this episode. This logic even makes sense of her dubbing herself “Mirror Monarch,” which sounds cooler than Mirror Mistress.
As mentioned in last week’s review, rather than be stuck in a murderous rampage brought on by her identity crisis, her character takes on a Doctor Doom-esque outlook on the world. Bottom line, she now embraces the philosophy of the world being better if she ran it. The writers are clever in making her able to momentarily convince Barry there is no hope. She reviews everything that Barry has done and can do for the world as The Flash; the power he possesses enables him to be nearly everywhere at once, even time travel and traverse dimensions. Eva’s temporary victory is in making him doubt if there is any point in fighting Eva.
This psychological battled is – for lack of a better word – mirrored in Cecile’s duplicate trying to convince Joe to go into the Mirrorverse willingly to reunite with his recently-ensnared wife. So rather than just be a match for him in power, she is also his intellectual superior when his confidence in himself is shaken. What differs from this maneuver used by Ramsay Rosso last year is that this comes just after his Speed Thinking nearly killed the team and put Iris in a comatose state. However, the real hero in the end winds up being Iris herself. After making her the key to empowering the ASF, the creative team keeps her off the bench and active in the final fight. Candice has incredible moments this week. After being her captive and a bargaining chip for months, Iris’s temporary mirror abilities counter Eva’s, but it’s her intimate knowledge of her opponent that wins.
However, in true Team Flash fashion, it’s not about beating up a bad guy. It’s about winning with the chance of redeeming a soul gone wrong. Efrat’s performance works in that slow realization that she is winning everything except her argument. Barry is right in stating that any civilization should be founded on compassion rather than violence, but it’s Iris that helps her come to that realization. And it’s through their help that she redeems herself by destroying all of her duplicates, abandoning her mission. Choosing to return to the Mirrorverse she had once seen as her prison is also a huge reversal. As to whether her redemptive path will keep remains to be seen, but the door is open for Mirror Monarch to return. Kudos to the writers in creating another multilayered antagonist and redeeming itself for the poorly-mishandled Mirror Master.
Apologies in advance, but this review couldn’t go without mentioning some fundamental flaws in the plot this week. Although it couldn’t be avoided, the exit of the Elongated Man felt a little forced, which is the one big negative. As everyone recalls, Hartley Sawyer, who portrayed Ralph Dibny, was fired over the hiatus for old racist tweets found on his social media. (Next time do your homework, casting directors.) Since that point, producers were going to address Ralph’s departure as naturally as they could. Even going so far as to justify the absence of Sawyer’s likeness through being gravely injured finding evidence to exonerate Sue Dearbon of Eva’s husband’s murder.
Where they fail is the aesthetic for The Flash 7×03. Since these episodes were filmed prior to the shutdown, it would be a fair bet to think that the executives kept the CGI mashed potato-faced Ralph in – which looked cool for the most part – but left his voiceover while in the containment suit out. In fact, the actor who was IN that suit was uncredited, so it’s safe to assume it was Sawyer himself. However, I just couldn’t buy the Dalek-esque tone coming out of that helmet as Ralph. Further, there was no heartfelt goodbyes to be had, since Ralph and Sue were going to come back in the seventh season. It was the equivalent of an episode of The Simpsons where Homer’s hated cartoon character gets written out of Itchy and Scratchy without his heartfelt plea to stay.
Of course, only Sue will be returning since actor Natalie Dreyfuss has been promoted to series regular. I cannot stress what a loss this is, especially the history that Ralph and Sue have in the source material and the miniseries Identity Crisis and 52. If you review this scene a second time, based on what you know about the bond Ralph has with the Team and with Frost, his exit feels second rate. But, it is what it is, gang. Still, the lack of an acceptable ability to showcase Ralph in the flashbacks couldn’t bring Sue’s subplot as a review of past events to remind audiences who she was and her relevance since they were together so much. The fact that Ralph is a shapeshifter and may be permanently disfigured could mean the role could be recast. Ultimately it’s up to the executives as to how that would sound.
Speaking of sound, the techno music during the big fight with Mirror Monarch felt out of place. The epic battles of the past relied on orchestra and took some of the seriousness out of the battle.
Finally, since “Timeless Wells” returning was tied in to The Crisis, Barry should have at least mentioned The Spectre or Oliver Queen since it was his energies that rebooted the universe. The fact that Wells’s power is green tinted screams Oliver’s signature. It was a missed opportunity to pay one last homage to the founding hero of the Arrowverse. The writing team would have been better served if they had kept him for the next season (being this one). Having Wells 1.0 return from the grave and make his way so quickly to S.T.A.R. Labs to get involved just felt shoehorned in, and I’m not sure if the effect would’ve been different if the pandemic hadn’t shortened season six.
This episode gets 4 out of 5. It’s forgivable that it felt like a season finale since that’s what the script called for. The story arc of Eva McColluch was properly resolved, again with the possibility of her return. Candice and Grant had fantastic scenes this week, and everyone had their moment. But again, I feel that the new “Timeless Wells” could have been reserved for season seven, or even hinted at in the final scene. No one complains about Tom Cavanaugh’s talent and how much he means to Flash fans, but sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, you know? Next week will be different, as it will officially be the review of the first brand new episode filmed post-shutdown. I, for one, sincerely hope the writers deal with possible after effects on Barry and Iris’s marriage following his time spent with her mirror duplicate. Since this will be months after the events of this episode, it can’t just be swept under the rug. Anyway, see you guys next week and stay safe!