Review: The Flash 7×04 – “Central City Strong”
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Jeff Byrd
Writers: Joshua V. Gilbert and Jeff Hyrsh
Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Nicolet, Kayla Compton, Brandon McKnight, Jesse L. Martin, David Dastmalchian, Jessica Hayles, Kunal Jaggi,
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
Central City has barely started to pick up the pieces from Mirror Monarch’s attack, as have Barry and Iris, when Abracadabra returns with a vendetta against The Flash and a change is occurring with both Caitlin and Frost.
New review, new day, new Central City, new…force? I’ll get to that eventually. For now, let’s go in order as to what worked this week.
The writers made a great creative decision to focus on the issue of trauma and recovery. Specifically, the attack of Mirror Monarch on the city and its effects on the people of Central City. Super powers aside, it was a terror attack where everyone was affected physically and psychologically. The sense of time having past is keenly felt in both the atmosphere and some new looks for the players like Iris. I like the “Central City Strong” slogan as much as Barry, as The Flash, being front and center to inspire hope and recovery. I like the new detailing on the costume, by the way; the seams and patterns accentuate the musculature and makes it feel less lycra. If I didn’t mention it in previous review, I love the tech angle of the cowl that Cisco designed. Further, showcasing the establishment of a support group for mirror verse victims was a brilliant resource that spoke to Iris’s experience.
In the case of how she and Barry are coping, until the events of this episode they were mishandling their trauma. On Barry’s end, he is grappling with the fact that he had been deceived by Mirror Iris and was even intimate with that woman. He has tried to therefore atone through romantic dinners and whirlwind getaways to global locales. On Iris’s side, meanwhile, being the first mirror victim, her experience is that of captivity. Compounded is her loss of power and independence. Understandable, therefore, that the first story she hears unnerves her ability to conduct an interview because of how closely it parallels her own ordeal. As a reporter, even Allegra can see it’s affecting the quality of her writing, as she’s avoiding the central issue and just retreading previously covered material in the media. Grant and Candice have spot-on performances this week as they vocally “face their trauma,” as Barry advises Abracadabra to do. The creative team is also smart in using the opportunity to validate Allegra’s promotion to staff writer from intern, thus advancing her working relationship with Iris.
Abracadabra’s story fits in brilliantly given he, himself, is dealing with trauma, albeit Crisis-related. The best villain to pit against the hero in any piece of literature has to have some of the hero in him and vice versa. Like a magic trick, the gradual unveiling of the heart of his pain is a surprise. What feels at first like a square peg in a round hole becomes an antagonist indirectly affected by The Flash’s actions during The Crisis. His experience of an altered timeline and loss of loved ones parallel much of those who survived that event. (Nice Easter Egg, by the way, mentioning the “Martian memory restorer” used in the now-dead Green Arrow and The Canaries backdoor pilot.)
Further, given he, himself, still grieves the lost of his brother-in-arms, Oliver Queen – kudos to the writers to FINALLY mentioning Oliver – Barry can reach past Phillippe’s pain and talk him down from using his antimatter device to destroy Central City, a move made in desperation.
David Dastmalchian delivers the same arrogant know-it-all bravado from season three, but the climax scene shows his range as he lets that behavior recede to let some of his his humanity show through in a heroic action.
As I noted in last week’s review, we were introduced to the new focal point. With the rebirth of the Speed Force, confirmed by Iris, there have come other forces. The writing team is adapting a recent Flash story that showed that there were more forces – literally – at work in the universe. The Flash is the avatar of the Speed Force, and this week we’ve seen an example of the Strength Force. Judging by his outfit this is a human transformed by that Force storm and it had been properly teased throughout the episode via unexplainable tremors. Could we, therefore, see a different version of The Turtle, tied in to the Still Force? Yes, that’s a thing.
The final scene…WHAT?! I know there’ll be an explanation next week, but the fact that we have both Caitlin and Frost in separate bodies offers great opportunities for Danielle. The shock was equally felt for both Cisco and the viewers and was a better surprise than any of Abracadabra’s tricks. Danielle’s performance as Frost in this scene was, as expected, one of elation and freedom. No longer just a separate personality sharing a body, Frost is now literally her own person. This opens up a host of possibilities as to where her character could go, as well as Cait can be more available in the lab. Also the audience can see these two interact face to face, be it hanging out, bickering, or fighting side by side. It also brings in the possibility of Cait developing feelings of being left out of the action in the field, which can be a subplot to follow. All of these are just off the top of my head, and are speculative for this review, but I just think this brings a new dynamic to the team.
Two major points of focus on what DIDN’T work. First and foremost, let’s focus on the Strong Force creature.
It’s disappointing that after eight seasons they still cannot create a believable CGI humanoid character. King Shark in season two was spot on, but it seems with certain characters they can’t properly render textural detail on a visual effect. Second, and this is a recurring complaint, why is Barry using his regular voice when doing public events as The Flash? The Speed Force is back up and running, so therefore there shouldn’t be a reason he can’t vibrate his vocal chords to disguise his voice. Also, how did that reporter know that Eva called herself Mirror Monarch? There was no grand proclamation; it was just something she said to Barry off the cuff. He runs the risk of someone at the CCPD hearing his voice and putting two and two together. Joe can’t protect him from that. I wish that the writers would make the secret identity more paramount. In closing, call me crazy, but I feel that Abracadabra on Team Flash would’ve been a great redemptive journey for him. Certainly would’ve made for an interesting Three Stooges dynamic between Cisco and Chester. I feel that a heroic sacrifice – however impressive – was too brief and a waste of character exploration.
Review number four gets…well, a 4 out of 5. Strong follow-up to the exhausting trauma of Mirror Monarch’s agenda was handled brilliantly and was interwoven with an antagonist dealing with post-Crisis trauma. But sadly, again, lackluster rendering on the new CGI Strength force character and a waste of a character arc for Abracadabra brought this rating down. But what this episode scored big on this week was how it dealt with the issue of recovering from trauma. Looking forward to seeing you guys next week when I review a literal nightmare episode for The Fastest Man Alive!