“There is no support group for what we’re experiencing.”
The Flash returns for its sixth season and at the forefront is grief for those who’ve passed, the courage and consequences in taking a leap of faith, and the laughable black hole that’s the center of the plot line tension.
Taking place four months after Barry and Co stopped Cicada (with Nora dispersing into nothingness as a result of the changed timeline), the team is still fighting the good fight. Sure, Cisco’s without his powers, Barry’s a bit more exuberant than usual (and that’s saying a lot), while the dark cloud hanging over Iris is plain as day for anyone to see. But with several faux-Godspeeds running around, not to mention the normal busyness of life, no one’s really taken stock of Iris’s pain. It’s not until halfway through the episode, where her and Cecile try speaking to catatonic Chester Runk (more on him later) that someone tells Iris “you’re not okay”.
For these last few months both she and Barry have convinced themselves that they’ll see their baby girl again in a few decades. But the truth is, the Nora West-Allen they came to know and love through Season 5 will not be the same Nora they’ll raise into a woman. Different experiences mean she’ll be a different person. Handling the loss in their own separate ways, the two have tried skirting the grief process, and Cecile calls her daughter-in-law out on it. The naked truth, one that has been a shadow of despair following the couple all along, at the end, they finally understand the loss they feel and what it means going forward. The acceptance is a major step for Barry and Iris, one that will seemingly allow them to move forward, except that any progress towards peace of mind is poo-poo’d when the Monitor arrives and unceremoniously reminds Barry that “you gon die!”
Whereas Barry and Iris were the strength of “Into the Void”, the immediate threat—a black hole accidentally created by physicist fanatic Chester Runk (Brandon McKnight, The Shape of Water, Friends with Benefits)—may be one of the more outlandish plot lines the series has ever put on screen. Not only does this black hole, which appears on three occasions, and larger each time, not kill a single person, but Team Flash’s ability to create a solution in an afternoon comes off as more preposterous than the idea that a man can run fast enough to defy space and time.
First there’s the stellar grenade, whipped up by Cisco to make the singularity close in on itself but, when they discover Chester’s consciousness is just behind the event horizon, they’re able to cobble together an equally ridiculous solution that not only closes the black hole but marries Chester’s mind back with his body. The one saving grace is the writers taking a page out of Supernatural and rocking the climactic scene with an amazing tune. What better way to watch Barry go to work than to have Queen’s “Flash” blaring in the background!? Sometimes a song can make all the difference and while “Into the Void’s” plot was sub-par, that song upped the rating quotient a few ticks.
Despite mostly failing in making the episode conflict anything but an eye-rolling and nearly forgettable story, “Into the Void” does a decent job painting what’s to come. From the Monitor’s unapologetic reminder to Barry of his fate (it’s moved up a few years), Caitlin and Frost becoming more in sync than ever, and Ramsey Rosso’s (Sendhil Ramamurthy, Heroes, Reverie) introduction as the season antagonist, it’s less about the wow and more about hitting the reset button and readying us for what may be a painful season for Team Flash.
- The Barry/Iris arc is a powerful factor on “Into the Void”, with Grant Gustin and Candice Patton delivering most excellent and emotionally honest performances. The two have really hit their stride as an on-screen couple and what sometimes came across as a bit awkward and stiff a few years back, are seamless expressions of tangible feeling. They may not have the smoldering chemistry some may fantasize about but it is a kinship that truly feels as if these two are soulmates.
- Though I don’t expect any kind of relationship to develop between them, it’s great watching Caitlin and Ralph interact. When he first came onto the team, Caitlin did her part in reaching out to him; now Ralph is returning the favor. He sees the pain and fear Killer Frost is going through, as she’s accepted being nothing more than a bit player. Ralph challenging her to want more and to work with Caitlin to get it will pay dividends down the road.
- If there’s one way to create an immediate dislike for a character, it’s for him (or her) to castigate a parent that’s died as a coward. Ramsey Rosso’s assertion that his mother didn’t fight to the end and instead enjoyed her remaining time may be a knee-jerk reaction to the grief at losing her but his inability to understand (or even try) her decision makes it difficult to feel sympathy for him. A good decision considering that he’s the one Team Flash will be trying to stop as the season continues.