“Whatever’s in store for us, it can’t change what we mean to each other. It can’t erase what’s in our hearts. As long as we hold on to that, we’ve beaten Crisis before it even begins.”
With the imminent Crisis and where The Flash left things last week, the end game of “The Last Temptation of Barry Allen, Part 2” was never in doubt. Despite his blood brothers and sisters overrunning the city thanks to a speedy assist from the infected Flash, Ramsey—now taking the moniker of Bloodwork—was destined to be defeated. The question then was if knowing that, would the conclusion of Bloodwork’s initial assault on Central City give viewers an adequate amount of action, excitement, and drama. Unfortunately, while “The Last Temptation, Part 2” gives a few strong character moments, the albatross around its neck is none other than the antagonist framed to take the Flash to the limits.
From the start of this season, I’ve pointed out the disservice the show has done to its narrative with the rushed nature of the Ramsey Rosso/Bloodwork storyline. The haste in which Ramsey morphed from a genius physician determined to rid the world of a particularly brutal type of cancer to a megalomaniacal monster obsessed with ‘curing’ death for all of humanity was a glaring mistake and the rushed nature of his arc never gave us a chance to really lament with Ramsey’s emotional struggles. It was like reading the Cliff Notes of a book; the gist is there for you to see but you can’t hope to understand that book’s deeper essence, it’s soul.
It is a gross miscalculation because, while Sendhil Ramamurthy may not be an Academy award-winning talent, his stint on Heroes (the original series, not that abomination of a revival Heroes: Reborn) proves that, when given adequate material, he’s able to convey the depth of a character. With Ramsey, he was behind the eight-ball from the start and while the writers misfired with this entire arc, Ramamurthy didn’t help matters in overplaying the maniacal antagonist.
It’s understandable that not all characters require subtlety. Sometimes an antagonist is just a really bad person and is only there as an obstacle for the hero to overcome. One of the prevailing arguments on MCU villains is their lack of substance. There are some cases where this is most definitely true but even when writers fail to create a compelling villain, the actor’s performance can sometimes make viewers overlook the shortcomings.
And then there are instances like Ramamurthy’s caricature-like portrayal of Bloodwork. Notwithstanding the tepid dialogue rife with exposition, Ramamurthy plays it all with an almost amateurish verve that makes things even worse. It’s only when Barry (we’ll get to him, don’t worry) finds a way to slow Ramsey down by projecting a memory of his mother that Ramamurthy’s talent comes out to play. Facing his deceased mother taps into the slivers of doubt in Ramsey’s mind as to his actions and in those 60 seconds or so, it emphasizes just how, if they’d taken more time to develop him as Ramsey Rosso instead of rushing into the whole Bloodwork thing, the character could have been an asset to the show.
Bloodwork and his machinations aside, Barry again proves how strong his love for those around him is. Though Ramsey’s infection connects Barry to Bloodwork’s hive mind, a part of him is still strong enough to influence Ramsey as well as deliver hints on defeating the bad guy to his friends. Like Ramamurthy, Grant Gustin overplays the sinister Negative Flash (that sounds so much better than ‘Dark Flash’), trying to give life to the darkness within Barry, and it’s wholly artificial. Maybe it’s that Gustin (and by proxy, Barry) comes across as such a good dude that it’s difficult for him to tap into his dark nature, but the Negative Flash bits are something I could have done without…though it was required by the story.
At the end of the day, “The Last Temptation, Part 2” did what it was designed to do: it ended Ramsey’s threat to the city (for now) and allowed Barry time with his family to prepare for what’s to come. And aside from again putting Allegra in the spotlight as a potential addition to the team, there’s nothing about this worth remembering, especially now that Crisis has arrived.
• As disappointing as “The Last Temptation, Pt 2” was, it did give us a few decent horror elements. Kamilla and Cecile’s navigation through the building full of Bloodwork zombies reminded me of games like Outlast or Resident Evil. The latter is highlighted even more when Bloodwork goes full-on Nemesis. The effects weren’t great here, but the idea behind it was good enough for me to ignore the subpar CGI.
• We also get a bit more of the Mar Novu/Nash Wells scene hinted at in the Batwoman post-credit scene (replayed here) as Nash confronts the god-like being during the episode. There’s still a lot of questions surrounding both characters, and I have to wonder if Nash will be playing a larger role in Crisis than initially thought.
• I’m still not sure what’s going on with Frost. Her amazing Area of Effect attack (AoE for the gamers out there!) aside, she seems to be stuck in a rut and I don’t know if that’s the overwhelming nature of truly living and being forced to confront the possible death of her friends or something else. There is still more than half the season left so I’m sure we’ll revisit this sometime down the road.
• Now that Ramsey is in A.R.G.U.S. custody after the Crisis is averted, another villain should arise to take on Team Flash. Unfortunately, with the way this series usually handles its seasonal big bads, I think the writers’ focus on Bloodwork will probably have him back in the story by early Spring instead of where he belongs, say in another season. There’s just nothing interesting enough about his character to warrant him as a central antagonist for this season.