It’s been a few weeks since Crisis wrapped and despite episodes of Arrow and Batwoman in the interim, The Flash was always going to be the CW series to break down the changes while re-establishing the seasonal narrative (since Bloodwork is currently locked away). At the end of the day, my anticipation is knocked into the familiar abyss of disappointment.
“Life is more than just the mission.”
The most curious decision begins early into the first act when Diggle drops by — this is a week or so before the Arrow finale — to give Barry the mask he originally made for Oliver years ago. When he discovers trace amounts of Mirakuru on the mask, Barry thinks it’s Oliver’s way of bringing one last mission to Barry: rid the world of the deadly super soldier serum. Thus, he and Digs head to Lian Yu where they come up empty. The trip is not for nothing though as Barry, thanks to sage advice from Diggle, is forced to reevaluate his mindset. He must slow down and not live for just the mission but also those he loves. Though David Ramsey’s guest appearance was an overall boon, Barry limited screen time was a bit less thrilling. Now, maybe this will be a turning point for him as a character as the season progresses but I can’t help but think that “Marathon” was a wasted opportunity to do more with not only Barry but Diggle as well.
“We don’t live in Crisis mode anymore. We have time now.”
With Barry offscreen for most of the night, Iris took center stage as she and Team Citizen (Allegra and Kamilla) investigate Black Hole, a newly discovered secret organization (convenient, I know) that has been abducting and training meta-humans as assassins since the Particle Accelerator explosion. It’s never clear whether this is something that has popped up due to Crisis (at one point, a frazzled Cisco mentions that they have more threats to watch out for than ever) but it doesn’t really matter. What does is the current assassin, Kimiyo Hoshi (Emmie Nagata, I Cannot Go on as I Am), whom Cisco labels as Doctor Light, and the force behind Black Hole, Joseph Carver (Eric Nenninger, One Day at a Time, Wet Hot American Summer), CEO of McCulloch Tech.
As it’s the first we’ve heard of this new threat, there isn’t much detail other than they play big in the international web of illegal trade. “Marathon” is a primer to Black Hole as a new threat but more about Iris learning a similar lesson as Barry. This hard-charging, throw caution to the wind approach is commendable (and necessary for a successful reporter) but reckless, as Joe tells her after she’s nearly killed by Doctor Light. An organization like Black Hole cannot be taken down in a single day, he tells her, it’s a long game.
It’s a reminder that fights like this are — to paraphrase Diggle’s words to Barry — a marathon, not a sprint. So, when Iris heeds her father’s advice and challenges Carver beyond the head-on approach, it looks like she’s learning. But then she reverts by to her impatient default mindset, sneaking into McCulloch Tech alone and without telling a soul where she’s headed. Intrepid reporter or not, this careless action shows that she hasn’t quite learned the lesson “Marathon” was looking to pass on. Iris pays for her impatience and poor judgment by being pulled into the wall-sized mirror left in the supposedly deceased Eva Carver’s office and into… well, we really don’t know.
It wasn’t just The Flash’s power couple who learned something about themselves. Cisco’s arc starts with that comfortable levity of him dealing with their new reality. But it quickly turns somber when he trashes Nash for being the spark that caused the inevitable destruction (and subsequent Rebirth) of the multiverse. But while Nash Wells may have been an unwitting cause of Crisis, Cisco’s anger and frustration are more about the guilt he feels. Had he remained as Vibe, he tells Caitlin at one point, perhaps he could have given them an early warning (and in the process saved Jesse, Harry, and others on Earth-2). Ever since he took the meta-human cure, Cisco has been a bit shaky, not really having a solid foundation of where he belongs, even with Kamilla in his life. Thus, when Caitlin suggests that he go out into the world and catalog the changes from pre- to post-Crisis, he jumps at the idea.
Accepting that he needs to find his center, Cisco makes up with Nash and asks the adventurer to step in for him at the lab. The two make up but still have demons of their own to work through, though with Carlos Valdes being written out of the show (at least for now), I’m not certain how much of Cisco’s journey we’ll be able to see.
With some decent character arcs and introduction of a new threat, “Marathon” had the ingredients to be a good post-Crisis return. And yet, something about it did not quite work. Whether it was the over-emphasis on Iris West-Allen, reporter extraordinaire, the insertion of such a threatening antagonist out of the blue, or Cisco’s questionable explanations of the post-Crisis world that didn’t sit well with me… I’m not sure. Maybe it’s all of the above, but whatever the case, “Marathon” is not the effective restart I hoped to see.
- Far be it for me to correct the genius that is Cisco, but his assertion that there is only Earth-Prime is wholly incorrect. Now, this may have been a poor choice of dialogue meant to speak on the fact that the multiverse has been significantly lessened because, as Crisis showed us, there are still MANY earths out there. It could just be that he’s not been able to deduce the different Earths out there and, in that case, it’s likely his upcoming journey will give him the facts on other Earths he currently doesn’t have.
- Staying on the Cisco train, I’m curious why, at Rebirth, he was without his powers. This is more of a disappointment than anything after seeing the Monitor re-Vibe him, though it may work better with his upcoming arc that he is powerless. Still, it brings into question what went into Oliver’s restarting the multiverse and whether we’ll get a bit more on that down the road.
- Iris being able to identify Hoshi despite never getting an upclose look at her, never mind the woman’s massive googles, was an instance of “it’s necessary for the plot”. Considering people never recognize the heroes in their negligible disguises and yet Iris can positively ID someone in the chaos of near-assassination is way too convenient.
- Lastly, we get another hint as to why Nash feels such a connection to Allegra. It’s still not clear whether she was his daughter or protégé, but she mattered greatly to him. She may not be his Earth’s Allegra but, as we’ve seen before (Quentin’s relationship with the Earth-2 Laurel) perhaps a sliver of these connections wind their way through the multiverse.