Not-Iris gets help with her partnership with Eva while a speed-limited Barry must help Nash before Thawne gains control in “The Exorcism of Nash Wells”
It’s fair to say that, over the last couple years, The Flash has been lacking in the department of compelling Big Bads. Thus, the moment we glimpsed the blurry red eyes and the dulcet reverberations of the Reverse-Flash, it was something to get excited about. Whether in the guise of Tom Cavanaugh or Matt Letscher, Eobard Thawne has been far-and-away the best of Barry Allen’s adversaries. “The Exorcism of Nash Wells” is a testament to this as Thawne works his nefarious mental machinations to break down an already vulnerable Nash to take control of his doppelganger’s body, connect back into his Negative Speed Force, and ultimately destroy Barry Allen. It’s an apt plotline for Thawne considering that his long-standing foe (and our protagonist) faces a similar challenge on the opposite end of the spectrum.
If there were any doubts after last week as to the effect the dissolution of the Speed Force would have on Barry, “Exorcism” makes it even more clear. With a finite amount of Speed Force remaining out in the ether, Barry has to manage the use of speed-based abilities as they will deplete that remaining block. Simply put, the Flash is on a pitch count, one that he ignores early on when Sunshine (Natalie Sharp, BH90210, Hit the Road), the newest light-based meta arrives on the scene to steal a Prismatic Refractor for Joseph Carver and Black Hole.
Taking a hit of Velocity-X, Barry nearly gets himself and Frost killed, saved only by the arrival of Joe and the CCPD. As he’s wont to do, Barry blames himself for the mishap (as he should) and falls into a cycle of self-pity (a Barry Allen special) that not-Iris, of all people, helps him navigate. Barry’s been without his powers before and contributed to the cause but, for some reason, he’s having a harder time with having his speed but unable to use it. For Barry, “Exorcism” went beyond saving Nash from himself; it reminded our hero that the biggest limits non-meta, run-of-the-mill human beings have are those they put on themselves. It’s this understanding that helps him to not only work past his own doubts but to face an enemy in Thawne that affects him like no other.
Though “Exorcism” had a moment or two of nifty meta spectacle — Sunshine stole the show in the aesthetics and CG department — at its heart, the episode was about facing one’s pain. We’ve known for some time that Nash lost someone close to him in Allegra’s doppelganger (her name was Maya) and that he’d refused to accept or even acknowledge it. That denial of spirit empowered Thawne’s takeover and, were it not for Barry and Cisco projecting into his mind and encouraging him to see the truth, Nash would have been lost. But with Barry’s speed handicap in play, having Thawne reclaim Nash’s body was never an option. Still, the message presented (and Tom Cavanaugh’s exceptional performance in dual roles) was one of the stronger themes of the season in that, no matter how painful the memory, we can never truly move forward unless we face it head-on. It’s like the rock in one’s shoe; keep ignoring it and that irritation becomes worse, eventually transforming into a pain to be dealt with now or, if left too long, may become something not so easily fixed.
“The Exorcism of Nash Wells” is what I’d call a hidden gem of an episode. The action isn’t overly memorable and though we’re introduced to a new villain while also gaining further tidbits on Eva McCulloch’s big plan, it’s the narrative’s personal aspect that will speak to a lot of people. While I don’t look to The Flash for its moral lessons, I can’t help but acknowledge when the show gives us a narrative like this, one that I (and many others) can relate to.
Nash taking responsibility for the death of his Maya is a sad yet a promising step forward for the character. Who knows where he goes from here, but he’s made it past the emotional block that stood in the way of his development for much of the season. And still, “Exorcism” doesn’t drop the ball on the bigger picture. Indeed, there’s a type of harmony in knowing that Barry’s answers for creating an artificial Speed Force were supplied by none other than Eobard Thawne himself (by way of Nora’s journal). Yet while “Exorcism” gives us hope in this regard, it also reminds us that the very dangerous Eva (the new Mirror Master) remains in the background, undetected and determined as ever.
• While I can’t deny my curiosity as to Eva’s grand plan, her B-story with not-Iris and not-Kamilla lacked intrigue. If not for Sunshine’s introduction, this part of the narrative would have been an extreme disappointment. Not every piece of the larger puzzle can be interesting though, so I’ll hold off on rating this Eva storyline until we see more of what she has in store.
• I’m glad Cecile got a bit more run this week. Danielle Nicolet is always a joy to watch onscreen, not just for those sassy, comic relief moments but the emotional notes she hits at an astonishingly high clip. Had an actress with less range been cast as Cecile, the character’s empathic contribution to the series would have fallen flat. Thankfully Nicolet delivers, particularly when she wades into the chaos of Nash’s mind.
• Call me a buzzkill, but I’m still not sold on how they’ve handled things post-Crisis. With that said, I’m digging the idea of a thousand Wellses (or would that be a thousand-thousand?) swimming in Nash’s head. There’s a lot of material to play with here, and not just from a levity standpoint. I’m curious to see how many familiar Wellses, or even previously unseen versions, we’ll meet before season’s end.