Wrapping Up With ‘The Flash’ Season 6

by Erik Amaya

The Flash ended its sixth season last night in an abrupt manner due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down productions in Vancouver and, indeed, the rest of the world. Nonetheless, it is possible to judge the shape of the season as a whole and there seems to be one obvious conclusion: it needs shorter seasons.
The year began with a bold proclamation from incoming showrunner Eric Wallace. The season would be split into two distinct stories he likened to graphic novels. The first was a take on recent comic book villain Bloodwork. Played by Sendhil Ramamurthy, the character offered an interesting counterpoint to Barry’s (Grant Gustin) own struggle with his impending death. At eight episodes, the storyline also served as an worthwhile prequel to Barry’s part in “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” The shorter storyline, the arrival of Iris’s (Candice Patton) Team Citizen, and special guest appearances by Chester P. Runk (Brandon McKnight) made the show feel fresh again.
But after the Crisis, a lot of the series’ bad habits returned. The year’s second villain seemed to be the terrorist organization Black Hole, but it instead turned out to be a new version of Mirror Master, Eva McCulloch (Efrat Dor). Unfortunately, as both she and Iris remained stuck behind the mirrors, she could never be a direct threat to Team Flash or Team Citizen — and that’s considering how she kidnapped a handful of characters and replaced them with mirror copies. Black Hole, meanwhile, receded into the background with no real objective or conflict with Barry.
At the same time, the show finally made good on its promise to introduce Sue Dearbon. And in the form of Natalie Dreyfuss she was transformed into something of spy character. Her affluent background and her willingness to play by 007 rules made her an interesting foil for Ralph (Hartley Sawyer). And as the characters are based on one of comics’ most successful couples, their meet cute as quasi-adversaries gives their story a lot of pizazz. So much so, in fact, we’d be happy to see them spun off onto their own show. At the same time, this has proved to be a problem for The Flash overall — Ralph and Sue already feel like they are in their own, more fun show.
Contrast their budding relationship with the complicated situation of Barry and Iris. For viewers, the two were separate the entire second half of the season. But for Barry, Mirror Iris (also Patton) brought into focus a number of problems in their marriage. To an extent, it felt like an attempt to address the show’s tendency to underwrite Iris (an issue Patton reportedly brought up to Wallace when he first took over the show), but with the real Iris captured, the story thread could not reach a real resolution. And thanks to the truncated production, it also left Team Citizen in shambles.
As we’ve said over the last few weeks, The Flash becomes unavoidably soggy around episode 17 each year. Splitting the season into two stories was meant to address this, and yet, it still happened. If the events of last night’s finale had come two episodes earlier, the sogginess may have been avoided.
So is the core problem its 22-episode a year order? We think it is a major contributing factor. Look at the way Legends of Tomorrow maintains a steady pace. Soggy installments are rare and with just 15 episodes this season, its overarching story has yet to where out its welcome — in fact, it is one of the show’s more successful meta-arcs. Compare that with how long Eva spent behind the mirror with Iris. Perhaps at 20 episodes, two 8-part stories would work; leaving one episode for the crossover and another for a “breather” immediately afterward.
Also, we have to admit, there may be too many characters. The show seems to think so by the way it kept sending people off this year. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) went soul-searching a couple of times. Joe’s brief disappearance into witness protection was given of all the gravitas of a series wrap for actor Jesse L. Martin. And even Frost’s departure to the Arctic — a choice made so Danielle Panabaker could take maternity leave — felt like it was setting up a more long-term absence. And we have to admit, with characters like Kamilla (Victoria Park), Allegra (Kayla Compton) and Chester introduced just to hang in the background, the show may need to prune.
But these suggestions are made with love. We still enjoy seeing Team Flash each week and we want the show to have a strong seventh season. We want Barry to move beyond his guilt complex and the thought that he is not fast enough. We want Iris to feel vital on her own. We want Cisco to make a decision about his life. And, of course, we want Ralph and Sue to get their own series. Splitting the season into two stories was a step in the right direction and, hopefully, the series will learn from its missteps this year and give us a season with the right amount of momentum.
The Flash returns next Fall on The CW.

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