This review contains spoilers.
6.4 There Will Be Blood
In theory, There Will Be Blood is a Halloween episode, but really, every episode of The Flash season six so far has playfully toyed with horror movie tropes, and other than an abundance of actual blood zombies in this one, it doesn’t feel all that different. But despite the Halloween setting and the creepy manifestations of Dr. Rosso’s um… condition, for the fourth week in a row, The Flash isn’t about fighting bad guys so much as it is about solidifying the bonds between its core characters in the face of the oncoming Crisis On Infinite Earths. It’s tremendously effective, and I think this might be the strongest four episode start in the show’s history.
As it was in previous weeks, the simple scenes of Team Flash trying to come to terms with Barry’s fate were really powerful. Here, we’ve mostly reached the “acceptance” stage, with the exception of Cisco, who isn’t taking the potential loss of his best friend very well. I’m likely to continue praising this episode as featuring more of Grant Gustin’s best work in the role of Barry Allen, but never, ever let me forget to praise Carlos Valdes. Valdes has long been this show’s secret weapon, and Dead Man Running puts him in conflict with Barry for all the right reasons to terrific effect.
Cisco’s anger at Barry seems a little petty in the moment, but in the larger context it makes sense. Never mind that he’s losing his best friend, this is also a guy who up until recently would have been in the thick of the Crisis itself as a superhero. Cisco hasn’t expressed any regrets about giving up his powers, but I can’t help but feel that some of that is playing into his anger at Barry and himself right now. And really, it’s great to see that he won’t back down, no matter what. Cisco (via Carlos) remains an effortlessly funny character, but far too often recent seasons have leaned on him exclusively for laughs, and that isn’t the case this year.
We spend lots more time with the new Harrison Wells… ahem… I mean, “Nash” Wells, of course, this week. I can’t help but feel that this is the most delightful incarnation of the character we’ve ever had, in part because it lets the wacky energy of Tom Cavanagh come through with the least affectation. This character is almost too good to be true, and certainly too confident for his own good, so I won’t be the least bit surprised if tragedy strikes and he ends up as the Arrowverse version of Pariah in time for Crisis On Infinite Earths.
I’d also like to count myself in on the new and improved Killer Frost train. As someone who has been the most vocal critic of the Caitlin/Killer dynamic over the last two seasons, I love the balance that has been struck here. We hardly got any mention of the duality of the two this episode, and after the “here’s what Frosty learned this week” stuff in the last two episodes, I wonder if they’re going to just let her evolve into a natural equilibrium with Caitlin. In any case, I’m thrilled to not have to feel ambivalent about any member of this terrific cast anymore. Gotta love those “ice knuckles” too.
I still find myself going back and forth about Dr. Ramsey Rosso. There’s no question he is a tremendous upgrade over the endless tedium of Cicada last season, and Sendhil Ramamurthy is tremendous fun to watch. But the character yo-yos so much from almost sympathetic to moustache-strokingly eeeevil, sometimes in the space of one scene, that it’s been tough to really care all that much about him. Additionally, the hazy flashback sequences this week weren’t terribly effective, notably an ill-advised deployment of the infamous “cough some blood into a hanky and get bad news” method of illustrating a character is terminally ill.
This can all be forgiven since, on the whole, Ramsey works overall, but there are moments in these episodes where you can see how, with a little less of his endless “mad scientist monologuing” or time spent on him instead of elsewhere, this could be the most sympathetic big bad in the show’s history. In particular, his humanity comes through so clearly when Barry brings him that serum, and, as with the other scene Ramamurthy shared with Gustin last week, I feel like this is the best the character has to offer. And then the pendulum swings back to madman almost too quickly to process it. It doesn’t break the show by any stretch, but I can’t help but feel they missed an opportunity to really make this character’s fall seem all the more tragic. Nevertheless, these manifestations of his powers and his overall performance are plenty menacing, and I feel like the stakes for Central City are real enough, even if I’m not terribly invested in whether this guy finds redemption before he croaks or not.
Just going off that moment with Barry and Ramsey, though, this episode is particularly light on costumed action again, in favour of lots of one-on-one time with Barry and other members of the cast. I genuinely think Stephen Amell is turning in Emmy-worthy work over on Arrow this season, but Gustin is digging deeper on Barry than we’ve ever seen before. We’ve had some lip-service paid to Barry as a “leader” and a “teacher” in recent seasons, and sometimes it’s been more convincing than others. But I’m buying into it now, much as I did when we finally saw the real shift in Oliver Queen from vigilante and reluctant hero to the guy who was at the centre of those first few crossovers helping to gather heroes and lead them into battle.
And then there’s that final scene between Joe and Barry. Perhaps the most powerful scene these two have played together in the show’s history. Earlier in the episode, I had jotted in my notes “how is Joe so calm about all of this” referring to his casual mention of Barry’s fate. I should have known that would pay off. I just didn’t expect it to pay off so incredibly well. “The world owes you.”
Damn it, I’ve got something in my eye.
Read all about the Arrowverse’s path to its biggest ever crossover, Crisis On Infinite Earths, here.