It’s rare that a show becomes refreshed and rejuvenated six seasons in. That’s just what happened with the premiere of The Flash. New show runner Eric Wallace has indicated there several changes this year. All of which promise to breathe new life into the show. (Among them, that the very format of the series will change.
There will no longer be one season-long arc with one or two Big Bads stretched across twenty-two episodes. Instead, the series will now present as two “graphic novels,” each featuring a different villain. This alone will prevent a good deal of the stalling and filler that dragged down prior seasons.)
Wallace has suggested that one primary consideration this year is focusing more on the heart than the spectacle. That definitely held true in the premiere – though there was still plenty of spectacle to go around. Beyond that, however, he put the focus back where it belongs: to the Flash himself. Recent seasons have featured an embarrassing amount of sidelining the titular hero to let other characters shine, but the Flash was front and center of the superhero action this episode.
More subtly, his heart – his grief over losing Nora – was a consistent undercurrent driving the episode. It was here that Iris stepped more to the forefront, wearing her sorrow more on her sleeve. In the past, the series has too often denied Iris her voice. She has provided comfort and consolation to others while bearing the brunt of her grief on her own (when she’s been given room to grieve at all). If Barry’s response to grief was to run from it, Iris realized that they would only move through their grief by meeting it head-on.
It is truly a testament to Candice Patton’s acting that my heart broke watching Iris struggle with her grief. I was not a fan of Nora’s character overall, so I faced her departure with nothing short of relief. But every time Iris spoke of her grief and loss, she tore my heart out all over again. It is one of the prior show runner’s greatest failings that the audience was not given cause to miss Nora as much as Barry and Iris do. Still, throughout the entire episode, Patton (and Gustin, in the end) brought us along for her emotional journey. However you felt about Nora, when Patton cries, you cry with her. And that little catch in her voice when she’s scared she’s lost Barry, too? Shattering.
And just as Barry’s emotional arc more subtly paralleled Iris’s this episode, her heroic arc subtly paralleled his. I wanted to cheer when Flash took down a Godspeed…clone? (Seriously, what’s up with that?) Not to mention when he launched himself into a black hole – and came out the other side with Nora’s jacket, just to bring a smile back to his wife’s face. But, in her own non-superpowered way, Iris was every bit as much a hero this episode. Not only did she save a stranger from a black hole, but she figured out the connection between the black holes and unwitting perpetrator, Chester, giving the team the information they needed to save the day. Once again, she proved you don’t need superpowers to be a hero – and also proving why Barry and Iris play so well off each other and make such a good team.
The episode also set up the two main conflicts for the first half of the season – the lead-in to Crisis on Infinite Earths and Big Bad Bloodwork. Rarely has bad looked so good than with Sendhil Ramamurthy’s Ramsey Russo. With no time to spare, the premiere didn’t try to “hide the ball” on his evil intentions. He jumped into his supervillain origin story with both feet, and I can’t wait to see where his story goes.
In other news, the episode laid the groundwork for Cisco to have a meaty arc this season, as he tries to find out how to be just Cisco without his Vibe powers. Ralph was downright dapper in a tux, having returned from an ongoing quest to track down the missing Sue Dearborn (his love interest in the comics). I’m curious to know where that story is headed, because I got some definite Laura-esque vibes when he mentioned her. And Caitlin decided that it was time to let Killer Frost sit in the driver’s seat for a while.
Also, there was a Queen song. And who doesn’t love that?
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.