The CW has announced that Season 9 of The Flash will be the final season. I will watch it as it airs. It’s that completist pathology—the collector’s curse—that drives me to watch all of something. If you share even a portion of the genome sequence that causes this, you understand what I mean.
The first draft of this post said that if Season 9 wasn’t the last season, I planned to step away from the series for a while. To take a break.
This will sound like a familiar refrain to you if you’ve ever read any of my past reviews of this series. I previously stepped away from the show after watching Season 5. In fact, I never even wrote a review of that season, except for its premiere, because I tend not to waste my time writing about series that disappoint me. After watching that dismal season, I felt like I needed to get away from the show for a while, to clear my head and give me a bit more objectivity.
It worked, too. I eventually returned to the series after some deep reflection on all of the things I used to love about it. In my eventual review of Season 6, which I finally watched while Season 7 was unfolding in realtime, I graded the season a respectable B+. Season 7 didn’t fare as well, with a mediocre grade of C+, but it wasn’t a total failure. Disappointing, certainly, but not a failure.
I’m not going to bury the lead here. I felt much the same about Season 8. Maybe a little more strongly. I considered not writing this review, even, but decided that was the coward’s way out. There are still things I like about this show. It’s just that I no longer believe that it can redeem itself. Like Arrow before it, The Flash will, I believe, wind down to a disappointing and anticlimactic conclusion. Hopefully, it won’t end in a heroic death for Barry Allen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it does.
If you’ve remained on this journey with me this far, let’s go a little further, shall we? We’ll talk about the various storylines represented in this season. About the things I liked about the season. And the things I didn’t.
The season kicks off with a five-part story arc (which the series itself refers to as a graphic novel) called “Armageddon.” Since the DC Comics shows on the CW were in the process of dropping like flies, this took the place of our customary crossover episodes. I’d have to watch this arc again to refresh my memory of these episodes, but I’m not going to subject myself to that pain. I know it involved an alien named Despero who had foreseen the end of the world (what, again?) and featured a whole host of cameos, including Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams), Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), Felicity Smoak (Emily Beck Rickards), Mia Queen (Katherine Grace McNamara) and Eobard Thawne (Matt Lescher and Tom Cavanaugh). There’s a subplot about Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) being dead (turns out to be more speedster time shenanigans, thankfully) and one pretty good episode in which Thawne became the Flash and Barry Allen was the Reverse-Flash.
It should come as no surprise to you that things work out okay for Team Flash. While I liked seeing a few of the actors from shows that no longer exist, this arc was mostly just mediocre.
We get a brief, forgettable interlude featuring Bart and Nora returning to the future. The upshot of it all is that Jay Garrick is alive again in this rebooted timeline, which is nice, since John Wesley Shipp remains the eternal link between this series and the original Flash show. Not to mention that he also played Barry’s dad.
After this interlude, we launch into another graphic novel. This one is titled “Death Revisited.” This six-episode arc seems to resurrect the original Firestorm, Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell), leading to the mid-season Big Bad, Deathstorm. At the conclusion of this arc, one member of Team Flash is dead.
I’m not spoiling this one.
The following three episodes are another interlude, dealing with the aftermath of the previous graphic novel, furthering the Iris West-Allen time sickness plot, and providing a decent standalone episode about a rapidly aging Barry Allen.
The final story arc in this season—known as “It’s All Negative”—is a confusing snarl of storylines about the Negative speed force and the return of Eobard Thawne as the avatar of the Negative Forces, and somehow the return of Damien Darhk. There’s also a brand-new speedster introduced, and—oh yeah—Iris, who seemed to sleepwalk through most of the season, is cured of her time sickness. Come on, now! That wasn’t really a spoiler.
I’ve walked away from television series before. I even stopped watching other DC-on-CW shows: Arrow (completing it only after the final season was announced), Black Lightning (haven’t returned to it, yet, and probably won’t), and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (ditto). I’ve never watched Stargirl, Superman and Lois, or Batwoman.
My earlier hiatus from The Flash helped me to appreciate the show again when I returned to Season 6. Until it was announced that Season 9 would be the final season, I planned to do the same this time. Not now. When Season 9 premieres in 2023, I plan to watch the final ten or twelve episodes (it’s rumored to be a short season), more or less in real time. It’s time to finish this one up.
Meanwhile, Season 8 continued the steady decline in overall quality from the previous season. Like many long-running series, this one is suffering under the weight of its own considerable mythology. Too many characters, too much backstory, overly complicated plots that seem to be repeating themselves. This show was at its best when there was less gravitas and Barry was fresh-faced and optimistic. Plus, this show continues to muck with the timeline, and continues to provide a great example of how all time travel stories are problematic.
Firewater’s Run-Barry-Run Report Card: C
Recently, I was accused by a friend of being an overly generous grader. They could be right.