In a subdued season premiere, The Flash sets the stage for a looming crisis – The A.V. Club

Grant Gustin
Photo: Jeff Weddell (The CW)

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Time flies when you have access to the Speed Force, which must explain how The Flash is already kicking off its sixth(!) season on the CW. “Into The Void” is pulling double duty as the launchpad for both the long-term Big Bad arc and The Flash’s portion of the massive “Crisis On Infinite Earths” crossover coming in December. It also finds time for a charming standalone story that’s more satisfying than the table-setting the rest of the episode is forced to do.

Let’s start with the good stuff, which includes a backyard BBQ at the West residence, a rare opportunity to hang out with the characters under less stressful circumstances. Of course it’s Barry who can’t let the chilled-out mood continue, pushing Cisco to continue work on the new mental augmentation chamber (MAC) at STAR Labs when the former Vibe would rather just have another beer. Contrary to last season’s rampant rumors (and frequent absences), Carlos Valdes is still on board as the now de-powered Cisco, presenting an interesting narrative opportunity for the show. What happens when a superhero voluntarily gives up his powers to go back to being a regular guy? It’s not clear whether The Flash will be exploring the implications in any detail, as Cisco only expresses a bit of frustration that he can’t breach his way to a date with Kamilla in this episode, but it bears watching as the season plays out.

The big threat this week is a black hole that opens up in Central City, first engulfing the jacket Iris had gifted Nora as part of her XS uniform, and then nearly swallowing Caitlin at Jitters when Killer Frost fails to manifest. It turns out that the black hole isn’t part of a supervillain plot at all, merely a side effect of amiable live-streamer Chester P. Runk’s attempt at building a device to communicate with aliens. Since Chester shares his consciousness with the black hole, any attempt to destroy it will also kill him.

Team Flash’s resolution not only provides Cisco an opportunity to test the MAC, it also prompts him to blast Queen’s “Flash” as accompaniment to Barry’s heroics. Yes, somehow it took until the sixth season premiere for the show to hit on this perfect needle drop. Cisco claims he’s been waiting for the perfect dramatic moment, and sure, Barry racing into a black hole to stop Central City from being swallowed qualifies, but so do a hundred other events over the past five years. I’m guessing the popularity of Bohemian Rhapsody prompted this music cue, but whatever the reason, it totally works. Inspiring and hilarious at the same time.

LaMonica Garrett
Photo: Katie Yu (The CW)

The hints regarding the upcoming crisis are brief and nowhere near as tantalizing as all the casting reports that have been surfacing in recent weeks concerning the multiverse of guest appearances scheduled for this mammoth crossover event. Early in the episode, Barry chases down a version of Godspeed who isn’t the one we already know; in fact, this is the fourth Godspeed he’s captured in recent weeks, all of whom are incapable of human speech. It’s an indication that multiverse shenanigans are already underway. The Monitor makes a brief appearance to tell Barry and Iris what we already learned at the end of last season: the date of the crisis has moved up to December 10, 2019, and in order to save billions, Barry Allen must sacrifice his own life.

I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to fast-forward straight to the main event, but that will have to wait. For now, we’ve got a new villain to meet. Ramsey Rosso (Sendhil Ramamurthy) is an old friend of Caitlin’s and the son of her mentor Rachel Rosso, who has just died from a rare form of cancer. Ramsey is furious that his mother never tried to fight her disease, and determined not to let the same thing happen to him. Using our old friend dark matter, he devises a cure that works out about as well as these things usual do, causing him to mutate. While the end result of this transformation has yet to be seen, pre-season publicity and a consultation with the DC Database indicate that Ramsey becomes Bloodwork, a relatively new comic book villain.

Maybe Bloodwork will be a great foe for Team Flash; it’s way too early to tell. Not for the first time, however, I can’t help but wonder about the selection process for the show’s Big Bads. The Flash has one of the great rogues galleries in comic book history, but so many A-listers were squandered early on, I’m hoping the upcoming crisis will bring revamped versions of at least a few of them. (Yes, I’m still bitter about Mirror Master, who deserved so much better.) Some reports suggest the showrunners plan to end Bloodwork’s arc in December and introduce a new nemesis in 2020, and long-term readers of these reviews will know I think that’s simply a grand idea. Here’s hoping it plays out that way.

Stray observations

  • Barry and Iris haven’t properly processed their grief over Nora, mainly because they know they’re going to get a new Nora someday. (It’s not that Barry needs an excuse to be a jerk to the rest of the team, but that’s the excuse this week, anyway.) By episode’s end, they realize this isn’t the best idea. Let the healing begin.
  • Killer Frost (who may be dropping the first part of her nickname for something a little more crowd-pleasing like…hey, Anne sounds nice) wouldn’t come out to play because she’s always called on in case of emergency and never gets to simply live a life. Caitlin agrees to help facilitate that.
  • There’s no version of Harrison Wells this week, but the word is we’ll have yet another new iteration on board before too long. Hopefully one without a distracting accent.
  • The Book of Ralph has a second volume. Ralph spent his summer on a James Bondian hunt for a missing woman named Sue Dearborn, which happens to be the maiden name of Ralph’s wife in the comics, Sue Dibny. You do the math.

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