THE FLASH Season 6 Episode 7 Review: The Last Temptation of Barry Allen, Part 1

For the final lead-in to Crisis, The Flash is closing out this first half of the season with a two-parter, something the series and its various sister shows on the CW very rarely do. While the series has generally benefited more the more serialized format of this season, it's still struggled with keeping the momentum up. But despicable having more time take its time telling the story as a two-parter, this episode jumps headfirst into the chaos of Bloodwork’s attack and never really slows down. 

Thanks to an unwise blood transfusion, Barry is trapped inside his mind while Russo plays with his reality. It's an exciting enough premise, although both the suspense and the horror of Barry's visions are dulled by the familiarity of this set-up. Between the journeys into the Speed Force and the recurring trips to psychic landscapes, having Barry talk to illusions of his loved ones is practically a show staple at this point. What kept the episode from feeling like a rerun more than snugness was a stellar performance from Grant Gustin — it was one of the strongest he’s had in the whole series, for my money. His utter heartbreak at the illusion of the daughter he’ll never get to meet and his fury over the Speed Force denying him the chance to live were both incredibly potent. 

Many of Barry’s grievances with the Speed Force had some valid points — it’s a clearly manipulative move on the Speed Force’s part to always take the form of Barry’s late mother, and a force of nature, sentient though it may be, is unable to understand the human cost of Barry’s sacrifice. It's often hard, as an audience member, to seriously sympathize with the hero being tempted by a villainous offer like Bloodwork’s cure; you don’t have to be a very savvy viewer to know trusting a supervillain is inevitably going to end badly, and it can result in the characters seeming pretty dense. 

But while Barry’s judgment was no doubt compromised by his illness, his outburst felt like the result of years of buried resentment about how the Speed Force has controlled his destiny, rather than a forced leave of his senses so the plot could move along. I loved that his seemingly fatal blow to the Speed Force was framed as dark echo of Thawne’s murder of Nora. The creepiness of that callback blended nicely with the uncanny valley that followed Barry’s possession by Bloodwork. 

Iris’s Team Citizen is also more and more becoming a favorite dynamic of mine. Not only is it satisfying to see the writers finally showcase Iris’s journalistic legacy, but giving her a supporting cast outside of STAR Labs has led to some insightful conversations for Iris’s character that feel long overdue. Iris’s name on the byline has often been used to gauge her future relationship status with Barry, but as Allegra points out, there's an inherent tragedy of Iris eulogizing the Flash that stands out even more in light of the fact that Iris can’t publicly reveal he was her husband. Writing the story not only shows her inner strength, but it's a beautiful bit of symmetry for the woman who introduced the world to the Streak to know be one remembering him. Given how important the newspaper has been over the years, I'm glad they're treating it as a defining moment for the Crisis saga.

Written by Kaitlin Roberts, THE FLASH Beat Writer