THE FLASH Season 6 Episode 14 Review: The Death of the Speed Force

Beloved though he may be, the sad truth is that Wally West’s status as one of DC’s most popular characters and Keiynan Lonsdale’s natural charisma, The Flash has often shafted Wally’s storylines in favor of other characters. Even after becoming Kid Flash, he never was given a chance to show his prowess as a speedster--often he was functioning as a warm up act for Barry, rather than really participating in the fights. It's easy to see why Lonsdale would be tempted away from the series given this treatment, but even so, the awkward way Wally, a member of Barry’s family, just sort of immediately vanished without a real goodbye or any sort of closure for his character was one of the lowest moments for the show. 

While Wally’s had a few minor guest appearances since departing, there was nothing that had him serve a role beyond a background member of the West-Allen family. This time, however, his return was the main selling point of the episode. Having Wally suit back up as Kid Flash and reaffirm his status as a speedster protege with an impressive new array of abilities did really feel like an overdue attempt at an apology from the writers, and even if it can't quite make up for the opportunities missed by losing him as a lead, it was still satisfying to watch and made his partnership with Barry far more equitable. 

Barry’s been thrust into the role of mentor quite a bit these past few seasons, but this new inverted dynamic with Wally makes a compelling case that he's much better served when he's more of a lovable screwup. It’s becoming a running gag amongst fans about how bad Barry is at using the Speed Force responsibly, why not lean into that? Casting Wally as the reliable, spiritual speedster who’s horrified at the implications of Barry’s dangerously reckless behavior gave Barry a chance to do far more self reflection about his role as a hero than training Ralph or Nora did. 

I was also pleasantly surprised that Wally’s Buddhism ended up being more than just a token excuse for his new spiritual gifts, and instead offered genuinely valuable insight into what drives him to help others. While his tragically brief time on Legends of Tomorrow was spectacular, his quips about zen and taking it slow always made it feel like more of a gag than an actual element of his character. There were moments in this episode that echoed that attitude, but ultimately his story about the Buddha and the mustard seed was one of the best Wally moments we've had. It showcased his maturity far more than any of Joe’s pep talks could have. 

Barry's final goodbye to the Speed Force was the other beautifully quiet moments of the episode, despite it being the death of a fundamental element of the universe. The series has come dangerously close to overplaying the “Barry watches his mother die again” card, and if you'd warned me beforehand we'd be getting yet another version I’d have called it a mistake. But to my surprise in that moment it ended up working magnificently; Michelle Harrison did a wonderful job of emulating her performance as Nora Allen without completely copying it. I felt the pain of Barry losing another source of parental love without forgetting the Speed Force was something far more ethereal than a person, a tough balance to get right. While Barry's decision to create his own Speed Force was unexpected, it felt symbolically fitting that after the death of his “parent” Barry would take the steps needed to become a fully realized and independent speedster. 

I only wish half of the effort put into developing Barry’s relationships was given to Eva and Iris. I was initially hopeful being one on one with the big bad would give Iris the individual storyline she deserves, but instead Iris has been forced into mournfully staring out of mirrors. She might as well be locked away in a tower. It's so disappointing that after all the promise showed with Iris forming her own team at Citizen and coming into her own as a journalist, she's now once again locked out of the main storyline. You'd think in an episode trying to rectify the way one West sibling was sidelined, there might be an ounce of self awareness for how the other has been left waiting in the wings once again, but alas. Here's to hoping we don't have to wait another six seasons for Iris to get her due.

Written by Kaitlin Roberts, THE FLASH Beat Writer