THE FLASH Season 6 Episode 17 Review: Liberation

Season Six of The Flash has really struggled to build up some momentum ever since Crisis came and went. Part of this is just down to having some unexpected breaks splitting up episodes that weren't planned to be far apart, but there’s also been precious little done to develop the Mirror Master plotline. Tellingly, the story picked up more this episode than it has in the past several weeks combined because Eva finally stepped outside of her mirror and revealed herself as Iris’s abductor. 

Being kicked out of his home turned out to be the shock to his system that Barry needed to finally spring into action, and it wasn’t long before he took over the West-Horton home with a web of interconnected conspiracy boards all trying to prove the real Iris vanished. Grant Gustin did a fantastic job playing a manic, slightly deranged Barry, and his performance was strengthened by Danielle Nicolet being an excellent straight man during his breakdown. One dropped trait from the first few episodes of the show is that Barry was supposedly infamous among friends and family for buying into weird conspiracies. I’ve always felt it was a shame to lose such an interesting character quirk, and the absolute hilarity of watching Barry try to talk Cecile through his failed attempts at finding a Martian or a multiverse link to explain Iris’s recent changes convinced me of that all over again. Barry's character is always vastly improved whenever the writers lean into his weird side - it helps balance his idealism and occasionally saccharine sweetness. 

Mirror Iris also showed a different side, as we learned of her secret desire to be truly alive instead of a puppet on Eva’s strings. It's an interesting enough idea — a classic trope in sci-fi is to use clones or other artificial beings to explore what it is that makes someone human — I just wish it had been established earlier. There would have been an added layer of drama to her manipulating Barry if it'd been clearer she was ambivalent about her role as her “mother’s” minion, and now that Eva pulled on Mirror Iris it's doubtful that dilemma will ever be touched on. If the creepy details Mirror Iris shared in her taunts are true, you'd at least hope Barry would have the chance to process much she used and violated him. Instead, the episode breezes right past the betrayal and goes straight into Mortal Kombat territory by having Mirror Iris grow some sword-arms to attack Barry. 

The ensuing fight she has with Barry is one of the most brutal on the show, as Barry gets essentially stabbed over and over by her mirror shards with his limited speed healing offering little protection. It was an effective way to drive home how out of depth Barry is when it comes to facing Mirror Master without his speed, which he's still no closer to restoring. I was also relieved that the real Iris was finally given something to do besides stare sadly out of mirrors. It was very satisfying to see her save Barry by tricking Eva after weeks of having her be a helpless prisoner. Even if she still can't communicate with the others, having Iris actively fight Eva on her own makes her feel much more involved in the overall storyline and is a huge improvement over where we were. 

In that same vein, I appreciated that during Barry and Iris’s ending love pledge there was just as much focus given to Iris promising to find a way home to Barry as there was Barry vowing to rescue her. The Flash doesn't use popular music as often as the average CW show, but playing Freya Riding’s “Still Have You” over the final moments of Barry and Iris reaching for one another across dimensions was the cherry on top of that whole ending. I'd be interested to see if the crew found more moments this season where they were able fit in a song; the music in the Arrowverse tends to just be generic action scores, but I think a colorful cast like The Flash has is helped by moments where the music matches the level of energy they’re bringing. We only have a few episodes left for the shortened run, so we won't have to wait long to see.

Written by Kaitlin Roberts, THE FLASH Beat Writer