Last week’s episode, “Dead Man Running,” lacked the emotional impact that readily encompassed the first two episodes of The Flash’s season six. That’s not to say it was a bad episode, it was just less emotional. Thankfully, though, “There Will Be Blood” brings the emotion back tenfold, bringing both Cisco and Joe’s reactions to Barry’s looming death to the forefront in a gut-wrenching and creepy episode.
Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) has always been one of the strongest characters on The Flash, but he’s never received the focus he deserves, especially when it comes to expressing his emotions. Perhaps the last time we really saw him express himself fully was right after Flashpoint and he was angry with Barry (Grant Gustin) because time travel had resulted in his brother’s death. However, this episode sees Cisco in denial of Barry’s death. The tech genius can’t understand why his friend won’t entertain a solution to save his life.
This was nicely juxtaposed with Ramsey’s (Sendhil Ramamurthy) continued efforts to save his own life. As Joe (Jesse L. Martin) notes, “You can’t always save everyone, but you can always save someone.” Barry takes that to heart in his attempts to convince Cisco that they should absolutely work to save Ramsey’s life instead of his own. On one hand, Barry’s being selfless, sure, but the idea is that, as a leader, the tough decisions don’t make themselves no matter how much you want them to.
Cisco makes several great points. Why isn’t Barry trying to save his own life? It’s clear Cisco believes that saving Barry may still mean saving everyone else, but Cisco also hasn’t seen what Barry has seen, either. And so Cisco eventually makes the heartbreaking choice to save Ramsey’s life over Barry’s and it garners some of the most emotionally effective moments of the episode.
Carlos Valdes has always brought such heart to Cisco, but he rarely gets to do big emotional scenes, and his denial over Barry dying and needing him to fight it is a terrific parallel to “A Flash of the Lightning,” which saw Iris react the same way. His defiance in the face of Barry’s disappointment and his misery over a world without his friend coalesces into a performance that is deeply moving and heartbreaking. It’s like going through the five stages of grief in one go, except no one’s really getting to the acceptance part of it. As a side note: It’s weird that Barry says he isn’t ok with it in terms of dealing with his death, but I expect more exploration of that later on.
What’s more is that they both made several great points. Cisco doesn’t want to live in a world without his friend and Barry just wants everyone to live and that’s enough for him right now. It’s easy to understand where they’re both coming from. For Barry, saving Ramsey would be the last good thing he did for someone before being claimed by death.
Sadly, that plan doesn’t work out and everyone’s disappointed by how far gone Ramsey truly is, especially after breaking the Hippocratic Oath and going on a killing spree. He’s a full-fledged villain now. Whereas Ramsey’s survival is more important and he’s desperate to live, Barry still wants to save people ahead of himself. It’s a fascinating dichotomy. Treating death and the fear of death as humanity’s ultimate nemesis is a fascinating and multilayered theme that’s being done really well this season.
While it was unclear whether Joe knew about what would happen to Barry during “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” the audience was finally let in on his feelings at the very end of the episode. In perhaps one of the most heart-wrenching scenes ever, Joe tells Barry it’s unfair that he has to die when he’s done so much as The Flash. What’s interesting about Barry’s response is that he doesn’t think he’s above death the way Ramsey obviously does. How can you fight something that is certain? Everyone dies at some point and death doesn’t care who you are or what you’ve done, so Joe pointing out the unfairness of it all is poignant.
Barry then tells Joe he’s grateful for all that he’s done for him and it’s a beautiful and emotional conversation because, at the end of the day, Joe saved Barry from a life in the system, gave him a home when no one else did, and served as a positive role model in Barry’s life. So, it is a moment of growth when Barry gives voice to Joe’s impact on turning out a good man. It’s been a very long time since Jesse L. Martin has gotten to flex his acting skills with good material. The entire scene was so emotionally raw and both Martin and Grant Gustin sell the hell out of it.
While the episode was an incredibly solid and heartbreaking outing, the fact that Iris is relegated to helping Ralph find the elusive Sue Dearbon only for the big heart-to-heart with him to go to Joe is a bit unsatisfying. Now, I don’t expect for every character to get big stuff every single episode, but since it is Iris who brought Ralph more clues about Sue and it’s her husband who is dying soon, the conversation would’ve been more heartfelt had she passed on some wisdom about loss and having something to live for. After all, Iris almost died in season three, so she would know what that’s like.
Additionally, Ralph could’ve talked to Iris about how she is feeling regarding Barry’s death. I don’t need to see Barry and Iris having the same conversation about him dying every single episode (season three did that and it got tiring) and everyone else should be able to deal with it, too. However, considering the camera lingered on her for longer after Barry once again says he can’t be saved means she still has a lot of feelings on the matter. A one-on-one conversation between her and Ralph would have expanded upon both of their emotions in one fell swoop.
All in all, however, “There Will Be Blood” was a strong outing and took the time to focus on Cisco and Joe, two characters who are in desperate need of attention, while continuing to further Ramsey’s plot without forgetting about the fast approaching “Crisis on Infinite Earths”.