Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-Ray I reviewed in this post. The opinions I share are my own.
The Flash hit a bit of a rough patch in season five and, with the exception of some high points, it really felt like some of the show’s mojo was starting to fade (to the extent that the creative energy was generally lacking). However, season six saw a much-need showrunner change, with Eric Wallace taking over from Todd Helbing and it did wonders in the sense that much of the show’s vivacity was back. Split into two parts, The Flash season six was fairly ambitious, engaging, and packed quite an emotional punch thanks to the back half of the season and strong performances by series leads Grant Gustin and Candice Patton.
Season six picks up a few months after Nora West-Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy) sacrificed herself to save her family at the end of season five. Iris (Patton) and Barry (Gustin) are still dealing with the loss of their daughter when their world is turned upside down yet again. They get a visit early on from The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett), a cosmic being who claims that Barry must die to save the multiverse. Naturally, that’s not the only thing on their plate. Season six also introduces two new villains: Dr. Ramsey Rosso, aka Bloodwork (Sendhil Ramamurthy), whose intent to prevent death itself turns deadly for others, and Eva McCulloch (Efrat Dor), who can manipulate reflective surfaces. She traps Iris in a mirror and uses her double to stage an escape to kill Joseph Carver, the husband who stole her tech and left her behind.
It’s a weird thing to be writing about The Flash’s sixth season, especially because it ended prematurely with episode 19 and, due to the pandemic, was unable to complete the season’s storylines as intended. That left us with a cliffhanger that saw Iris still trapped within the mirror world and Barry no closer to finding and saving her. Meanwhile, Eva succeeded in killing Carver and it seemed like the first box she checked off the list following her escape, and there’s still no clue what the extent of her plans are in the aftermath. And so, it’s hard to properly judge the season in its entirety knowing that there was still more story to tell, but there’s enough material from the season to do so well enough.
The first half of the season started off incredibly strong. Emotions were on high with “Crisis on Infinite Earths” approaching and, even though it seemed unlikely that Barry would actually die, The Flash did a good job building up the tension and emotional stakes for the characters. However, the introduction of Bloodwork fizzled out most of the momentum that was building. Ramamurthy’s performance as Bloodwork was arguably superior to the character himself, and his plans to turn Central City’s citizens into blood-controlled zombies and use them to live forever didn’t click as intended. More interesting than Bloodwork’s diabolical plans, however, were the parallels between his and Barry’s handling of, and brushes with, death.
Whereas Bloodwork felt he deserved a second lease on life, Barry’s self-sacrificing nature made his decision to die for the good of others true to his character, but also in opposition to Ramsey. It wasn’t until Barry’s mind was invaded by Ramsey that he began to really question what it was that he really wanted and how life (and death) had also been unfair to him. What more could he give? What more could death take? Didn’t he deserve the chance to live out his life with Iris, and eventually Nora, without a catastrophe having to pull him away? In that vein, the first two episodes of season six, as well as the two-parter, “The Last Temptation of Barry Allen,” were the strongest in terms of storytelling in the lead-up to “Crisis.”
In hindsight, the second half of the season was much stronger. Coming off the heels of “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Barry’s powers start acting funky but he doesn’t pay any mind to it until Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) shows up later to tell him that the speed force is dying following his run-in with Ramsey. The idea that the speed force is, in its own way, a sentient force that can die out was an exciting addition to the show. We’ve seen Barry lose his powers before, but it was always due to some draining force and not because of the speed force itself. This time, it’s his fault for the death of the speed force and the notion that Wally could feel it dwindling because he shared a connection with it as well very much hints toward the intrinsic tethering the speed force has with all speedsters, with Barry at the forefront of the running line, as it were.
Having said that, it’s an odd choice for Barry’s connection with the speed force to be so behind six seasons in. Wally’s return to Central City implied that his exploration of his powers led him to realize that the speed force was dying. Why didn’t Barry know this? Perhaps The Flash was leading up to the point where the return of his powers made his connection with the speed force even stronger. As it stands, however, the show needs to stop hindering Barry as a speedster so much and allow him to embrace the full breadth of his abilities once and for all. It’s been six seasons and no one should be more of an expert than he is in the way the speed force does or doesn’t work.
What the second half really kicks off is Iris’ investigation into Black Hole and Carver’s shady dealings (it never gets old when a corporate man is the bad guy). Unfortunately, her work led to her kidnapping by Eva, who manipulated Iris and played into her desire to help her escape the mirror world, unknowing that she was behind sending Mirror Iris into the real world to aid in her plans. Patton takes on a double role and the changes in Iris are subtle enough to have the audience question whether or not it’s the real Iris, especially at first. As exciting as this storyline was for the intrepid reporter, it did become frustrating due to how long she remained trapped inside the mirror without too much forward movement.
What’s more, once Barry finally figured out that Mirror Iris was not his real wife, the storyline meandered some more to the point that many wondered if Iris would ever make it out of that gray, one-roomed space. However, it was thrilling to watch Mirror Iris, who was persuasive, resourceful, and even cold to an extent, tip toe around her family and friends while going about her business. Her presence heightened the intrigue, though the season could’ve delved further into her transformation from being an Eva- controlled mirror double to becoming her own person with real desires and goals. The mirror world was also fascinating enough on its own and it should have been further explored.
Leaving the majority of scenes to one room was uninspired when we know Eva was moving to different locations. It would have been more believable if Iris had gotten to explore more of that space before she discovered what Eva was really up to. If she couldn’t investigate in the real world, the mirror world would have worked as a substitute. Considering that Eva pulled in Iris, Singh (Patrick Sabongui) and Kamilla (Victoria Park), there had to have been more people she’s tried to pull inside before that, right? And so, to have the mirror world be rather empty was a disappointment. But, despite some of the missed opportunities and Iris’ lengthy stay inside the mirror, this particular storyline was creatively ambitious for a show in its sixth season and it’s always engaging when an actor plays a dual role.
Elsewhere, season six introduced yet another iteration of Wells, this time it was Harrison “Nash” Wells (Tom Cavanagh), an Indiana Jones-type who didn’t add much to the season. He consistently attempted to get on the good side of Allegra (Kayla Compton), Iris’ new intern and the doppelganger of Nash’s old archaeology protege. The only interesting thing about Nash was his storyline involving Eobard Thawne, which left the door open for the villain’s potential return at some point in season seven.
The introduction of Sue Dearbon (Natalie Dreyfuss) was one of the more exciting new additions to the show. The show teased her for so long in the first half of season six that the buildup had the potential to overshadow her eventual arrival. However, Sue’s appearance and subplot didn’t disappoint. Although Hartley Sawyer was fired from the show, his character’s storyline didn’t take up too much space and Ralph and Sue made a good pair for the while that it lasted. Unfortunately, besides Cisco (Carlos Valdes) getting his time to shine in an episode focused on him and his grief over losing Cynthia and moving forward, his character got little else in the way of a personal storyline.
Blu-ray Special Features
The Flash season six Blu-ray includes quite a few features, including commentary on the episode “Kiss Kiss Breach Breach.” Perhaps the biggest marketing draw for the Blu-ray release has been the noir version of the episode. The noir episode itself, while still a fantastic showcase for Valdes, was nothing more than the original episode in black and white.
It’s honestly something that didn’t need to be saved for the Blu-ray, and it could’ve aired as a noir episode to begin with (but make it true noir and include period costumes!). That said, the commentary was the takeaway here as Wallace included a plethora of intriguing information about the episode and how it came together, as well as some additional commentary from Valdes about what he enjoyed most about being central to the episode’s storyline and what challenged him as an actor.
Just as Sawyer was removed from the Blu-ray’s cover, the actor was also (very obviously) edited out of the season six gag reel. While nothing comes close to the entertainment value of the season four gag reel, the season six bloopers were fun and featured a number of actor outtakes that included Gustin ad-libbing about being left in the pipeline (he joked about the team throwing Barry in there whenever they have disagreements), Patton spilling a drink on her shirt during a very serious bar scene in episode 11 and later struggling with the locks on the door of Barry and Iris’ loft, lots of swearing, dancing, giggling, and a very cute blooper involving Valdes and Danny Trejo, among several other shenanigans.
What’s more, the deleted scenes included some interesting moments, though it’s very obvious why many of them were cut for time (including a random and unnecessary pinball scene and another that sees Barry showing Ramsey around S.T.A.R. labs). One of the deleted scenes did confirm that Supergirl was the friend Iris was referring to when discussing her source and that Mirror Iris was the one who threw away the note so that Barry wouldn’t know anything was wrong after the episode “Marathon.”
However, there were two specific deleted scenes that should not have been cut at all. The first involved Cisco talking to Breacher about Cynthia, recalling the first time they met and how much she meant to him. The other featured Iris speaking with Joe about her feelings with regards to losing Barry and writing his obituary. On one hand, a Cisco scene being cut from a Cisco-centered episode made a certain amount of sense. He had the whole episode dedicated to his emotions and grief, after all.
On the other hand, cutting a scene where Iris expressed emotion over losing Barry and how she didn’t know what to do was a glaring and disappointing oversight, especially considering how little time she had to deal with Barry’s impending death onscreen. Keeping the scene would have provided insight into what she was thinking rather than assuming she had made peace with his death. Once again, storytelling is about allowing characters space to talk things out and Iris was definitely shortchanged in this regard during the first half of season six and this scene was too important to have been left out.
Finally, the fifth disc included all five episodes of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover and six bonus features. The most interesting were “Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Architects Return,” which detailed how writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez went about crafting perhaps the most famous of DC’s storylines and what the intent behind it was, and “Crisis Management,” a feature which highlighted the road to the five-part crossover, how it all came together (imagine an entire room full of writers from across the Arrowverse), and why Marc Guggenheim and co. wanted the crossover’s reach to extend beyond The CW’s DC universe.
Each of these features specifically provided intriguing insight into the decision-making process and just how much of a team effort everything was (no matter how slightly underwhelming the crossover itself turned out to be), including what it took to bring the storylines, scheduling, and cameos together.
The Flash: The Complete Sixth Season Blu-ray is now available to own.