After a lackluster season five, The Flash returned with an emotion and heartbreaking season opener that sets the stage for what’s to come and leans into the gamut of emotions and grief following the disappearance of Nora West-Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy). New showrunner Eric Wallace refocuses the show to center its characters and the season six premiere is all the better for it.
Fittingly titled “Into the Void,” the season six premiere begins seconds after the season five finale. Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candice Patton) return to the time vault to discover that their daughter Nora’s message has been erased. Four months later and they’re still grieving, but in different ways. Barry is overly peppy, pushing himself and the team harder than ever before. Although Barry obviously feels the pain of his daughter’s disappearance, it’s Iris who reacts the most vehemently to the sting of Nora’s loss, which makes sense considering their differing reactions to her throughout season five.
The premiere also introduces Ramsey Rosso (Sendhil Ramamurthy), an old friend of Caitlin’s whose mother has died from HLH cancer. When he asks her out to lunch after the funeral, Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) is under the impression that he’s lonely and grieving the loss of his mother. However, Ramsey is only interested in gaining access to the dark matter from S.T.A.R. Labs in hopes that it’ll advance his cure for HLH cancer. Meanwhile, Team Flash must contend with the random appearances of black holes throughout the city.
“Into the Void” is a solid episode. It lays the foundations for what’s to come and offers a glimpse into the headspace of every character. For the first time since Killer Frost’s introduction as a separate personality, she’s finally getting a storyline of her own, while Caitlin takes a backseat. I’m still wary of this idea following the redundancy and nonsensical nature of past Caitlin/Killer Frost storylines, but I’m willing to see where it goes. In the meantime, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is intent on striking a work-life balance, leaving S.T.A.R. Labs to go on dates with Kamilla (Victoria Park). If done right, his storyline as a former metahuman adjusting to life as a civilian could prove interesting and Cisco deserves some development after how badly his cure storyline was handled last season.
The writers even found a clever workaround with regards to the metahuman of the week without coming up with a convoluted reason for why Chester is connected to the black holes. The episode has moments of genuine humor, but it’s balanced with pathos. Barry’s big save transpiring to the sounds of Queen’s Flash Gordon theme song is fitting. The scene is elevated by Candice Patton’s reaction to his possible death by black hole, which works to ramp up the tension that would have otherwise been missing. Queen’s song is so well-placed, in fact, that it’s hard not to fistpump.
While Barry gets a moment to share how he’s feeling about Nora, it’s Iris who carries the episode’s emotional crux. Patton is just so good throughout and her investigating plays a crucial role in the discovery of Chester’s connection to the black hole. However, it’s her big emotional scene with Grant Gustin on the balcony of S.T.A.R. Labs that is the most heartbreaking and hits the hardest emotionally. This is when the weight of her feelings collapse and she’s able to share the burden of her grief with Barry. “There’s no support group for what we’re experiencing,” she says and it’s true. They have to lean on each other instead of running away from their grief like they have been doing all summer.
Ironically, now that Nora is gone, Barry and Iris are back to being the heart of the show, which is a relief because The Flash had forgotten that they’re the core of the show for awhile there. Barry and Iris react differently to Nora’s disappearance, but they lean into those feelings later in the episode instead of ignoring them to pretend everything is ok. Grief is the common theme of “Into the Void” and it’s showcased in various ways throughout. Barry becomes Mr. Sunshine, in denial of Nora’s disappearance, while Iris is seemingly encompassed by the weight of her sadness. Meanwhile, Ramsey is also grieving, but he’s stuck in the anger stage of the process, unwilling to let death claim him, too.
Even upon a second watch, “Into the Void” works on multiple levels. It’s engaging, fast-paced, emotional, and lays the groundwork for what’s to come for Barry, Iris and the rest of the team. It slows down long enough to allow for emotionally impactful moments and thoughtful interactions. In fact, the episode is strengthened by its character depth and it’s the raw feelings of grief that drive the episode, powerfully building up to the hour’s primary action sequence. The episode wastes no time in revealing that Barry will die, either, and it creates an urgent tension that’ll surely be carried throughout the remaining episodes ahead of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.