- by Jeff Beck
The Flash: The Complete Sixth Season: Aims High, but Settles for Average (Blu-ray)
Last season, "The Flash" delivered another exciting set of episodes that, while somewhat dampened by a lackluster villain and a familiar structure, still managed to provide the thrills its fans crave through its remarkable blend of genres, strong characters, and compelling story arcs. That being said, it was hoped that season six would be able to get the show back up to the top level of quality that we've seen throughout most of the show, giving us something more than a stand-in villain that needs to be stopped by the end of the season. Will Team Flash's latest outing be the one that puts it back in the upper echelons of superhero adaptations, or will this finally be the year that superhero fatigue catches up with The Scarlet Speedster?
This season, the show does something a little different by splitting it into two different storylines with two different villains. The first half of the season deals with Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candice Patton) dealing with the loss of their daughter Nora. Four months after the event, they are hard at work on their usual jobs: Barry defending the city as The Flash, and Iris investigating stories for her paper (and helping out the team where she can).
Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) meets an old colleague, Ramsey Rosso (Sendhil Ramamurthy), for coffee and learns that he wants to try curing cancer patients (including himself) with dark matter that is kept at STAR Labs. She refuses, trying to tell him how dangerous it is, but he finds another source and injects himself. This turns him into an extremely dangerous metahuman who wants nothing more than to spread his "cure" to all of humanity. Meanwhile, the date for Flash's vanishing has been pushed up to December 2019, and furthermore, Barry learns that he will have to die to save everyone, causing great strain among Team Flash.
The second half sees our heroes track a secret syndicate called "Black Hole" that we learn is headed by McCullough Tech. CEO Joseph Carver (Eric Nenninger). In the course of her investigation, Iris is pulled into a mirror universe, where she becomes trapped with Carver's wife, who was thought to have died six years ago. Meanwhile, a mirror copy of Iris takes her place, carrying out the will of her master as she goes about playing her part. Other dangers include Barry potentially losing his speed forever, a new Wells that could be taken over by Eobard Thawne, and other random metahumans showing up to wreak havoc. Once again, Team Flash will have to put their lives on the line to bring peace back to Central City.
As mentioned, the show tries something a little different this time by splitting the season into two halves, with the main reason being to prevent the fatigue caused by having only one main villain for the entire season. This was probably for the best, for while one main villain for the whole season has worked decently in the past (Thawne, The Thinker, etc.), it could also lead to a noticeably weaker season when the villain isn't quite as well-developed (Cicada).
The first half works pretty well with Dr. Rosso (or "Bloodwork" as he becomes known) as the main baddie, with his "cure" turning people into his zombie slaves, and therefore tossing a nice horror element into the mix. The only real problem with his arc is that the end of it is rather anticlimactic. Obviously I'm not going to get into detailed spoilers, but let's just say that the climactic confrontation could have used a little more excitement, instead of just being over and done with in the blink of an eye.
However, the shortcomings in the villain's arc are made up for with the rest of the characters as they attempt to prepare for the coming "Crisis" that will supposedly see the death of Barry Allen, a sacrifice that would save billions of lives from an antimatter wave. Telling friends and family is hard enough, but watching them try to come to terms with what has already been deemed a certainty provides for several great character moments in the first half of the season.
The second half of the season is rather strange in that there's somewhat a lack of a main villain, at least until near the end of the season. This would probaly be a good point to bring up the fact that the season was cut short by three episodes because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the full arc is not here in this season, and will not be finished until season seven. This is all to say that this is based on what was completed and presented as the complete sixth season of the show, which sadly left its main villain in a rather subdued state until the last episode or two.
In a similar fashion to the first half of the season, the faults in the villain's storyline are overcome by its other elements, mainly its intriguing storylines that include Barry trying to save his speed, doppelgangers running amok, Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) investigating a missing person case, and Nash Wells (Tom Cavanagh) trying to cope with other iterations of Wells in his head. Again, it would've been great if we could have gotten the entire arc as we were originally supposed to, but what we got was at least strong enough to keep it at a decent level.
Overall, with weak elements of the villains' respective stories, but stronger elements making up for them, both halves of the season pretty much balance out to it being a decent season overall. The characters, main story arcs, and action are still running strong, while it still appears as though the writers have further work to do in regards to the antagonists. It's also fair to say that it was a slight improvement over the previous season, for at least these villains were a little more engaging than Cicada. It's definitely going to be interesting to see how this arc ends when the final three episodes air as the opening of the next season, though it'll no doubt also be a little disjointing as it tries to merge with the next storyline as well. Perhaps it will be the one to finally bring the show back to its peak. Until then, as always, it's very much being looked forward to.
"The Flash: The Complete Sixth Season" comes to Blu-ray in a 16:9, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. As per usual, the picture is beautifully sharp and clear, highlighting the show's multitude of impressive visual effects. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and score in excellent quality. Overall, the fans will no doubt be pleased with the stunning treatment the show continues to receive for its home release.
The Best of DC TV's Comic-Con Panels San Diego 2019 (51 Minutes): Comic-Con highlights from DC's TV shows, including Arrow, The Flash, Black Lightning, Batwoman, and Supergirl.
Deleted Scenes (14 Minutes): A generous helping of deleted sequences spread across the four discs.
Gag Reel (7 Minutes)
Kiss Kiss Breach Breach - Noir with Commentary by Showrunner/Executive Producer Eric Wallce
All Five Episodes of "Crisis on Infinite Earths"
- Crisis Past and Present: Kevin Conroy Bat Legend (3 Minutes)
- Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Architect's Return (12 Minutes)
- Crisis Past and Present: Superman vs. Superman (5 Minutes)
- Characters in Crisis: Pariah (4 Minutes)
- Crisis Management (13 Minutes)
- Character in Crisis: The Anti-Monitor (5 Minutes)
While season six of "The Flash" continues to struggle a bit in the antagonist department, it does a great job making up for it with its strong main characters, compelling story arcs, and thrilling action, and though it once again doesn't quite hit the high marks of some of the previous outings, it still results in another season that delivers plenty for fans to enjoy.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.
Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.