The Flash: 6.18 Pay the Piper
Pay the Piper, the penultimate episode of season six, wasn't terrible, but it did fail to build any kind of tension for what should be an impending final showdown. This was due to the lack of emphasis on Eva, the main antagonist. Instead the focus was built upon the return of characters Godspeed and Pied Piper, both of which have new back stories due to Crisis on Infinite Earths. Each character served a purpose, but it just felt unfocused with the story trying to tackle a little too much unnecessarily. This episode felt more like a setup for season seven than a conclusion of the current one.
The biggest disappointment was the lack of emphasis around Barry’s supposed depleting speed, outside of his speed-o-meter and a few scenes showing a struggle to run fast. The final sequence of this episode looked stunning, superbly shot with outstanding effects; but how could he run around the city consistently with Godspeed, throwing lightning bolts and come out barely unscathed when he previously failed to stop a bullet hitting Joe or struggled to dodge some glass shards? Yes, I know, he almost fell off the building, but it didn’t feel impactful.
Godspeed’s inclusion was random, and clearly a setup for him to be the antagonist in season seven. Though it's a fine idea it, arguably should’ve been saved for the final episode. Nevertheless, his presence was nothing short of visually striking, even if the story of Godspeed using speed drones is a little dull, with equally clichéd and laughable dialogue. I think they missed a trick here; Godspeed opened this season with a phenomenal episode. Closing it alongside Eva would’ve been very tongue in cheek but would also have been a nice little gem, especially if they intend to use him next season.
The scenes inside the mirror dimension were frustrating. Iris’ little recoded speech didn’t quite execute the intended emotion and why only now she’s venturing out to find Kamila and Singh is anybody’s guess. To see the potential expansion for the mirror-verse was thought provoking but a little too late and lacking emphasis. It was equally a shame that it failed to create any forward momentum; only Iris’ mental state seems to be creating any kind of urgency which at this stage is bitterly disappointing. Thankfully the performance from Candice Pattern was good enough to fulfil the contained, almost forgotten plot.
Liberation really picked up the pace in terms of Eva’s motivations and how she plans to execute them, and while the decrease in episodes this season is understandable, it’s unforgiveable that Pay the Piper stops it dead. Ending this episode with Eva emerging from some kind of chamber for an unknown reason didn’t do much outside of reminding the audience that she is alive and hates her husband. It adds a lot of expectation for her character in the final episode.
The return of the Pied Piper actually injected some fun storytelling; seeing the once enemy turned ally of the Flash once again become the enemy, due to timeline changes caused by the events of Crisis, was hilarious. We see a new side to Hartley, one that doesn’t act like a stereotypical villain but one that simply resents the Flash for putting his boyfriend in peril. Between Hartley, Barry and Cisco, there’s an interesting dynamic, as both Barry and Cisco technically have no memory of the events Hartley hates them for. The energy created from these scenes really helps propel the episode along, and while it looks like Godspeed will be the antagonist for season seven, it also seems that Hartley could well join Team Flash. It’s great, but was this the time to be setting it up?
Pay the Piper is not what you’d expect from a penultimate episode, it didn’t properly build on the antagonist’s arc and it failed to continue the general momentum from the previous instalment. By no means was this a bad episode; what it achieved best of all was capitalizing on the teams family dynamic, with them finally realising they are stronger together. The rushed feeling was definitely present but that’s forgivable given the circumstances that this was perhaps not supposed to be the penultimate episode.