REVIEW: The Flash Season 9, Episode 5 “The Mask of the Red Death Part 2”

“The Mask of the Red Death Part 2” feels more like a series finale than a season finale. It’s got all the hallmarks of a capper – minus a worthy villain – with Barry’s ideology at the forefront. And it’s a good episode, even great in parts, but some of the same problems that have plagued The Flash in its later years, especially this season, linger.

Red Death imposes her authoritarian rule over the world. Barry and the Rogues disagree about their priorities. The source of Red Death’s telepathy is discovered.

Last week left Barry and friends on the ropes, and “The Mask of the Red Death Part 2” puts the screws to them even harder, but it starts with Kramer. She’s at the police station, wondering where all the red lightning is coming from, when she suddenly finds herself alone and surrounded by supervillains. So Kramer uses her own powers on the evil Rogues and incapacitates them – until Red Death binds her with those power-dampener handcuffs at super speed. This is a good scene, and exactly how you establish a villain’s threat level while not making the good guys look like idiots. Kramer doesn’t hesitate to use her powers on the supervillains, but Red Death is too fast for her. It also gives Kramer something to do, if only briefly; the Arrowverse has (had?) a habit of stuffing its shows with too many characters and almost universally sidelining the better ones in favor of the lame-os. But now, Red Death has a home base, and the police department is perfect, as she considers herself the true arbiter of justice.


With Barry’s backup, the Rogues, losing faith in him and losing interest in saving the day, Barry turns to Cecile, asking her to use her powers to help locate Ryan. But Cecile ends up presenting them with a choice because when she reads Red Death’s mind/emotions/whatever the hell Cecile actually does, she discovers that Blaine is still alive, and he’s chained up in the warehouse the way Barry was. Once more, the choice becomes the greater good or the immediate good: do they head to the police station and gang up on Red Death while she’s distracted and not expecting them, or do they rescue Blaine and give up their momentary advantage? Of course, Barry wants to save Blaine, but the Rogues would rather leave him and stop Red Death. Fortunately, Khione is there to lecture them about the sanctity of life, after which they do what all the Marvel movies and shows do now and tell the audience how great Khione is. But, of course, annoying hippie lady gets her way, and they head to the warehouse.

That’s when things start to get really good. Blaine is alive, alright – and he’s bait. Red Death knew Barry would come back to save Blaine, and she set a trap for him and the Rogues. Red Death takes the last of Barry’s speed, rendering him completely helpless to stop her. Then, she returns to the police department and projects avatars of herself all over the world, keeping an eye on everyone and dispensing immediate, lethal justice to criminals. She also tells Barry how she’s powerful enough to do this: she made a deal with Gorilla Grodd to amplify her telepathic ability. Barry had previously reformed Grodd and left him in the Serengeti to locate and fix other members of his gorilla tribe (I’ll be honest; I have no memory of this), but he forgot about him, and that left Grodd open to helping Red Death so she can help him find the missing gorillas.

The Flash The Mask of the Red Death Part 2

So it’s Barry’s ideology, his belief in the immediate good, that has caused all of this trouble. He refused to leave Blaine behind, and now Red Death has sapped him of all of his speed. He wanted to reform Grodd, and now Grodd is helping Red Death take over the world. And the Rogues he insisted on making part of his team are abandoning him when things are at their worst. This is an excellent setup, as it puts Barry’s philosophy, the essence of his heroism, to its ultimate test. His attempts at redeeming villains have failed, and his determination to save even the worst among us was anticipated and manipulated by his nemesis. Grodd himself is a microcosm of that; Barry’s heroism failed him, so Red Death’s villainy is all he has left. This is part of why I say that “The Mask of the Red Death Part 2” feels like a series finale; it’s the culmination of everything Barry’s learned about the world and himself.

And when Barry is at his lowest, there’s only one man who can set him straight: Joe West. Joe has one more talk with Barry, one more entreaty for Barry to trust his instincts and believe in himself. But this time, it’s not so much as a father and mentor that Joe comes to him, but as a peer. Joe is similarly doubting himself, feeling displaced by Cecile and lacking anything to contribute to Barry and his friends. But Barry has learned so much from Joe that he’s able to return the favor, to lift up his dad the way Joe has always lifted him. And he’s right; Joe is the one who gave Barry his moral center, and he continues to do that. It’s something universal about fathers: even when they’ve got nothing left to teach their children, their children need them. It’s been nine years, but these scenes remain as powerful as they’ve always been, and Joe serving as the embodiment of Barry’s philosophy is why he’s so important.

The Flash The Mask of the Red Death Part 2

And, of course, Barry figures it out, thanks to Joe. He convinces Grodd to turn on Red Death and help him, and he manages to get his speed back thanks to a backup spark of Speed Force he left with the great ape. (If that didn’t happen in the episode where he left Grodd in Africa, it’s one hell of a deus ex machina.) And Barry returns to battle Red Death one last time, inspiring the Rogues to jump into action and help him. Even the Earth-1 Batwoman shows up to help take down Red Death because even when she’s a mass-murdering lunatic, a man can’t hit a woman. So, Red Death is defeated, there’s a big party where Joe reveals that he’s leaving for the country with his daughter (whose name escapes me) while Cecile stays with Team Flash and visits on weekends, Chester and Allegra finally get together, and Iris is pregnant. This screams series finale.

And there’s good and bad in that. Javicia Leslie is still awful as Red Death; her angry villain rants come off more like tantrums, and she never captures the right tone, especially for an antagonist that’s this important. The rush to get to the end of this storyline means that some of these plot elements don’t make much sense. Where did the Rogues come from all of a sudden? They’d gone their separate ways to be with their loved ones, but suddenly they’re backing up Barry again? Did they all see the lighting as he sped around the city and find each other? (And that parting line from them is one of the corniest things I’ve ever heard.) Why is there such a focus on Kramer escaping from Red Death only for the episode to forget she exists? What happened to Red Death’s henchmen? A couple of them get blasted when Grodd overloads her brain or whatever, but a quick clip of Barry rounding them up would’ve been nice. Why is Joe treating his marriage like a weird pseudo-divorce? His plan is idiotic and makes no sense, especially when they could have just said he was staying home to take care of their daughter to write him out of the rest of the season. And why do the writers and producers think they can replicate Batman’s iconography with Batwoman? They’re sorely mistaken; every time she does something Batmanish is just a reminder of how much cooler it all would’ve been with Batman.

The Flash The Mask of the Red Death Part 2

But there’s some more good stuff too. First of all, even though the way they write Joe out of the show is stupid, I’m glad they didn’t kill him. But most promising is Khione’s kiss of life with Blaine, during which she emits some Frost-like ice breath, and Blaine seems happy and comforted. Does this mean that Frost is still alive in her somewhere? And if Frost is alive, is Caitlin too? I really hope this is where they go with it; Khione is an awful character, and Caitlin needs to be back before the finale, especially after the unceremonious way they got rid of her. I also quite liked the special effects in this episode, particularly Grodd’s animation. Maybe sitting through so much awful Marvel CGI has softened me a little, but I think Grodd looks good, and certainly much better than anything on, for example, She-Hulk. This isn’t a great episode, but it’s a good one, and it would have served as a decent ending for the series. Will the following eight episodes feel extraneous after this?

The Flash – "The Mask of the Red Death Part 2"

Plot - 7
Acting - 7
Progression - 9
Production Design - 8
Themes - 9



“The Mask of the Red Death Part 2” is a mostly satisfying wrap-up of the Red Death storyline, with classic Flash themes and some good action and special effects. It’s a little rushed, so some of the plot elements don’t quite gel, and there are some big leaps in logic, but it ends this leg of the final season well and promises some nice payoffs in the future.

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