The Flash better have something epic – or at least mildly entertaining – in store for its last few episodes because much of this final season has been a boring waste of time. Aside from money, I don’t understand why they came back for one more season. Nobody’s heart seems to be in it anymore, and they’re continuing the show just to continue it, like an office drone typing away at something he doesn’t understand anymore in a caffeine-fueled trance. “Wildest Dreams” is dullsville squared, a useless episode that’s more about its guest star than any of the main characters, and an insulting waste of time from a show that should be going to extremes to give its fans a fun send-off.
Iris worries when elements of Barry’s guidebook begin happening, but she gets sucked into a visitor’s dream and must face her fears head-on. Blaine evaluates his feelings for Khione, who can’t stop being annoying like a shark can’t stop swimming. Barry shows up periodically to worry about Iris and talk about cheese fries.
“Wildest Dreams” kicks off with Nia, a character I had no idea existed and had to look up online to understand what was happening. She’s primarily from Supergirl, so she must’ve come into it after I stopped forcing myself to watch that gender studies lecture disguised as a TV show. Nia is a superhero called Dreamer, who can do dream stuff. I mean that just as I said it, too; she can control “dream energy” and use it to do things like, according to some flashbacks, block tidal waves. She doesn’t do any of that on The Flash because it might have been fun or interesting, but she could totally do it if she wanted. Anyway, she’s having a dream of her own, where she navigates some dark tunnel filled with visions of crows, a mysterious hooded figure, and Iris – who dies.
Nia goes to Central City to find Iris, who, we’re told, meets Nia, Supergirl, Supergirl’s sister, and Batwoman for brunch every month, in case we were wondering why we’re supposed to be invested in their friendship. She tells Iris about the dream just before the hooded person appears and traps them in another dream. It’s one of those winding dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream dreams that fiction loves so much, with Iris and Nia going from being Central City cops to baristas at Jitters to pretty much just themselves watching Iris’ employees at The Central City Citizen (all of whom have nasty things to say about her, including Allegra). What could all this mean?
It’s obvious what it all means because Iris begins “Wildest Dreams” about to finish a big article that she believes will get her a Pulitzer, only to find that the title Allegra came up with is the one from Barry’s notebook of the future, the one for which she indeed wins a Pulitzer. So we’re back on Iris being uncomfortable knowing her future, feeling that her choices are gone because her destiny has been mapped out for her. Of course, she sits on the story rather than publishing it because she’d rather throw her career away than know it’s going to work out well for her. I understood this attitude before, but I thought she’d already gotten past this with Barry. Bringing it back feels like a waste of time, recovering well-trodden ground.
The point of the dreams, as far as Iris is concerned, is obvious right away. In the police station, Iris is a captain; at Jitters, she’s the boss of a bumbling crew of baristas (including Barry). She’s going through scenarios where she’s in control, the only one who can handle anything that comes up – taking down a criminal at the police station, fixing all the trouble at Jitters – because she’s afraid of not being in control of her real life. When they get to The Citizen, she’s herself because she’s already the boss, but her staff is disparaging her because this is how Iris feels about herself in light of Barry’s guidebook for time-travelers’ wives. She doesn’t feel like she’s earning everything because it’s all pre-ordained; it’s like fate is handing her a promising future on a silver platter.
How can Iris possibly fix this? By hearing Nia tell her how amazing she is! Okay, there’s a decent idea buried in there; Iris did earn her accomplishments, and just because she sees them manifest in the future doesn’t mean she didn’t bring them about through hard work. Nia even has a great line: “Destiny is the culmination of the choices we make.” This is a good message, and it fits Iris. But I’d rather it come from someone who actually matters to her and the show, not some guest star barely anybody knows. Or, better yet, have Iris come to this conclusion on her own. Iris is great, but that comes off better when it’s demonstrated than when someone just tells her. (This is also an example of what separates the writing in the early seasons from the writing after, say, season 4.)
After this conversation, “Wildest Dreams” becomes all about Nia. In its final season, The Flash leaves all of its regular characters behind to develop a guest star maybe three people know and even fewer care about. If it matters, the hooded person is Nia’s ancestor, the first Dreamer, who did this to help Nia become a stronger Dreamer, or something to that effect. No one from The Flash is present in this scene, and since the rest of the Arrowverse has long been canceled (unless Superman & Lois counts), this will never come up again. You’d think if they were going to have someone from another show hijack an episode, it would be a cool, fun, engaging character, but Nia is a bore. There’s nothing to her, and this feels like it could have been anybody.
Elsewhere in “Wildest Dreams,” Blaine has a kissing dream about Khione (which is scandalous on a CW show) and convinces himself he’s in love with her. If you don’t know where this is going, this is your first episode of season 9, and I can’t imagine you’ll be sticking around now. Blaine is trying to turn Khione into Frost, which results in a lecture that I think is really aimed at fans who they predicted wouldn’t like this useless, annoying character. I get keeping Frost dead; that was done well and made sense for the character. But killing off Caitlin for this hippie weirdo in the final season is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen a show do, and I know we’re supposed to sneer at Blaine for hurting the flower child’s feelings, but he’s the only one who’s coming off halfway human. Why don’t Barry or Iris seem to care that their best friend is gone forever and replaced with a replica? Angel did something like this in its final season, too, but that was a great storyline with a terrific new character who turned the entire team upside down over seeing the hollowed-out shell of someone they used to love, and it did it in fewer episodes than The Flash has to deal with Khione. (Dear God, I’m just realizing now that they’re trying to rip off the Illyria storyline from Angel and are screwing it up royally.) Anyway, this B plot doesn’t miss a prescribed beat: blowout, apology, forgiveness. Like the rest of the season, it’s impossible to care.