CHECK : The Flash – Season 7 Episode 4 Strong Central City

I lost someone too.

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Officially, Central City Strong is the fourth episode of the seventh season of The Flash, but it’s supposed to be the season opener, and it shows. This week we have to deal with the effects of the Mirror Arc, which essentially serves as a checkpoint for characters to get them back on track as superheroes. In other words, it’s not the most exciting episode of the series, and last week’s boring ending makes it even slower. But it’s not bad, and while his thoughts on trauma are rather bland, it works as another example of the bond between Barry and Iris.

Central City is rebuilt after a confrontation with Eve, but a returning villain returns and threatens the rebuilding efforts. Barry oversteps his bounds, even for a superhero, and tries to apologize to Iris for his failure. Iris is struggling to continue her report. Caitlin and Frost suffer from mysterious headaches. Allegra is becoming useful, Chester is not.

The opening of Central City Strong is one of those Barry/Iris scenes you either love or hate. I generally find them charming, so Barry hosting a romantic dinner for Iris immediately appealed to me. If you don’t make it, at least it’s quick and ends with what looks like Speed Force lightning raining down on Central City, much like the end of Mama. It won’t be mentioned again this week, but I think the flash will be the main line of the season, so it’s smart to remind people, especially after a memorable – but not really – finale.

She then moves on to the main topic of the episode: perestroika. In the macro version, Central City, which suffered heavy damage during the battle with Eve, is literally rebuilt. Central City Strong is the slogan of the reconstruction, which can be found on T-shirts and other items. (Since Barry seems to have invented it, does he get royalties?) As might be expected, the main character helps clean up, but you wonder why Barry doesn’t move everything at super-speed. I think it has something to do with getting people involved so they feel like they are actively taking steps to address the disaster, but to me it sounds like an excuse to be lazy. However, an archenemy from previous episodes soon shows up to give the Flash something to do.


This sworn enemy is Abra Kadabra. Didn’t you hold your breath and count the seconds until he reappeared? I mean, he’s good, and David Dastmalchian is good in that role, but ….. Let’s just say I’m glad there’s a memory of his last performance, because I can’t remember it. Abra Kadabra builds an antimatter bomb to destroy Central City, and he installs a series of small obelisks (whose shape and color invite jokes that I think are too good) throughout the city. In fact, pushing his plan through to the last two acts of Strong Central City is quite a feat, but it shows how far he’s willing to go to kill a lot of people.

The reason Cadabra went nuclear has to do with the theme of Strong Central City: the struggle with trauma. During the Mirror Escape, many people went through the ordeal of having doppelgangers steal their lives, and they are trying to rebuild their psyche, just as the people of Central City are trying to rebuild their infrastructure. There are even support groups for people trapped with Eve, like Avengers: Endgame or the first season of Jessica Jones. Of the main characters, Barry and Iris are the most traumatized – Iris because she was captured and duplicated, and Barry because he unknowingly left her there because it takes too much time. Kadabra was not traumatized by the Mirrorverse, but by the Crisis on Infinite Earths (as was everyone else who witnessed it), where the Flash’s history change eliminated the family that Kadabra had in another timeline.

All three have a different take on their injury. Barry blames himself for being Barry, so of course he does. With grand gestures, he apologizes to Iris when he takes her on an impromptu vacation, because he feels he should apologize for mistaking his doppelganger for her. Iris refuses to face the truth about what has happened to her, and her denial manifests in her writing, which Allegra tells her is lifeless for this very reason. Iris has a personal experience with Eva and the mirror, but she doesn’t let it get her down and hides behind excuses like I don’t want to make a story about me. And Cadabra wants to redeem himself by detonating a bomb that he knows deep down won’t work. Like Iris, he hides his true purpose, which is to share his grief by hurting others as he himself has been hurt.

To the series’ detriment, Central City Strong’s trauma theme doesn’t work as well as in Endgame or Jessica Jones, because the audience doesn’t feel the trauma in the same way the characters are traumatized. We were there when Thanos wiped out half the world, and we lost the people we loved for years on screen. And Jessica Jones showed us in every episode the horrors that the Purple Man did to so many people, so we understood how Jessica and the others felt. But the plot of the Mirrorverse was so convoluted that we were glad to move on after it ended; the aftermath doesn’t seem to match what turned out to be an excruciating event (so excruciating that Barry let the psychopath responsible go free because she totally regrets it and all). And Cadabra hasn’t even been mentioned before, so we can only work with his flashbacks coming at the end of the episode. Central City Strong does its best, but it can’t make up for these shortcomings.

It works in the way it affects the relationship between Barry and Iris. In the beginning, they take advantage of each other’s denial; Iris agrees to Barry’s trip to Monaco because it means she won’t have to write about Mirror Reflection, and Barry persuades her to leave behind what would be therapeutic for her to soothe her guilt. But in the end, they find the strength to truly overcome each other’s traumas. Iris assures Barry that she doesn’t blame him for things he can’t control, that he doesn’t have to fix anything because he didn’t do anything wrong. And Barry Cadabre’s words about loss make Iris realize that she too must face it. And together they force Kadabra to let go of his anger and allow himself to heal and even give his life to save the people he was about to kill. It might have been more poignant if it wasn’t about fighting an oversized wrestler made of the worst CGI since Henry Cavill’s mustache, but it’s still a story.

The awful CGI is one of the many miserable elements of Strong Central City. It’s so bad that it’s hard to take the latest threat seriously, and now that he’s here, we’ll have to watch Barry fight him for at least one more episode. Barry has also done some stupid things this week. In one scene, he slams Kadabra to the ground, then stands still and orders him to surrender. Wouldn’t that time be better spent beating someone who can do magic? When he finally fights the wrestler, Barry sees that the hippo is absorbing the entire bombing that is destroying the city, and he throws a lightning bolt at him. I know his options are limited, but maybe you shouldn’t throw an energy blast at a guy you just saw absorbing energy. And while Allegra plays a role this week by telling Iris that her story sucks, Chester continues to do nothing and only exists to steal Cisco’s thunder. Thankfully, I’ve never heard the producers of this show complain about their budget for having too many characters for no reason. Slasher on the other hand is great; as much as I like Frost, the focus is on her Caitlin side, and I miss her. The split not only solves this problem, but also opens new and potentially fun doors for the characters. (My apologies to Danielle Panabaker and her probably increasing workload; you suffer for us, and I thank you).

Strong Central City is a good episode that suffers from the flaws of the mirror arc, terrible special effects, and some plot hooks. But the work on Barry and Iris’ characters is strong, and the latest teaser for a future storyline is enticing.

Location – 6
Action – 7
Progression – 6
Production planning – 4
Topics – 7



Strong Central City is a good episode that suffers from the flaws of the mirror arc, terrible special effects, and some plot hooks. But the work on Barry and Iris’ characters is strong, and the latest teaser for a future storyline is enticing.

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