The Flash – Season 5 Episode 2
The Flash continues its fifth season with Barry trying to train Nora and Cisco struggling to get over Gypsy.
I’ll start with the Cisco plot just to get it out of the way. Last week’s episode began to course correct some of the more problematic elements but some of the lingering issues still existed. Among those issues was the treatment of Cisco and Caitlin who seem to be stuck playing out insufferable plotlines.
This episode is a textbook example of how poorly these characters are treated. Cisco is in a constant funk about his breakup with Jesse that he can’t shake himself out of. It turns out that their powers connect them across the multiverse so he has to deal with constant reminders of her whether that be smelling her perfume or hearing her singing along to a song. It does make for a fun sci-fi twist on being constantly reminded of your ex but as is often the case on this show the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Unfortunately, Ralph is back to his irritating self as Cisco’s self appointed breakup course. He claims that he’s an expert at getting over lost love so goes about imparting his wisdom on how to do that. It’s clear from the overall context that this is supposed to be a funny plot but the writers of this show seem to have forgotten how to do watchable comedy so the whole thing is just painful to watch. We don’t gain any meaningful insight into Ralph or Cisco through this plot either. All it does is remind us that Cisco is upset and that Ralph is insufferable. Cisco going to a stylist makes for a gag that just doesn’t land and other than apparently realising that Gypsy wasn’t the one there’s no real sense that he’s any better off than when he started.
This plot segues into the revelation that Caitlin’s dad might still be alive and this actually works really well from a character perspective. Caitlin being part of the antics involved in helping Cisco move on doesn’t work on a comedic level but things get more interesting when it becomes clear that this is her way of distracting herself from having to deal with her father potentially being alive. The birth certificate is the physical representation of this as Cisco being able to vibe it is the ultimate goal that means he is over Gypsy enough to be able to function. Caitlin persistently avoids the birth certificate because finding her father might be more problematic than its worth. Up until this point she was able to push this relationship aside because she thought he was dead but now she has to deal with the prospect of him being alive which means that it’s possible that he left because he didn’t want her in his life. Cisco can’t deny that as a possibility but urges her to find out so that she gets closure on this. Caitlin’s reluctance to pursue this is entirely justified and allows Danielle Panabaker to have more meaty material than she normally does. The Killer Frost plot may still be uninteresting but I exploring her relationship with her father might be compelling.
Similarly tedious is Cecille and Joe acclimating to being parents. It’s not a bad idea on its own but having Cecille feel insecure about being a mother because she is losing her mind reading powers feels pointless as plots go. There is attempted justification through her pointing out that she hasn’t been a mother to a newborn in a long time but it doesn’t really work and drags the episode down. Amusingly Joe seems to patiently wait until she realises the obvious.
Barry and Nora are trying to find a dynamic that works for them. It’s one of the better examples of Barry training a new Speedster because the writers are taking their time to make the lessons meaningful. Barry’s increased maturity is still a factor as shown by the realisation that training Nora should be a more deliberate process. He recognises that her skill level is fairly low because she has never had training and tries to adapt his teaching style to account for that. He makes the mistake of assuming she needs to understand the physics of being a Speedster but Nora already has a good understanding of everything she needs to know and more. Barry making that mistake is a nice touch because it shows that he can learn a lot about himself by teaching Nora. By the end of the episode he has moved onto more practical lessons that will be more valuable to her.
Naturally Barry’s realisation as to where he’s going wrong happens after Joe gives him advice to focus his thinking in the right direction. Barry lists everything that makes teaching Nora difficult and Joe points out that Barry did exactly the same thing when Joe first took him in. Once Barry realises that Nora wants him to be proud of her and everything she can do he gains a deeper understanding of where the problems are and improves as a teacher. It’s a great scene that makes good use of the history between these characters while moving Barry forward in understanding what it means to be a parent. I get the impression that he learns a lot both from and about Joe from this conversation and is a better person as a result.
Nora also struggles to learn from Barry because -as Joe points out- she has literally put him on a pedestal because all she knows about Barry comes from The Flash Museum. It’s a building that is presumably full of statues and celebrates events without giving the proper emotional context so as far as Nora’s concerned Barry is an untouchable heroic figure free of self doubt who never makes mistakes. This episode is about her learning that Barry Allen is a human being who makes mistakes and doesn’t have all the answers. Barry using videos from his early days as The Flash where he routinely messed up was a great way to do that as it gives Nora a clear example of what Barry had to overcome while also showing that the history books can only tell her so much. She came back in time to get to know her father and she’s starting to realise exactly what that means.This lesson proves valuable to her as she immediately stops showing off and takes Barry’s teaching more seriously.
I was pleasantly surprised that Nora came clean to the whole team about her real reason for travelling back in time. Hopefully this marks the complete departure of tedious secrecy in favour of moving plot forward in more interesting ways. Everyone is now aware that Barry never returns after his -already known- disappearance and that Nora travelled back in time so that she could get to know her father. Iris still feels left out because Nora has shown little interest in building a relationship with her but it’s very much a non issue at this point as it’s expected that Nora will pursue this in her own time. I suspect there will be an episode devoted to this before long.
This episode has two villains with Vanessa Jansen aka Block (Erin Cummings) who can compress air molecules to imprison people taking most of the focus. She is a threat because Speedsters can’t vibrate through it and Nora’s recklessness ends up hindering her and Barry. By the end of the episode she realises that Vanessa gets tired when she uses her powers and is able to use that to her advantage. It makes for an effective display of Nora coming into her own as she can’t rely on Barry to help at this point so is forced to use what she has learned. NAME is charismatic enough and Vanessa’s simple motivations allow her to function as a threat without spending too much time establishing it so she is a good example of a one shot villain.
The other villain is Cicada (Chris Klein) who comes into contact with Barry much quicker than I had expected. His ability to dampen powers means that he is formidable at close range and he is clearly a skilled fighter to the point that he can go toe to toe with multiple people without much of a problem. The season is still very much at the villain mystery storytelling phase which means we only get a rough indication of who he is and what he stands for. We know that he hates metahumans but have no idea why at this point. Showing him out of his costume and in pain does suggest that there is a sympathetic angle to his story since his powers clearly cause him harm in some way. So far I’m impressed enough but I’m concerned that Cicada won’t be interesting or threatening enough to sustain a 23 episode season. Perhaps he won’t be the main threat or there could be more beneath the surface that makes him engaging enough. Nora’s terrified look at the realisation of who they are dealing with is enough to maintain the threat level into at least the next episode.
Cicada’s presence helps give Iris something to do. She spends much of the episode investigating the attack on the armoured car that was transporting Gridlock following his defeat last week. This leads her to the noise that Cicada makes which allows Team Flash to connect the events. So far it appears that some effort is being made to make Iris’ journalism an important part of the plot and it definitely works. Having her do her own thing by investigating the problem in her own way grants her more agency than she is often afforded and shows that she has independently useful skills that can spin off into her own plots that have nothing to do with the main one.
A strong enough follow up that still suffers from some lingering issues but overall shows improvement for the show in general. Ralph and Caitlin trying to help Cisco deal with his heartache is a fairly tedious plot line in execution even if it does work on a conceptual level. Using it too explore Caitlin’s apprehension about finding her father works really well as a development point for Caitlin and has a lot of potential to give her more meaty storytelling possibilities.
Barry and Nora make for an engaging pair and makes for the best Speedster training plot we’ve had so far. It works so well because both characters learn from each other and gain greater insight into their own failings. Nora’s perspective is especially interesting as she had never considered that her father could be a fallible person when we as the audience know differently. She is learning about the man behind the hero outside of the museum and eventually realises that she doesn’t need to impress him. The lack of a connection between Nora and Iris is left on the backburner for now but remains interesting nonetheless. The two villains also blend into the story well. Block is charismatic enough and her simple motivations allow her to find a place within the episode quickly. Cicada’s plot is moving surprisingly quickly which is definitely to the writer’s credit. It’s possible he’ll burn out very quickly but there’s enough there to maintain interest for at least another episode.
- Barry and Nora’s natural dynamic
- Nora learning that Barry is a fallible human being
- Barry improving his teaching technique by learning about Nora
- Caitlin allowed to have more compelling stories
- moving forward on the Cicada plot surprisingly quickly
- the tedious comedic plot involving Cisco getting over Gypsy
- Joe and Cecille adapting to parenthood once again
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