The Flash – Season 8 Episode 18

May 12, 2022 | Posted by in TV
Flash

“Funeral for a Friend”

The Flash chronicles the aftermath of Frost’s death with each member of the team processing their grief in their own ways.

Loss is nothing new to this show. Recurring and single episode characters die frequently but the loss of a full time team member is rare. As mentioned in my review of the previous episode, Frost and Caitlin are the two most expendable members of the team as losing one of them doesn’t involve an actor being out of work. That doesn’t mean the loss of the character is without impact but it’s worth bearing in mind. It must be a relief for Danielle Panabaker to no longer have to pull double duty.

Flash

This should be easy

The loss weighs heavily on the team with each of them struggling in their own way. An opening montage sets an atmosphere of sadness where the characters are reminded of Frost in everyday encounters. Chester looks at the “Killer Frost” drink title on the chalkboard with a sad expression on his face, Iris is somehow reminded of her by the walk signal at a crossing and so on. It’s undeniably a melancholy opening but it’s far from an effective one because people with haunted looks on their faces as they look at things while a sad song plays is such an uninteresting way to set the tone.

Fortunately the sad music is interrupted by a robbery where Team Flash all head to the scene. Instead of unexplained garden variety incompetence preventing them from stopping the threat on their first attempt they are distracted by their grief. Chester accidentally commands Frost to cover Allegra before remembering that she isn’t around to provide it which causes Allegra to misfire before Cecille becomes completely overwhelmed by her own grief and the panic of the endangered civilians. This failure is to illustrate that the team are in no condition to be out there protecting the city because they are too emotionally compromised. Barry points out that the villain -later dubbed Blockbuster- should have been an easy one for them which only works as a statement if this is your first time watching the show but the point is nevertheless well made. Handily Blockbuster can’t be tracked so they have no choice but to sit tight until he strikes again which gives them the opportunity to take some time to process Frost’s death.

There’s a couple of things to unpack from this problem. Most obviously is how flimsy Blockbuster is as an antagonist even by this show’s standards. He’s a ranting villain with no personality and a laughably designed costume. When he is taken down it doesn’t even merit a quick scene to show it. He barely qualifies as an afterthought but that’s actually not a major problem because he represents what the episode is actually about though it does stand out that there wasn’t a visible victory depicted to highlight that the time taken was worthwhile.

Flash

Proof that she mattered

More importantly is the approach to grief and processing loss. Iris makes a valid and interesting point about the responsibility that comes with being a member of Team Flash being a barrier to well-being in cases like this. In normal jobs people would typically take time off to work through their feelings before returning to work but when their job is protecting the city as superheroes -or superhero adjacent- then the sense of responsibility that comes with that gets in the way. As evidenced in the disastrous encounter with Blockbuster a distracted Team Flash puts the lives of innocent people in danger so telling a story about how Team Flash are people with feelings rather than the symbols some of them wear is a strong idea.

The circumstances in this episode are fortunate as there is no immediate threat and no option but to wait for Blockbuster to reappear which actually undercuts the story the episode is trying to tell as a significant threat would serve to highlight the importance of a focused team as well as the impact grief has on their ability to protect the city. Instead it amounts to them being lucky the threat is comparatively a laughable one so that they can take the time without any significant consequences. This episode is bereft of tension which does in theory allow the characterisation to shine through but it’s also a poorly paced experience.

Following the botched attempt to bring down Blockbuster and a speech from Joe advising everyone to take the time to honour Frost in their own way the episode unevenly divides into chapters where different members of Team Flash receive the focus. Iris struggles with the notion of publishing a eulogy for her, reluctant to write one herself in case it reveals her affiliation to Team Flash. A deeper reason for her reluctance is a later admission that she didn’t know Frost as well a she feels she should have. She comments that she didn’t think she would lose her so would get to know her eventually. It’s a valid and relatable mindset for Iris to be in as grief does often come with regrets that you didn’t spend the time you had with the person wisely. Iris’ solution being to record a podcast interviewing people who had been positively impacted by Frost’s heroics was a really moving touch that came across well if a little obvious in how it encourages an emotional reaction.

Flash

That’s one way to vent

Chester and Allegra’s segment is infuriating as it amounts to them arguing about Hummus for most of their screen time. The intent is clear; they are grieving and lashing out at each other because they can’t find a way to express it but the execution of this idea leaves a lot to be desired. The resolution is equally half baked with both of them mutually realising what it is they are doing and apologising. It did appear that their heightened emotions would culminate in the beginning of a physical relationship but fortunately that didn’t happen. Having their relationship begin in the midst of grief would have been disingenuous to the build-up it has received so far.

Mark is the one who helps them realise how counter-productive their bickering is and his insight is really thoughtful. He observes that they do what friends do and help each other to see the world differently. Allegra’s assertion that Hummus is a condiment is a fairly bizarre example of that but it leads Mark to recognise that Frost constantly did that for him and regrets that he didn’t fully share himself with her. Later Barry gives him the opportunity to open up by simply asking him how he’s doing. This elevates Mark’s coping mechanism beyond the cliché raucous partying to being a heartfelt appreciation of Frost’s “live life to the fullest” mantra. That’s something he was trying to embrace by getting drunk but it was empty because he wasn’t doing it for the experience. Once he has the chance to open up he can think more clearly about what she meant to him. He also points Barry in the direction of helping Caitlin after stating that Frost never lost sight of protecting her.

Barry’s segment is excellent. His way of honouring Frost is by crossing items off her bucket list such as building a snowman on Mount Everest and winning a hot dog eating contest. It’s a productive way of honouring her while working out his feelings surrounding her loss even if he admits that it doesn’t quite get the job done. Being there for Caitlin is something he realises he needs to do in order to feel that he’s doing something that matters.

Flash

Time to stop being silly

Caitlin’s segment is somewhat predictable but no less effective. One strength the episode has is that everyone exhibits grief in a unique way that makes sense for their character. Caitlin feels empty because Frost was always a presence in her life whether that be internal or external. That emptiness comes with a mixture of denial and anger culminating in a refusal to attend the funeral. When confronted about it she admits that attending the funeral would make the loss real and she doesn’t want to face up to the prospect of Frost being gone. Danielle Panabaker’s performance in the scene between Barry and Caitlin is excellent. She plays Caitlin as defensive and unaccommodating as Caitlin has convinced herself that being totally alone is what she needs when all it’s accomplishing is driving her deeper into despair. This comes across in her performance and the conversation is a rare opportunity to showcase the Barry/Caitlin friendship; something that doesn’t receive as much attention as it should.

Barry helps her confront her feelings rather than being drowned by them. He strikes a nerve when reminding her that Frost wouldn’t want her to isolate herself which prompts her to remember Frost giving her that exact advice in different words. This is enough for her to open up to Barry. She talks about Frost encouraging her to come out of her shell and live her life. It’s a moving and meaningful account of what Frost represented to her and the difficulty she has in accepting that the encouraging voice is no longer there. Barry tells her that the voice still exists even if it isn’t present. That advice and encouragement will always be relevant as long as it isn’t forgotten.

Flash

Frost would be proud

This makes Caitlin’s decision to attend the funeral and deliver a heartfelt speech about how much Frost meant to her as well as everyone around her. It’s beautifully delivered and underscores the overriding theme of honouring her by remembering what she stood for. The subsequent moment where the team privately swap stories about her is very endearing but incredibly short. It amounts to two anecdotes concluding with Caitlin saying how glad she is that they’re doing this and then most of the team flees to have an off-screen rematch with Blockbuster. This show should allow genuine character moments where they sit around and enjoy being around each other more time because it really highlights the strengths of a cast who have such natural chemistry.

The first ending where Caitlin pledges to resurrect Frost somehow with Mark’s help is confusing though it’s very much in the early stages so it might make more sense as more context is provided. For now it seems that she was acting like she had taken a step forward in processing the loss when she actually hadn’t. This is another relatable aspect of grief as is regressing to an earlier stage so this could be an example of that and if handled properly it could be a strong story. Caitlin becoming an antagonist of sorts on her own terms could service a number of episodes with the true villain being her grief. Mark and Caitlin working together while being consumed by the loss of Frost has a great deal of potential as well.

Another ending involves a reminder that Iris’ Time Sickness is still lingering with nothing happening beyond a reminder that it exists. She disappears for reasons that are currently unknown following a conversation with one of her reporters that hates Allegra. Far more interesting than the completely undeveloped Time Sickness plot is the idea that everyone at the Citizen hates Allegra. It has the potential to be a compelling character driven narrative for both Iris and Allegra in their role as journalists and managers. Despite being a fixture for a long time the Time Sickness remains as vague and uninteresting as it always has been. There are better stories that could be told around Iris but the show remains focused on one that isn’t at all engaging.

Flash

Taking a step


Verdict

A good episode that delivers an engaging range of ways to process grief that make sense for the individual characters. The episode doesn’t start well with an opening montage setting the tone in uninteresting ways but it gets better when focusing on the individual reactions to their grief. The catalyst for taking time to process the loss of Frost is a botched attempt to stop a robbery that should have been easy for the team to handle. Fortunately the threat isn’t immediate and they can’t do anything until Blockbuster reappears so they have the time to work through their emotions. Iris raises an interesting point about superheroes not having the luxury of taking time off because their sense of responsibility won’t allow it. There will always be people to protect. As evidenced in the disastrous encounter with Blockbuster a distracted Team Flash puts the lives of innocent people in danger so telling a story about how Team Flash are people with feelings rather than the symbols some of them wear is a strong idea. Blockbuster is a weak antagonist even by this show’s standards and the lack of immediate threat undercuts the story. the episode is trying to tell as a significant threat would serve to highlight the importance of a focused team as well as the impact grief has on their ability to protect the city. Instead it amounts to them being lucky the threat is comparatively a laughable one so that they can take the time without any significant consequences. Following the botched attempt to bring down Blockbuster and a speech from Joe advising everyone to take the time to honour Frost in their own way the episode unevenly divides into chapters where different members of Team Flash receive the focus. Iris struggles with the notion of publishing a eulogy for her, reluctant to write one herself in case it reveals her affiliation to Team Flash. A deeper reason for her reluctance is a later admission that she didn’t know Frost as well a she feels she should have. She comments that she didn’t think she would lose her so would get to know her eventually. It’s a valid and relatable mindset for Iris to be in as grief does often come with regrets that you didn’t spend the time you had with the person wisely. Iris’ solution being to record a podcast interviewing people who had been positively impacted by Frost’s heroics was a really moving touch that came across well if a little obvious in how it encourages an emotional reaction. Chester and Allegra’s segment is infuriating as it amounts to them arguing about Hummus for most of their screen time. The intent is clear; they are grieving and lashing out at each other because they can’t find a way to express it but the execution of this idea leaves a lot to be desired. The resolution is equally half baked with both of them mutually realising what it is they are doing and apologising. It did appear that their heightened emotions would culminate in the beginning of a physical relationship but fortunately that didn’t happen. Having their relationship begin in the midst of grief would have been disingenuous to the build-up it has received so far.

Mark is the one who helps them realise how counter-productive their bickering is and his insight is really thoughtful. He regrets that he didn’t fully share himself with Frost and falls back on a standard coping mechanism until Barry gives him the opportunity to open up which then prompts Barry to do what he can to help Caitlin. Barry’s segment is excellent. His way of honouring Frost is by crossing items off her bucket list such as building a snowman on Mount Everest and winning a hot dog eating contest. It’s a productive way of honouring her while working out his feelings surrounding her loss even if he admits that it doesn’t quite get the job done. Caitlin’s segment is somewhat predictable but no less effective. She feels empty because Frost was always a presence in her life whether that be internal or external. That emptiness comes with a mixture of denial and anger culminating in a refusal to attend the funeral. When confronted about it she admits that attending the funeral would make the loss real and she doesn’t want to face up to the prospect of Frost being gone. Danielle Panabaker’s performance in the scene between Barry and Caitlin is excellent. She plays Caitlin as defensive and unaccommodating as Caitlin has convinced herself that being totally alone is what she needs when all it’s accomplishing is driving her deeper into despair. Barry helps her confront her feelings rather than being drowned by them. He strikes a nerve when reminding her that Frost wouldn’t want her to isolate herself which prompts her to remember Frost giving her that exact advice in different words. This is enough for her to open up to Barry. She talks about Frost encouraging her to come out of her shell and live her life. It’s a moving and meaningful account of what Frost represented to her and the difficulty she has in accepting that the encouraging voice is no longer there. Barry tells her that the voice still exists even if it isn’t present. That advice and encouragement will always be relevant as long as it isn’t forgotten. This makes Caitlin’s decision to attend the funeral and deliver a heartfelt speech about how much Frost meant to her as well as everyone around her. It’s beautifully delivered and underscores the overriding theme of honouring her by remembering what she stood for. The subsequent moment where the team privately swap stories about her is very endearing but incredibly short. It amounts to two anecdotes concluding with Caitlin saying how glad she is that they’re doing this and then most of the team flees to have an off-screen rematch with Blockbuster. This show should allow genuine character moments where they sit around and enjoy being around each other more time because it really highlights the strengths of a cast who have such natural chemistry. The first ending where Caitlin pledges to resurrect Frost somehow with Mark’s help is confusing though it’s very much in the early stages so it might make more sense as more context is provided. This is another relatable aspect of grief as is regressing to an earlier stage so this could be an example of that and if handled properly it could be a strong story. Another ending involves a reminder that Iris’ Time Sickness is still lingering with nothing happening beyond a reminder that it exists. Far more interesting than the completely undeveloped Time Sickness plot is the idea that everyone at the Citizen hates Allegra. It has the potential to be a compelling character driven narrative for both Iris and Allegra in their role as journalists and managers.

Overall
  • 7/10
    Funeral for a Friend - 7/10
7/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • differing approaches to processing loss that make sense for the characters
  • interesting points raised about responsibility getting in the way of dealing with loss
  • Iris’ realistic regret around not knowing Frost as well as she feels she should
  • Iris finding a way to honour Frost that focuses on her exploits as a hero
  • Mark’s thoughtful commentary on loss
  • Barry’s productive approach before realising he can be there for Caitlin
  • Danielle Panabaker’s excellent performance
  • Caitlin going from defensive to taking a step forward
  • the team reminiscing about Frost

 

Rise Against…

  • the lack of significant threat undercutting the burden of responsibility aspect of the story
  • Chester and Allegra’s infuriating interactions
  • the reminder of the Time Sickness plot

 

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