The Flash – Season 8 Episode 10
The Flash deals with excessive risk when Frost offers herself as bait for the sentient fire taking lives in Central City.
This show is nothing if not consistent. Viewers can always count on characters learning the same lessons over and over again with no hint of retention from the last time they supposedly internalised the lesson. It’s particularly egregious for Barry who appears to have learned nothing about leadership since he fully took charge of the team in the second season but the same applies to every other character. They are all stuck in an endless loop of learning and forgetting foundational lessons.
The manufactured character flaw to be overcome for this episode is that Frost is too reckless and it puts her in unnecessary danger which upsets Caitlin who wants to protect her sister. This has come up before and has been resolved but the writers of this show are incapable of coming up with new challenges for the characters to overcome so we’re getting this again. In particular Frost suggests that Team Flash use her as bait for the sentient flame plaguing Central City after it looks to be drawn to her as a source of fuel. Barry doesn’t want to put her at risk, Frost insists, they fail the first time and the usual steps are followed.
What immediately stands out is the episode treating this as if it’s the first time a member of Team Flash has put themselves at risk in service of stopping a threat. Varying configurations of this team has been dealing with similar threats for over 8 years and there is a shared understanding that protecting people involves a great deal of risk. This sort of lesson is one Barry should be learning in his early days of leading the team. In fairness he learned this lesson at that point and has also learned it countless times since.
In theory it’s a great growth opportunity as it feeds into Barry taking responsibility for a team that he has to lead while acknowledging that there will come times where he has to accept that the risk of them dying as a result of something he has told them to do is high. Barry has lost enough people over the years to be intimately familiar with the risks involved and that taking them is necessary but he continues to be ignorant of this no matter how many times he appears to understand. If the show reveals that Team Flash have been dealing with a Metahuman that erases their short term memories every time any of them learns an important lesson then I’ll applaud the creative team for spending so long building it up but until that happens it’s simply bad writing.
In addition to that; Barry’s objection to using Frost as bait makes no sense because it’s a tactic that Team Flash have willingly employed on several occasions. Many of those used as bait weren’t members of Team Flash and had to be convinced that they would be kept safe and the circumstances would be as controlled as possible so Frost offering to put herself in the line of fire -literally- shouldn’t raise an eyebrow as she is on the team. Her argument for being the bait is reasonable and logical with no hint of reckless behaviour so it’s an obvious contrivance to force character conflict where really none exists.
It all plays out very predictably with the usual pep talks around wanting to protect people and understanding the necessity of risks before taking another crack at the failed plan and succeeding because everyone is on the same page. There must be a scripting template where names, locations and certain details are altered because of how frustratingly repetitive it all is.
There are some interesting aspects to this. The Caitlin/Frost dynamic is engaging even though both characters are filling stock roles that they can’t seem to escape. Danielle Panabaker’s performance continues to astound in her dual role where she creates a strong believable emotional connection between two characters that she plays. With better material this would stand out more but her dual performance in the individual scenes is strong. The episode tries to justify Frost’s recklessness through her believing that she was born to be Caitlin’s bodyguard. This makes no sense because a lot of time has been spent encouraging Frost to become her own person and build a life for herself independent of Caitlin. It has been her arc for a long time now and significant progress has been made. Having her see herself in this way is a clear regression put in place to facilitate this story.
Frost goes to her mother Carla for help when Barry is less than enthusiastic about her plan to allow herself to be used as bait. This allows for some strong material between the two characters as they discuss their mother/daughter connection. They have shared screen time before but only to set up that they would be spending more time together so this episode presents a baseline for their relationship that has never been previously depicted; another thing this show is often guilty of.
Ultimately Carla’s purpose is to help Frost realise that she should cut back on the reckless behaviour and prioritise her own safety. She also reveals that she has the potential for ice powers due to the small amount of time she spent in Icicle’s machine. They haven’t activated yet but the two of them combined can be more appetising as bait for the flame. It results in Carla starting to have a heart attack but refusing to stop until Frost stops her and saves her life. The indicator is supposed to be that Frost has learned her lesson about reckless behaviour and comes out of this situation a better person for it; at least until the next time she has to learn this lesson.
Any scene between Frost and Carla is well done. They both want to make up for lost time in building a relationship because Frost’s emergence is so recent meaning that they have had very little time together. A glancing reference is made to the strained relationship between Caitlin and Carla when Caitlin threatens to disown her if anything happens to Frost but everything is smoothed over shortly after. A better example of this kind of story would have been to explore how Caitlin and Frost are estranged from Carla in different ways. Caitlin is through the breakdown of their relationship over time with efforts made recently to find common ground and Frost through only recently having a life to call her own. A natural point of conflict can be created through Frost resenting Caitlin for wasting the time she could have had with their mother as she works to forge a connection of her own. What the episode delivers is good and well acted but also lacking in that it’s very surface level.
The reveal that the Black Flame might be Caitlin’s late husband Ronnie is a potentially interesting twist. Even though most of it has happened off screen Caitlin is in a place where she is trying to move on with her life by seeing someone new so bringing Ronnie back creates the potential for compelling drama as Caitlin will have to deal with feelings she has worked very hard to deal with returning.
A loose connection between the two plots in this episode is mother/daughter relationships. Iris working to reunite Tinya with her birth mother broadly fills time until the point where she succeeds in tracking her down. The scene where Tinya opens up about her fears surrounding finding her birth mother as she may learn that she wasn’t wanted is excellent. Iris talks about relationship with her mother and how she would have regretted not having the opportunity to get to know her in the brief time she had left. Fear is understandable but at least Tinya will know the truth once she sees her mother face to face rather than always having the unresolved questions. It’s a strong scene that is really well acted by Mika Abdalla. Candice Patton is almost maternal in her approach which presents her in a mature light in keeping with her status as a business owner and a mentor of sorts for Tinya.
The scene where Tinya talks to her mother, Renee (Meghan Gardiner) is really strong. Renee tells Tinya that she did want to keep her daughter but her parents convinced her to give Tinya up because of how young she was. It’s something she believes to be a mistake and the only thing keeping her going was the hope that Tinya had a good life. Part of what makes this conversation work so well is how emotionally raw it is. Renee is full of pain and regret over the decision she was forced into making with Meghan Gardiner conveys this beautifully Mika Abdalla equally turns in a powerful performance as the daughter with an overpowering abandonment complex finally getting answers to the questions she has had all of her life. Tinya’s declaration that her life wasn’t good is biting and adds to the pain Renee is experiencing. What little hope she had is torn away by Tinya’s honesty and it’s devastating to watch.
Unfortunately the moment is ruined by an interruption from Iris’ time sickness. Something happens to her and Renee disappears upon touching her. There are other examples such as disappearing furniture in a reception. This plot is a confusing addition because it seems to come from nowhere. The events of “Armageddon” are supposedly the cause of Iris’ current symptoms but it’s another of those bizarre additions that don’t make much sense and do nothing to further the character. For now it seems to be an excuse to keep Iris separated from the main cast for reasons unknown. It’s unfortunate that it gets in the way of strong emotional moments. It’s possible this will go in interesting directions but for now it’s an unwelcome distraction.
An underwhelming episode dragged down by repetitive characterisation and undercuts genuinely strong moments with unneeded distractions. Frost being too reckless is very much a manufactured problem as it is something that has been raised and resolved before. Barry’s resistance to letting her act as bait doesn’t make sense as it’s a basic leadership lesson that he should have learned very early on. A problem with this show is characters learning and forgetting lessons repeatedly meaning that they don’t develop as characters. Barry’s objection makes even less sense when accounting for the fact that the team have used people as bait on several occasions; many of them not members of Team Flash. It all plays out predictably with the usual pep talks around wanting to protect people and understanding the necessity of risks before taking another crack at the failed plan and succeeding because everyone is on the same page. The Caitlin/Frost dynamic is engaging and Danielle Panabaker’s dual performance is to be applauded but it is let down by repetitive characterisation. Attempting to justify Frost’s recklessness through her believing that she was born to be Caitlin’s bodyguard doesn’t work because a lot of time has been spent encouraging Frost to become her own person and build a life for herself outside of Caitlin. Having her see herself in this way is a clear regression put in place to facilitate this story.
The mother/daughter dynamic between Frost and Carla works well even though it is built on a baseline that was established off screen. An opportunity existed to explore the differences in Carla’s relationship to Caitlin and Frost by drawing on the fact that they are both estranged from Carla in different ways. The only conflict raised from Caitlin is situational and easily resolved. Any scene between Carla and Frost is good; they both want to make up for lost time and Carla facilitates Frost re-learning the lesson around valuing her own life. The reveal that the Black Flame might be Caitlin’s late husband Ronnie is a potentially interesting twist. Even though most of it has happened off screen Caitlin is in a place where she’s trying to move on with her life by seeing someone new so Ronnie’s return will dredge up feelings she has worked really hard to deal with. A loose connection between the two plots in the episode is mother/daughter relationships. Iris working to reunite Tinya with her birth mother broadly fills time until the reunion takes place. The scene where Tinya opens up about her fears surrounding finding her birth mother as she may learn that she wasn’t wanted is excellent. Iris takes on a maternal quality as she talks about her own experience with her mother and how crippling the uncertainty is. It’s strongly acted from both sides and really well done. The scene where Tinya talks to her mother is really strong and equally well acted. Renee is full of pain and regret over the decision she was encouraged to make and Tinya’s honesty that shatter what little hope Renee had is devastating. Unfortunately the moment is ruined by an interruption from Iris’ time sickness. It’s unfortunate that it gets in the way of strong emotional moments. It’s possible this will go in interesting directions but for now it’s an unwelcome distraction.
- Danielle Panabaker continuing to dazzle with her dual performance
- the Frost/Caitlin dynamic
- the Frost/Carla dynamic
- the strong Tinya/Iris conversation about their mothers
- the devastating Tinya/Renee scene
- lots of potential associated with Ronnie’s return
- frustratingly repetitive characterisation
- the justification for Frost’s recklessness being a regression of her character
- Barry learning a leadership lesson he has repeatedly learned
- the usual bland pep talks
- not capitalising on Carla’s relationship to her daughters
- the Carla/Caitlin conflict being easily resolved
- interrupting the Tinya/Renee scene with the bizarre time sickness plot
- Iris’ time sickness doing nothing to further her character
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