The Flash – Season 7 Episode 8
“The People V. Killer Frost”
The Flash has Frost answer for her crimes and raises issues that could have major effects on Metahumans everywhere.
Having Frost accept responsibility for her former crimes was an interesting idea as it flirts with the idea of accountability; something that a lot of superhero media deftly avoids because it’s a difficult subject to deal with. Characters with super powers or special skills frequently go back and forth between virtuous deeds and criminal behaviour with the changes of heart not being addressed in a wider context than those closest to them. Arrow would frequently address the legal implications of vigilante activity but other shows seem to avoid the subject entirely. The Flash is unique in that Barry is widely accepted by the city as a positive presence who is allowed to work autonomously though it’s never addressed whether anyone connects him to the constant dangers originating from S.T.A.R. Labs.
I’m not saying that Frost being legally judged for her previous criminal behaviour fixes any of this but it does open the door to a number of issues receiving coverage. This episode focuses on Kramer’s desire to use Frost to set a precedent that can be applied to other Metahuman criminals. Her intention is for Frost to have the Metahuman cure forced on her as punishment. She equates that with removing the right for criminals to have access to guns, arguing that Metahuman powers are weapons in the same way.
Frost counters that by by arguing that there’s no comparison as Metahuman powers are part of who they are. Her powers are in her DNA so forcibly removing them takes away an important of who she is. Put another way it’s very much a violation and nobody should have the right to decide whether someone has their powers taken away from them other than the individual in question. This ties into the very pertinent topic of the ethics of punishing someone based on the circumstances of their birth. It can be read as people being judged on what they are rather than who they are which isn’t a fair way to do it. This can be linked to a variety of social issues being hotly debated in our own world and it certainly provokes a strong opinion in the viewer. Using Frost as a case study for this works well enough as it clearly lays out what the issue is and uses the other characters to ask the obvious questions around what the wider implications of this are.
The core issue amounts to the risk of a slippery slope. If the Judge rules to have the cure forced on Frost then that means there will be future rulings where the cure will be forced on other Metahumans. Regardless of what they have done or what danger they may or may not represent in the future the argument being made is that it’s wrong to force that punishment on people because it fundamentally changes who they are against their will. Frost connects her powers to her sense of self so is unwilling to allow them to be taken from her by way of punishment for her former crimes and doesn’t want her case to lead to the erosion of the rights of other Metahumans. There’s a lot of pressure placed on the verdict and Frost takes the proceedings very seriously.
It doesn’t just come down to the issue at hand as there are character motivations that feed into it. Kramer talks to Frost about following a Metahuman into a combat situation that resulted in her fellow soldiers being killed. This caused her to deeply resent Metahumans and wants them to be brought to justice. She specifically notes that she hates Metahumans who pretend to be heroes though it isn’t made clear what she actually means by that. There’s no explanation of where she draws the line between actual hero, someone who pretends to be a hero and villain. With Kramer’s tenure appearing to be at an end it doesn’t look likely that the question will be answered which makes this another sweeping statement on this show that there will be no attempt to answer.
Despite that, Kramer’s motivation makes sense. She suffers from PTSD and has directed all of her hatred in the direction of Metahumans with Frost being the unfortunate scapegoat that begins her campaign to achieve what she considers to be justice. It would seem that Kramer needs help in resolving that issue though there is never any attempt to get to the root of her views. That part is at least internally consistent as Frost refuses to let Team Flash try to dig up any dirt on her because she wants the verdict to be arrived at based on her own merits.
Cecile’s attempt to win the case is based entirely on the person Frost is in the present with the argument that all of the good she has done makes up for anything bad in the past. She has a long history of protecting people and is made to testify on that basis which highlights her growth and everything she has gone through to get to this point. Frost is someone who is proud of the life she has managed to build and has worked hard to overcome her criminal past but the fact remains that she committed those crimes and feels that she has to answer for them before she can truly move on with her life. Joe being called as a character witness to highlight all the good she has done makes for a really strong scene though it’s odd that Barry doesn’t appear in court as The Flash to put in a good word for her especially when specific reference is made to her fighting alongside him.
In general the actual courtroom drama is very basic and only touches on the issues at hand without properly interrogating what Frost has done both good and bad. This would have been a great opportunity to explore examples of what she has done under both headings and offer some form of commentary on how people react to the exploits of heroes and criminals in Central City. Instead it’s the surface level mention of crimes and heroic deeds being committed without any detail despite the root of the case being Frost’s actions.
Ultimately it’s all building to her sacrificial moment where she agrees to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. It comes after a lot of soul searching and the realisation that having the cure forced on her would negatively impact Methahumans everywhere. It’s a noble sacrifice and the importance of the moment she is taken away possibly never to be seen again is perfectly executed. It’s likely there will be a technicality of some sort that will see her freed in the future but for the purposes of this episode it’s a powerful ending that is very deliberately built to.
Caitlin’s journey over the course of the episode is strongly portrayed as well. Danielle Panabaker is to be commended for doing such great work in a dual role. She does such a good job that it’s easy to forget there is only one of her. It’s particularly impressive that she participates in so many scenes where she is both sides of the conversation. Her performance in both roles is seamless and the interactions are always believable. The complications associated with making scenes like that possible could be the reason that Frost is being locked up at least for a while as doing that long term is probably immensely difficult.
Being separated from Frost has been a massive adjustment for Caitlin as she misses having that presence in her head so getting used to having an external sister has been a challenge for her. Now that she’s starting to get used to it the prospect of having that connection ripped from her isn’t one she can easily deal with. This motivates her view that Frost should take the cure because it means not going to prison without considering the wider implications of doing that or how much of Frost’s identity is tied to her powers. As far as Caitlin is concerned Frost retaining her freedom supersedes all of that and she has to work towards understanding why prison is a preferable option for Frost. She eventually gets there and it’s a compelling emotional journey that leads her to that conclusion. The Caitlin/Frost dynamic is used to remarkable effect as Caitlin works through this.
Barry, Iris and Nora work to track down Fuerza after an alert pops up pointing to her whereabouts. They find a volunteer health worker named Alexa (Sara Garcia) and put together that she’s the host for the Strength Force in the same way that Deon was host to a force during Cisco and Chester’s trip to the 90s. There isn’t a lot of coverage of the implications of this or much in the way of explanation. Do the forces prey on the vulnerable in order to inhabit their bodies? Alexa being a former addict and Deon’s insecurities would seem to suggest that to be the case but the question isn’t even asked. It’s also unclear how the Speed Force can appear in the form of Barry’s mother instead of inhabiting a host. The idea of the Forces hiding themselves inside innocent people is an interesting one and opens the situation up to a wide array of complications but the introduction of this idea demanded more exploration of it.
The main purpose of this plot is to raise further red flags around Nora before eventually revealing her true intentions. Her insistence that Alexa be tested against her will with no knowledge of it happening shows her to be less than ethical and that she fails to understand what Barry stands for. It’s a brief yet important moment that causes a double take for both Barry and Iris until she eventually savagely attacks Alexa while tricking Barry into enhancing her power. It’s unknown if this means that Nora will be the main antagonist for the season or if the various Forces have motivations that can’t easily be identified. More complex antagonists could be a good thing for this show or they might end up being poorly defined. Either way it works as a shocking ending that alters previously held assumptions.
Alexa’s appearance may be brief but she’s an engaging character in what little time she has. There’s a tragic aspect to her almost immediately with her being a recovering addict looking to make up for her mistakes by helping other people. She is someone that has thrown herself fully into making the world a better place for others so very much doesn’t deserve to be inhabited by a malevolent force. Her resistance to Barry approaching her apparently assuming the worst of her paints Barry in a less than flattering light and immediately draws sympathy in her direction. The episode does a great job of efficiently detailing the important information about this character with Sara Garcia’s performance endearing her to the viewer. Her death is appropriately tragic and fully earned by the time it happens.
A strong episode that does an excellent job exploring the core issue around Frost, asks big questions about identity and justice with a powerful emotional journey for Caitlin to work through. The core issue of what punishment fits Frost’s crimes and the idea of the Metahuman Cure being forced on her because having powers is considered analogous to wielding a weapon by some is strongly explored. The arguments are carefully laid out along with the personal feelings associated with them. Kramer’s PTSD and Frost’s sense of self receive the necessary coverage and feed into the issue wonderfully with strong commentary on both. The actual courtroom aspect of the episode could be more detailed than it is but from a character driven point of view the episode does brilliantly. The sacrificial moment is perfectly portrayed and the wider implications add deeper weight to it. Caitlin’s emotional journey leading to her understanding why Frost doesn’t want to have her powers forcibly removed is excellent as is Danielle Panabaker’s performance. She deserves a lot of praise for what she accomplishes in this episode.
Barry, Iris and Nora tracking down Fuerza and finding her host raises a lot of questions the episode is frustratingly uninterested in answering but it does allow for impressive complication of the overall conflict. Alexa is a strong presence with her brief appearance being used really well and the build to the reveal that the Speed Force might be the true enemy is very natural. There are a lot of lingering questions but the cliffhanger ending is appropriately shocking.
- impressive coverage of the core issue surrounding Frost
- the issues of consent and identity around the Metahuman Cure
- strong personal motivations for both Kramer and Frost
- Caitlin’s moving emotional journey towards understanding why Frost doesn’t want to be forcibly cured
- a perfectly portrayed sacrificial moment
- Danielle Panabaker’s excellent dual performance
- Alexa’s brief yet memorable appearance
- building up to the Nora reveal and the shocking cliffhanger ending
- the courtroom drama not being detailed enough
- questions asked around the Forces that the episode has no interest in covering
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