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‘The Flash’ Episode 5×12 Review: Bittersweet “Memorabilia”

‘The Flash’ Episode 5×12 Review: Bittersweet “Memorabilia”

Wait. What…what is that? An episode of The Flash that has a strong plot, gives Iris and Nora both decent point of view, clears up some potential plot holes, and actually manages to make the villain interesting mid-season? Where has this been all my life? Oh my god, it’s looking this way. Stay cool, Jade. Stay cool. You got this.

The Flash may have returned from hiatus two weeks ago, but this is the show I’ve been waiting to see again.

New Beginnings

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It came as something of a surprise that a couple of characters took steps in a new direction this episode. Most notably – and something fans have wanted to see for yeeeeeeears – Iris took her first steps to creating a media empire. We discovered she’s been wanting to create a newspaper, and in Memorabilia, she took her first steps to do so.

As exciting as this is – and make no mistake about it, this is so incredibly freaking exciting – it is frustrating that this development came something out of the blue. Iris’s role as a journalist has always taken a back seat to a surprising degree for a superhero show. Iris pursued journalism in the first season, but that plot was put on the back-burner for a while. Every once in a while, that storyline would re-emerge for an episode before being put on the back-burner again. We discovered last season that her experience with Savitar had caused her to walk away from journalism for a while. That came a something of a surprise to fans, since her journalism plot had been treated like D plot for so long, we assumed it was simply happening off-screen. As it had for years.

And while this season has done marginally better with remember Iris was/is/should be/wants to be a journalist, it has not been the consistent thread in the season we were promised. It’s almost like…go with me here…after deciding on Crisis on Infinite Earths as the next crossover, they suddenly remembered it was something they’ll have to develop before that event. And so, voila! Iris has been determined to start a newspaper. Entirely offscreen. But it’s been her dream. Ever since…a while?

This is a perfect example of how we can celebrate an ultimate destination while criticizing the lazy route taken to get there. One can only hope that they will remember this fairly important tidbit about her character moving forward. Particularly since, again, a journalist on a television series about superheroes isn’t exactly a gigantic leap in logic. Neither is it an impossible fit.

I’m thrilled Iris is starting the Central City Citizen. And, even more, I’m ecstatic that Iris was allowed to express her feelings about her authorship of the article revealing Barry’s future disappearance. From the bottom of my heart, I could not be happier for either of those things. But can we please treat this plot with more consideration and a modicum of forethought in future?

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Another thing that has me excited is the introduction of Kamilla. Is it sheer coincidence that a photographer is introduced, just when Iris is going to be needing to expand her newspaper staff? I certainly hope not. I’m thrilled that they are expanding the sphere of people the characters know outside of other members of the team. I’m also happy that, after a season of heartache, Cisco is getting a new lease on love. All of these are very, very positive things. However, if I could make a request…can Cisco get an actual plot next year? Can that plot remain about him, rather than being derailed to focus on someone else? I know, I know. I’m asking for a lot. But please?

What’s in a Name?

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Speaking of a new lease on story…what is this I see? The Cicada plot, rejuvenated and made interesting again? Will wonders never cease?

The main plot of Memorabilia dealt with Nora going into Cicada’s niece’s memories to try to wake her from her coma. After she gets trapped there, Barry and Iris follow only to find themselves trapped in Nora’s memories instead. It’s there that Grace shows her true colors – she’s not the innocent, cherubic darling we’ve been led to believe.

It seems likely that the Cicada Nora learned about in the future isn’t he Cicada Barry and friends have been battling all season. Rather, the “real” Cicada will be Grace, all grown up and homicidal.

I know Barry is a hero. And Grace is a little girl. Of course he’s going to try to save Grace. And odds are at least even that he’ll succeed. She is a little girl, after all. But after seeing her go all Children of the Corn in her mind? As a fan, I want Barry to succeed because I root for my hero. However, I wouldn’t hold it against the team if they took a page from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and decided to put a stake through her heart instead. It would certainly nip one problem in the bud.

And Barry isn’t entirely averse to the idea of nipping problems in the bud. He decides this episode that he’s going to give Cicada the cure. Now, there are questions of how much impact the cure would have, given that most of his threat comes from metatech than his own abilities. Putting those aside, however, Cisco and Caitlin agreed only two episodes ago not to give the cure to anyone who wasn’t willing. Barry wasn’t part of that pact, and he doesn’t seem particularly beholden to abide by it. Ethical quandaries aside, I can’t say I blame him.

“Any Future With You in It Is Gonna Be a Good One”

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As discussed above, Barry and Iris go into Nora’s mind in this episode. Some of the greatest highlights of the episode came there. Barry’s excitement at seeing the Flash Museum was a particular joy. But easily the most emotional moment came between Iris and Nora. After a half season of being led to believe that Iris would become a terrible mother after Barry’s disappearance, she – and the audience – finally get to see the truth. Nora’s memories of her as a harridan came from anger and bitterness, not reality. Iris is every bit as loving, as warm, as forgiving, and as understanding as a mom as she has been shown to be as a character to date.

I don’t know why anyone ever doubted it. Barry certainly didn’t.

If the real memory of Iris comforting her daughter in the future didn’t get you right in your feels, you need to talk to someone about your heart being missing. Not only was it the best scene of an otherwise very solid episode, but it was also the healthiest, most loving depiction of a mother/daughter relationship to date. And long overdue.

Married, With Child(ren)

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It’s been rather strange watching The Flash this season in a few respects. Barry and Iris weren’t even married a year when the show introduced their mid-twenties daughter from the future. It’s been lovely to see Barry and Iris learn how to be parents, even having to learn to do so with an adult. In focusing on the parental side of this relationship, however, the writers have almost completely lost track of the fact that these are two people who are young, in love, and have only been romantically involved for a handful of years. Westallen as parents has completely supplanted every other aspect of their romantic relationship, by and large, which makes me wonder of the writers…is everything okay with you guys? Some of you are married. Presumably some of you even have kids. Is there something you need to get off your chest?

See Also

Parenthood does change a dynamic of a relationship from two people to a number greater than two. Romantic date nights tend to be supplanted by late-night feedings and diapers and the day-to-day realities of keeping a tiny human with no concept of mortality alive. But that doesn’t mean that the parents are any less in love or any less eager to spend those romantic moments together. It generally means that they treasure the time they find to steal away for some romance all the more.

It is even more strange that the writers are writing Barry and Iris like a married couple too harried with diapers to find time alone together, given that Nora is roughly their age. Granted, she sometimes acts emotionally immature. But she’s hardly in diapers, and I’m willing to bet that Barry and Iris aren’t getting up four times a night to feed her a bottle. So if the writers honestly can’t imagine that two people who have loved each other for years and are still well in the midst of their honeymoon period would still make time for romance, even with another person over the age of 20 around…well, that hardly implies something positive about their own real-life relationships.

Still, family is both the heart and the highlight of the show, and this episode did have some nice moments for the West-Allen family. The ice skating scene was fun, and I enjoyed game night. (I was particularly amused that Barry cheats as shamelessly at Scrabble as he does at cards.) As enjoyable as these scenes are, I do think it’s worth pointing out that, as a young married couple still very much in love, Westallen as a couple shouldn’t be lost in the distraction of Westallen as parents. Or, even worse, Westallen as part of the Flash team. I’m not a fan who says that the other members of Team Flash have no role in any Westallen family scenes, but the show needs to strive for a better balance between the two. Much as the show needs to find a better balance overall between the characters as individuals and as members of the team.

Other Points of Interest

  • If you had told me a year ago that I would say this, I would have called you a damn liar. However, I think Hartley Sawyer must be one of the most likable human beings on the planet in person because…he’s actually got me liking Ralph. I can’t imagine that’s all due to the writing, or even the acting. It has to be a bit of him shining through. I suspect that he’s actually a pile of puppies hiding under a trench coat and sunglasses. There is no other explanation. And him and Cisco together are much more enjoyable than Cisco and any version of Wells have been in quite some time.
  • Speaking of Cisco. I’m convinced that a character will die this year. I had started to wonder if Cisco would die, particularly when he missed his second full episode of the season. (After all, readers of my reviews will remember I had a romance v. death tally going.) Well, Cisco getting a new love interest set up this episode put more than one nail in a coffin – and neither coffin is his. First, if he’s getting a love interest, then that seals the deal for me that KillerVibe isn’t going to happen. I wasn’t entirely convinced it was, but I thought earlier episodes this season implied that it could. That is no longer a possibility. But it also means that Cisco is getting a new beginning in his storyline, which reduces the chances that he’ll be the one to die. Meanwhile, the show has resolved Killer Frost. With Cicada’s defeat, the show will wrap up all of her major outstanding storylines. As far as I can tell, Caitlin has no new beginnings in the works. That puts my odds solidly on her. Sorry, Caitlin. I’d say “we hardly knew ye,” but “we hardly had a story with ye that remained internally consistent and wasn’t retconned” would be more accurate.
  • As much as I love the show overall, an episode like this really highlights how not all the actors are equal in strength and ability. I have tried for years not to call out the worst offenders for this, but when even basic line reads are a paiiiiinful struggle…sigh. I’m at least going to give the kids a pass when they do it because, you know, they’re kids. But can someone tell actors in superhero media to let go of their ChristianBale!Batman impressions and try something new? Needing a Ricola is not a personality trait.
  • So, because of Nora’s meddling in the past, Crisis on Infinite Earths will happen two years earlier. This helps resolve a creeping plot hole that has bothered fans since the crossover was first announced. I don’t object to this in theory, but I swear. The Flash has teased this storyline since its Pilot. They better allow the Flash to be center in this, his very own story.

Overall Impression

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The last couple of episodes have been a bit of a stumble, but with more episodes like this, season five can finish strong, as one of their best seasons to date. Though they really need to stay consistent with what and who this cure can and cannot affect.

(New) Questions of the Hour

When is Sherloque going to stop beating around the bush and just get his suspicions about Nora out in the open, already? Everyone was even willing to listen to him this episode and he didn’t do it. Fish or cut bait, man. Come on. Let’s do this.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

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