There is something just so irresistibly endearing about Barry Allen. Is it his boyish charm? His optimism and utter faith in people? The fact he wears his hero’s heart on his sleeve? A few days ago, I would have agreed with any one of those guesses. However, in Goldfaced, this week’s episode of The Flash, Barry went undercover as a bad guy, and it was very nice indeed. So what makes him so endearing? I have no idea. He just is. Accept it as a fact of life and move on.
The “Oh, You’re Gooooooood”
Since the first season of The Flash, Iris West(-Allen) has fielded more than her share of detractors, who have alleged (among other ridiculous things) that she’s nothing more than a Damsel in Distress. I’ve written before about the absurdity of that concept in a superhero show. After all, superheroes exist to save people. The stakes are highest when the person imperiled is someone they know and – ideally – care about. Ergo, those closest to super heroes are also the most likely to be imperiled to increase dramatic tension. This is not a complicated concept, and without people in peril, superhero shows would be quite boring indeed.
It is also absurd because, of all the characters on the show, I would hazard a guess that Iris has needed the Flash’s heroics less often than any other main character. If I were to guess who has been imperiled most often, my guess would be Joe, followed by Caitlin and Cisco. Iris comes in a distant last. This is in part because Iris saves herself far more often than she’s ever needed to be saved.
The trend of Iris being HBIC continued this episode, when Iris decided to flex some journalistic muscle and investigate Cicada. In doing so, she came across Cicada himself. Though her initial efforts to talk herself out of the situation were almost successful, she was caught out in the end. However, far from needing to call for Flash’s aid, Iris Took Care of Business. With extreme prejudice, stabbing Cicada with a pen and then started twisting it around a little to make sure she left him with a lesson he won’t soon forget: You don’t mess with Iris West-Allen.
The “Baby, I Love It When You’re Bad”
Put this down in the “it’s good to be bad” category. I feel like I should have some kind of profound words to describe the experience of watching Barry go undercover as a criminal named the Chemist. But, really:
I love Barry as a hero. However, I kind of loved him just as much as the (faux) bad guy, too. The plot with Barry and Ralph undercover was more fun than I would have expected a year ago. I was genuinely concerned something bad would happen to Ralph after he trapped Barry in the van to prevent the Flash from having to commit an act of dubious morality. I don’t know what’s happened to me.
And speaking of dubious morality. The thing about superhero shows is that 1) they are likely going to take some kind of moral stance on occasion, 2) the audience may not agree with that stance, but 3) that stance should have a longer shelf life than a carton of milk, at least among those who espouse it.
Which brings us to the newest installment of: Can the writers remember what they have done with Caitlin for the span of three episodes? Please? For a change? Just once?
When Cisco first concocted the idea of creating a cure, Caitlin (and Killer Frost) expressed reservations because she/they were concerned about how it might ultimately be used against her/them. (And as I’ve discussed in other reviews, the previous half season had established repeatedly that this wouldn’t be the case. Which made this entire plot point unnecessary, ridiculous, and boring. But I digress.) However, after pretending the characters had been at odds – when they hadn’t – to drum up some drama – which they didn’t need – Cisco and Caitlin agreed that they would never use the cure on any metahuman who didn’t want it. It was, in fact, Caitlin’s sole stipulation in moving forward.
Well, either Caitlin forgot that ethical line in the last few weeks (which is possible, since she’s been imperiled to the point of unconsciousness more than any other character on the show) or she really meant they wouldn’t use the cure against anyone they actually like. But since she doesn’t like Cicada, she’s okay with using it on him. (Again, ignoring the fact that it seems that it shouldn’t work on him, given the nature of his abilities and the source of the cure. But fine. Whatever. We’ll move on. Again.)
For the record, I understand the ethical quandary in forcing a cure upon super villains. I don’t particularly have a strong stance on the issue, myself, simply because I’m too baffled by the constant plot rewrites surrounding the cure every episode to really be invested in it either way. But I can certainly understand how Barry, Caitlin, Cisco, Ralph, and every other metahuman on the show might have very strong opinions about this matter. I can even understand how these opinions might be wildly different from one person to the next. And I could of course understand how the question of a metahuman cure could put these characters at odds with each other.
Which is why, when Barry announced he was going to use the cure against Cicada at the end of the last episode, I expected he would receive some pushback this episode. From Caitlin if from nobody else. At the very least, that the question would be asked. Do they have the right to give Cicada the cure if he doesn’t want it, if it saves people’s lives? (Okay, I do have a stance. It’s yes.)
And, yes, this is the same person who a few episodes ago couldn’t imagine why anybody would ever want the cure. However, her sole stipulation in agreeing to work on the cure was that they never use it against an person who was unwilling. There were no caveats to that promise. No “unless he pisses me off” or “unless I’m having a bad day” or even “unless I don’t like him very much.” And while it is true that Cicada is a villain…so was Killer Frost. (More theoretically than actually, but only because their laziness towards Caitlin permeated Killer Frost, too.) In fact, Caitlin addressed that very issue in discussing her reservations about the cure.
So why was she all in this episode? Why did her ethical reservations evaporate as quickly as she did after Barry and Ralph left her waiting in the car while they got a serious case of Bad Boy Hot on? I’m sure that, like Caitlin’s entire character this episode, this plot point so abruptly dropped and forgotten will reappear inexplicably later. I have no doubt that in an episode or two, Caitlin will suddenly remember that she had drawn a line in the sand, darn it! And – probably about the time they are ready to give Cicada the cure – she will just as suddenly decide she’s not sure it’s right to do so, and this morality tale will come into play then.
Or the writers just decided to have her draw a line in the sand right as the tide was coming in and this characterization has been completely washed away, never to be mentioned again. It would not be for the first time.
Other Points of Interest
- Cicada now has nearly been neutralized three different times. Her plot in the back half is that Killer Frost is the team’s “secret weapon” (though Cicada knows about her). She is ostensibly the “only” one who can take him down. Except that three times now, that’s really not been the case. The team doesn’t need a secret weapon. They just need to take advantage of the opportunities they’ve had to stop him. Three separate times now.
- After last season’s Council of Wells, I was cringing in anticipation of seeing all of Sherloque’s wives this year. That plot was not as bad as I had expected. However, he really needs to branch out and date someone else occasionally. I did feel a measure of sympathy for him when one ex-wife told him he was doomed to never be happy in love. That said, it’s hard for me to care that much about Wells 58.0. I certainly don’t care about his train wreck of a love life with every version of one woman who has ever existed. Nor am I suddenly concerned about her fate because of her tenuous connection to the Wells Flavor of the Month.
- Seriously, what the heck is going on with Carlos Valdez this year??? This is the third episode of the season he’s missed. I’m still not 100% convinced he’s going to die. I’m also not 100% convinced he’s not. But if he sticks around, I suspect he’ll ask for a lighter episode commitment next year. I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to that, depending how it goes. I’d prefer a good plot for Cisco in 18 episodes than 22 episodes of no plot for him at all.
- I’ve assumed only one character would die this season and that it would be either Cisco or Caitlin. But now I wonder if it couldn’t be both.
The solid parts of this episode (Barry undercover with Ralph, using his own wits to solve problems without his powers, Iris kicking ass) far outweighed the blunders. That said, Sherloque’s love life and Caitlin’s inability to retain a thought for longer than the average goldfish dragged down an otherwise solid episode. If only a little.
(New) Questions of the Hour
- Why was Sherloque asking who Nora is working with? He learned the Reverse Flash was her mind’s protective avatar last episode. His reaction to this news seemed to indicate he had figured it out.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.