‘The Flash’ 5×03 Review: Fathers and Daughters

Todd Hellbing promised that the fifth season of The Flash would focus on family. So far, the season has lived up to the promise. The “Death of Vibe” touched on three father/daughter relationships to varying degrees, and while it felt more like filler than the preceding episodes, a couple of stories were moved forward.

West-Allen Strengths and Weaknesses

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The third episode of the season continued the focus on Barry as a father to an impulsive adult speedster. Not much was learned about this relationship that we didn’t know before. Nora is still desperate to get to know her father, but now she also feels guilty about the changes her presence has made to the timeline. As it turns out, her trip to the past has resulted in the premature appearance of Cicada. Not only that, but his identity has changed.

There are definite shades of Season One Barry in her impetuous desire to rush in and correct her mistakes. There are also shades of a younger Barry in his refusal to see this as a sign that he should send her home. However, while it’s always good to see the West-Allen family together, there wasn’t really any movement on the greater mystery in that story. Nora still has some tension with her mother, but we don’t know the cause.

Speaking of fathers, Joe was once again imperilled this episode. However, if Cicada thought a little torture would get him to cave, he was sorely mistaken. Joe once faced off against a telepathic ape armed with nothing but a banana. Take note, villains: If you’re going to come for Joe West, you’re going to have to bring your A game to do the job.

Snow Secrets and Lies

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It’s very clear this season that Caitlin, Ralph, and (at times) Cisco will be working to solve her own mystery. Again, “The Death of Vibe” is more of a filler episode than not, there wasn’t a lot of movement in this plot. It seems likely that this plot is going to be a slow burn, at least for now.

What we did find out raised more questions than anything. Caitlin found a suicide note from her father, but it didn’t ring true to her. Digging a little deeper, she realized his notes were a code. Her father wants her to come find him. It also seems likely that he’s spying on her from afar, using the labs’ own security cameras. How does everyone in Central City not know Barry Allen is the Flash, with the team as lax on security as they clearly are?

Cicada…Has a Daughter 

While we don’t know much about Cicada’s backstory, we did discover that he has a daughter. This explains his moment of pause at hearing Nora call out to her dad last episode. I suspect whatever put his daughter in a coma, a metahuman is fundamentally to blame. It certainly would explain their animosity towards them. I’d love to talk more on this issue, but that’s really all the insight into his character that we got this episode.

Other Points of Interest 

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For an episode about Cisco, he didn’t have a lot of character progression. He was Cicada’s target. To keep him safe, the team has faked his death – which might make future fights more interesting. But there wasn’t really any chance that they’d write him off the show. Other than a faked death, we left Cisco in much the same position where we found him – still grieving over his breakup with Cynthia. Seeing him as Vibe is always fun, but I wish he’d gotten a bit more fight in against Cicada. Vibe has proven himself a hero time and again. Since so many of his scenes this season have focused on his loss, it would have been nice for him to have a bit more of a win this week. 

As another point of interest, we have another Wells. Of course. This one is French: Sherloque. He clearly does have some genuine deductive skills. He seems to have made a career out of tracking down Cicada across various Earths. Thanks to Nora’s changes to the timeline, however, his psychological profile has failed him here. It seems he’ll be sticking around until Cicada is caught.

As much as I enjoyed Tom Cavanagh’s Wells in the first season, I’m tired of all these various versions. To be honest, they haven’t seemed to really know what to do with him since that initial slam dunk. If I’m honest, I sometimes wish that they hadn’t changed their original plan of making Eddie the Reverse Flash. I know they moved Cavanagh into the role because he wanted something a little meatier than their original plan. But I think a solid character over five seasons would have been better than a solid character for one season and four seasons of scrambling thereafter.

I can only hope that they do have a more long-term plan for him this year. I hope we have don’t another throwaway character, written off (likely by death) at the end, only to be replaced next season. The never-ending Wells iterations are so expendable – and replaceable – it makes it difficult to care that much about the character anymore.

Overall Impression

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There have certainly been worse filler episodes throughout the course of the show. But it is slightly disappointing that we got to an episode that felt so much like filler so early in the season. It is also disappointing that the first Cisco-centric episode in a while (presumably) didn’t really do much to develop or explore his character. A few very minor developments in “The Death of Vibe” keep it from being entirely a wasted hour in terms of plot. We now know that Nora’s presence is definitively changing the timeline. Caitlin’s story continues to crawl forward. And we got a tiny bit of insight into Cicada’s backstory. Still, there are entirely too many mysteries this season to want to waste too many episodes on such minimal impact.

That said, we don’t often get to see Cisco in the field alone. More than any other character, he seems to have drawn the short straw in terms of personal story arc this season. So I am happy to have this focus on Cisco while I can get it. I have a sinking suspicion it’s the last we’ll get for a while.

(New) Questions for the Hour: 

  • How is S.T.A.R. Labs stock worth more than navel lint at this point? They haven’t produced anything new or done any actual non-Flash work for five years, so far as one can tell.
  • Team Flash hasn’t gone through the building with a fine-toothed comb after finding Eobard’s secret room. Their physical security has been as effective as a hair across the doorknob for years. And now we discover that their cyber-security is lacking? How did Felicity never notice and shame them into submission? What will it take for them to give security more than a passing thought?
  • I know they dropped reference to Iris’s higher education pursuits after the Pilot. But with Sherloque creating a psychological profile on Cicada, they couldn’t throw a nod to her background? Come on, show.

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



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