‘The Flash’ Episode 5×16 Review: “Failure is an Orphan”

This week, the return of a fan-favorite writer brought back a focus on family, the end of a tiresome plot, and the introduction of a Killer Frost who watched Avengers: Infinity War and realized Wong had the right idea all along. To be fair, with her history of head traumas, I can’t say I blame her.

Family Matters


I’ve written before (numerous times) that The Flash is at its best when it focuses on family. This week, the show was much improved by doing just that. Iris expressed her feeling about Nora returning to the future soon. There are still so many things she wanted the West-Allen family to do together, she needed to make a list. True, she would see Nora again in the future, so these opportunities would not be entirely lost (assuming nobody messed with the timeline again). But what would seem like seconds for Nora would be decades for Iris, and so a measure of bittersweet regret is understandable.

After Nora’s anger at her mother early in the season, it really is touching to see how far that relationship has come. Nora’s been so focused on saving her dad that she’s forgotten to really enjoy the time they have together. I loved seeing her realization that she should treasure every moment with her parents. Even for time travelers, those moments can be finite.

The episode also gave Joe and Cecile a chance to shine. I missed Joe so much in his absence. Although he initially faltered in a professional team-up with Cecile, some wise advice set him on the right track. When you love someone, you let them shine in their strengths and trust that this frees you up to shine in yours. Joe and Cecile actually made a pretty good team…even if I’m not entirely sure that an Assistant District Attorney would be interviewing suspects at that stage in the investigation. (The Flash has never been entirely accurate when it comes to the legal field. It seems silly to quibble now.)

Finally, of course, family tied the Cicada plot together with a twist that wasn’t much of a twist for anyone who remembers the avatar in Grace’s mind. Then again, given the inconsistencies in the cure plot this season, one can’t blame the writers for assuming people might have lost track.

Cicada Reborn


As many people assumed after seeing Memorabilia earlier this season, it turns out the Cicada in the future isn’t Orlin Dwyer at all. It’s his niece, Grace, all grown up and ready to kill people. Well, what can I say? The speed force runs in Barry’s family. Homicidal impulse runs in the Dwyer/Gibbons line.

I will grant that Grace seems a more formidable villain than her uncle. She handily broke into S.T.A.R. Labs (like that’s hard) and dispatched the team without breaking a sweat. I have grown weary of this particular villain and this particular plot. Not to mention the desire to shove a Ricola down Orlin’s throat. But time will tell if that remains true or if Grace as Cicada brings something fresh to the table at this late hour and reinvigorates that storyline.

As this revelation came rather late in the episode, there was no time to address a few outstanding questions. For example, is the team going to ask Grace if she wants a cure, or are they more or less done with that now? If they decide to give it another shot, will they bother to come up with a Plan B in case asking nicely if she wouldn’t mind giving up her abilities and accompanying them to the nearest maximum security prison doesn’t work? It is painfully clear the team doesn’t have a backup plan now. So I suppose it’s fortunate that Orlin finally caved to the power of persuasion. And can Barry keep his damn mask on, for crying out loud? I understand he was trying to relate to Orlin, but 1) Cicada already knew he was a dad, and 2) if his appeal to Orlin’s better side failed, did it occur to him that the villain knowing his secret identity miiiiiiight backfire in some small way?

A secret identity doesn’t do much good when everyone in the world knows the secret. Especially serial killers with a particular vendetta against you and everyone you know and love.

I love Barry. I love his heart. But I’m going to staple that cowl to his damn forehead, I swear.

What’s Next?

As the Cicada storyline takes a hard left turn, Reverse Flash is poised to re-enter the picture. And about time, too. I want to know if he sent Grace back into the past. I want to know what his master plan is (other than, you know, hurting Flash somehow). And I really want to know why Nora thinks she can trust him any further than his mumble/whisper travels in a room.

It seems to me that the mumble/whisper was more of a Harry thing than an Eobard thing. But I suppose Cavanagh has played too many versions of the same character to necessary keep them apart. 

Other Points of Interest

  • For such a small scene in the episode, Iris kicking ass as a reporter stole my whole heart. (She also looked amazing doing it.)
  • After freezing Cicada’s dagger to the wall, Killer Frost hopped back to the lab pretty quick. The villain was still a threat, and the dagger wouldn’t be neutralized long. I found myself wondering why she didn’t stick around. She could, you know, re-freeze the dagger against the wall periodically to buy them more time. I guess in the end, she’s been knocked out by Cicada enough. This week, it was less Killer Frost and more “I Did My Part, Now I’m Hauling Ass Outta Here Frost.” It made me laugh, but if I’m honest, I’d probably do the same thing.

Overall Impression 

Fan-favorite writer Zach Stentz returned to The Flash this season with a solid episode that was also a great reminder why the show has always been at its best when focused on family. Too bad they cut the risqué joke (which didn’t seem that risqué, really). There’s been a marked lack of romance on the show overall this season. I don’t know the cause. But the romantic relationship between Barry and Iris is not only the heart of the mythos, it’s been the heart of the show from the very first episode. Losing track of that for whatever reason loses a big part of what has always made The Flash so special as a series, even when compared with other superhero shows.

(New) Questions of the Hour

  • Is Killer Frost still the not-so-secret weapon to take down Cicada 2.0? Or have we just more or less abandoned that idea by now?

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

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