This week’s episode of The Flash, titled “Snow Pack,” is all about family. If you missed that, you might want to go to the doctor because they were about as subtle about that fact as they are in mafia movies. And about half of the episode was decent. Part of it was even downright good. The other half, though? Oof. Strap in because it gets a bit rocky.
Too Long Missed
The episode started off throwing the audience right in their feels, with an argument between Barry and Iris that was frankly Emmy-worthy all around. The scene was also some of the best writing that the show has had in several episodes, as well. It was one of those rare moments that I didn’t necessarily agree with both points of view, but I did understand both points of view.
I love Barry and always have. I will defend his decision to make Flashpoint to my dying breath, even if I didn’t agree with it. He has always acted on emotion, and that’s typically been most clear when in defense of his family. I completely understand his sense of betrayal. (Well, at least 90…okay, 82%. The writers have somewhat undermined that particular plot themselves in the last couple of seasons. But for now I’m willing to put that aside.) Of course he would feel betrayed at the thought of his daughter teaming up with the man who murdered his mother.
That doesn’t mean I agree with his decision to drop Nora in the future as he did. Particularly since the way he did it all but guaranteed she would turn to Thawne for help. A consequence I cannot believe wasn’t foreseeable by absolutely everybody, regardless of how upset Barry was. And I do not enjoy it when characters are written as needlessly stupid. Or even astonishingly short-sighted. But his anger at Nora and the fact he acted on that emotion? I can understand the former to a degree, and the latter is well within his character.
I don’t agree with what he did. But in some ways, I at least see where he’s coming from.
As for Iris… If there has been one storyline that’s actually managed to be consistent this entire season, it’s been Iris’s excitement to meet Nora. Her desire to get to know her daughter. Her reluctance to face the inevitable future when Nora leaves. When Barry dropped Nora back in the future, he did so without talking to Iris first. Without taking her feelings or wishes into account. Without even giving her the courtesy of a goodbye. And whether you’re a fan of Iris’s or not, Iris is Nora’s mother. As such, she deserved to be consulted before Barry did what he did. So I completely understand where Iris is coming from, and to a point, I am absolutely on her side.
Which isn’t to say that I entirely agree with everything she said during the argument. Or even all of what she did after, acting as much on emotion as she had accused Barry of doing. But I at least see where she was coming from. (I was also overjoyed that she could express her feelings – something the show too often denies her.) That I understood both sides made me root for both of them in the final scene when they addressed their mistakes. And the fact that I didn’t entirely agree with either of them made me even happier that they both acknowledged their mistakes and apologized for them.
It is that kind of heart that has always been the best part of the show. And that very heart is exactly what has been missing for entirely too much of this season. Seeing the return of the very thing that has always made the show special really saved an otherwise largely lackluster episode. It didn’t hurt that Grant Gustin and Candice Patton really knocked it out of the park with their acting. Once again, they showed why they are two of the best actors on the entire network.
Chip Off the Old Block
In several episodes this season (most notably last week), the show has strived to show how Nora takes after her dad in a lot of ways. Notably this week, logic for the both of them takes a back seat when emotion is at play.
I’m going to be honest. I…struggle with Nora. I want to like her. And, to be fair, I don’t hate her. I am just often somewhat baffled by her actions. I often wonder how a character who is supposed to be so smart can be so dumb. Of course, letting emotion override logic is often to blame.
Barry was short-sighted dropping Nora at Thawne’s doorstep. That said, Nora was a chip off the old block in her response. Knowing that Thawne murdered her grandmother, knowing he’s the reason for Barry’s anger, she still turned to him for help. I know, I know. She was eager to get back to her dad to…apologize? I guess? Or something? Until being overcome by rage at him, at least.
Thawne helped her access the negative speed force – something I’m sure will come into play through the rest of the season. However, before she could successfully access it, Iris arrived from the past to try to bring her back. Rather than recognizing that her non-speedster mother clearly had another method of time travel that didn’t involve trusting the man who murdered her grandmother, Nora gave in to her rage and traveled into the negative speed force instead.
Just like Barry, she was acting on emotion. But I confess I don’t love Nora like I love Barry, so I was more inclined to roll my eyes at her than I have been for him. Call it a personal failing; it’s at least one I recognize I have.
I cheered when Iris threatened Thawne. In their final scene together, Barry and Iris apologized for their mistakes and realized that they can only help Nora if they work together. Iris acknowledged that Thawne was manipulating Nora before dropping the bombshell that she thinks he genuinely cares for her. However, while Barry and Iris seem to be on the same page with acknowledging that Thawne is manipulating Nora, they don’t seem to have taken the extra step to realize that Thawne is manipulating all of them. If they don’t wake up to the reality that Thawne is pulling all their strings – and soon – I suspect it will come back to haunt them in the end.
Nora’s plot was less emotionally gripping than the ways recent developments impacted Barry and Iris. That said, it does leave open a few intriguing possibilities for the end of the season. So I am at least interested to know where it goes.
Which brings us to the real weak plot in this week’s episode – the Snow family and their plethora of issues. Icicle’s introduction coincidentally marked the beginning of a steep downslide in terms of quality in this season’s episodes. Here’s hoping his departure coincidentally marks a turn for the better for the rest of the season.
For the record, I have always liked Kyle Secor as an actor. He was fantastic in Homicide: Life on the Streets. He was also fantastic in Veronica Mars. So for those who aren’t familiar with his work outside of The Flash, I would encourage them to check him out in either of those shows.
That said, I have to confess that the Snow family storyline plodded along to its inevitable conclusion this week. The episode focused on family (which they will be happy to reiterate if you happened to miss it the first ten times). So I think there was a clear effort to parallel the Westallen family storyline with the plot about Caitlin’s family.
While I recognize the intent in having both family storylines play out in the same episode, it didn’t really work. For one thing, we just don’t have the emotional connection to Caitlin’s family that we do to Barry’s. I’ve written before how the show has failed Caitlin in not exploring her family more – and doing it much sooner. But it’s hard to feel deeply invested in a father-daughter bond when the father in question has been mentioned maybe three times before he actually appeared on the show as a villainous version of a Killer Frost, herself without teeth. It’s not much easier to feel connected to the mother-daughter relationship, when Carla has been mentioned maybe two or three times more than Thomas.
Which was far from the only problem. The Flash has been strangely all over the board with Killer Frost’s story this year. It is a shame, really. The show could have explored something new with her most recent reboot. Killer Frost is – at least in this season’s iteration – not the typical metahuman. So it is utterly baffling that they want to treat her like she is half of the time. The power dampening cuffs should not have worked on her any more than the cure should. But at this point, I give up on hoping the writers remember that from one episode to the next.
And now it turns out that Caitlin’s mother may become a Killer Frost of her own. (Dare I suggest the show’s original vision for Killer Frost, before they changed her character to cast Danielle Panabaker in the part?) I suppose that might take away a measure of the uniqueness of Killer Frost’s character. But since they’ve forgotten that she is supposed to be unique as often as not, I can’t imagine that really matters.
In the end, love of Caitlin and the Power of Plot Contrivance allowed Thomas to defeat Icicle moments before sacrificing himself in an almost completely predictable way. (The only thing unexpected was how he managed to get last-minute speed powers to get across the room in time. Though that may be more inexplicable than unexpected.) Caitlin then reconciled with her mom – wrapping up another one of her storylines just in time to start racing toward the finale.
Another sign she might be leaving this season? It’s going on the list.
Other Points of Interest
- The episode’s “family” theme carried over to Cicada II and Sherloque. And I’ll be honest. I couldn’t possibly care less about either.
A halfway decent episode. Literally. About half of it was decent. Grant Gustin and Candice Patton were outstanding, however. In the first few minutes of the episode alone, both actors showed what they can do when they’re given something to work with.
(New) Questions of the Hour
Where was Carlos? I hope Cisco doesn’t leave this season. If he doesn’t, I suspect Carlos may drop to 18 episodes (or fewer!) next year. He would then have more time to work on side projects. Frankly, he might enjoy those more than the non-plots he’s had for years. And how has Ralph become one of the more enjoyable characters to me? Okay, that may not be a new question, since I’m pretty sure I’ve asked it before. But I doubt I’ll stop asking it soon. What kind of mixed-up alternate universe am I living in, and how did I get here???
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.