It’s getting boring writing for the same characters and situations over and over again. Oh, I know, let’s change everything up randomly. Boredom cured!
Thus the conversation has gone in many a TV writing room over the past decade or two. The specifics are never the same nor is the exact mechanism used to bring about the change. For example, the answer used to be simply overhauling the cast. Then for a while there all shows facing this conundrum simply did a time-jump in-between seasons. Problem solved. A couple of years ago the bookending (almost) season-long mystery was the trendy answer, as used by, among several others, Arrow in seasons 3 (aka, Who Killed Sara Lance?) and 4 (aka Who is in The Grave Oliver Visited?). The Flash is going about it this season via time travel, with Greg Berlanti and others close to show repeatedly revealing in interviews they simply thought it was time to change things up.
Now, Caitlin has superpowers she fears, Barry has a partner he hates and the team has a new Harrison Wells, although that has nothing to do with time travel and everything to do with…I dunno, tradition? Maybe they just liked the symmetry of having three different versions of Harrison Wells across three seasons. Maybe Tom Cavanagh loves the challenge and wants to show off his range. Either way, in this the fifth episode of the season those three new developments led the way, resulting in a largely transitional hour of television:
Ice Queen Mom for the Developing Literal Ice Queen
Prior to the start of the season, Vulture’s Angelica Jade Bastien argued The Flash needed to, quite simply, do a better job with its female characters:
I can’t name any female character on The Flash who hasn’t suffered from bad writing to a degree. I’ve never been a huge fan of Caitlin Snow, but does her main arc really have to be one failed relationship or another? Women can be more than damsels in distress or the pawns villains use to get Barry’s attention. The female characters who have worked usually end up being tertiary characters. To be a truly great show, The Flash needs to learn how to write its female characters with consistency. Yet the show seems incapable of developing more than one woman at once, let alone letting them interact in meaningful ways all that often.
Well, here you go. “Monster,” with a script credited to Zack Stentz (X-Men: First Class, Thor), tries to explore an actual interior life for Caitlin, introducing us to her mother (played by Susan Walters) for the first time and revealing all sorts of backstory. Her dad died, probably from cancer. Her mom pushed her away emotionally, yet still wanted her to come work for her at her renowned research institute. Caitlin instead ran away to STAR Labs to escape her mother’s shadow, and ended up not only meeting her future husband (who her mother appears to have never heard about) but also found a surrogate father figure in Dr. Wells. On top of all that, Caitlin is terrified of what’s happening to her, and turned to her mom for comfort.
It’s all perfectly nice in a “at least it’s not another doomed romance storyline” kind of way. However, I’m sorry, I just have a knee-jerk reaction against the clear heavy hand at play here where we have a woman developing literal ice powers and it turns out her mother is a real ice queen herself, emotionally speaking. Then again, Caitlin’s name is Caitlin Snow, and they’ve already made the ice queen joke via Killer Frost’s reference to her Earth-2 mother last season. So, maybe I’m forgetting the show I’m watching here.
Are You Conning Me?
You know that awkward period when you’re watching the first couple of episodes of Doctor Who after they’ve changed lead actors, and you hate the new guy because he’s not Christopher Eccleston/David Tennant/Matt Smith/Peter Capaldi (whenever he leaves)? That was me throughout “Monster,” the difference here being it is the character, not the actor who has changed.
Tom Cavanagh is clearly having a blast playing this doofy version of Harrison Wells, who goes by HR (as if it’s cool to be reminded of your office’s HR Department every time you hear his name), is an ideas man instead of an actual scientist and, um, loves hipster hats. And I can’t lie, they gave him some great lines, tonight:
Plus, the reveal that he’s a disgraced version fo Wells simply in their universe to fish for ideas for a novel while maybe also making a difference in the world shifts the power balance at STAR Labs in interesting ways. It also fits in with the recent decision to have Barry Allen move into his own apartment. We’re three seasons in now. Barry’s ready to be a bit more grown-up now just as Cisco is ready to take more of a leadership role on all of the scientific, um, I wanna go with mumbo jumbo.
That all being said, I simply miss Harry, that old curmudgeon. I’ll get over it. Just give me a couple more episodes.
He’s Not Playing Draco Malfoy. He’s Not Playing Draco Malfoy. He’s Not Pla…Okay. He Kind of Is.
As TV Guide summed up in their recap:
It turns out that Julian’s fierce dedication to the rules — and his hatred of Barry’s disregard for them — is because he so badly wants to be a meta himself. He wants powers so that he can change the world and finds it pathetic when meta humans use their extraordinary powers for things like robbing banks. The chip on his shoulder comes from his wealthy British family, which prides itself on tradition, and Julian never felt like he could fit in (cue all the Harry Potter fans laughing at this vague Malfoy-esque description).
The question going forward is whether or not Julian will gradually become a part of Team Flash now that HR has potentially created a need for another scientific mind in the room, or if his apparent fixation on the potential all metas possess will be exploited by Alchemy? My money is on the latter, although I 100% acknowledge that might be because Tom Felton’s time as Draco Malfoy (and the show’s season 2 arc with Teddy Sears) has blinded me to the possibility that the new guy on the show could simply be purely good. Plus, he’s British, Hollywood’s preferred accent for bad guys these days.
1. What was the point of having Iris randomly on scene for the first attack, spouting off about how you don’t need powers or a red suit to be a hero? True enough and vaguely empowering, but could it have been any less organic? To paraphrase Star Trek: Generations, Iris West must be the only reporter in Star City who never actually sits at her desk to write articles.
2. You know all those bullshit fast food commercials which make it seem the coolest young hipsters leading crazy active lives all eat McDonalds because they’re “lovin’ it”? Well, apparently The Flash cast lives by that logic considering how often they seem to ingest Big Belly Burger, as in this episode when Iris surprises Barry with burgers and fries for lunch. This is a show featuring superhumans, time travel and parallel worlds, yet nothing pulls me out of the story faster than being asked to seriously believe Grant Gustin and Candice Patton regularly eat fast food just like normal people.
What’s that you’re telling me, hypothetical other voice? They very well could eat that way and just have amazing genes. Oh, screw them right in the ear.
3. Best not to pull on this thread, but Cisco lives in one of TV’s complete [using this word again because I’m oddly mad today] bullshit apartments, spacious with plenty of exposed brick, completely out of his price range. Or is it? Because come to think of it, who’s actually paying Cisco? Or Caitlin? Who’s even paying the bills at STAR Labs?
4. The guy who tried to trap Caitlin – what was his plan there? How did he think that was really going to play out? Or was he put up to it by Caitlin’s mother as a sort of field test of Caitlin’s abilities?