The Flash: Back to Normal

"I may be afraid of Zoom, but I'm just as afraid of you."

As Wells looks for his daughter, he's attacked by a metahuman with superstrength. Meanwhile, Caitlin Snow is trapped in a prison of Zoom's making with Killer Frost–and Barry struggles with questions of how to help, now that he's powerless.

I was a little cranky when this episode started. I mean, what? Barry is cranky because his loss of power means he has to take public transportation? He had never come across to me as that kind of a hero. The opening scene SEEMED like it was going to strike the wrong chord... but the writers were tricky, and happily so. All of it became about Barry getting to work and "if I have no speed, then I have to do what I can do, which is work and save people through forensic science, like Bones and stuff." And Barry kicks butt throughout the episode as Barry. Indeed, Wells seems to care more about the loss of speed than Barry. Barry just seems to care about not being able to help, and it makes me love Grant Gustin even more.

This episode dealt very effectively with the concepts of power and domination and what those things mean now for our team. As we open, Zoom is playing the role of a modern Bluebeard in a makeshift prison back on Earth-2. He's keeping Caitlin very well in an orange metal pumpkin shell, convinced eventually her feelings for him will return. I find it interesting so many superhero shows (Jessica Jones for example, or Dark Angel) dissect what are essentially relationship issues, and abusive ones at that; more, they are exploring the response of one's identity to such abuse. Assuming the superhero is a continually refreshed archetype giving a glimpse into the modern identity, does this mean these are the central themes in today's relationships? The creepy keeping of Killer Frost, and her murder (was she being kept around because Zoom loved Caitlin or because Zoom needed a tool to keep Caitlin afraid?) only emphasized the horrors which arise when control goes out of control. Hunter Zolomon/Jay Garrick pulls it off effectively, continuing to terrify me with his level of power and driven madness. Despite not keeping her chained up, Zoom has wrapped Caitlin in bonds of blue electricity, and whither he goest she will go.

And by the way, wasn't the Frost/Caitlin arc itself an example of manipulative control? I thought from the first moment Killer was overplaying it, but I wonder if she thought she had a choice. Once she realized the real Caitlin was in prison with her, and saw her own uselessness, Killer Frost saw her own death looming. Maybe I'm being nice because I like her (Flash villains make us love to reform them, I guess) but I wonder, if she hadn't felt pushed into a corner, would she have actually tried being friends with Caitlin? As it is, they met after the it's-me-or-you line had already been drawn.

Wells is exploring a similar dynamic of domination with Jesse. Now that Zoom is free thanks to the breach, Wells is saying he's panicking about Jesse's safety. Maybe he is: but it's also true that his panic is an excuse for keeping control over his daughter, who seems to have grown up way too quick. (See what I did there?) The only reason we haven't seen more of this controlling tendency from him is because he's known where she is all along, thanks to those cell phone dead spots. Jesse's right: she has as much to fear from Wells as from Zoom. Tonight's episode was at least partially about Jesse proving to Wells that he's gotten stuck in the head-that he's walking the rut he's ground into his own brain, and needs to recognize Jesse's own autonomy as a person and a daughter. He's fighting to make sure she's free; imprisoning her in the process is counterproductive, and love can't be an excuse for that kind of illogic. The show turns things on their head when it's Wells who winds up imprisoned, and Jesse who does the saving, but what all this ends up implying is the need for a team and equality, not for draining mutual manipulation. Our villain of the week, Griffin Grey, was forgettable, and it felt like he should have reached the age (the grey, har de har har) he did long ago, but it's sad that the only response from the team was to essentially kill him. What happened to helping the metahumans?

To a lesser extent, Joe and Wally are also dealing with the dynamic of control. Wally's too smart to not figure out how much Joe knows about the Flash, and Joe's trying to keep all the secrets under control. I liked that Joe seemed to give up control most easily of all the protagonists in our storylines; after the past season and a half, I was hoping the character took some time to reflect over how controlling he can be with the people he loves–and how even those great intentions can cause problems. In the end, Wally's thank-you was cute as hell, and the stage is set for a friendship with Barry–I hope.

But now control has got even more out of control; Zoom's response to getting Barry's power is to want more.  Now Zoom has plans for interdimensional domination, and it looks like only a powerless Flash-with a single thread of hope–if potential rampant destruction means hope–remains to stop him.  Can Wells really create another particle accelerator explosion? Is he ruthless enough to risk harming so many people again–or does he have a plan to make it happen without an uncontrolled boom-boom? And who IS the Man in the Iron Mask, and will he ever stop desperately reaching up in supplication?

"I could be saving that. And her. And him. *sigh*"


Bits and Pieces

The loss of Caitlin really hit our team hard. Jesse was able to replace some of the science, but they all seemed to miss the personality. I thought this was great, because in many ways Caitlin has been part of the background, and this episode even notices her "hiding the girls" as Frost called it. But she's very important and clearly essential in many ways to the functioning of the team.
I have a new theory about the Man in the Mask after tonight. I don't think he's Eddie any longer. I think he's Earth-2 Jay. I think his speed was stolen by Zolomon somehow out of jealousy.

Wells saw a ton of textual and subtextual development tonight. I think he's realizing the depths of his own arrogance. He's been rejecting comparisons to Earth-1 Wells for most of the season. Now he's realizing his doppelganger and he have far more in common than Caitlin and Killer Frost.

Zoom phasing through Snow to kill Frost. Awesome moment, but creepy as hell.

Overall

Four out of five aging superstrongmen. The episode was a bit fillerey, but Jesse seems to be back on the team, and they have a crazy plan to get Barry's speed back. Can't wait for next week!

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I loved how Barry coped. But I was infuriated that a woman as incredibly smart as Caitlin trusted her freaking criminal doppelganger! What was she thinking?

I have no idea who the Man in the Iron Mask is. Mostly, I wonder how he's managing to eat enough to stay alive. :)

Anonymous said...

I actually found it more infuriating that Killer Frost tried to kill Caitlin..Her best choice was to escape with Caitlin...Zoom obviously has some feeling for them..At the very least if they escaped and got caught, Caitlin could always try to talk Zoom out of killing Frost.