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The Flash: Fear Me

“Nightmares can’t hurt you.”

If there is nothing to fear but fear itself, then Team Flash is in serious trouble.

It feels like we have at least one episode filled with a hodgepodge of plots and no real overarching theme every season. This one fits that bill. However, it is no mean feat to juggle multiple season long arcs alongside any given episode storyline. And since the stories they’re setting up are intriguing, I’ll forgive the muddle this one turned out to be.

This episode attempts to show us the impact of fear on each of our heroes. Using fear to deepen the character development and further their story’s arc. 'Attempts' being the operative word. We see glimmers of the first part. Barry’s recurring nightmare he won’t be fast/smart/strong enough to save his family or his city. Cecile’s fear that her empathic abilities will either consume her or drive her mad. Frost’s fear of Caitlin’s betrayal now that they are individuals. Sadly, the second part is non-existent.

Fear manifests in the form of Psych. At first blush, he appears to be a run of the mill meta, using fear to facilitate his robberies. Attacking a night guard with fears of his abusive stepfather to stage a robbery at CC Mercantile. He moves on to a Godzilla-sized Dominator and an armored bank van and then your standard stock market crash for an investment company.

This is where I’m supposed to mention it’s not about the money. Psych believes he’s somehow freeing people from the power money has over them. How that desire figures into the larger story is not clear. However, The Powers That Be spent a lot of air time making this convoluted point despite it having no real bearing on the plot. So, I imagine it may be important later on.

This is the second episode in a row where Barry underestimates his adversary. This time boasting that after facing Crisis, Savitar and Thawne, Psych should be afraid of him. Methinks, Barry doth protest too much. I felt like the seeds of fear Psych uses against The Flash were already blooming. Barry has always been such an optimist, but this season finds him nearly paralyzed by each new threat he encounters.

Not that I blame him. Fuerza is still at large. And like Fuerza, Psych seems to absorb Flash’s speed energy. Plus, neither the dampening cuffs nor the mental dampeners slow him down. To make matters worse, Mama Speed Force is back but definitely not raring to go. She arrives amidst the multi-colored lightning, barely conscious. Anyone of these problems would be a handful in a normal episode. Team Flash is contending with all of them at once.

Considering Nora’s comments that Fuerza and Psych are like her, I don’t think it’s a stretch to think they are all linked to said lightning. Regardless, whatever it is it has overpowered Barry and sent him into cryogenic hibernation to recover. Unfortunately for Barry and the rest of Team Flash, there are more colors to this lightning rainbow. At least they manage to defeat Psych with Cecile’s help and the use of the Thinker’s chair. Although, given their luck, I wonder if the defeat was permanent.

Add to this inter(intra?)personal drama around the separation of Caitlin and Killer Frost. The prospect of being a separate and independent person delights Frost. Caitlin, not so much. Her biggest fear is being alone, and she’s loath to lose the person she thought could literally never leave her.

For me, the weakest link in this episode’s chain of events is Team Flash’s deliberate obtuseness in the face of Frost’s joy at her newfound freedom. No one thought to ask Frost how she felt about the situation. This could have been an exploration of them not considering Frost an entity unto herself. Instead, we had the formulaic and easily resolved story of Caitlin’s loneliness vs. Frost’s independence. It was just a convenient starting point for the eventual face off between Kristen Kramer and Frost.

Which leads back to my original complaint. It was all set-up. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in. We have at least two, and potentially more formidable opponents for Team Flash. They’ve already forced Barry into a cryogenic coma and knocked the Speed Force unconscious. We also have Cecile’s increasing power and its potential emotional ramifications. Finally, there’s Kristen’s hunt for Killer Frost and the threat that poses for all of Team Flash.

However, I’d gone into this episode hoping for a case study in the nature of fear. I know, I know I was expecting a lot out of a superhero show, but they’ve surprised me before. When Barry was wounded by the nightmare version of Savitar, I thought I might have gotten it. Regrettably, the amount of ground this episode covered ensured that none of stories got the care and feeding they deserved and all of them suffered for it.

3 out of 5 record scratches

Parting Thoughts:

I have questions about Cecile’s initial brush with Psych. Her vision was of a woman in a straight jacket who said it was “Time to come home.” And that she never did learn her lesson. Everyone’s fears were specific and personal. What don’t we know about our favorite meta-lawyer?

Speaking of fears, Frost wanted to know if Mark had turned her in. The only Mark I can think of is Mark Marden, AKA The Weather Wizard. But I can’t remember any episode where they worked together.

Kristen Kramer seems to be a minor character from The Flash comics. As usual, The Powers That Be have taken a host of liberties with her backstory.

Quotes:

Barry: “Are my back meds still wearing off? I think I’m seeing double.”

Cisco: “Fuerza, Spanish for strength...Look, She-Hulk was taken, okay?”

Kristen: “In my experience, if you’re not early, you’re late.”

Barry: “So, let me get this straight. You made those guards hallucinate some kind o Godzilla-rip off that almost squashed them?”
Psych: “Well, I suppose that is an accurate, if not an immensely reductive assessment of the situation. So yes, I scared the hell out of them.”

Caitlin: “Psych?”
Cisco: “He’s a psychic psychopath, causing psychosomatic symptoms. I mean, the guy practically named himself.”

Iris: “I’m not afraid of being deceived. I’m afraid of not trusting my gut.”

Frost: “Can Caity swim? What if, when she and I split, I got swimming, and now she needs floaties?”

Cisco: “Cecile, you good?”
Cecile: “Nope. Not even close to good.”

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Yeah, not a great episode. I was really, really frustrated with how Caitlyn and everyone else treated Frost like she had no will or desires of her own.

Although Cecile in the chair was cool.

Shari said...

I know. I'd wanted to use the picture of her in the chair but I thought it might be a little too spoilery. They definitely seem to setting Cecile up for a major story arc of her own. It's about time too.