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The Flash: Phantoms

“Well, that sounds bad.”

After several weeks of focusing on villains (and themes) of the week, we have an episode that seems devoted to forwarding the overarching plot.

Not that there weren’t coherent themes. Discussions of grief and loss abound. Plus, there was Tinya as Coast City’s “Phantom” and Chester’s conviction he’s being haunted by his dad to say nothing of their respective mommy and daddy issues. Yet, this episode felt disjointed in a way previous episodes haven’t.

Jaco, being cleared of Stan and Donna’s murders, leaves Team Flash searching for the meta who did the deeds. Unfortunately, they have more questions than answers. And Chester’s tracker isn’t enough to stop the killer from striking again despite all the leveling up The Flash may have done. What’s more, this new victim has nothing in common with O’Shaughnessy’s, so even that clue is useless.

That all changes when Chester becomes the next target. We soon learn that whatever it is feeds off the grief of others. And if Cecile is right, it has consumed thousands.

I understand what happened in the episode and why. However, this is where the storytelling fell apart for me. From little things like the flames “converging on the speed lab” even though it’s after Chester. To the biggie. If Chester has been suffering through so much pain for so long, we, the viewers, should have had some inkling of it earlier. Either in a previous episode, or at least at the beginning of this one.

And why Chuck? As Cecile points out, Chester isn’t the only person dealing with grief or loss. Every member of Team Flash has lost a loved one and Allegra’s losses are far more recent. So, why is Chester the focus of the black flame?

Or is it about alienation and not the grief itself? After all, Chester believed the flame because he felt alone. An argument could be made that as the newest member of Team Flash, he has yet to feel like part of the “family.” However, that would have been a much easier sell a season or two ago.

Regardless, it leaves us with several intriguing questions. Is this a meta that can turn into fire, or is the fire itself sentient? How does it choose its victims? Is it opportunistic? Lord knows there are plenty of grieving people to choose from. Maybe it/they met Donna through Stan, and Parker through Donna, with Chester being the next link in the chain. If it’s grief or loss it feeds on, Team Flash could provide a number of potential meals.

It was interesting that Chuck had to take his “father’s hand.” The flame couldn’t just burn him. Was that simply to ratchet up the tension of the scene or a quirk of this meta? Does this mean it was haunting the other victims prior to its attacks the way it did with Chester? And in the “that’s terrifying” category, Frost’s abilities have no apparent effect.

Now let’s talk about Iris and her mysterious time sickness. After floating in the temporal ether for over a season, we may finally find out what it is and how it will affect Iris and the rest of Team Flash. Does it have anything to do with Nora and Bart’s repeated exploits?

I was happy Iris’s first thought was how to tell Barry. I was less happy that Deon talked her out of it. I know Barry has a lot on his plate, but these are the things you tell your spouse. Luckily Sue Dearbon and her billions have reappeared to lend Iris support. Or at least a healthy distraction.

In the post-Crisis world, it seems the particle accelerator explosion isn’t the only thing that creates meta-humans. Add intense emotions or some other catalyst to latent meta-genes and viola! The latest just happens to be a teenager in Coast City searching for the mother who gave her up. Whether or not a heartfelt reconciliation is in Tinya’s future, it appears Iris, and by extension, The Powers That Be have plans for the girl. Considering her backstory in the comics, I’m looking forward to what that might be.

I’m not sure if this is a coincidence, but I want to point out the similarity between Chester and Tinya. They both have abandonment issues regarding their parents. Chester may have discovered that his father wasn’t as uncaring as he believed as a child, but the hurt is still there. And, as I said above, we have yet to see how Tinya’s mother will respond when or if they find her. I only mention it on the off chance this plays into the larger story arc.

This episode was so clearly a setup for things to come that I’ll forgive the choppiness of the storytelling. I just wish I didn’t have to.

3 out of 5 micro-catalyzed containment units

Parting Thoughts:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the train station scene from earlier this season (I’m thinking Armageddon Part 3)?

Caitlin and Marcus are official now? I might care if I knew him better.

Sue was back with no mention of her partner in non-crime. Funny how that happens... At least we know Black Hole is no more.

Quotes:

Frost: “This case gives dead ends a bad name.”

Chester: “Holy Fahrenheit 451.”

Sue: “You have to stop running from the fear of the unknown. It’s a race you can’t win.”

Tinya: “I thought you two helped people.”
Sue: “Oh, she does. Me, it depends on my mood.”

Sue: “Meta powers manifested by intense emotion. Check.”

Allegra: “You are more than just a part of this team. You are a part of my life and I’m not letting you go anytime soon. Got it?”

Barry: “The flames aren’t being used by the killer. They are the killer.”

Chester: “Dealing with loss is just another thing that makes us human.”

Barry: “Oh, she rich rich.”

Iris: “You found out what’s wrong with me.”
Deon: “And it ain’t good news.”

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

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