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The Flash: The Mask of the Red Death, Part 1

“I’m just a woman trying to get home.”

Trust, truth, and the appearance of Jenna Marie West. Sprinkle in a dose of second chances and there are big doings in Central City.

This episode revisits the Hero’s dilemma. What do you do when capturing the bad guys doesn’t stop them from committing crimes? I say hero’s dilemma, but in actuality it is what separates heroes from vigilantes, as it’s defined in the land of comics, anyway. A vigilante will kill in self-defense or to protect the lives of the innocent. Heroes never kill. Period.

The main reason for the philosophical divide is how they view criminals. Despite the fact that vigilantes live in the gray, they usually see the world as black and white. Once a person has crossed over to the dark side, they are fair game for whatever happens to them. Heroes believe that anyone can be redeemed. We’ve seen these dueling philosophies battle it out over and over. Daredevil's season long argument with the Punisher springs to mind. Or, if you want to bring it closer to home, Team Flash's approach vs. Team Arrow's.

The Red Death’s identity has been revealed to be a bigger and badder replacement of this world’s Ryan Wilder. The new version would have us believe that what began as a continuation of this age old argument somehow pushed her version of The Flash into becoming her world’s greatest villain. That would be a stretch even if she hadn’t all but admitted to killing criminals on her world.

Ryan’s journey may have started with good intentions. However, she has become the thing she was trying to fight. She began by reverse engineering her enemies’ technology which led her to reverse engineer the abilities of her allies. No longer content with “eliminating” criminals, Ryan now sees anyone unwilling to fight at her side as an enemy worthy of death.

Barry may have trust issues, but he always searches for the best in people. Which is why he doubles down on Mark’s membership in Team Flash. Frost may be the example he used because she could cut through the wall Mark erected, but she wasn’t the first member of Team Flash to start out as an adversary. When we met Allegra, she was a thief, and Chester almost destroyed the world.

Mark is conflicted. He joined the Red Death in the belief that she would help him get Frost back. But for all his bluster, the danger she could do with the treadmill matters to him. As does Barry. Which is why he protects Barry’s identity (though the use of Iris as a bargaining chip is a giant neon clue for anyone who’s looking). It’s also the reason he destroys the treadmill and sacrifices himself for Barry’s escape.

However conflicted Mark may be, there’s a reason he is considered a member of Team Flash and the other Rogues are not. The problem with working with Barry’s private Suicide Squad remains. They are not concerned with the greater good. They may have come to the Flash’s rescue, but only because he’ll protect the city and by extension. Mark already betrayed them once, so why bother?

In other news, it may have taken years, but we have finally met the littlest member of the West Family, Jenna Marie. For the record, she has got to be the most well behaved 4-year-old in existence. Oh right, fiction.

But there’s a reason for Jenna’s appearance. After raising Barry and Iris knowing any day on the police force could be his last, and having Wally believe he’d abandoned him for most of his childhood, he wants more for Jenna. For her, he wants a normal childhood.

Joe’s concern for Jenna feels more genuine than his fears about Cecile’s safety. Unfortunately, it also feels like a retcon. If looked at narratively, it seems like The Powers That Be needed a reason to service an immediate plot need before landing on a more serviceable one. From the in world perspective, it seems like Joe was afraid to tell Cecile about his fears for Jenna and settled on her safety instead, when Jenna’s safety might have been an easier sell.

Speaking of The Powers, why are they stringing out Allegra and Chester’s lack of a relationship? I can see Chester not wanting to have that particular conversation in that moment, given Mark’s supposed death and the need to get S.T.A.R. Labs up and running. But it could be days before they can find and defeat Red Death. Surely they could find some time in the next day or two to have a conversation. The most interesting thing about this storyline is that WokieLover77 seems to be in the know. I wonder if this is someone we know IRL.

I can't sign off without mentioning Khione. She may seem all sweetness and light, but she recognizes people’s faults and meets them where they are. I’m also enjoyed Khione’s blunt “I don’t like you.” Yet, I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. There’s got to be more to her abilities than reading the emotional temper of the room.

In case you hadn’t noticed my lack of invective, this was a vast improvement over the previous week’s episode. Especially when you consider how much of it was exposition. It’s amazing what happens when you let character drive the plot instead of vice versa.

3.5 out of 5 Harmonic Frequency Tracers

Parting Thoughts:

If you need a quick refresher, Bivolo is none other than Rainbow Raider from season one.

It’s been a while, but Chester is back with the references to scientists of color. This week, it’s Otis Boykin.

Speaking of references, just in case you missed it last week, this week’s title and our villain’s namesake are a direct reference to The Masque of the Red Death, a short story by Edgar Allan Poe.

Finally, I find it a little odd that Team Flash is more worked up about Mark’s supposed death (see #10 of Billie’s Ten Rules of Television) than Caitlin’s actual one.


Red Death: “Come and get me, Flash. Ah, there he is. Here to save the day.”

Goldface: “This the brain trust that lost the Flash?”

Ryan: “He’s working with criminals too?”
Iris: “Reformed... mostly.”

Ryan: “Even the Flash has his demons.”

Cecile: “Joe, I don’t need my empathic abilities to know there’s something you’re not telling me.”

Barry: “People make mistakes.”

Iris: “You don’t want peace with the Flash. You want to kill him.”
Ryan: “You’re damn right I do.”

Mercer: “You think you can double-cross us, huh, Ken doll?”

Khione: “Everything on this planet is connected. We are all part of a greater whole.”

Joe: “That’s right, baby girl. Momma is a superhero.”

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

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