Review: The Flash 5×03 – “The Death of Vibe”

[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]

Director: Andi Armaganian

Writers: Jonathan Butler and Gabriel Garza

Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker, Hartley Sawyer, Chris Klein, Danielle Nicolet, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Tom Cavanaugh, Jesse L. Martin, Susan Walters, Lossen Chambers, Islie Hirvonen, Chris Webb

 

Summary

While Team Flash have the dual task of both breaking in Harrison Sherloque Wells and investigating Cicada, the villain sets his sights on Vibe through his connection to Joe.

Positives

This week Team Flash got back a vital component: Harrison Wells. Or rather, a different version of Harrison Wells courtesy of the ever versatile Tom Cavanagh. And with him came an overarching theme of deductive thinking this week. This guy’s ability to come up with different variations on the character never fails to impress or make you bust a gut. I like how Herr Wells’ fandom and respect of The Flash rubs Cisco the wrong way after a year of enduring his jackass attitude towards him in all the Council of Wells segments.

The beauty of the multi-verse is the allowance of an actor to portray a character with different mannerisms then the previous version they’ve played. We’ve already seen the genius of Harry Wells, we’ve seen the slacker muse HR Wells, and even seen a cyborg wells. And now we have been introduced to Sherloque Wells. Yes I spelled that correctly based on the fact that he is French and not British, which is an interesting take. And, much like how HR played with his drumsticks, we see Tom’s “greatest detective” twirling a monocle on a chain like a pocket watch. I think Tom is one of the best character actors I’ve ever seen, because with very little props he creates a completely fleshed out persona that is so distinct from what we’ve seen before that it seems like the writers only offer assistance to a point through dialogue.

As far as the personality of this so-called master detective goes, it’s hilarious that, like every Wells in the Multiverse, he is a flawed man concealing those shortcomings with an air of superiority that even rubs Ralph the wrong way. And, of course, given in life how assumption usually leads to disappointment, this Wells, as a detective, falls short in his initial deduction of Cicada’s identity because he assumes variables that do not exist on this Earth. To add insult to injury he even spends the money that he was paid from STAR labs stock on alimony (allegedly) before the job was done, forcing himself into debt he needs to work off before being allowed to leave. That’s a hilarious way of making him stick around in my opinion, especially with how he tries to fake his own death and is outfoxed by Cisco.

Tom and Carlos have excellent comedic timing and chemistry together and I look forward to how he may have to reign in this sleuth through possibly future escape plans. Still, Wells may not be as useless as he appears to the overall plot given that the final moment in the episode between he and Nora indicates there may be more to Nora’s decision to take out that satellite in last season’s finale than she lets on. And Wells might have hit the bullseye at that presumption based on her facial expressions. His assistance in pinpointing what words Cisco had vibes into based upon both his description of the trees and sounds of the forest sure means he does have deductive reasoning that could be essential to future missions this season. (That is, of course, if this sleuth doesn’t skip out on them, which should be an expected running gag considering he doesn’t have the ability to become Inch High Private Eye.)

Speaking of Nora, we see more of her backstory and an idea of her personality. It was cool seeing in the flashbacks – no pun intended – how S.T.A.R. Labs eventually becomes the infamous Flash Museum. I always had the sense that would be the building’s ultimate fate, especially after HR tried to open the labs to the public in season three. We get a glimpse of what her education of her dad’s legacy was like and why she had to make the trip. There’s only so much you can learn about a parent through articles and exhibits. It was a cool trip down memory lane seeing all the props from the previous three seasons. Hell, they even have a full Reverse-Flash costume complete with the tachyon absorption device stolen from Mercury labs on display.

Given the introduction of the museum, it leads one to wonder if this could this also be how the real Eobard Thawne gets his costume given that he is from the future. Does he learn his destiny to become the Flash’s greatest enemy by traveling to this period in time? That is how he became aware of his future in the comic book and ultimately driven mad by it. Given that he claimed to Barry in the season one finale that he was born 133 years from 2014, and Nora is an adult by 2049, it leaves that possibility open to interpretation.

But getting back to Nora, there are elements of Barry’s own characteristics in her motivations, which makes it easy for her dad to relate to her eagerness to fix things, much like how he was eager to fix the damage that he repaired after he got back from Flashpoint but only made things worse. Nora’s knee-jerk reaction to want to fix the timeline given that Cicada is here earlier than what was described in the Flash Museum archives is what leads to both the recruiting of the new Wells and capturing the wrong guy based on lazy methods. We have seen Barry that eager and desperate throughout the years, and it was brilliant how the writers tried to convey those qualities in his daughter. It was also a chance for Barry to take the maturity he has learned through trial and error and advise Nora based on experience.

Ultimately, you see for the first time Nora’s ability to learn from her mistakes and think things through; Barry’s training with her is starting to improve her performance and helping her mature a bit. That moment where she goes into Flash time to consider both her father’s words of wisdom and all the variables is a great example of how her connection to the Speed Force differs from Barry. Still, you get the sense that something happened between she and Iris in the future that has compelled her to keep her mother at a distance. Will she actually open up and let Iris know what’s going on now that they will be living together? Or will a bigger wall be erected?

The mystery of Caitlin Snow’s father continues, and it’s cool to see her and Ralph teamed together on this mystery. This gives Ralph the chance to shine in the show as the private eye that he is known as in the comics. He is still good comic relief, especially when he blew himself up as a giant pear to take down that thief in the grocery store early in the episode, but you actually see him try to help his friend and not just try to get in her pants. He has matured and grown.

The return of Caitlin’s mother Doctor Tannhauser was inevitable after that brief vibe that Cisco provided based on that death certificate. It’s obvious that she’s lying and had forged that signature. There is a difference in her mannerisms though; her desire to help her daughter two years ago when Killer Frost was manifesting is a sharp contrast to the stonewalling she’s doing now. It better illustrates the distance between mother and daughter that should be examined in depth as the season goes on. That kind of 180 is more than enough reason to suspect that she is hiding her father‘s final fate, and they are both right.

It was cool seeing Caitlin use her own deductive reasoning this episode by piecing together that riddle in her father‘s file. And it was shocking to see that her father has been spying on her all this time by hacking into the security systems. Or is that really something recent? After all, her mother put lasers in that file room and the code to deactivate it was her daughter’s birthday. Was it really her mother who programmed that system, or was it her dad? And why the subterfuge through the puzzle?

Chris Klein’s character of Cicada is given depth and motivation in this episode, besides his increasing threat, now that he is established as an anachronism thanks to Nora’s disruption of the timeline. While his origin deviates from the comic book, his plate remains the same. He has a loved one, his daughter, that he’s trying to save, and somehow sees wiping out the metahuman population in central city as the means to do it. It was good on the writers to tease that fact through the actual detective in the show, Joe West.

Even though he is one himself, that gash on his chest means that it’s also to save him. Further, he is targeting the most profiled of metahumans, such as The Flash and Vibe. The fact that he managed to find a connection between Joe West and Cisco’s alter ego shows that he’s not doing this aimlessly. This is calculated and analytical. While I am not sure how his dagger absorbs the abilities of metas in the area temporarily, it’s clear that his abilities are strengthened by the dagger. The fact that he has a doctor on the inside explains where he got the mask and how he’s kept himself together.

The best villains are the heroes of their own story; he’s not doing this for power or control, but for the sake of his daughter. A parent’s primal instinct is to protect their young by any means necessary. But that leaves the question open as to where the mother is? Was she attacked by a metahuman? Were they both exposed to dark matter from the original particle accelerator explosion of 2013? Is their daughter’s condition the result of this? Regardless, the moment between father and daughter is only made ominous by the eerie music in the background. You take that away, and the scene feels more sentimental and genuine as he leans in and kisses his daughters forehead while she is sleeping.

One subplot that has been established is Cisco‘s retirement as Vibe. This puts him on an interesting path; to make sure that Joe and Cecille aren’t attacked again, he has to let on that Cicada succeeded in killing him. I have no doubt that Iris was the one that wrote that article. This ruse will give Cisco the time to both heal physically and emotionally from his recent traumas. It will also give him the opportunity to get to know the new Wells and make sure he doesn’t wrangle away.

That moment in the woods where Barry is standing over the supposed remains of his best friend took me by surprise as well because even I thought that he was dead. I thought the writers threw the viewers a curveball and killed off one of the shows most beloved characters. Thankfully, I was wrong and it gave Nora points for ingenuity and creativity. It may allow for the possibility of S.T.A.R. Labs’ resident tech genius to connect with this fangirl from the future, who is very much who he was in year one.

Wherever Cisco goes from here without his girlfriend and his superhero identity remains to be seen, and may prove to be an interesting journey for this character. He has to find himself again and complete that process while helping Team Flash defeat this new danger to the city and their family. Personally, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Vibe.

 

Negatives

Sitting Joe. That’s what I’m calling him until he gets up off his butt from whatever chair or Chesterfield he is seated in. Hell, even getting behind the wheel will do. I don’t know whether Jesse L. Martin is injured and the producers are trying to work around it – they do the same for actresses who are pregnant but their characters are not – but seeing Joe sitting around doing nothing makes him feel ancient. The old man on the hillside. So, until I see him actually doing something, even walking, I am going to refer to him as sitting Joe.

Cicada had him dead to rights and he didn’t even bother to do anything. I know he is “Papa Joe“ in the future where Nora comes from, but it’s a little too early for him to be cutting back like this. The situation with the thief at the grocery store was called in to Iris from Joe, who said he needed help with the situation. Well, where the hell was he? It’s like he’s taking time off and letting Team Flash pick up the slack. Usually he’s on the scene and the only indication that he is active on the team is in those news photos of he and vibe. One way to resolve this mystery is to have somebody at the CCPD say that Joe is on paternity leave to spend time with his new daughter.

And while I applaud Tom’s new version of Harrison Wells, I really don’t see the point in one version of the character having a beard, and another version coincidentally growing his out as well. I know it makes sense at face value considering the additional time required to have Tom record his scenes with team flash as Sherloque Wells, then shave and tape his as Herr Wells. But I don’t see the likelihood in some subliminal wave in the multi-verse that tells every version of Wells to grow a beard.

 

Verdict

This episode showed great character development for Cisco, Nora and Ralph and the deepening of the mystery surrounding Caitlin’s father and Cicada. And Tom’s new version of Harrison Wells is a winner. It’s just Sitting Joe and the coincidental need to grow a goatee amongst the Multiverse of Wells that rub me the wrong way. To quote Nora, those creative decisions are “Schrap.” Other than that, I look forward to more reveals about the three main subplots that have emerged this year. That being said, I’ve gotta run.

 

https://dccomicsnews.com/wp-content/themes/maxblog/assets/img/flash-icon.jpg

Jay

I'm an Ontario-based news writer, as well as graphic illustrator with his own commission business. I've been a comic collector since I was ten and have enjoyed the lore of these larger than life figures ever since. I graduated with an HBA from the University of Toronto in Humanities and have worked for both local and online news outlets.