Review: The Flash 5×17 – “Time Bomb”

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

Director: Rob Greenlea

Writers: Kristen Kim and Sterling Gates

Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker, Jesse L. Martin, Danielle Nicolet, Hartley Sawyer, Jessica Parker-Kennedy, Tom Cavanaugh, Chris Klein, Sarah Carter, Victoria Park, Catherine Lough Haggquist, Morena Baccarin (voice)

 

Summary

In the aftermath of the future Cicada’s interference with the timeline, Thawne encourages Nora to confess everything to Barry and Iris before it’s too late; the adult Grace Gibbons hunts down a metahuman with whom she has a personal vendetta; Ralph oversteps with Cisco and his new relationship with Camilla; the investigation into Cicada II leads Sherloque to completing his own personal investigation into Nora.

 

Positives

The moment finally happened. But we will hold off on it till later. Secrets and lies top the themes of this week’s episode, and the double-edged sword of their necessity in certain situations.

Let’s start with the new Cicada, the adult Grace Gibbons played by Sarah Carter. As noted in my last review, she’s known by DC TV fans as Clark Kent’s ill-fated girlfriend Alicia Baker from Smallville back in 2004. Since then she’s also become known for such TV properties as Falling Skies, Rogue and Hawaii Five-O. Her characterization of Grace contradicts her outwardly serene appearance. Her interactions with Chris Klein are essential to get across the level of hate and bitterness she feels towards the world, much like how her present-day younger self behaved initially when her uncle Orlun took her in. They are also important to sell to the audience the notion that she is more deadly than her uncle was with his powers and not just because of her own abilities. She seems indoctrinated by her uncle’s consistent ranting about the evils of metahumans while she was comatose. The fact she remembers Nora from her trip through her mind shows her black-and-white perspective from ten years old haven’t changed. The writers use Grace as a mirror for Orlun, who’s terrorized and murdered with those same intentions. He sees her rage and hate as his own fault, as opposed to still being convinced of his convictions even after the cure was successful. His motivation has always been his love for Grace, while Grace herself is fueled by her thirst for vengeance on the metahuman who killed her parents (more on her later). Sarah doesn’t even need the mask to sound terrifying; her conveyance of anger and ruthlessness in the cabin are so intense you can almost taste the venom from her words. Like a child, she sees the world made up of black and white with no grey area. Metahumans killed her parents, and therefore they are bad and must be exterminated. To liken them to a disease is just as hypocritical as Orlun’s rationale.

The tipping point for Grace as the new Cicada comes with her decision to kill her own uncle. Up until that point, the audience believes her uncle can talk her down and that she can be redeemed. The fact that she could easily have overpowered him without stabbing him literally in the back with her dagger – a dagger she literally dragged back from blocks away – was cowardly and heartless. What works also is there is not one tear shed for him. This was needed to sell that there were no boundaries this new Cicada will cross. She killed a cop protecting case files, she killed the doctor that saved her, and now she’s killed the only family she had left only because he disagreed with her. As ruthless and fanatical as he was when he put on that mask, Orlun Dwyer would never have sacrificed his sole reason for his crusade. Klein using his natural voice again was also important to note a distinctive change in his demeanor; no longer wracked with pain and free of his mania, the audience needed to see a reformed villain trying to save his adopted daughter from this life. He realizes that he has robbed his young charge of any semblance of humanity and hope. With the metahuman cure successful, and administered by the very people that he had tried to kill for months, Orlun has a new perspective. He has learned forgiveness and feels nothing but guilt for his niece’s dark future. In his eyes, Grace has become the embodiment of his own demons, made in his image. His final words to Barry outline the season’s main goal, and staying true to his own objective. RIP Cicada; long live Cicada.

The levity in this episode comes from Ralph again interfering in Cisco’s love life. Lately DC shows have made namedrops to their friendly competition, Marvel Comics, so seeing Ralph say he “Peter Parker’d” Kamilla by encouraging her to apply for a job at Iris’s newspaper was big laughs. Carlos and Hartley have great comedic chemistry together, the former creating big laughs at this “turkey on stilts” at his reactions to the latter’s line crossings. The writing for Cisco over the past few months has indicated the fanboy has had enough of the superhero life and is looking for something with substance, and are obviously using his new relationship with Camilla as the vehicle. Over the course of the series, Cisco has had two girlfriends who have been superheroes (or interdimensional bounty hunters, like Gypsy) and have ended abysmally. Kamilla, played masterfully by Victoria Park, is a fresh start for Cisco, completely cut off from Team Flash and their weekly shenanigans, and he’s fine with that. However, in keeping with the theme of secrets, Ralph is the writers’ voice in pointing out that he cannot keep both of his lives separate indefinitely. Barry is living proof of that, and even to Nora he notes how he was wrong in keeping certain secrets from certain people. Cisco has never had to deal with that. It remains to be seen where this relationship leads, but what makes this subplot work is Cisco refusing to bring Kamilla in for the much needed drink. This is a relationship that’s being built behind the scenes, and that subtlety works in the long run.

Sherloque Wells has some great moments this week, especially in his big reveal at the end to Team Flash. I like the notion of S.T.A.R. Labs having an offsite storage facility (or S.T.A.R.Chives, as Cisco probably called it); why would they have dangerous mementos and souvenirs cluttering up the building for bad guys to stumble on? Nice nod to season one’s vacuum cleaner gag, by the way. Perhaps most of them are what wind up in The Flash Museum, which is what the facility eventually becomes. Back to Wells, Tom’s delivery as he verbally gets into the mind of Eobard Thawne in the S.T.AR.Chives was well-paced and the script offered his own viewpoints on this villain that’s terrorized Team Flash from day one. The scenes featuring Future Thawne and Season One Thawne via video have a cool alpha-omega feel to them; the confident, self-assured maniac scribbling on the board versus the older maniac who realizes he was wrong. The scene in the Time Vault had the perfect “A-HA!” moment that tied everything together for Sherloque and demonstrates why he’s worty of the title of master detective. Over the course of months he’s managed to pull all of the facts together and this is his moment, albeit at an emotional cost to the team.

The case of Vickie Bolen finds its relevance to both Nora’s present dilemma and the metahuman cure. The writers get across to the viewer that not all people who were embued with powers and abilities want a life of crime or heroism. For some, it’s a hindrance, and for others it’s an aid to one’s every day tasks. We’ve seen that in numerous cases before, but it’s different when family is involved. As noted before, Barry sees the irrationality now in how many secrets he kept; Iris finding out he was The Flash and that Joe insisted on him maintaining that secret was a disaster. His relationship with Patty fell apart because he couldn’t reveal his secret identity. And he even witnessed Felicity and Oliver split up over the Faustian deal he made with Samantha Clayton to keep the existence of his son from her. Vickie’s dilemma was allowed to fester because she chose to not tell anyone about her abilities, not even her husband and daughter. Given her inability to control it, it’s hard to say what event empowered her, the original particle accelerator explosion, or perhaps an offshoot of the wormhole Barry used to escape the Speed Force. What works in her favor is her being unaware that she had accidentally caused the deaths of two people. As far as she’s concerned, it was just an ATM. The resulting argument between husband and wife in front of Nora, and the resolution between Vickie and her daughter, are intended to give Nora two viable possibilities if she confesses. Vickie is the kind of person that the metahuman cure is designed for; she feels normal and wholesome with not one hint of malice.

And now…The Moment. Jessica is good at showing a controlled panic and visual terror, as she gets to do both. Her deliberations with Barry on the notions of secrets gives her both pause and assurance, as the writers try to leave her divided until the rug is pulled out from under her by Sherloque Wells. The Scooby-Doo-esque flashbacks to key moments in Sherloque’s investigation drives home Tom’s delivery, and Nora’s expression of fear and exposure is very telling, as is the shocked expressions by all of Team Flash. Especially that of her father, who does an un-Barry-like maneuver of locking her up the pipeline before she can move. Grant’s conveyance of a father whose heart just got broken is controlled, but keenly felt. It’s felt even more so when he just walks away after locking Nora up; symbolically he’s walking away from everything they’ve built together because all he sees are lies. And it’s not because she ignored his advice on being open and honest, which is a very recent lecture. Out of everybody in that room, he’s had the most time spent with his daughter this year. He’s trained her and supported her and saved her numerous times. His unleashed rage on Cicada when he almost killed her was the first sign of how much of a father’s love he’d developed for her. Nora, in turn, got to know and feel that love and support that she missed out on; she got to see her dad as being more than just a figure in a museum and a dead parent. There doesn’t have to be a lot of dialogue for either party to hear the glass falling as two souls are shattered by this revelation. His only daughter is in alliance with his greatest enemy. The man who killed his mother. He’s been through too many deceptions – Thawne, Harry Wells, Zoom, Savitar – to even chance giving his daughter a moment to explain. When it comes to Eobard Thawne, his logic is simple: Anything remotely associated with The Reverse-Flash is toxic. In some ways, his reaction mirrors Grace’s black-and-white viewpoint of metahumans, which may be pointed out in the next episode. What makes that final scene of Nora sobbing alone in the pipeline work is that there is no accompanied orchestra. It’s just silent, save for the crying of a woman who feels her father’s shame and heartbreak.

 

Negatives

One complaint I have is the common sense in rebuilding the Time Sphere after Barry destroyed it in season one. Why would they have a working model constructed, even if it was stored offsite? You’d think that Cisco would’ve steered away from that thing after what had happened.

Verdict

I give this a solid 5 out of 5. The attention paid to the threat of the new Cicada and the events leading to Nora’s exposure was perfect. Grant, Jessica, and Tom were all on their A-games this week. Chris Klein did a fantastic job fleshing out this complex villain and his send-off launched the new big bad for the remainder of the series. Sarah Carter soars as Grace Gibbons and there is bound to be additional layers to her character to be revealed in the next few confrontations. The cliffhanger is hands down one of the best this series has produced, and again the lack of music leading out of it enhanced the seriousness of the issue. It’s a shame the crew is out till mid-April; guess even Team Flash needs spring break. Looking forward to how Barry and Iris are going to recover from this reveal, and how Nora is going to explain why she’s working with the man who murdered her grandmother right in front of her dad. See you in three, Flash fans!

 

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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.