Review: THE FLASH 5×21 – “THE GIRL WITH THE RED LIGHTNING”
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Stefan Plyeszczynzki
Writers: Judalina Niera and Thomas Pound
Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker, Hartley Sawyer, Danielle Nicolet, Jessica Parker-Kennedy, Chris Klein, Tom Cavanaugh, Jesse L. Martin, Kimberly Willaims-Paisley, Sarah Carter, Patrick Sabongui, Everick Golding,
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
As Cicada II prepares her metahuman device, Nora risks further exposure to The Negative Speed Force by mentally linking herself to Grace to figure out her next move; Ralph sees the holes in the new timeline Nora had created by coming to the present; Joe struggles with being in charge.
The sucker punch at the end is worth it. We will get to that as we go in order.
First of all, let’s focus on the writers were smart to continue the inclusion of the Negative Speed Force through Nora’s exposure to it. (Another callback comes from the beginning of the season, but we’ll get to that later, too.) Given that it’s an integral part of the Reverse-Flash and Nora’s connection to him it couldn’t be ignored. Having Jessica sounding vindictive for subtle moments were good ways of reminding how volatile it had made XS last week. Like her father, Nora had been tainted both metaphorically and physically by this insidious man’s science. However, the writers avoid Nora becoming addicted to it and establish it’s a line that she recognizes and dares to chafe to stop Grace. Tying in the NSF’s affects to Nora’s emotional state parallels Grace and her powers. The return of the speed trap from season one of The Flash works in that it’s Thawne’s Speed Force that it was meant to ensnare. It demonstrates Cisco’s ability to recycle old ideas for new problems. The VFX did a fantastic job conveying the destructive nature of the NSF prior to it in Cisco’s workshop, and enhancing it in the Speed Trap. They did as equal a commendable job in designing The Flash escaping the explosion earlier on.
Nora’s speech to her parents is similar to how Barry told off Joe in episode 2 of the first season. As Barry convinced Joe that The Flash was an avenue worth pursuing, Nora does the same with her parents regarding hers to defeat Cicada. Simultaneously, Barry and Iris realize that they are not dealing with that little girl that they observed in their daughter’s memories. While still concerned, they allow her to The mindscape battle between them has been a gradual buildup from the moment they met. It was in that misunderstanding that Grace’s Cicada became Nora’s nemesis rather than Barry’s. (Side note: Nice move in keeping Orlun Dwyer’s ghost around to drive home her of insanity and fantaticism). Nora’s mastery over her emotions as opposed to Grace at the mercy of hers is a great contrast. It also shows how Nora has matured over the course of the year as both a hero and as a woman in general. She has evolved from fangirl and rookie superhero to a person that takes responsibility for her actions. Further, her mastery over her anger and distinguishing it from Grace shows she is also emotionally stronger than Thawne, another individual a slave to his rage. It also pushes XS towards realizing her destiny as a legitimate successor to The Flash.
The romance between Sherloque Wells and Irene Adler is balanced with the notion of choice. Tom and Kimberly have fantastic chemistry together. It was smart to not let this relationship fall to the wayside as a gag. The reality of metahumans finally allowed a chance at a normal life is a great subplot to add plausible reason for a difference of opinion. Irene isn’t a hero or a villain, much like all of the people that herded into the CCPD for Cisco’s cure. With so much fear and danger with Cicada II’s planned metahuman virus, it’s understandable that Sherloque would think that Irene would want to take it. However, it’s a smart move to show this character as the one who uses the opportunity to choose to keep her powers in spite of Cicada II’s threat. The depth of feeling on Sherloque, in turn, doesn’t feel forced in neither their kiss or his decision to offer her refuge on his world until the danger passes. Whether this decision will come back to bite him remains to be seen.
The climactic final battle is cleverly balanced with loose ends that have been plaguing the entire season without the viewer’s knowledge. The writing team has been smart this year billing possible cure-alls for this year’s Big Bad. From the metahuman cure to the Mirror Gun – great nod to classic Mirror Master by the way in its design – the viewers have been scratching their heads as to what to expect. Thankfully, as usual, like The Flash, you never saw it coming. Having Grace actually have engineering skills and strategy as opposed to just being a complete thug elevated her in the threat level she posed. In contrast, having Cisco’s own expertise, not Vibe’s powers, successfully take the wind out of her sails shows off his best. Further, it drives home where the character may be going after this is over. The choreography in a three-way battle is carefully balanced and engaging. With regards to the aforementioned loose ends, writers are smart in condensing it into two subtle yet relevant subplots: Ralph bringing his time travel research back, and Eobard Thawne’s pending death sentence. To have Ralph make such a relevant connection also reflects questions asked from the moment all this started. Utilizing what started out as a gag as the actual road to the truth makes Elongated Man level up to the sleuth he is in the comics and a flash of brilliance that makes him Sherloque’s equal. The big reveal of both him connecting the dots and Thawne actually WEARING Cicada’s dagger under that vest has the necessary mindblowing effect. What works is that these two events were framed as crucial background information. The final solution to Team Flash’s Cicada problem becomes the key to The Reverse-Flash’s salvation and is cleverly cut before we see the end result. I, for one, was screaming “BARRY, NO!” before it ended.
Joe West is clueless as an interim police captain? I don’t find this very credible. This man has been an officer for the past two decades and is the go-to for Team Flash as the voice of reason. Plus he’s a father of four. To see him be all thumbs organizing the metahuman cure lineups and setting up perimeters seems beneath him. This is a moment of growth that had already happened off screen and only made Joe look incompetent. This is how a rookie would behave. I know Jesse needed something to do, but he seemed more reliable in the first season than he did this week.
Points taken off for the “Clueless Joe” routine on Jesse’s part. That felt like filler. But where this episode shined was a very clever plot twist, strong character development on the part of Nora and Ralph, and well-paced run towards the cliffhanger. The Sopranos-style exit was well-played to keep the viewers on their toes to see if that shot actually makes its target. I can’t wait to see the expected return of The Reverse-Flash and how Nora fits in to this. See you guys next week!