Review: The Flash 7×07 – “Growing Pains”
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Alexandra La Roche
Writers: Sam Chalsen and Jess Carson
Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Danielle Nicolet, Kayla Compton, Brandon McKnight, Jesse L. Martin, Michelle Harrison, Carmen Moore, Jon Cor
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
As Barry struggles with his new living arrangement, Sgt. Kristen Kramer ramps up her investigation of Frost as a new metahuman threat with similar powers commits crimes to frame her.
This week’s episode focuses on the central theme of growth, and it’s shared by multiple players.
Let’s start this review with Barry and Iris’s new house guest: The Speed Force.
It’s interesting to see Michelle Harrison as the Speed Force trying to fit in at Barry and Iris’s loft. Grant does a good job of conveying Barry’s awkward behavior in this new living arrangement. It’s not forced in any way and still comes off as comedic at the right points and serious at others. It’s clear that this is a very surreal situation for him given that he has both the source of his powers and a woman resembling his mother living in their apartment and appearing at crime scenes with him. And this is aside from her eagerness to amplify his speed.
As far as Nora goes, this is a different side to the character. Like Barry, the audience is used to seeing Michelle’s performance as The Speed Force as enigmatic and, as Chester notes, omnipresent (nice Power Rangers name drop with “Zordon”). And now, she appears more human and maternal. For Barry, it is more than just the entity becoming an individual. The Speed Force has become something of a mom trying to help her boy, even if he doesn’t need it, and, understandably, it reaches a boiling point when she accidentally causes Barry to ruin the evidence he needs to clear Frost.
The Speed Force is all about speed, and while it’s under her control, its recipient is unable to deal with the level of power she’s giving him. The writing team is smart in likening Barry’s changed relationship with The Speed Force to her changed relationship with Joe after she came home from college. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Barry and Nora interact going forward. The fact that he is now able to call her Nora shows a very positive change.
This week saw Frost grow as a person in more ways than one. The writing team is smart to put her past crimes as “Killer Frost” under a real-world microscope. These crimes cannot go uninvestigated or, ultimately, unpunished. The brief recap of these crimes during Season Three brings them into perspective, especially when you have Cecile, a past kidnapping victim, review them.
For Harry Potter fans who have not seen previous seasons, you’ve got even more incentive to check the show out after seeing Tom Felton as Julian Albert in one of those scenes. Danielle got double duty this week, more so than before as both Caitlin and Frost were persecuted by Central City’s newest resident. Further, she even got more fight time in twice, and the VFX team did a great job showing the new ways Frost used her abilities in that bar brawl. They even had to argue over the phone on the issue of busting Caitlin out of the CCPD. Danielle, as Frost, even got to be the one who goes up against the true culprit for these ice-related crimes: Mark Blaine, aka Chillblaine.
In the comics, he’s a Captain Cold wannabe from the Geoff Johns run on The Flash. (For those who don’t know, “chillblain” is a medical condition of blistering and inflammation of the skin when exposed to intense subzero temperatures.) However, his revamped background as a Killer Frost fanboy and disgruntled – and damaged – cryogenics expert makes more sense. Plus the manner in which he both framed her and used a scanner to complete his cryo-tech showed a high level of competence in his abilities.
What makes the final fight work is that there is an obvious sexual attraction between the two of them. Honestly I haven’t heard “It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here” since the second season of Smallville. Some can argue that this is a bad guy slipped in through the back door, but others can appreciate the surprise factor. Perhaps Frost’s biggest show of growth was finally taking accountability for her actions. Given this is her worst fear, having her take responsibility and willingly surrender to the police is the best example of how much she has changed. Based on the epilogue, Frost isn’t gone and her story’s resolution is just beginning.
Sergeant Kristen Kramer, played by Carmen Moore, is becoming a strong presence, and this frame up shows how determined she is. In this episode her intentions become more than just the Jack McGee to Frost’s David Banner (See Runk? I can write a review and do the namedrop thing, too). Basically she represents real-world consequences that the CCPD allegedly have gone lax on with certain metahumans like Frost. The strongest point of fact is that she refuses to call Frost by name without the “Killer” part of it.
Carmen, as Kristen, comes off as objective in some areas, yet stubborn and uncompromising in others. Her ruthlessness even shows through when she refused to let Joe know they were heading to Caitlin’s apartment to arrest her. Kramer represents accountability that is needed on the part of Frost; she refuses to review what she’s done for the city as a hero. It is both Frost’s refusal to lie low or own up to her actions that lead to the bounty on her head and her sister sitting in lockup for her crimes.
Her interaction with Barry breaks away from the cliched, hard-nosed military officer and seems reasonable. Even The Speed Force seems to like her. But now that she has her woman, will Kramer’s perception of Frost change given she willingly surrendered instead of fighting her way out of the bar?
Sadly, with every positive, this review has a negative, starting with Frost’s accomplice. Where did Alegra’s besties relationship with Frost come from? From what I can tell, these two have had next to no scenes together that constituted hanging out. It just feels a little forced for her to show this much emotion. And Barry seemed too forgiving to Alegra for lying to the team, given the stakes. And didn’t Nash Wells’s belt have a place in their shrine room? Why is she now wearing it? And when did S.T.A.R. Labs get a workout room? I mean it makes sense given the amount of brawls they get into with bad guys, but again it feels a little forced.
Chillblaine’s CGI effect gloves make no sense as they come out of nowhere, Tony Stark-style. The texture in this “armor up” sequence also lacks believability. The lack of a special costume is forgivable in this debut given this is basically “Chillblaine Begins,” but since this guy’s not a metahuman, I don’t see where his power source is. And how does anybody not notice Nora speeding into view? I know technically Nora Allen has been dead since Barry was eleven and no one would recognize her, but she speeds into a crime scene with investigators around and no one notices the lightning? I also feel that the investigation of this frame job should have been a two-parter. I know Frost’s trial is next week, but I think that this story should have been expanded to more than just one episode.
After a great character moment for Chester last week, he really stands out in the wrong ways. I’m sorry, but I just felt him filling in for Cisco as tech on the crime scene was awkward and forced comedy. Finally, why does Barry take off his mask in the bar? There’s no reason for Grant to show his face, especially in a bar that may have surveillance cameras. Believe me when I say I really hate the fact that these many flaws popped up for this week’s review but objectivity comes before fandom.
I give this week a 3.5 out of 5. While we saw some great moments with Frost, Kramer, and Nora, there were a lot of factors that didn’t make it work. A plot that should’ve been two episodes instead of one didn’t work, regardless of Frost facing her crimes next week or not.
It’s also my sad duty to announce that this will be my final review of The Flash. My life has taken on new priorities and I have to devote time to them. I want to say that it’s been my honor to cover my favorite CW show for the past three years and I want to thank Joshua Raynor for giving me this shot. Whether I’m back or not, I can’t say. Time will tell. Enjoy the next episode and the rest of the season. Run, Barry, run.