Did y’all know The Flash was coming back this week?
Based on some comments I’ve seen online, a lot of people were unaware that new episodes were already airing again, which is kind of a big whiff by the CW’s marketing department. But it’s true: the Arrowverse is back from its mid-season hiatus! Supergirl won’t return until this Sunday evening, and Arrow not until Monday (and Legends not till frickin’ April!), but we still have The Flash back on our screens, giving us further adventures of our favorite speedster . . . and his archenemy, Barry Allen.
The Flash 5×10: “The Flash and the Furious” review
The Flash is a repetitive show. The Flash has always been a repetitive show.
Even before we’d had multiple speedster villains, a succession of rookie heroes training under Barry, and no less than four separate trips to the night of Nora Allen’s death, the show clearly had a formula it didn’t like straying from. Watch enough episodes in a row, and all the pep talks, villains-of-the-week, Star Labs exposition scenes, and ominous, episode-ending codas . . . they all start to blur together. Occasionally you’ll get something wildly different like “Enter Flashtime” or “The Runaway Dinosaur”, but mostly The Flash sticks to telling the same sort of story in the same way, only shading in the details differently.
But in “The Flash and the Furious”, those repetitive elements feel a bit more intentional than usual. With Barry suffering from superpower incontinence (and with Grant Gustin suffering from busy-filming-a-freaking-crossover), he spends most of the episode on the sidelines, leaving Nora to take over as lead hero. And with her now in Barry’s role, the reused plot elements read as a deliberate homage to the show’s past, with Nora following in her father’s footsteps.
The Weather Witch/Silver Ghost teamup is an explicit attempt to recreate the Rogues teamup of Captain Cold, Heatwave, and Golden Glider. Silver Ghost even calls them “the Young Rogues”, and Barry outright says that Weather Witch is now Nora’s version of Leonard Snart, a repeated adversary that they begin to see the potential for good in.
We also have Nora making a classic Barry Allen-style blunder, reacting to a mistake by going way too far in the other direction. Having come to feel that she messed up trusting a criminal, she decides it’s always a mistake to trust any criminal, under any circumstances, now and forever . . . at least until the third act, when the rest of Team Flash finally talks some sense into her. If you remember how much of a dick Barry was initially to Jay and Harry in Season 2, this’ll feel mighty familiar.
And then there’s the Thawne of it all. Like her father before her, Nora has been trained as a speedster by Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash, as he wears the face of Harrison Wells. Their scenes together this week, with Thawne in a prison cell with a clear glass front, Nora confronting him over his murder of Nora, Sr., and him offering to help her travel through time and save her parent . . . I can’t believe they’re anything other than a deliberate callback to Barry and Thawne’s opening confrontation in the Season 1 finale, “Fast Enough”.
With both Nora and Weather Witch, “The Flash and the Furious” wants to comment on daughters becoming like their fathers. To that end, having Nora go through some of the same trials and tribulations we’ve already seen with Barry is effective storytelling. This episode is repetitive, but it’s repetitive with a purpose.
Does that make it good, though?
There have now been over one hundred episodes of The Flash. We’ve seen dozens of superpowered bad guys pull off brazen heists, whup the heroes one or two times, but then get defeated once the good guys work through their personal issues and start thinking positively (and break out some nonsensical technobabble). Any episode that stays as firmly inside that formula as this one does, it’s gonna have a tough time surprising you enough to be truly great.
But if you’re still watching The Flash, even now in its fifth season, then clearly those repetitive elements are something you have a high tolerance for. The question then becomes, within the basic template of a Flash episode, does “The Flash and the Furious” excel enough in the little details to stand out from the pack?
Well, seeing someone other than Barry go through these plot beats does add an element of novelty to it. The Young Rogues aren’t anything too amazing yet, but they do have enough style that the promise of their return is exciting (and it’d be nice to see the show try again with the Rogues concept, after the actors playing the original Rogues all left for other shows after one season). And, given how dude-centric The Flash can be a lot of the time, it was refreshing to have a climax where several heroes and villains are duking it out, and all of them happen to be ladies.
This episode isn’t going to make anyone’s series best list. Unless Season 5 goes to crap from here on out, I doubt it’ll make anyone’s season’s best list, either. But it’s a fun episode, with lots of action, humor, character beats, and theatrical villainy. It’s just, y’know, the same sort of action, humor, character beats, and theatrical villainy we’ve gotten plenty of before.
- The metahuman cure is something a bit new for The Flash (albeit very familiar to anyone who follows the X-Men or any of the various X-Men rip-offs). Between this and Cicada’s hatred of all metahumans, it seems like The Flash might be edging into superpowers-as-metaphor-for-human-rights-issues territory, which is normally Supergirl’s turf.
- Nora’s insistence that Joss couldn’t possibly be reformed, while it theoretically makes sense from a character perspective, ignores the fact that Cecile, a mind reader, confirmed that her remorse was genuine. While characters argue with Nora’s attitude as a general philosophy, none of them bring up that, in this specific case, they have objective proof that she’s wrong.
- Silver Ghost didn’t show us anything too special this episode. Just a pretty generic cool-pose-striking criminal. But the dynamic between her and Weather Witch does look to be interesting.
- It was so good to have Tom Cavanaugh’s Thawne back, even if, at times, he leaned into the rasp a bit too much. He can play this very broad character who makes these grandiose statements, but still let the very real and very bitter character beneath that theatricality shine through.
- This episode seems to confirm that Sherloque is not Thawne in disguise, but him investigating Nora is still a good use of his character, especially since, unless he gets rock solid proof, you know everyone on Team Flash is going to trust her over him.
- This episode namedrops Wally, which got me thinking: since he got his powers from the Philosopher’s Stone, not from dark matter, he should also be immune to Cicada’s power draining, right? I know they can’t because of actor availability, but next time they fight Cicada, they really should think about giving him a call.
- Mick’s romance novels now appear to be designated reading material for all prisoners in the Arrowverse. I think he’d really appreciate that.
MVP of the Week: S.A.M.
I’m normally not much of one for cars, but I can’t not adore a superpowered car that’s controlled by colorful emojis.
Question of the Week: What villains from the comics would you like to see join the Young Rogues?