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“But in these dark times, we must never forget our own strength. Our own power to fight back. That it is only in the blackest of nights that we can truly see the light, and know for sure we are not alone.”
With Iris' opening monologue, "Invincible" seemed to be working as a perfect followup to last week's wonderful "The Runaway Dinosaur." That was an episode that taught Barry to have faith in himself, to never forget his own strength, his own power to fight back.
It's disappointing, then, that this episode's sole purpose was to teach Barry that the opposite is true.
What a strange sequel to Barry's lesson in the Speed Force, a lesson that gave him his powers back, the confidence to return to his friends and save them in the nick of time, to wake Jesse from her coma merely by touching her hand. It seemed that by accepting the death of a parent, Barry had become The Flash we always knew he could be, and the cloud of despair that has followed him all season - really, his entire life, since the day his mother died - lifted, promising a new, optimistic Flash, one of limitless strength and speed. So why were we then served an hour of Barry's closest friends and family telling him to stop being so overconfident, that he's not invincible? Why was Barry seemingly punished for believing what he learned in the Speed Force with the death of another parent? What is the thematic lesson here?
It's disheartening. It feels like a step forward and a leap back. It's the worst kind of ineffective episode, in that it even invalidates the power of the episode before it. It seemed inevitable that Henry must die, but why like this: another circumstance that leaves Barry feeling guilty, mere days after he's at last learned to cope with the guilt of his mother's death. And why must that guilt be a product of his own confidence in himself, confidence that translates into recklessness when it should translate into faith in his own abilities?
I'm mad, as you can probably tell. I'm mad because The Flash has had so much back and forth this season, and with "The Runaway Dinosaur" it felt like we were making real progress, that Barry and Barry's story were both headed in the right direction: namely, forward.
But because this is The Flash, and The Flash is good even when it's not at its best, there was still plenty to like in "Invincible." It's a shame that Zoom's very cool meta army was so easily dispensed with, when that seemed a terrific conflict on which to end a season, but it awarded us the appearance of Katie Cassidy as Black Siren, Earth-2's evil (and, let's be honest, more interesting) answer to Black Canary. Cassidy was great in the role, and her exchange with Caitlin-as-Killer-Frost and Cisco-as-Reverb was absolutely delicious. It made for an excellent twist, and all three performers seemed to be having a blast.
It's also nice to see the turn Wally has taken. He's not a speedster, but he's still cheerfully determined to help The Flash protect his city. Joe's understandably concerned that his other son - the one without superhuman strength and healing - has taken it upon himself to be a hero, but Barry's right when he tells Joe that he can't stop Wally from wanting to help people. It's a good quality, and it's a quality he got from Joe (with an added assist from The Flash). Also, let's be honest: the idea of a baby Wally, Barry or Iris calling Joe "Paw-Paw" is too cute to be resisted.
And though there wasn't much time for her this week, Jesse continues to be a valued member of Team Flash. Her dynamic with Harry is increasingly lovely, and her flirtation with Wally is pretty charming, too. And of course Cisco and Harry's relationship grows in humor and heart every week, as much as Cisco himself is growing into the superhero we know he will be.
But the most rewarding part of "Invincible" came through Caitlin's somewhat abrupt return. I hope and assume her arc with Zoom isn't at an end - after all of this, she deserves to be the person who stops him - and her escape felt anticlimactic enough that at first I was sure it was a trap, but all of that became secondary to Caitlin's brave and authentic post-trauma journey.
I'm afraid all the time. I don't think I can ever move forward... Jay took everything from me. My confidence, my trust, my sanity. I don't think I'll ever be whole again.
She has suffered so much, but she learns that her own healing lies in facing a dangerous meta-human, risking her life to save the people of Central City. She may make a convincing Killer Frost, but Caitlin does not hide the trauma of her past with villainy - she faces it with heroism. There is nothing Jay can take from her that will make her a killer.
It's a beautiful realization, and it's not the only beautiful moment of The Flash. Henry's death is powerful and moving. He gets the chance to tell his son that he loves him, and he's proud of him. I only wish Henry's death had as much thematic impact as it did emotional. I wish the import of "The Runaway Dinosaur" had not so quickly been dispelled by "Invincible."
We've got one episode left in the season, one that will likely deal with the destruction of Earth-2 envisioned by Cisco, and that's an hour remaining to steady the lilting ship that has been The Flash Season 2. Let's have faith that it will.
Coolest moments this week:
Barry's slow-motion rescue of Dr. McGee out of Mercury Labs looked incredible! And it's great to know that one person out there had no trouble putting together that Barry is The Flash.
And Amanda Pays' return made for a very nice farewell for John Wesley Shipp, reuniting the actors after their days together on 1990's The Flash.
"I think I just got the worst idea of all time." More bad ideas like this, please, Cisco!