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This season has seen quite an improvement since the last time I filled in (Meredith’s off exploring the astral plane this week), and despite the disappointment of condensing the Flashpoint timeline into assingle episode, the show has managed to course correct in numerous ways. For one thing, Barry’s back to trying to figure out how to be a better person instead of moping around all the time, and that puts him in an especially interesting position with regards to rival CSI Julian Albert, Tom Felton from that one wizard movie. “Monster” feels a bit like his call to heroism, one he doesn’t necessarily succeed at, but at the very least one both men recognize.
After stickler Albert tattles on Barry for his tardiness, there isn’t much time to argue or score-settle since Central City finds itself at the mercy of a giant monster. As in, a several story tall, Cloverfield-esque kaiju. The Flash immediately begins unloading passengers off a stranded bus with the surprise help of Iris, who tells him she doesn’t need a costume to be a hero (Zack Stenz of “The Runaway Dinosaur” really brings out the best in her), a lesson that comes in handy when he finally decides to give Julian the benefit of doubt. The monster disappears without a trace, posing a particularly interesting challenge for Barry and Cisco (on top of their challenge of living together), and for an over-enthusiastic Harrison Wells from Earth-19.
The new Harry, or “H.R.” for short, is Tom Cavanagh’s fourth iteration of the character (following Wellobard, actual Wells, and Wells from Earth-2), and he’s a ridiculous joy. A loony counter-Wells from a world where coffee was wiped out by blight, where Hitchcock made a movie called Murder on the Titanic, and where Empire of the Sun is more popular than The Empire Strikes Back. He’s looking to please the STAR Labs crew by any means necessary, including figuring out exactly how they like their morning bevarages, bringing it to them on a trolley and suggesting team-building exercises. His niceness comes of as a façade since his contributions to Team Flash seem tangential at best, but in snooping around for his true motives as they’ve learned to with people named Wells, they discover his sinister plot merely involves research for a new novel he’s writing. Sneaky, sneaky Wells. As it turns out, he’s not much of a scientist either, merely the face of Star Labs where he’s from
Trust takes center stage this week, in a number of interesting ways. Cisco and Barry learn to rebuild their sense of trust thanks to H.R., in theory anyway since they keep finding out more of his lies, but the lies are relatively small and well-intentioned. Caitlyn trusts her estranged mother with the secret of her new powers. Julian learns to trust The Flash after he stops him from accidentally killing someone, and while following Julian to a crime scene under the guise of shadowing him, Barry learns to trust his intentions. Julian is a fine addition to the cast, a man whose distaste for metahumans comes partially from not having his own powers, but partially from seeing how many metas waste their gifts and turn to a life of crime. Were he in such a position, Julian would stop at nothing to help people. Barry recognizes that impulse. If this new Wells happens to not work out (it’d be fun to have an ‘idea guy’ around, but STAR Labs needs an actual scientist), then Julian would more than likely make an interesting addition.
Sure, Team Flash has science chameleon Caitlyn Snow for now, but as she proved when her mother’s lab worker tried to corner her, she’s not entirely in control of her powers – powers that, from a thematic standpoint, feel like they stem from a lack of maternal warmth. Her mother certainly wants to make an effort to patch things up, but I wonder how much of our beloved Caitlyn will be left when she tries. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the team finds out and attempts to bring her back from the brink, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. Caitlyn deserves a story arc that doesn’t revolve around romantic loss or betrayal.
With Caitlyn away in her own personal subplot, the team (along with bare minimum input from Wells of Earth Zany) figures out the monster is a hologram after Barry “I’ve always wanted to be a Jedi” Allen tries to Empire it with rope made from carbon fiber and it slips right through. They subsequently track down the prankster responsible for the citywide panic; hooded and huddled over a computer in the dark, it turns out to be a bullied teen who just wants to feel powerful for once by making other people as scared as he was. While it feels somewhat out of left field, Joe West’s sit-down with the boy before he faces the music, telling him that he can turn his life around, feels like a kaiju metaphor about internet-trolling akin to Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal, only here it serves a (super) heroic message to those who feel wrong and bullied themselves: that doing the same to others isn’t the way, but that they aren’t irredeemable either.
The episode ends with an equally small, equally heroic gesture: Barry sees Julian in distress, feeling lost after he nearly killed the teen despite his years of military training. He tells Julian to trust that things will get better, and offers to buy him a drink and chat.
Coolest moments this week:
- There can be only one, and it belongs to H.R. I’m going to miss this guy when he leaves, but I’m sure Cavanagh will be back as a new Wells soon enough.