Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Flash Season 5, Episode 4: News Flash

This week on The Flash we find out the real reason why Nora's been so cold to Iris, Ralph and Sherloque become "detective bros" and we get a heaping helping of social commentary.

Since Nora first appeared in the season premiere, she's fixated on Barry while seemingly wanting nothing to do with her mother. This week we finally find out why because at some point in the near future, Iris has Nora implanted with a chip that dampens her powers. No wonder she resents her ma!

According to Nora, Iris does this to "protect" her, presumably because she doesn't want her getting hurt or disappearing like Barry's destined to do in the Crisis. But I can't help but wonder if there's another reason for Iris' actions. 

Every since she appeared, Nora's been acting might sketchy at times, especially whenever anyone tries delving too deeply into her past. Is Nora secretly some sort of supervillain in disguise? There've been rumors that the Reverse Flash will be returning sometime this season, though Lord knows how that could ever be possible at this point. Is there some connection between Nora and Thawne? Did he send her back in time to infiltrate Team Flash and gain their trust? Or is Nora somehow Thawne in disguise?

Last week I complained that The Flash introduced a new detective character, even though they already have one on the show. This duplication of function is something this series seemingly LOVES to do, to the detriment of its cast. 

Fortunately I may have spoken too soon, as this episode actually pairs up Sherloque and Ralph, and it turns out they make a pretty good team.

Lastly, this episode tries its level best to be timely, what with its constant references to "fake news" and how dangerous irresponsible journalism can be. Thanks to her superpowers, villain-of-the-week Spyn can write her own stories and literally make them come true. I know an inhabitant of the White House who'd love to have that ability.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
In a flashback to The Thinker's "Enlightenment" in the Season 4 finale, the residents of Central City dodge chunks of DeVoe's satellites that fall from the sky. An idiot millennial named Spencer Young livestreams herself running through the chaos, instead of finding a place to hide like a human.

Spencer manages to film the Flash and XS punching the falling STAR Labs satellite. Suddenly a chunk of dark matter-drenched debris hits her phone and knocks it out of her hand, cracking its screen. A second hunk if debris hurtles right toward her, but she's saved by XS. She asks if she can take a selfie with her, but XS speeds off. Spencer picks up the phone and stares at it curiously.

In the present day, Iris tries to cook breakfast for her family, hoping to bond with Nora, who's been cold to her since she arrived from the future. It doesn't go well.

At STAR Labs, Sherloque discusses Cicada with the rest of Team Flash, listing everything they know about the villain. Sherloque says once they figure out all the items on his list, they'll know who Cicada is. Ralph, who isn't impressed with Sherloque, says they could cut to the chase and capture Cicada by figuring out why he wears his weird mask.

Iris, Caitlin, Cecile and Nora show up at the CCPD softball game to watch Barry play. Unfortunately he's awful, running slowly around the bases (!) and consistently dropping the ball. Nora gets an update on her phone from the Spyn Zone, a live blog run by our old friend Spencer Young. Iris dismisses her, saying Spencer was an intern at the Central City Picture News before she was fired. Nora seems to take Iris' dis personally and leaves in a huff. As she does so, her eyes briefly glow purple. Hey, just like she was being controlled by Kilg&re. Except he's not in this episode.

Suddenly Officer Jones, one of Barry's teammates, walks onto the field with a backpack. His eyes glow purple as well. Cecile gets a premonition from her glitchy powers and yells for someone to stop him. XS appears, grabs the backpack and hurls it into the air, where it explodes. Her eyes stop glowing, as do Jones'. They both look confused, as they don't remember what just happened.

Cut to Spencer, aka Spyn, lurking ominously in the shadows, filming the whole incident on her phone. Just then, Nora's phone dweedles, and she sees the Spyn Zone has a full report on XS saving the softball game, seconds after it happened. Iris worries that if Cicada becomes aware of XS, she'll become his next target.

Iris confronts Spyn at Jitters, telling her there's a new villain in town who's targeting metas, and asks her to lay off the articles about XS. Spyn refuses, saying the attacks could generate hits for her app. Quite rightly, she says what she's doing is no different than Iris' blog about the Flash. Ooooh, snap!

At CCPD, Barry and Joe interrogate Officer Jones about the bomb, but he doesn't remember anything about it. Suddenly there's a report of a fire at the Central City Picture News. Gosh, I wonder if Spyn had anything to do with that?

Barry and Nora speed to the scene of the fire. Barry tells Nora they need to create a vacuum to put out the blaze, but of course she's never done that before. Just then we see Spyn filming the whole thing with her accursed phone. She gets frustrated when Barry blocks her view of XS, so she writes a "fake news" headline (oy) saying "The Flash Spotted In Vegas," and somehow swipes it off her phone and onto an electronic billboard. Barry sees it, his eyes glow purple and he literally runs to Vegas!

Left by herself, Nora asks what to do next. Iris talks her through putting out the fire. Nora rotates her arms at super speed, which extinguishes the blaze. Hooray!

Barry returns to STAR Labs, and he and Team Flash discuss what happened. They notice the Spyn Zone covered the fire before the fire department had time to arrive, and suspect Spencer must be some sort of clairvoyant meta. Nora, who idolizes Spyn, seems to take it personally that they suspect her.

Meanwhile, Ralph and Sherloque do some investigating and track Cicada's mask to Szrek Chemicals. They ask the owner if any of his workers wears a mask like Cicada's. He chuckles and gestures to his crew, who're ALL decked out in identical protective masks. Ralph realizes his investigation's led to a dead end. As he and Sherloque leave, we see Orlin Dwyer, aka Cicada, staring ominously at them.

Barry gives Nora a device that'll detect whether Spyn is a meta or not. Nora walks into Jitters, where Spyn's hanging out again. Spyn's flattered to meet a gushing fan, and actually starts hitting on Nora (?), causing her to forget all about the device.

A frustrated Iris enters Jitters to help. She manages to remind Nora about the scanning device, and Nora activates it right before Spyn leaves. Unfortunately the device says she's not a meta after all.

Iris then finally asks Nora what the hell, and demands to know why she's so cold to her. Nora says because at some point in the future, Iris implants her with a power dampening chip. She says until recently, she didn't even know she had powers (which explains why she doesn't ever know how to use them). She runs crying from Jitters, leaving Iris stunned. 

Back at STAR, Iris is beating herself up over something she hasn't done yet. Barry tries to be supportive, by saying she must have  had a good reason for hobbling their daughter. Elsewhere in the lab, Sherloque is now intrigued by the whole mask business. He puts on a copy of Cicada's mask and asks her to punch him in the belly. She obliges, landing a massive blow that doubles him over. He begins wheezing, and they both realize he sounds just like Cicada. Sherloque says the villain must have severe breathing problems.

Just then Team Flash gets an alert of a bomb scare in the Central City soccer stadium. Barry and Nora zoom to the scene and check the entire stadium for explosives, but come up with nothing. Back at STAR, the rest of the team realizes Spyn isn't a meta, but her phone is (!). Apparently when it was struck by the chunk of DeVoe's satellite, it gained the power to hypnotize people into doing whatever's typed on it. Well, that's certainly new!

Spyn, who's hiding in the shadows again, throws a new headline onto the stadium's JumboTron, which reads, 'XS Kills Flash." Nora glances up at it and is instantly hypnotized. She then starts trying to kill Barry. Their battle rages throughout the stadium at super speed. 

At STAR, Iris grabs a gun, uses a portable device to open a breach, and jumps through it into the stadium. Barry continues to run from the now-murderous Nora. Suddenly she runs so fast she reverses time, and catches up with him (at least I THINK that's what happened). She then vibrates her fist through his chest, intending to kill him.

Just then Iris appears and shoots Nora with a tranq dart. She instantly passes out and falls over, which saves Barry. He then searches the stadium at super speed and captures Spyn. He takes her phone from her and utters a classic superhero one liner, saying, "Looks like you'll be trading this cell in for another."

Back at STAR Labs, everything's wrapped up. Spyn's in jail, and Officer Jones has been cleared.

Sherloque then enters and drops a bombshell on the Gang. She says on all the other Earths, a piece of the falling, dark matter-infused satellite struck David Hersch, causing him to become Cicada. When Nora came to the present to help Barry punch the satellite, it changed the trajectory of the chunks, causing one to miss Hersch and hit a completely different person. Whoever it hit, it gave him powers and created his dagger. But it also damaged his lung, requiring him to need the respirator mask. 

Barry then pries the back off of Spyn's phone and sees it's glowing with dark matter. Team Flash realizes the falling satellite also created meta-tech, which ANYONE could pick up and use. If you don't immediately realize that this is some major foreshadowing, then you've never seen a TV show before. 

That night, Iris says she's thought it over (when?) and tells Nora that robbing her of her powers in the future was the right thing to do. Nora says Iris doesn't get it. In the future, she doesn't suppress her speedster powers to save her or anyone, she does it to control her. Nora's so pissed she speeds off and knocks on Joe's door, asking to stay with them.

Meanwhile, Orlin Dwyer comes home from work and doubles over in pain. He grabs a nearby support beam and accidentally crushes it with his hand. He opens his shirt to reveal a glowing, dark matter wound on his chest.

Thoughts: 
 There were times this week when Sherloque's accent sounded Spanish rather than French. It's far too late to do anything about it now, but how I wish Tom Cavanagh would ditch the ridiculous accent altogether. I'm really not looking forward to hearing him try to sound French for the next eighteen episodes.

 Iris' lighting bolt-shaped pancakes were played for laughs of course, but other than being burnt, I don't think they look that bad. You know the old saying first pancake's always the worst. Or in this case, the second, third, fourth, etc.

 Did you get the message in this episode? It's pretty subtle, so I can understand if it might have flown over your head. 


See, Spyn uses her meta-tech phone to post fake news stories on her blog, and cause her readers to act them out. Her victims are literally being hypnotized by the things they read on social media! Subtle!

• So this episode would have us believe that Barry's a terrible athlete who can't play softball to save his life.

If he's really that clumsy and uncoordinated when he's moving normally, wouldn't he be even worse when he's moving at super speed? Shouldn't he constantly be tripping and running into things as the Flash?

By the way, if The CW was smart, they'd start stocking these CCPD jerseys in their online store immediately!


 How did Officer Jones get zapped by Spyn's hypnotic powers? Before the softball game started, Barry noticed that Jones hadn't shown up yet. Halfway through the game he arrives on the field with a bomb-filled backpack, that he got from the CCPD evidence locker.

If I understand Spyn's powers right, she sends a message to a victim's phone (or nearby monitor) and they have to see it in order for her to hypnotize them. Her power also works by line of sight she needs to be able to see the device she's hijacking.

That means the only way she could hypnotize Jones is if he really was at the ball field after all, and she sent him a message that caused him to drive all the way back to the CCPD, grab a bomb out of the evidence locker and bring it back to the game. Does that sound likely?

 I'm about to engage in some heavy duty nitpicking, but whatever. Sometimes this series seems to forget that super speed doesn't equal super strength. Case in point Spyn causes XS to grab Jones' backpack and toss it several hundred feet straight up. Yeah, no. There's no way in hell a tiny little thing like Nora, who looks like she weighs ninety pounds, could hurl a heavy backpack that far. I guess we're supposed to believe her super speed momentum helped her lob it?

 In last week's review I mentioned that so far Joe West has spent the entire season sitting in a chair, and seems tired and lethargic. That's because actor Jesse L. Martin, who plays Joe, suffered a serious back injury during the summer hiatus. 

Martin seems a little perkier this week, and actually stands up! Well, sort of. He leans against a door frame in his one and only scene. He definitely looks better though than he has in a while though, so here's hoping he's on the road to recovery.


According to The CW, Martin will be taking a medical leave from the series soon, for an undetermined amount of time. Here's hoping he gets better and comes back soon, as Martin's the heart and soul of this show.


 When Team Flash is discussing how Spyn's powers work, Caitlin says, "So she's some sort of Early Edition meta who creates stories? Fake news taken to a whole new level."

I'm not 100% sure, but I think that might have been a reference to the Early Edition series. For you millennials out there, Early Edition was a show that ran from 1996 to 2000. It starred Kyle Chandler as Gary Hobson, who every morning mysteriously received the next day's newspaper. Armed with knowledge of the future, Hobson attempted to prevent the horrible headlines printed in his "early edition" of the paper.

 At one point, Sherloque formulates a theory about Cicada and his mask. In order to test it, he puts on a duplicate mask and asks Caitlin to punch him in the gut. She happily does so, causing him to bend over in pain. As he struggles to gasp and breathe, a surprised Caitlin exclaims, "You sound just like Cicada!"

Except he doesn't. Whenever we see Cicada he emits a trilling, vibrating insect sound. Sherloque just coughs and wheezes here, and doesn't sound remotely like him.

 Wow, Central City has its own massive soccer stadium! I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise after all, it IS the seventh most populous city in the world (see last week's episode).

By the way, Central City Soccer Stadium (what an imaginative name) looks amazingly like Vancouver's BC Place, home of both the BC Lions and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Funny how that worked out, eh?

• In the third act, a hypnotized Nora tries to kill Barry in the stadium. Back at STAR Labs, Iris sees what's happening and grabs a futuristic gun from a locker. She then uses a portable breacher to open a portal to the stadium and jumps through it to save her family.

So... are these portable breachers tuned to the user's brainwaves or something, so they instinctively know where the user wants to go? They must be, because at no time does Iris ever fiddle with any settings. She just holds out the device, pushes a button and instantly opens a breach leading right to the stadium. Now that's an intuitive user interface!

• Inside the stadium, Barry runs from Nora at super speed. Suddenly he slows to a crawl, comes to a stop and then begins running in reverse. Meanwhile Nora proceeds forward normally and quickly catches up to him.

OK, I'm a bit fuzzy on just what's happening in this scene. Is Nora supposed to be running so fast that she actually goes backward in time again? Just like in the Season 4 finale, when time stopped and reversed just as Barry punched the falling satellite, so XS could get a do-over and help him?

If that's really what they're trying to convey here, they failed miserably. I think the problem is that the scene only affects Barry and not Nora, which is damned confusing. There had to be a better way to film it.

• The hypnotized Nora plows into Barry, knocking him on his ass. She then phases her hand into Barry's chest, intent on killing him. Just then Iris appears and shoots Nora in the shoulder with a tranq dart.

Fortunately for Barry, the instant the dart hits Nora, she pulls her hand out of his chest as it stops vibrating. Lucky thing too! If she'd passed out while her hand was still phased, it would have solidified inside his chest, no doubt killing him.

 For some reason, Mayor Van Buren resigns at the end of this episode. I guess because of all the bomb scares? Maybe?

Darn! I liked her quite a bit. She appeared a couple times in Season 4, and had a memorable scene in Honey, I Shrunk Team Flash. In it, she holds a press conference to dedicate the new Kord Building, boasting that it contains the most sophisticated security system known to man. A second later Dwarfstar shrinks it to the size of a matchbox and steals it, right before her eyes. The Mayor stares at the now empty lot, sighs bitterly and utters a resigned, "I hate this city."

 Apparently during DeVoe's Enlightenment in last season's finale, chunks of the dark matter-infused STAR Labs satellite fell from the sky and struck various people, turning them into metas. Shades of Smallville and that show's "Kryptonite meteors," which did the exact same thing!

Ah, but there's more! Apparently the satellite debris didn't just hit people it also affected certain objects as well, like Spyn's phone. Which means we now have meta-tech!

I honestly can't decide if an inanimate object with superpowers is a cool idea, or if I should be rolling my eyes right now. Maybe a little of both.

• Sorry, no lines jumped out at me this week. Probably because Cisco sat out this episode.

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