Friday, October 19, 2018

The Flash Season 5, Episode 2: Blocked

This week on The Flash we get another so-so outing that would be boring if it wasn't so uninteresting. So far these first two episodes don't bode well for the season.

Seriously, I almost fell asleep a couple times while watching Blocked. The episode's only saving grace was the breezy chemistry between Barry and his future daughter Nora, along with an interesting side villain with a disturbing new power.

I realize we're only two episodes in, but so far I'm not terribly impressed with Season 5. For one thing, it feels awfully uninspired, as we seem to be treading some very well worn ground. 

Need proof? In Season 4, the Big Bad was Clifford DeVoe, aka The Thinker. DeVoe created a dozen metas, then absorbed their powers and added them to his own, becoming virtually unstoppable.

Season 5's Big Bad appears to be Cicada. He uses a jagged metal lightning bolt to steal the powers of any nearby metas. Granted, he's not adding their powers to his like DeVoe did, but the whole absorbing thing feels VERY familiar.

In addition, Season 4 introduced us to Ralph Dibny, aka the Absorbing Man. Each week Ralph would screw up somehow, Barry would lecture him on what it meant to be a hero and Ralph would learn from his mistake. Then in the next episode, he'd do it all over, seemingly forgetting the valuable lesson he'd learned the week before. This went on for virtually the entire Season.

It's starting to look like the writers are doing the exact same thing with Nora here in Season 5. In the first episode she screwed up somehow, Barry lectured her on what it means to be a hero and she learned from her mistake. And then she did it all over again this week.

I realize we're only two episodes in, so it's probably too early to label these as patterns. It's still a bit worrisome though.

On a more positive note, Jessica Parker Kennedy, who plays Nora West-Allen, continues to be the show's MVP. She's been the one bright spot on the show so far this season, and the producers need to do everything in their power to keep her around for as long as possible.


The Plot:
We begin with Cicada
 Whoops! Sorry, we're not supposed to know who he is yet. We being with the Hooded Figure returning from his battle with Gridlock last week. He enters an industrial building, removes his costume and places it, and his jagged metal lightning bolt, inside a locker.

In a surprise twist, Barry and Nora sit the entire cast down and tell them the real reason she came back in time to get to know Barry before he disappears forever in 2024. The others take this news hard, except for Iris. She says it's no big deal, as they've altered the future before, and they'll do it again.

Cecile mentions she can't hear her daughter Jenna's thoughts anymore, and thinks she's losing her telepathic powers. Joe pretends to be concerned, but is secretly turning cartwheels in his mind at this news.

Meanwhile, Cisco's still depressed over his breakup with Gypsy. Ralph reports to Caitlin that he hasn't found any leads as to who might have faked her dad's death certificate. Caitlin tells him to forget about it.

Elsewhere, a meta named Vanessa Jansen is released after a four year stint in Iron Heights prison. She pays a visit to the Moretti brothers, Central City's resident arms dealers, and tells them she wants a piece of their action. Bobby Moretti tells her to get lost. Jansen then uses her powers to encase him in a block of solidified air. She shrinks the block, gruesomely compressing him inside it. She then takes all his weapons.

The next day, Barry's investigating the crime scene along with Captain Singh. Suddenly Nora zooms in, dressed in a CCPD's CSI jacket. When Singh asks who the hell she is, Barry thinks fast (heh) and she's the intern he hired to help him get through his backlog of cases. Luckily, Singh seems to buy this blatant lie.

Iris also shows up at the apparently unguarded crime scene, and says Gridlock never made it to Iron Heights prison. She gets Singh to tell her off the record, wink, wink
 that Gridlock never made it there, as he was attacked by another meta.

Barry and Nora find a small block of flesh on the floor, and realize it's the compressed remains of Bobby Moretti. Yuck!

Back at CCPD, Barry and Nora run a DNA scan on other evidence they found at the crime scene, and discover it belongs to Vanessa Jansen. They track her to the East Street Auto Haven, a front for her gang, the Skulls. They suit up and head out to capture her.

Bruno Moretti shows up at the East Street Auto Haven, seeking revenge on Jansen for killing his brother. He opens fire on her, but she encases herself inside a protective block of air, and the bullets bounce right off it. Barry and Nora arrive, and he tells her to hang back while he captures the two crooks.

Of course Nora doesn't listen, and zooms off on her own. She throws Moretti into the back of a truck and locks it, and then confronts Jansen. Right on cue, she encases Nora in a block of air and starts to compress it. Barry yells out to Jansen, and she flings the block a mile into the air.

Barry takes off in pursuit of the block. He creates a localized tornado by rapidly spinning his arms, which lowers the block safely to the ground. It dissipates soon after, freeing Nora.

At STAR Labs, Cisco and Caitlin deduce that Jansen can control molecules and make blocks of air so dense that speedsters can't vibrate through them. Nora sheepishly apologizes for goofing up and letting Jansen get away. Barry "punishes" her by ramping up her training which includes studying math and physics books, instead of fun stuff like running really fast.

Caitlin and Ralph take Cisco out for a makeover, hoping that'll help him get over his depression. It doesn't.

Back at STAR, Nora protests, saying her future time period has math and physics way beyond what Barry's making her study (???). Desperate to impress him, she runs to the Speed Lab and zooms around the track. She builds up a huge charge of Speed Force lightning, but trips as she hurls it. The lightning strikes Barry and knocks him across the room. A chagrined Nora says she'll never be as good as the Flash.

Iris studies CCTV footage of the attack on Gridlock, and sees the Hooded Figure who killed him. She hears him emit a strange chittering sound.

Then it's time for more Patented The CW Pep Talks
. Barry goes to Joe, whining that Nora doesn't want to leave his side and is driving him crazy. Joe points out that Barry did the same thing to him when he first took him in. He tells Barry he needs to show Nora it's OK to not be perfect. Cecile overhears Joe, and his advice somehow informs her situation as well.

Caitlin and Cisco go to Jitters to chat. Cisco asks Caitlin why she doesn't want Ralph to locate her father. She says she's afraid that if she finds him, he won't want anything to do with her. He spouts a Patented The CW Pep Talk
 as well, saying it's too late for him and Gypsy, but there's still a chance for Caitlin and her father. 

At STAR Labs, Barry shows Nora footage of him training right after he got his powers. In the footage, he stumbles and crashes through a wall. He gives her a Patented The CW Pep Talk
, telling her she can't expect to learn to use her powers perfectly overnight.

Jesus, that's like a month's worth of insufferable pep talks in one episode!

Bruno Moretti shows up at the East Street Auto Haven again, and tells Jansen he wants his weapons back. Jansen starts to use her powers, but he pulls some kind of high tech gun on her. Instantly, several of Moretti's men, also armed with advanced weaponry, appear and aim at her.

At STAR, Barry whines that they're deaf and blind without their satellite system. Iris figures out a way to use a local TV station's barometric sensors to detect Block using her concentrated air powers. Back at the Auto Haven, Moretti and his goons open fire on Jansen. She effortlessly throws up a shield to protect herself.

Barry and Nora arrive and pluck the guns from the thugs at superspeed. Unfortunately Jansen encases Barry in a block before he can put the power-dampening cuffs on her. She begins compressing the block with Barry inside it.

Nora gets an idea and taunts Jansen, causing her to toss dozens of blocks at her. She manages to avoid them all at superspeed, until Jansen tires and her powers fizzle. Nora then slaps the cuffs on her. Cisco and Ralph vibe to the scene, too late to help.

Suddenly Jansen's stabbed through the chest by a jagged, metal lightning bolt. It absorbs her powers and then flies into the waiting hand of the Hooded Figure. Barry orders Nora to get Jansen to a hospital, and she zooms off with her.

Barry, Cisco and Harry then confront the Hooded Figure. He tosses his metal bolt again, and it lands in the ground in front of the trio, where it absorbs their powers. They try to fight him hand to hand, but he's much stronger than they are. Iris hears a strange chittering over the comms, and realizes she's heard it somewhere before.

The Hooded Figure bends over Barry and raises his hand to stab him with the metal lightning bolt. Just then Nora returns and screams at him to stop. The Hooded Figure gives her an odd, almost knowing look, and calmly walks away.

Back at STAR Labs, Caitlin examines the trio and says their powers have returned. Cisco decides this is the best possible time to vibe Caitlin's dad's death certificate. He and Caitlin vibe it together, and she sees a vision of her mother filling it out.

Iris replays the chittering sound, and says the Hooded Figure that attacked Barry and the others is the same one who killed Gridlock. As they listen to the sound, Caitlin says it sounds like an insect. Nora says, "Like a Cicada." Barry realizes she knows more than she's letting on, and says, "Who's Cicada?"

• For some reason there's no "My name is Barry Allen..." opening narration this week. Maybe the episode was running long?

• The episode begins with Cicada (played by Chris Klein of American Pie fame) returning from battle, slowly removing his costume and exposing his face. Wow, I wasn't expecting that! I figured they wouldn't reveal his true identity until the mid-season finale at the absolute soonest. 

I have no idea where they're going with this storyline or why they showed his face so soon, but kudos for doing something unexpected.

By the way, what's this industrial-looking place Cicada enters at the beginning of the episode? It looks like a factory, and has a locker room. Another man enters and changes, noting the array of scars on Cicada's back, but not being particularly alarmed by them. What the hell kind of factory hires violent vigilantes like that?

• So was Block a meta before her four year stint in Iron Heights, or did she somehow become one while she was in the slammer? If she had her powers before, would the prison really let an unstable meta with dangerous powers back into society? 

I guess legally they'd have to let her go, but couldn't they give her some kind of power-suppressing drug first, or require her to wear an ankle bracelet that negated her powers? It just seems irresponsible to turn her loose, knowing what she's capable of.

• Speaking of Block, she may have the single most horrifying power I've ever seen on this or any other superhero TV series or movie. The ability to compress a person to the size of a can of Spam is absolutely terrifying, not to mention nauseating. 

So why isn't SHE this season's Big Bad, instead of Cicada? All he can do is steal people's powers and stab them in the chest. Big deal!

By the way, there's some nice attention to detail when Barry finds the block of flesh. He tries to pick it up, but can't even budge it. That's because it's the remains of Bobby Moretti and likely weighs two hundred pounds! Well done, writers!

Although... shouldn't there be some blood seeping out of the block? And maybe some hair or a scrap of clothing sticking out of it?

 Is there any particular reason why Block's concentrated air cubes are an unpleasant urine color?

 Nora is surprised to hear that Barry spent time in prison last year, saying there was no mention of that fact in the Flash Museum.

This brings up an interesting question is the museum strictly about the Flash? Or are there exhibits on Barry as well? I guess that depends on whether his secret identity is public knowledge in the future.

Based on the fact she was clueless about a major event in Barry's personal life, I'm betting there's nothing about him in the Flash Museum.

 Team Flash is still without their satellite in this episode, so they have no way to locate Block. Fortunately they figure out a work-around
 since Block's power concentrates air molecules, they use a weather satellite to search for pockets of dense air to pinpoint her location.

Pretty clever, but there's just one problem Block wasn't using her powers when they located her. She didn't use them until well after Team Flash detected the concentrated air pockets. Whoops! Did the editor switch the order of these scenes?

 For some reason there're two big Marvel references in this episode.

Late in the third act, Cicada confronts Barry, Cisco and Ralph and uses his lightning bolt dagger to temporarily disable their powers. Barry then asks the group if anyone still has their powers, and Ralph says, "Negative, Ghost Rider."

Wha...? OK, obviously that's a reference to the Marvel character of the same name, but... what the hell does it have to do with anything happening in this scene? Barry doesn't look, act or function like Ghost Rider in any measurable sense. It's like they just stuck a Marvel character's name in at random. He could just as easily have called Barry "Hypno Hustler" and it wouldn't have made any difference.

Later Cisco explains to Caitlin that Cicada's lightning dagger returned to him, just like Thor's hammer Mjolnir. OK, now that reference made perfect sense. And ten points to Gryffindor, er, I mean Cisco for correctly pronouncing "Mjolnir."

 This Week's Best Lines:
Cisco: (discovering that Nora lied about having dark matter in her blood) "Are you kidding? You know how many credit card points I just blew trying to get rid of your negative tachyons? I just bought a brand new spectral tachyometer when I could have my Fiji get away.Not that I have anyone to go with, anymore."

(Ralph opens his mouth)
Cisco: "I'm not taking you to Fiji, Ralph."

Barry: (at a crime scene) "Wha - What are you doing? You can't touch that. You'll contaminate the evidence!" 
Nora: "Sorry, you mean you don't have a scene-wide modified bosonic frequency field to avoid cross-contamination?"
Barry: "I don't even think we have some of those words yet."

(Caitlin discovers Ralph has a list of steps to get over a break up) 

Caitlin: "Come on, what's step one?"
Ralph: "Shark cage diving."

Caitlin: (appalled) "What's step two?"
Ralph: (sheepishly) "Affirmations."

(Team Flash tries to get a reaction out of a non-responsive Cisco. Ralph says he has an idea)

Ralph: (leaning in close to Cisco and whispering) "Han shot second."
Cisco: (immediately reacting) "That doesn't even make sense. Ralph, it's you."
Ralph: "Sorry to lie like that, man. We just we need the CCTV."

Ralph: "I proudly present my personal stylist, Bruce. This guy does it all, hair, makeup. He picks everything I wear."

Cisco: "That explains that."

Cisco: (discussing Ralph's steps with Caitlin) "Step 27: Accept that she isn't the love of your life because if she were, she'd still be in it."

Caitlin: "Pretty deep for Ralph Dibny."
Cisco: "Yeah. Granted it took him twenty six swings before he could hit the ball. I don't know I think he might of knocked out of the park with that one."

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