Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Flash Season 5, Episode 6: The Icicle Cometh

This week's fair to middling episode of The Flash is full of surprises, as we get the sudden conclusion of a major storyline, an unexpected reconciliation and an unlikely team up.

The big news of course s the resolution of "The Search For Thomas Snow" plotline. I honestly didn't expect them to wrap it up this early, as I figured they'd drag it out until at least the mid-season break.

As resolutions go... meh. Sadly it was a bit of a letdown. Truth be told I was never all that invested in the Thomas storyline in the first place. To me it felt like the producers vastly overestimated its importance, and thought it far more interesting than it actually was.

Despite the fact that they've been setting up this plot for months, the conclusion felt terribly rushed, which made it even less compelling. It also didn't help that you could see Thomas' betrayal coming down the street from a mile off, like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float.

We also got a surprise reconciliation between Nora and Iris this week. I wasn't expecting that either. Of course having the two of them kiss and make up this early only guarantees there'll be another wedge driven between them before the season finale.

One thing the writers have been doing this season is mixing and matching the various members of Team Flash. This week's pair-up was the most unlikely ever, as they threw Ralph and Cecile together. I have to say, they worked surprisingly well together, and had a fun and breezy chemistry.

Speaking of Ralph, this week's episode highlights the fact that he he no longer serves any real purpose on the show. For absolutely no good reason, his former role of Team Detective has been annoying usurped by Sherloque.

The producers could have picked any occupation in the multiverse for this season's version of Harrison Wells, but they chose detective, thereby duplicating Ralph's profession and rendering him pointless. I don't know why they keep doing this, as it never works out and does a great disservice to the characters.

At some point they're gonna have to either come up with a purpose for Ralph or write him off the show. He can't stand in the background and listen to the others forever.

Lastly, let's talk about Cicada. It's obvious the producers want us to be terrified every time he shows up on screen. So far that's not happening. In virtually every episode in which he's appeared, he wheezes something awful as he clutches his side and painfully staggers to his home, where he usually collapses. And this guy's supposed to be scary? My Aunt Fannie could defeat him with her purse!

Heck, he even passes out altogether in this episode. I think they're showing us how bad off he is to establish a ticking clock element in the series. If so, fine. We got it. Time limit established. Now make your villain do something that's actually scary, besides bleed and lose consciousness.


The Plot:
At Jitters, a young woman named Raelene picks up her order. As she walks by Cicada (in his street clothes), his jagged metal lightning bolt begin to glow, indicating she's secretly a meta. Outside, Cicada confronts Raelene, who realizes she's been found out. Her forearms immediately transform into swords, and the two battle it out. Eventually Cicada stabs her in the back with his bolt and says, "You never should have existed."

Team Flash realizes that when their old satellite exploded in last season's finale, it sent dark matter-infused shrapnel all over Central City. They use their new satellites to determine where forty six of these fragments landed. For reasons, they think the satellite's core hit Cicada and gave him his powers. If they find the core, they'll know where Cicada was when it hit him, and may be able to deduce his identity.

Ralph says he'll check with FEMA, while Iris, Nora and Sherloque run off to check the forty six landing sites (!). That leaves Barry, Cisco and Caitlin alone. The two guys tell Caitlin that they did a little digging, and know which of the Tannhouser black ops sites her dad's in— the one in the arctic.

Ralph goes to the West house, hoping Joe will accompany him to FEMA and look intimidating. Unfortunately he's out, but Cecile insists on tagging along, claiming she can look mean too. Yeah, all four feet of her.

Cut to Barry, Cisco and Caitlin, dressed in their finest Captain Cold parkas. Cisco uses a portable device to open a breach to the arctic. They step through into a frigid landscape rocked by a brutal snowstorm. They stumble around until they spot the facility. Barry vibes the trio inside, because doors are so passe.

They wander around inside a bit, and are stunned when they find a very much alive Thomas Snow. He tells Caitlin he went to the site to try to cure his ALS (which used to be MS, but what's in a disease?).

He says he somehow managed to halt the progression of his disease (!). Unfortunately the Tannhouser Corp. closed the site while he was working there, meaning he's been stranded inside for the past twenty years. When they ask how that's possible, he says he lived off stored rations and would occasionally climb inside his cryogenic chamber for months at a time.

He also reveals he's been monitoring STAR Labs for years, through a glitchy, one way video surveillance system. Gosh, that's not the least bit creepy at all...

Ralph and Cecile arrive at FEMA. Cecile tries to intimidate the douchebag running the place, but it doesn't work. She fears she's lost her mojo, baby.

Barry, Cisco and Caitlin breach Thomas back to STAR Labs. Caitlin takes him for a walk outside, his first in two decades. Cisco tells Barry that Thomas' story is full of holes and he doesn't trust him. Like a dope, Barry says they should just be happy for Caitlin and Thomas.

Iris, Nora and Sherloque begin investigating the fragment sites. Iris notices a flyer on a bulletin board, advertising a waterfront carnival back on the night of DeVoe's Enlightenment. Since they know Cicada's a father, she says that's something a dad might take a child to see. They arrive at the waterfront, but can't locate the core. Sherloque suggests it might be in the bay, and Nora uses super speed to draw the water away from the shore.

While out on their walk, Thomas suddenly he doubles over in pain. As Caitlin helps him up, she sees his right arm is apparently freezing solid. She somehow gets him back to STAR and runs a series of tests on him. He then reveals the truth— by trying to cure his ALS, he created an even deadlier disease, which spreads whenever his emotions spike. 

Thomas goes on to say he discovered Caitlin carried the genetic marker for ALS as well, so he perfected his treatment and performed it on her. This had the side effect of creating her Killer Frost persona.

Cisco says if the treatment created a dual personality in Caitlin, it must have done the same to Thomas. He denies it, saying his lack of a second self is probably what's killing him. Sure, why not?

Ralph and Cecile return to FEMA. This time Cecile accuses the administrator of insurance fraud, which intimidates him enough to hand over a box of records to her.

Cicada sneaks into the hospital to steal meds for his wounds. His doctor friend tries to treat him, but he refuses her help and leaves.

Meanwhile, a suspicious Cisco breaches back to the arctic and searches Thomas' lab. He returns to STAR and tells Caitlin that Thomas isn't her dad. As proof, he shows her a tray of skin grafts the imposter's using to look like Thomas Snow. Thomas has a ready explanation for that too, saying his disease disfigured him, and he's using the grafts to look human. Caitlin's furious at Cisco's accusations, and tells him to get out.

Barry confronts Cisco in the hall, saying he needs to let Caitlin have this time with her father. Cisco tells Barry he's seeing himself and Nora in the situation, and it's blinding him to the truth. He tells Barry he needs to start thinking like a CSI.

Barry IMMEDIATELY returns to Caitlin and says she should keep an open mind about her father. Wow, that was a lightning fast reversal! She says she doesn't have time to talk, as she's just finished making a serum that'll stabilize her father's condition.

Just then Caitlin stops in her tracks and realizes the truth. If her father really doesn't have a dual personality as he claims, her serum will cure him and that'll be the end of it. But if he DOES have his own secret Killer Frost side, the serum will lock that in, permanently killing his human self. She realizes that's what's happening, and her father's evil side is using her to make him permanent. Wow, that's a pretty big leap to make there!

The trio confronts "Thomas," who finally admits the truth. He transforms into Icicle, who looks not unlike the Cold Miser. He then uses his cold powers to knock them all out, yoinks the serum from Caitlin and scampers off.

A bit later, the rest of the cast returns to STAR and finds Barry and the others knocked out cold (heh). They wake up and fill everyone in on the plot. Cisco locates Icicle at a Department Of Defense site located... somewhere (it's never clearly stated where). He's freezing the entire building, trying to lower the temp to absolute zero. Once he does that, he'll be able to take the serum and kill his human side forever. I'm not gonna try to understand any of this, so let's just roll with it.

Team Flash breaches to the DOD site to try and stop Icicle. Unfortunately they must not have been listening when Cisco said it was cold there, and they all immediately begin freezing. All except for Caitlin that is, who seems immune to the intense cold. She pleads with "Thomas" to let the others go, but he gives her a Vader speech about ruling the galaxy as father and son, er, daughter.

Suddenly Caitlin transforms into Killer Frost. She blasts Icicle across the room, breaking the serum in the process. He cries out in anger as he sees the serum destroyed. Just then the real Thomas Snow appears for a second. This causes Killer Frost to hesitate just long enough for Icicle to regain control and escape.

Killer Frost blasts the controls, and the room begins heating up again, saving Team Flash in the nick of time.

In the wrap up, Caitlin says she owes her mom an apology— all these years she thought she was the villain, when she was only trying to protect her from her dad. Cisco says he's been thinking about what happened when DeVoe attacked Caitlin last season. He didn't use Melting Point's powers to drain Killer Frost from Caitlin. Instead he used Brainstorm's powers to create a mental block, preventing her from turning into Killer Frost. Um... why the hell would he do that? Because the script says so, of course. Anyway, Cisco gives her the mental dampener that Harry invented. She puts it on, and is able to talk to Killer Frost again.

Iris & Nora unveil the satellite core they found in the bay. Barry notes it has an impossibly perfect lightning bolt-shaped crack in its side, indicating that's where Cicada got his signature weapon.

Cicada stumbles into his home and tries to patch up his injuries, but passes out on the floor. His doctor pal comes in and says his injuries are killing him. He ominously growls (literally!) that they're making him stronger.


• I know she was basically a T-1000 knockoff, but damn if Raelene didn't look cool! I'd actually rather have seen an entire episode with her as the villain!

• Near the beginning of the episode, Nora asks Iris, "Um, do you mind if I actually come with you too? It's just that I saw you jump off a building last week and that was awesome."

Having Nora mentioning an event she saw last week makes it sound she was watching the show like we did!

• Once again, Joe's absence is Cecile's gain. For the second week in a row the series writes around the fact that actor Jesse L. Martin is off on medical leave, and gives his plotlines to Cecile.

I get why Martin had to bow out, and wish him a speedy recovery. But show-wise, how many times can Joe just happen to be out for a walk when Team Flash needs him? Doesn't he have a cell phone they could call?

• Barry and Cisco tell Caitlin they took the liberty of figuring out where her dad Thomas may be holed up. The three of them then have a very confusion conversation:

Cisco: "But I had the satellites track down all the decommissioned Tannhauser black ops sites that your dad could possibly be in.:
Caitlin: "Okay."
Cisco: "And and then I hacked into their security systems."
Barry: "He was the last person to enter one of them. A week after he died."
Cisco: "And he never left."

Wait, what? Did Barry just say that Thomas entered a black ops site a week after he died?

I guess what they're trying to say here is that the security cameras spotted him entering a site after he was legally declared dead. But surely there had to be a better way to phrase it!

• At one point Barry, Cisco and Caitlin don cold weather gear as they prepare to breach to the Arctic. As they get ready we see Cisco and Caitlin both wearing heavy boots, but Barry's rocking his usual pair of Chuck Taylors. Does he understand where the North Pole is? Or do speedsters not get cold feet?

By the way, when the trio leaps through the breach, they emerge in the middle of an intense blizzard. Cisco says, "Can't see anything! My face just went full weekend!"

What? I don't get that line. Is that some kind of drunken joke, like his face is numb?

• I'll probably get slammed for body shaming here, but who cares. Cecile honestly believes she's an intimidating force to be reckoned with as she tries to scare the FEMA guy into handing over confidential records. HAW!

Cecile may be many things, but intimidating she is not. Fun fact: the internet lists actress Danielle Nicolet's height at five feet. That seems unlikely. Look at the photo above. If she really is five feet tall, then Hartley Sawyer (aka Ralph) would have to be seven feet at the least!

• As Cecile tries and fails to be intimidating, she introduces Ralph as her associate. We then cut to Ralph, as he quickly flashes his "badge" to Fema Guy. Note that said badge is actually just his normal everyday wallet!

Take a good look at the contents of his wallet. In addition to a photo of an unidentified man, we can see a business card peeking out. The top of the card reads, "THE GOLDEN." That would likely be The Golden Booty, the strip club where Ralph took Team Flash for Barry's bachelor party in last season's Girls Night Out! 

Now that's some impressive attention to detail, as well as a deep callback! Kudos to The Flash's art/prop department, who are obviously having way too much fun.

• Caitlin and the others find Thomas Snow marooned in the Arctic base. They're puzzled when Thomas calls Barry and Cisco by name, even though he's obviously never met them. He explains that he recently established a link to the STAR Labs security system— a connection which allowed him to see Team Flash, but not communicate with them.

So basically Caitlin's presumed-dead dad, who's very much alive, has been secretly spying on her and her friends for several years. If you don't think that little bit of info is creepy as hell, you're already dead. This is also our first indication that Thomas isn't all he claims to be.

• As Thomas explains how he survived inside the Arctic base for two decades, he name drops several colleagues who stayed in touch with him, include Louise Lincoln, Victor Fries and Harrison Wells. 

OK, we all know who Wells was, but what about the other two? In the comics, Louise Lincoln was the second incarnation of Killer Frost, who first appeared in Firestorm #21 (vol. 2) in 1984.

More interesting though is Victor Fries, aka Mr. Freeze. He's one of Batman's main villains, and first appeared way back in 1959 in Batman #121.

Note that this is the second Batman reference in two weeks now. I'm pretty sure they're laying the groundwork for Batgirl's appearance in the upcoming Elseworlds crossover event.

• When Caitlin sees her dad for the first time in twenty years, she asks how he can even be alive, considering he suffered from ALS. He tells her he was able to use the lab's cryogenic facilities to freeze the progression of the disease.

Once again, Thomas Snow's MS gets retconned into ALS.

See, back in the Season 2 episode The Reverse Flash Returns, Caitlin said her dad died suffered from Multiple Sclerosis, aks MS, and eventually died from the disease.

But then in the Season 4 episode Think Fast, Caitlin tells her therapist Dr. Finkel that her dad had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, aka ALS, and hid his symptoms from her. 

Admittedly ALS and MS are similar conditions, but a doctor like Caitlin would never confuse the two. Either the writers thought ALS was a more cinematic disease than MS, or they forgot what they'd previously established.

• After Caitlin returns her dad to Central City, they go for a walk in a park. He tells her about all the things he's missed during his twenty year exile at the North Pole, including Jitters coffee.

Really? Jitters has been around for over two decades? I guess it's possible, but I always figured it was a trendy coffee shop that likely opened five or six years ago.

• This episode is filled with some truly amazing Comic Book Science. Shortly after Thomas collapses, Caitlin takes him back to STAR Labs and examines him. When he comes to she tells him, "I ran some tests while you were unconscious. You have a cryogenic malignancy and a somatic mutation."

If you look it up, "cryogenic malignancy" literally means "low temperature cancer." Comic Book Science, everyone!

Also, the producers helpfully illustrated Thomas' dire condition by showing us a microscopic view of his cells... um, frosting over, I guess?

• This is some heavy duty nitpicking, but whatever. Iris, Nora and Sherloque go out looking for the STAR Labs satellite core. Along the way Iris spots a flyer for a carnival, and for reasons says it could be a clue to Cicada's real identity.

Apparently they don't update this bulletin board very often, as that flyer's dated May 22, 2018. Tear that thing down already! 

Also, as a graphic designer, that flyer really grinds my gears. It tells us the name of the event and the date, but that's it. Where's it being held? What are the hours? How much are tickets? Info, people! A flyer's one and only job is to inform!

Told you it was heavy duty!

• To absolutely no one's surprise (except maybe Caitlin's), Thomas Snow goes full villain in the third act and becomes Icicle. In his frozen form he looks strangely familiar, but I can't quite figure out where I've seen him before...

Oh yeah! Now I remember!

• As might expect, Icicle's from the comics, and debuted in All-American Comics #90 wayyyyy back in 1947! He was a completely different character there though, as his real name was Dr. Joar Mahkent (not Ma Kent!). A second version of the character first appeared in Infinity Inc. #34 in 1987. As is typical, it'd take 50,000 words to adequately recap their origins, so I won't even try. Both had similar icy powers.

• The writers get a little carried away with the ice puns as Thomas asks Caitlin how her mom's doing. She replies, "The same. I don't really see her that often, and when I do, she's cold as ice." Thomas replies, "Oh, well, look, she may be a little bit chilly, but she does love you, Caity." Oy.

• I was very confused by the end of this episode, as at first I assumed that Thomas' absolute zero chamber was located inside the Tannhouser black ops site in the Arctic.

Apparently not though, as it actually took place inside a Department Of Defense facility. I have no idea wher ethis place is, but it's definitely not the Arctic.

• Late in the third act, Team Flash breaches into the DOD facility to confront Icicle. They're all (except for Caitlin) immediately incapacitated by the brutal subzero temps inside the building.

Why the hell did they all rush headlong into this building with no protective gear? They can clearly see the array is -100 degrees, and Caitlin says in five minutes it'll be -460, aka absolute zero! 

For some reason they're all surprised when they breach into the room and instantly collapse from the cold. Jesus Christ, what the frak did they think was going to happen?

By the way, Cisco joins the action at the DOD site all decked out in his Vibe gear. If you'll recall, his costume was destroyed a couple weeks ago in The Death Of Vibe. The reappearance of his costume isn't necessarily a mistake, as he may have had a spare or even created a new one. Still, I thought it was worth pointing out.

• Man, that Icicle sure starts chewing the scenery once he's inside the DOD site. When Barry and the others appear, he chortles, "More superheroes to freeze!"

Shades of the Batman & Robin movie!

• It was nice to see Killer Frost reappear this week, if for no other reason than so Caitlin will finally quit whining about her.

• Icicle escapes by generating blasts of cold air from his hands, which act like rockets to propel him skyward. Much the way Iron Man flies!

I... guessssss that kind of makes sense? It's definitely no crazier than the ice slides Killer Frost used to travel through Central City back in I Know Who You Are.

• At the end of the episode, Team Flash recovers the remains of their dark matter-infused satellite. Barry notices a chunk missing from the satellite's casing, that's somehow in the shape of a lightning bolt.

The exact same shape in fact, as Cicada's jagged glowing weapon!

What do you think the odds are that an explosion would blow a perfect lightning bolt-shaped shard out of the side of the satellite?

• We learned a couple weeks ago that Cicada's given name is Orlin. The show hasn't mentioned his full name yet, but if you poke around online, you'll find it's Orlin Dwyer.

This week we find out that Orlin's comatose daughter is named Grace Gibbons. So does that mean she's not his daughter after all? Maybe Orlin went through a messy divorce, and Grace took her mother's maiden name? Or maybe she's his stepdaughter?

• Man, Chris Klein, aka Cicada, goes all in on the gravely voice in this episode. At the end of the episode, his doctor pal wants to stitch up his wound. Cicada struggles to his feet and literally growls, "NOOOO!!! IT'S MAKINNNNG MEEEEE STRONGERRRRRARRRGHHH!"

I'm sure his voice is supposed to sound terrifying, but it's so outrageously over the top it's actually laughable.

This Week's Best Lines:
Cecile: "Um, what did you need? Maybe I can help you."

Ralph: "Oh, I need somebody to flash a badge and generally look intimidating, so..."
Cecile: "You don't think that I can be intimidating? Oh, my God, you don't, do you?"
(Cecile climbs up onto the couch so she can meet Ralph's eyeline for the first time in her life)
Cecile: "Ralph, I am the district attorney. You know I psychically teleported the Flash inside the Thinker's mind whilst giving birth to my daughter, sans epidural— it hurt! I literally saved the world between contractions, and you don't think that I am intimidating?"
Ralph: (quiety) "I'm really intimidated right now, actually. You are very intimidating."

Cecile: "Just, uh oh, give me five. I gotta go pump first."
Ralph: "What are we pumping? Ohhhh..."

Cisco: "No cold signatures in the area. Snow Country for Old Men must be miles away, 'cause he sure as hell isn't in Central City."

New, But Not Improved

After the divisive debacle that was The Last Jedi premiered, many Star Wars fans (myself included) abandoned the franchise for good. Disney is keenly aware of this fact, and is desperately attempting to woo fans back by promising that Star Wars: Episode IX—  The Franchise Fizzles will "course correct" the series.

Nice try, Disney, but it's too little, too late.

Set reports have been leaking all over the interwebs, including a rumor that Kylo Ren will tinker with his primitive, cobbled-together lightsaber, turning its blade a bright green instead of its characteristic red.

Wow, a GREEN lightsaber! Awesome! We've certainly never seen anything like that befo... ohhhhhhhhhh.

Sounds like a classic case of "Malibu Stacy's Got A New Hat Syndrome" to me!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Flash Season 5, Episode 5: All Doll'd Up

Apologies for the lateness of this review, but this time it's not my fault. I had it finished and ready to publish, and then Blogger decided to erase it. I did everything I could think of to restore it, but it vanished into the land of wind and ghosts forever, forcing me to have to re-write the entire thing. As I said a few days ago, Google's lucky that Blogger's free, because there's no way in hell I'd ever pay for the glitchy-ass piece of shit.

This week on a so-so episode of The Flash we get the return of Cisco, more interminable scenes of Caitlin searching for her father and an awesomely creepy, yet ultimately unsatisfying villain.

The minute I saw Rag Doll in the preview I was really looking forward to this episode. With his unsettling mask and impossible contortions, I was expecting him to be a memorable and standout villain.

Alas, it wasn't to be. He's barely in the episode, and practically every one of his scenes is in the preview. What the hell? Why go to all the trouble of creating such a cool looking bad guy and then not use him?

We also get more of Nora learning to be a hero, which is getting old really quickly. On the plus side, she does finally reconcile with Iris this week, so we won't have to hear them bicker any more.

I'm also growing weary of Caitlin's seemingly endless search for her father. It'd be nice if they would wrap up this plotline soon, but I have a feeling they'll be dragging it out till the midseason break.

Sadly, actor Jesse L. Martin, aka Joe West is conspicuously absent this week. He's been making brief, motionless appearances all season since he injured his back, but it looks like he's now taking some time off to heal. Let's hope he has a speedy recovery, as Joe's the heart of the series and it's not the same without him.


The Plot:
At STAR Labs, Barry and Iris are upset that Nora's skipped her training again. Just then they get a meta-alert that someone's stolen a Monet painting from the Central City museum.

Barry speeds off and sees the two crooks are getting away on motorbikes. He nabs one, but before he can stop the other, Nora appears. She yanks the second crook off his bike, but it sails on down the road, right toward a comically cliched old couple trying to cross the street. Barry manages to save them in the nick of time. He glares at Nora, as once again we get another episode in which she has to learn to use her power wisely and work as a team.

Back at STAR, Iris rips Nora a new one for dodging training and almost causing a disaster. Nora fires back, saying Iris is already starting to sound like her harsh, shrewish self from the future. Iris storms off in anger. Barry tells Nora to try and focus on what Iris is like in the here and now.

Elsewhere at STAR, Cisco, Ralph and Sherloque are still trying to help Caitlin find her father. Does anyone ever do any actual work at STAR Labs, or is it just an expensive hangout? Cisco vibes the wacky periodic table Caitlin made with her father when she was young, in an effort to locate her pops.

He vibes a vision of Thomas Snow working on equations in a lab and sketching something in a notebook. From this bare info, Sherloque deduces Caitlin's dad worked at Hudson University the same place the late Professor Stein (aka one half of Firestorm) worked. After everyone leaves, Cisco grimaces in pain and rubs his hands, which were injured during his fight with Cicada a couple weeks ago.

Elsewhere, wealthy one percenter Jerry Winehouse presents his fiancee Natalie with a priceless necklace. As they exit the room, a lanky figure emerges from an impossibly small gift box. It's Rag Doll, a metahuman contortionist who wears a creepy porcelain clown mask. He breaks into the jewelry box and steals the necklace. Natalie returns, sees him and screams as he jumps out the window.

Meanwhile at the West house, Nora whines to Cecile about her parents, and Iris in particular. Cecile says Nora's mom & pop are doing the best they can, and forces her to assemble a baby crib as punishment.

Caitlin, Cisco, Ralph and Sherloque check out Professor Stein's old office at Hudson U. Cisco vibes the chalkboard and sees the equation again. He writes it down, and Caitlin says the numbers somehow equal elemental symbols or something, spelling out the letters "K, H, I, O, Ne." Sherloque says Khione was "a Norse goddess whose realm was ice and snow." Caitlin realizes her dad knew she was a meta even when she was a child.

Sherloque sketches an image of Khione, and Cisco vibes it (?). He sees an image of Viera Chemical, and they all head there. Cisco notices his hands are bleeding after vibing so much.

At STAR, Barry examines a strand of hair and a sample of strange elongated lines he got from the scene of the Winehouse robbery. Just then there's an alert from the Seaver Architects building. Barry zooms to the scene and discovers Williams Seaver tied to a chair in the penthouse. He looks up just as Rag Doll squeezes himself through the grating of an air vent and escapes. Just then the building shakes and starts to collapse (even though we don't hear an explosion). Barry grabs Seaver and runs down the side of the disintegrating building.

Back at STAR, Barry describes Rag Doll to Iris, saying he's apparently a meta who can contort and stretch his body. Barry gets an idea and examines the strange elongated lines he found. He discovers they're actually Rag Doll's stretched-out fingerprints (!), and usea them to identify him as Peter Merkel, son of billionaire Theresa Merkel.

Barry notes that Theresa's hosting a charity gala that very night (what a coincidence!) and says he and Iris should crash it and ask her what's up with her son.

Cut to a dolled up (heh) Barry and Iris crashing the gala and asking Merkel what's up with her son. She says she doesn't know, as she hasn't seen him in two years. She says she gave him the world but he rejected it, turning to a life of crime.

Meanwhile, Caitlin and the others search the long-abandoned Viera Chemical building, which is owned by Tannhouser Industries. Unfortunately the interior's was completely destroyed by a fire the night Thomas Snow disappeared. Cisco grabs a box of damaged records and tries to vibe them. His nose begins bleeding and he passes out.

Back at STAR Labs, Caitlin examines Cisco and says that when Cicada's dagger slashed his hands (in The Death Of Vibe), it left dark matter residue in the wounds. The more he uses his power, the more pain he'll experience. Caitlin realizes the constant vibing he did all day must have been excruciating, and asks why he put himself through it. He says he did it to help his friend. Awwww...

Meanwhile Iris fears she's turning into her own mother. Barry wisely tells her to stop worrying about who she might become, and focus on who she is now.

t the West House, Cecile tells Nora a series of stories about Barry's younger days. Eventually Nora figures out the stories aren't about Barry after all, but Iris. She realizes maybe her mom's not a monster after all.

Later that night Barry's home alone when he hears a noise. Iris calls, and while they're video chatting, Rag Doll abducts Barry (does he have super speed too?). He taunts Iris, telling him to come get Barry.

Iris rushes to STAR, and tells the Team Flash that Rag Doll took Barry. Ralph's the only meta whose powers aren't on the fritz, so he and Iris swing through the city looking for Barry.

Barry wakes up tied to a chair on the edge of a skyscraper. He sees he has power-dampening cuffs on, so he can vibrate his way free. Rag Doll taunts him, threatening to push him over the edge. Ralph and Iris somehow figure out where Barry is, and arrive on the rooftop. Rag Doll tells her to lower her weapon, or Barry dies. Iris throws down her blaster rifle.

Elsewhere, Caitlin calls Nora and tells her what's going on. She zooms away.

Ralph tells Rag Doll to let Barry go. He says OK, and shoves Barry off the roof. Ralph stretches his arm out to catch him, but before he can do so, Iris leaps off the roof. She falls toward Barry and somehow manages to unlock the dampening cuffs.

Barry zips them safely to the ground just as Nora arrives. She's impressed that her non-meta mom just leaped off a building to save her dad. On the rooftop, Ralph finally makes himself useful and captures Rag Doll— apparently by shoving him up his ass (I'm not kidding).

Back at STAR, the Gang wraps up the episode. Nora looks through Iris' old scrapbook, saying it's full of amazing accomplishments. She says Future Iris refuses to talk about the past, as it's off limits for some reason. Iris tells her nothing's off limits here and now, and she can ask her anything. The two finally bond a bit.

Meanwhile, Ralph and Sherloque tell Caitlin that if her father's still alive, the best place for him to hide is in one of the Tannhouser Black Ops sites, where her mother used to test deadly pathogens for the CDC (!!!!!!!). Caitlin says her mom had dozens of such sites, and there's no way they could figure out which one to check now that the STAR Labs satellite is gone.

Suddenly Cisco gets an idea. He says DeVoe's Enlightenment satellites are still in orbit, and figures out a way to hack into them. Team Flash now has a whopping FOUR satellites! Too bad it took Cisco FIVE episodes to think of this simple solution.

Cisco says they can now locate Thomas Snow. Amazingly, Caitlin says she's not quite ready yet, because they need to drag out this storyline until the mid season break.


• Not a big deal, but what's up with the title? Why not just spell it "Dolled" and get it over with?

• I know I keep drubbing this deceased equine, but whatever. Last season, virtually every episode featured Ralph recklessly using his powers, goofing up and then learning a valuable lesson about being a hero. The next week the show would hit the reset button and go through it all over again.

That seems to be the exact pattern they're following this season with Nora. We're five episodes in and she's learned five lessons so far. Oy.

• Is Central City filled with super-hilly streets like San Francisco? Because that's the only way this scene makes any possible sense.

• Early in the episode, Barry chases after the art thieves. Suddenly Nora butts in and plucks one of them from his bike, which then sails out of control down the street.

I can't decide which part of this scene is more hilarious— the cliched old couple trying to cross the street as the bike hurtles toward them...

Or Nora looking like a scolded child after Barry saves the couple and then glares at her. I'm honestly surprised she didn't put her hands behind her back and draw in the dirt with her toe.

• Thanks to this episode, we now know that Central City is divided into at least three boroughs: Mounds View, New Brighton and Danville.

• We get a bunch of street and building names in this episode. We get mentions of Ruger and Ramirez Streets, along with Viera Chemicals and the Eaglesham apartment building on Simone Avenue.

As we all know by now, The Flash loves to name places in Central City after famous comic book artists and writers. I did a bit of digging, but couldn't find any info on Ruger, Ramirez or Vierra.

The other two are a different story though. In the comics, Dale Eaglesham and Gail Simone are co-creators of the Peter Merkel version of Rag Doll.

• As you might have guessed, Rag Doll's a foe from the comics. He first appeared in Flash Comics #36, wayyyyy back in 1942! 

His name was Peter Merkel in the comics as well. It'd take at least 50,000 words to adequately recap his history, so I'm not even gonna try it. You can google him if you're so inclined to learn more. This particular version of Rag Doll was a master contortionist, due to his "triple-jointed" limbs.

Merkel's son, Peter Merkel Jr., was introduced in 2005 and became the new Rag Doll. A member of the Secret Six, he had his joints replaced with artificial ones that allow him to contort and compress his body beyond normal human limits.

The Rag Doll seen in this episode appears to be loosely based on the Peter Merkel Jr. version.

• Rag Doll's played by newcomer Troy James, an astonishing contortionist who recently shocked the judges with his amazing skills on America's Got Talent. He's able to twist his body into seemingly impossible positions.

In fact I'm convinced that almost all the Rag Doll scenes were real, and not augmented with CGI. When we first see him, he climbs out of a small gift box and twists himself into an upright position. Pretty sure that was all James.

The "Rag Doll Crawling Across The Floor With His Head Upside-Down" were most definitely 100% Troy James, as I saw him do the same thing on YouTube. Freaky!

I'm less sure about the scene in which he crawls out of the wreckage of the Seavers Building, and seems to twist his head and torso 360 degrees as he gathers himself together. I think it might have been actual footage of James, but it looks so impossible that it's hard to believe there wasn't some CGI in there somewhere.

• Unfortunately the producers couldn't help themselves, and used CGI in some of Rag Doll's scenes— in particular the one in which he mashes his fingers flat so he can slip them under the lid of a jewelry box, and when he slithers through the slats in an air vent.

This was a mistake, in my opinion. When the audience sees what is obviously some CGI trickery, they're naturally going to assume that James' REAL contortionist abilities are fake as well. His talent is impressive enough on its own, and didn't need any augmentation.

• Apparently Rag Doll's mask is also flexible, as it folds in half when he squeezes through a vent. Not impossible, but certainly odd, since it looks like cracked porcelain.

• Apparently Rag Doll's floppy, yarn-like locks are his real hair!

• Barry tells Iris it's good to see her flexing her investigative reporter muscles again. She replies, "Yeah, I guess some girls grow up wanting to be SupergirlI always wanted to be Soledad O'Brien or Christiana Amanpour."

Wait, what? How the hell could any little girls grow up wanting to be Supergirl? She's from Earth-38 in another dimension, and only recently made herself known on Earth-1. There was never a Supergirl for anyone to emulate.

Is there maybe some kind of Supergirl comic book on Earth-1? Or did the writers just make a huge mistake here?

• Man, that Teresa Merkel was a piece of work. Barry and Iris crash her charity ball, and the three of them have the following conversation:

Iris: "Hi, Mrs. Merkel. I'm Iris West Allen."
Teresa: "Oh, I know who you are. Don't you usually write about lunatics and the heroes who catch them?"
Iris: "Well, you know, supporting the arts is a citywide concern."
Teresa: "Hmm."
Barry: "I'm Barry Allen."
Teresa: "Ah. And you're obviously not here to make a sizable donation which means you, my dear, are here on assignment."

Jesus, what a bitch! No wonder her son turned out to be a criminal psycho!

By the way, I know the Merkel name came from the comics, but I kind of wish they'd used a different one. Every time I heard Teresa's name, all I could think of was Angela Merkel, the current Chancellor of Germany.

• How much do you want to bet that Nora's scenes with Cecile were originally supposed to be between her and Joe? No doubt that Jesse L. Martin's recent back injury, and his scenes were hastily rewritten to feature Cecile instead.

 At one point Cecile "punishes" Nora by making her assemble Baby Jenna's crib. Nora slaps it together at superspeed, and of course a second later the entire thing comically collapses. Cecile then clears her throat and hold out a bag of screws.

A lot to unpack in this little scene. First of all, this crib is for Nora's Aunt Jenna. Does she really care so little about her aunt that she'd carelessly throw the thing together without securing the pieces with screws?

Secondly, Nora seems genuinely surprised when the crib collapses, as if she didn't expect it to happen. Do they not have screws in the future?

 Cecile bribes Nora into doing odd jobs by promising to tell her about the time the Flash ended up in an alternate past "filled with golden giants called Grodans."

Turns out the Grodans were actually a thing in the comic. They first appeared way back in 1961 in The Flash #120. In that issue, Barry and Wally West are accidentally sent into the past, where they battle the giant Grodan race.

OK, The Flash writers— now that you brought them up, I fully expect to see Barry fight the Grodans at some point in the near future!

 Caitlin discovers her father was a friend of the late Professor Stein. She, Cisco and Sherloque then travel to Hudson University to search Stein's office for clues in Thomas Snow's disappearance.

Um... at this point in the series, Professor Stein's been dead for at least a year. So why the hell does he still have an office at the university? Do they have so much extra space they can afford to keep a dead guy's office intact?

 Cisco vibes Thomas Snow's blackboard, and sees a vision of him working on an equation. Caitlin recognizes the equation and somehow translates it into chemical symbols (?) that spell out "KHIONe." Sherloque recognizes the name as the Greek goddess of ice and snow.

I never got past geometry in school, so I'll have to take the show's word for it that all this equation business is correct.

They did do their homework on Khione though, as she really was the goddess of winter or whatever.

 I think the writers forgot how Cisco's powers are supposed to work.

Early in the episode he vibes the periodic table that Caitlin drew, as well as Thomas Snow's blackboard. In both cases this causes him to see fleeting visions of Thomas. This is exactly how his power's always been depicted

But later in Professor Stein's lab, Cisco vibes a sketch that Sherloque drew and again sees an image of Thomas.

THAT'S NOT HOW IT WORKS! Whenever he touches someone's personal belongings, he's supposed to get a vision of the OWNER. So when he vibed Sherloque's sketch, he should have seen a vision of HIM, not Thomas!

 In one scene, prominent architect Williams Seaver tells a prospective client, "Come on, Novick. You wanna improve Gotham City's skyline, you do it with a building nobody can take their eyes off of. That's one of mine."

OK, that makes two Batman references in two weeks. They're definitely setting up something! Most likely they're laying groundwork for an appearance by Batgirl, who may or may not be getting her own Arrowverse show sometime soon.

 A bit later Seaver tells his client, "Architecture means everything to me. I mean, you tell me. How many other architects have won the Pritzker Prize three times?"

Turns out the Prizter Architecture Prize is a real thing! It's an annual award given to honor living architects who demonstrate talent, vision and commitment. Someone on the staff did their homework!

 Rag Doll plants a bomb in the Seaver Architects building, which causes the entire thing to collapse. Oddly enough we don't hear a series of explosions before the building falls it just vibrates slightly and starts falling.

The building also falls very cleanly, as it doesn't produce a huge cloud of dust and smoke that covers twenty square blocks, like most falling buildings do. I guess that just wasn't in the budget.

 Near the end of the episode, Team Flash somehow figures out where Rag Doll is holding Barry hostage. Iris insists that Ralph take her to the scene. As they leave, he tells her he wants to try something. Cut to Iris holding on tight to Ralph, as he uses his stretchy powers to swing through the city streets just like Spider-Man!

There's no way The CW could have planned it, but this scene turned out to be a nice little tribute to Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee, who sadly died the day before this episode aired!

• Late in the third act, Iris risks her life to save Barry. As they recover, Ralph leaps from the building and lands on top of a car, his inflated body cushioning his fall. We then see that he's managed to capture Rag Doll, who's clearly inside Ralph's body.

At first I thought Ralph had just enveloped Rag Doll, by wrapping his pliable body around him. If you watch the scene closely though, it's obvious that's not what's happening. He is most definitely INSIDE Ralph. This is supported by the comical "indigestion sounds" Ralph makes all through the scene.

This leaves only two possibilities. Either Ralph swallowed Rag Doll and he's inside his stomach, or he shoved him up his ass. I'll leave it to you to decide which.

• Thanks to this episode, we now know Iris' age. As Nora flips through Iris' scrapbook, we see that she was in the class of 2007. If Iris was eighteen when she graduated (as most people are), then she's currently 29.

• At the end of the episode, Cisco figures out a way to hack into DeVoe's satellites and make them work for STAR Labs. Because he has a pathological need to name everything, he dubs the four satellites HAL, Robbie, Data, and Colossus.

Of course those are the names of famous computers or robots from various popular sci-fil films or TV shows. HAL is from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Robbie from Forbidden Planet, Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Colossus from Colossus: The Forbin Project.

Note that of the four namesakes, the computers were both "evil," while the robots were "good."

• This Week's Best Lines:
Eh. Once again, nothing really jumped out at me. Get with it, The Flash writers!
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