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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