Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Flash Season 5, Episode 7: Oh Come, All Ye Thankful

On this week's special Thanksgiving episode of The Flash, the gang eats turkey, an old villain makes a return, and Cicada gets an origin story.

Did you catch the theme of this week's episode? It was pretty subtle, so I can understand if it slipped by you. It's Fathers And Daughters, or course!

As themes go it's not a bad one, but the writers beat the audience over the head with it over and over, with all the grace of a Whack-A-Mole game.

There's Barry and Nora, of course, who're clashing over him constantly endangering himself to save others. Then there's Mark Marden and Weather Witch, who have a contemptuous relationship at best. 

Lastly there's Orlin Dwyer and Grace Gibbons, who aren't technically father and daughter, but come to think of one another that way. Of all these examinations of the theme, theirs is the best one, as it's well written and acted, and the only one that feels genuine.

I'm actually amazed at how good Cicada's origin story is. With just a handful of flashbacks, the writers took a fairly dull villain and transformed him into a fully formed, intriguing character. I'm actually invested in Cicada and his storyline now! Good job, guys!


The Plot:

We open in Grace Gibbon's hospital room, where Orlin Dwyer's sitting at her bedside. Orlin hears Barry coming and for some reason hides behind the door. Dr. Ambres, Grace's physician, heads off Barry and asks why he's there. Barry says he's looking for Grace's father (who he suspects is secretly Cicada), but Ambres says Graces' entire family was killed during the DeVoe's Enlightenment last season. A confused Barry leaves, as Orlin seethes behind the door.

FLASHBACK to a year ago, when the police visit Orlin's dingy apartment. They inform him that his sister was killed in an auto accident, leaving him Grace's only living next of kin.

Back in the present, Barry preps for Thanksgiving dinner. Iris and Nora enter, and Barry notes how close they've grown in the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ambres tells Orlin he needs to stop visiting Grace now that the police are nosing around. He tells her that's not gonna happen.

FLASHBACK: Orlin's on the phone, trying to dump Grace off on someone else. He's startled and ashamed when she walks into the kitchen and overhears him. 

In the present, STAR Labs gets a meta alert. Barry and Nora speed to the Central City Power Plant, where a freak lightning storm has materialized, threatening to detonate an experimental fusion core which could destroy several blocks. 

Barry manages to save the core, but in the process he's struck by lightning and killed (!). Nora then applies speedster defibrillation and revives him. 

Back at STAR, Nora begins an episode-long diatribe against her father, scolding him for constantly risking his life to save others. Apparently she doesn't quite understand that's pretty much a superhero's job description.

Orilin stares at a sheet of paper listing the hospital's visiting hours. He becomes so incensed he punches his refrigerator, leaving a large dent in the door.

FLASHBACK: Orlin's in the principal's office at Grace's school, where she's in trouble for calling another kid a "rat bastard." She tells him she hates him, and says he hates himself too. He's stung by her words, as he realizes she's right.

In the present, Barry says the only meta with the power to spontaneously generate such a powerful storm out of nowhere is Mark Marden, aka the Weather Wizard. He's currently being held in Iron Heights Prison though, so Team Flash takes a field trip to make sure he's actually in his cell.

While there, a blast of lightning punches through the roof, and a Power Rangers villain an unknown meta appears. She demands they hand over Mark Marden, her father (!). Barry instantly speeds Marden to STAR Labs, and tosses him in the Secret Super Jail. He rushes back to the prison and tells the Mystery Woman she's not getting her dad. She threatens to destroy the entire city, then waves her staff around and generates a lightning bolt and rides off on it or something.

In his house, Orlin delicately arranges the tiny furniture in a dollhouse.

FLASHBACK: Orlin completely cleans up his act and gets a new and better place for him and Grace. He says she was right about him hating himself, but he's going to try and improve and do right by her. He presents her with a dollhouse, and says maybe they can fix it up together. She agrees to try.

Back in the present, Caitlin reveals to Team Flash that Marden's daughter is Joss Jackam, a former weather chaser. After reviewing security footage, they realize her powers come from the staff she constantly carries, which has been infected by a dark matter satellite shard. Caitlin dubs Joss the "Weather Witch."

Barry says if Weather Witch wants her dad, they should give him to her. They set up a meeting place in downtown Central City. Weather Witch shows up and banters with Nora a bit. Just then Barry appears with Marden. She then uses her powers to knock Barry and Nora on their asses, then drops an SUV on Marden's head!

Team Flash is shocked, wondering why she went to all the trouble to find her dad just to kill him. She tells them he was a no-good creep who walked out on her as a child. Suddenly Marden reappears, and it's evident he was actually a hologram being controlled by Iris, who's safe and sound back in STAR Labs. 

Weather Witch shrieks with anger at being deceived, and vows once again to destroy the city as she flies off. 

Later that night, a worried Nora tries to convince Barry to give up being the Flash before it kills him.

Meanwhile, Orlin pulls up to the hospital and stares meaningfully at it.

FLASHBACK: Orlin takes Grace to the Central City Carnival. He says he knows they didn't get off to a good start, but realizes she's the best thing that ever happened to him. He gives her a set of figures for her dollhouse.

Just then the sky turns purple as DeVoe's Enlightenment begins. Everyone at the Carnival, including Orlin and Grace, pass out. When they come to a few minutes later, Orlin sees flaming chunks of the STAR Labs satellite heading toward them. 

He tells Grace to run, but it's too late. A huge chunk slams into the ground in front of them, throwing them both backwards. Orlin sees Grace lying unconscious, and then looks down at a jagged, lightning-bolt shaped piece of metal protruding from his chest.

Cut to Central City Hospital, where Orlin bursts in carrying Grace. He yells for someone to help her and collapses. Dr. Ambres tends to Grace, and orders Orlin taken to surgery.

In the present, Weather Witch begins attacking the local airport. Barry races to the scene and evacuates the passengers from the terminal to an empty hangar. This infuriates Weather Witch, and she brews up a lightning tornado (lightnado?).

Back at STAR Labs, Cisco realizes the only way to fight fire, er, weather is with more weather. Iris realizes what he means, and tells Nora to get the Weather Wizard's wand out of storage and take it to Barry.

Nora zooms to the airport and hands the wand off to Barry. She looks at the stricken faces of the innocent passengers in the hangar, and realizes they're why Barry risks his life. She finally gives him her blessing, and he heads into battle.

Barry begins running circles around the lightning tornado, using the weather wand to absorb its energy. The tornado sputters and dies, but there's a massive explosion as the wand dissipates all that pent-up energy.

Nora waits anxiously for the smoke to clear, and finally sees Barry emerge with a handcuffed Weather Witch.

Cut to Team Flash enjoying their Thanksgiving Dinner. Elsewhere, Orlin visits Grace in her hospital room, despite Dr. Ambres' warning to lay low.

FLASHBACK: In the hospital, a recovering Orlin sits by Grace's side. Dr. Ambres explains that Grace suffered a brain hemorrhage during the Enlightenment, is in a coma and may never wake up. She blames those damned metahumans for injuring Grace and Orlin.

Just then there's a news report congratulating the Flash for destroying DeVoe's Enlightenment satellite and saving the city. Orlin realizes the Flash was indirectly responsible for injuring Grace. He begins seething in anger, which causes the jagged piece of metal that was removed his chest to glow. Suddenly the chunk flies across the room and into Orin's hand. He growls, "I'm gonna make this right, Gracie. EVERY. META. WILL. DIE..."

In the present, Sherloque reveals he's figured out Cicada's real identity by simply monitoring the security camera outside Grace's hospital room. That was easy!


• Where the hell was Ralph in this episode? 

See, THIS is why I was so pissed when they introduced Sherloque as yet another detective. He makes Ralph redundant by needlessly duplicating his function on the show. In fact that's likely the reason Ralph sat out this episode— because it didn't need TWO detectives stepping all over one another's lines.

I've grown to like Ralph over time, but I'm afraid to get too attached to him. I have a feeling he's not long for the show, as the writers can't figure out what to do with him.

• When Barry tries to see Grace in the hospital, Orlin hides just inside the doorway. He glances down at his jagged metal lightning bolt weapon (which once again is casually sticking out of the top of his duffel bag) and we clearly see it's inert. It doesn't glow in the slightest.

That's odd, as last week Raelene— a woman who could transform her arms into awesome swords— caused the blade to glow bright orange, tipping off Cicada to the fact she was a meta.

So why doesn't Barry set it off? He's a meta, isn't he? Why's it glow around some, and not others?

Also, when Barry hangs around the doorway to Grace's room, Cicada's body tenses as he glares at him with murderous intent. What was his plan here? Would he really have attacked and killed Barry if he'd dared to walk all the way into the room?

• When Barry questions Dr. Ambres (whose name I got from IMDB, as I don't think it's ever been mentioned in dialogue yet) about Grace, she says, "She came in with a wave of new admissions.No legal guardian listed, no next of kin. The sad truth is, our staff is the only family this little girl has left."

Barry should have immediately known Ambres was lying. Who's paying for Grace's costly treatment and pricey private room if she has no family? I can't imagine any major metropolitan hospital would extend those service free of charge in this day and age!

• Once again, the fact that the series is filmed in Vancouver inadvertently rears its head. At one point a police office knocks on Orlin's door and clearly says, "This is aboat your sister, Mr. Dwyer."

I'm assuming the show probably hires local acting talent for bit parts like this, which was especially evident here.

• Joe's continued absence was keenly felt in this special holiday episode. As Caitlin helps Barry prepare pies for Thanksgiving dinner she asks, "What about Joe and Cecile?" Barry replies, "They're celebrating with Cecile's family this year."

I understand why actor Jesse L. Martin wasn't in this episode (due to his extended medical leave), but man, that Thanksgiving dinner scene just screamed for his presence.

• Caitlin notes that Nora and Iris finally seem to be getting along. Barry says, "Yeah, Nora's getting closer to Iris than she is with me, and the timing couldn't have been better." Caitlin asks, "What do you mean?" Barry replies, "I mean, Nora was so young when I disappeared in her future, so this would be her first memory of Thanksgiving with both her parents
Feel like it's my job to make it the most perfect Thanksgiving ever."

Her first memory of Thanksgiving with both parents? How the hell could THAT be? At first I thought Barry was taking crazy pills when he said this, but it turns out he's right.

Back at the beginning of this season, I attempted to work out just when Nora was born, saying:

In the Time Room, Barry and Nora stare at the holographic newspaper whose headline reads "Flash Missing— Vanishes In Crisis." It's dated April 25, 2024, which is just six years from now. Barry asks Nora how old she was when it happened, and she says, "I was born a few years before you vanished, but I don't have any memories of you."

Most people can't remember the first two or three years of their lives, and I assume Nora's the same. So let's say she was three when Barry disappeared. That would put her birth sometime in 2021.

So Barry's correct here. In her own timeline, Nora never would have remembered a Thanksgiving with both parents, and this one in the past would be her first.

• STAR Labs is alerted to a disturbance at "the power station downtown." Barry and Nora rush to the scene.Apparently they decided it was quicker (heh) for them to leap from building to building, instead of running through the streets at super speed like they've done in every previous episode.

• Cisco tells Barry, "There's an experimental cold fusion core from Mercury Labs in the plant, and if it blows It could take out the whole block."

As we can plainly see from this shot, the absolute best place to keep a super powerful and highly unstable fusion core is on a table sitting outside the plant, where it's exposed to the sun and elements. Got it.

• Apparently The Flash writers graduated from the Looney Tunes Technical Academy. When Barry retrieves the fusion core from the power station, he's struck by a bolt of lightning. This causes his rib cage to become visible through his skin for a few seconds— just like Wile E. Coyote's!

 Barry saves the fusion core, but unfortunately the lightning strike kills him. Nora then uses her speedster powers to defibrillate him and restart his heart.

I've brought this up ad nauseam in the past, so I won't go into too much detail about it this time. I'll just say that this is NOT how defibrillation works. The human heart is not like a car battery you can jump, and leave it at that.

 The highlight of this episode were the flashbacks, which gave us the origin of Cicada. As origins go, it was a damned good one, and actually made perfect sense. We saw Orlin Dwyer saddled with a kid he didn't want, grow to love her over time and swear vengeance on all metas when she's injured by one. Completely plausible and very well done.

Kudos as well to Islie Hirvonen, who played Grace Gibbons. She did an amazing job, as she seemed like a real kid and not a precocious Hollywood brat. She and Chris Klein (aka Cicada) also had an easy and believable chemistry together.

Hirvonen was also in Deadpool 2, but I don't remember her. I'd have to watch the movie again to spot her, and THAT ain't heppening!

 After the freak lightning storm, Team Flash suspects Mark Marden, aka the Weather Wizard, was behind it. Trouble is, he's currently locked up in the metahuman wing of Iron Heights Prison.

The team heads to the prison to check up on Marden. They're met by Warden Del Toro (whose name I once again got from IMDB, as it's never mentioned in dialogue, and who may or may not be named as an homage to director Guillermo del Toro), who replaced the prison's previous evil and corrupt warden. She has the following conversation with Team Flash:

Del Toro: "You'll have to excuse our dim lighting. Today's storm out at the power plant knocked out our main generator, so we're working off a backup for the time being."

Iris: "So does that mean you can't dampen the meta prisoner's powers?"
Del Toro: "Prison-wide dampeners are down, but we got every inmate into meta cuffs incident free."

Holy Crap! Might I remind everyone that this is a prison built specifically to house super powered metahuman criminals! Villains who could easily bust through a concrete wall or teleport away to escape. And there's no backup for their power-dampening system? That seems like a pretty major design flaw!

• In recent years, prisons in Switzerland have begun painting their cells pink, as they've found the color tends to calm aggressive inmates.

Take a look at Marden's cell there in Iron Heights. What psychological effect do you think that bright red Neon Demon decor is likely to have on HIS psyche?

"Go Go Power Rangers!" 

Wow, with her skintight body suit, bizarre boa and magic lightning rod, Weather Witch looks like she could have stepped off the set of one of the various Power Ranger series.

As you might expect, Weather Witch appeared in the comics, where she was a relatively minor character. This TV version shares little or nothing with her comic counterpart though, other than the name.

In the comics, Weather Witch was a former prostitute (!) who was transformed by the Penguin and recruited as a member of the New Rogues. At one point she tried to murder the Weather Wizard, who was NOT her father in the comics. She was much less experienced than him though, and he easily killed her. 

Oddly enough there's also a Weather Witch over at Marvel Comics!

• Team Flash does a little digging and finds out Weather Witch's true identity, which deserves a bit of scrutiny:

Caitlin: "Meet Joss Jackam. She's a delinquent teen turned amateur storm chaser. A self-taught expert in theoretical meteorology."
Cisco: "How do we know she's a storm chaser? 'Cause Helen Hunt here has a blog."
Caitlin: "Mm-hmm. She lost her grant from the Science Center for doing too many dangerous experiments on the weather."

OK, first of all, meteorology is the study of the atmosphere, atmospheric phenomena and their effects on weather. It's a science built on well-established and understood physical laws, so I don't see how there could possibly be anything theoretical about it.

Secondly, the idea that Weather Witch conducted dangerous experiments on the weather is beyond laughable, as it implies she actually did something that had a noticeable effect on the climate.

Our atmosphere is big. Like really, REALLY big. Weather Witch would need to detonate every nuke in the U.S. arsenal to even slightly affect it. Nothing she did before she got her lightning rod could have possibly altered it in the least.

• Check out those amazing photos from Joss Jackam's blog! Jesus Christ (click on 'em to get the full effect)! Now THAT'S some bad Photoshopping! It literally looks like someone slapped these two images together five minutes before they filmed the scene. 

I use Photoshop at my job every day, and if I turned in something this bad I'd be fired on the spot!

C'mon, The CW Art Department! I know from past example that you can do far better work than these sorry things!

• The second that Weather Witch called Mark Marden "dad," I wondered how the hell he could possibly have a daughter her age. 

Looks like the producers wondered the same thing, so they threw in a line in which Marden says, "Joss was born when me and her mom were still in high school." I guess that checks out. Marden was probably seventeen when he accidentally knocked up his girlfriend, and Joss looks to be about twenty. That'd make him thirty seven, which seems about right.

• At one point an angry Weather Witch drops an SUV on her deadbeat dad, Mark Marden. In the background you can see they're standing in front of "Porter Plaza."

As I've already mentioned, The Flash and all the Arrowverse shows are filmed in Vancouver. Curious, I googled "Porter Plaza, Vancouver" and got nothing. I did find an "Oceanic Plaza" there though, that looks might, mighty familiar.

Apparently the producers didn't want to tip their Vancouver hand too much, so they must have covered up "Oceanic Plaza" with a digital "Porter Plaza" sign. I actually recognize the location, as they (and the other shows) have filmed here many times in the past.

• After Barry's encounter with Weather Witch, Team Flash weighs their options. Cisco says, "Look, she has instant lightning on command; there's no way you're gonna be able to get that staff from her."

Once again, the writers apparently forgot that Barry's a speedster. A speedster so powerful that just last season he was able to move so fast he caused a nuclear explosion to seeming freeze in time. He could easily yoink Weather Witch's staff out of her hand while she was blinking.

• Nora spends a good part of the episode angry that Barry risks his life to save people. There's a lot to unpack in this subplot, so let's go through her arguments one at a time. 

First up, Nora yells at Barry for risking his life again:

Nora: "You almost just died! AGAIN! And you don't seem to care!"
Barry: "Where's this coming from? You know how dangerous our job is."
Nora: "Yeah, but I don't want to lose you again, but you don't seem to give a damn if you lose me, and and all for your job!"
Barry: "How long you been holding that one in?"

Um... there had to be a better way to phrase that last line (insert fart noise here).

Later Barry tries to understand Nora's point of view:

Barry: "It's not easy having a parent who puts their life on the line for others. I remember feeling the same way about Joe being a cop when I was a kid."
Nora: "No, it's not the same thing. Did he ever have to say goodbye to you knowing that he wasn't coming back?"

Um... yeah, it IS most definitely the same thing, Nora! Every day cops tell their loved ones goodbye, knowing full well it could be the last time they ever see them. I dunno who wrote this particular scene, but they need a time out in the penalty box.

Lastly, Nora tells Barry:

Nora: "Think about it. You're not the only hero. Let the others protect the world. You don't have to keep sacrificing yourself."

Well, let's see, if Barry hangs up his mask, who else is there to replace him? Cisco's been sidelined by a dark matter infection that causes seizures whenever he tries to breach. Ralph's stretchy powers are generally played for laughs and are rarely useful in a crisis situation. Wally's still off somewhere finding himself or whatever the hell he's doing, so he's out. That leaves Killer Frost, who's probably the most powerful member of the cast, but she's hardly reliable and doesn't seem like the type who'd put the public's welfare above her own.

Oh, and there's Nora herself, but she's still new at superheroing and messes up far more than she helps. so... looks like Barry's the only real choice!

• In the third act, Weather Witch attacks Sheldon County Airport. So I guess now we know what county the city's in!

As we all know, the show loves naming streets, buildings and other locations after famous comic writers and artists. I'm assuming the airport was named for artist Sheldon Moldoff. He drew the Flash and many different DC characters from the 1940s on.

It's also possible they may have named it after Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory, as he was fond of wearing Flash t-shirts. But let's hope not.

• Weather Witch tries to destroy the airport by creating a tornado made of lightning. Sure, why not? 

I wonder if this "lightnado" also had sharks flying around inside it?

Ridiculous as this concept is, I didn't really have a problem with it. My beef was with HOW she created it. She stands in the middle of the tarmac and very slightly wobbles the top of her magic staff in a tiny circle, and this somehow generates a giant funnel of electricity.

C'MON!!! She should have been swingin' that thing around over her head in a 360 degree arc as she cackled away like a crazy person! She needed to be over the top, not seemingly afraid to move.

I hate to say it, but Reina Hardesty, who played Weather Witch, just wasn't a very good actress. Or at least not the right one for this part.

• Nora wonders how they can possibly defeat Weather Witch. Cisco says they'll fight weather with weather! He then digs out the Weather Wand he created, that was stolen by Mark Marden.

I don't care what anyone says, I still say this prop is based on the Eleventh Doctor's sonic screwdriver!

• Man, Chris Klein chewed the living hell out of the scenery in his final flashback! His massively over the top, growling delivery would put Christian Bale's Batman to shame. Kudos to him for throwing himself so completely into the role, I guess.

• In the tag scene, Sherloque discovers Cicada's true identity by simply examining the hospital security cameras, and noticing that Orlin Dwyer visits Grace Gibbons' room every day.

Barry's still a CSI, right? That's kind of like a being a detective, as he has to look for clues, examine evidence and formulate hypothesis. So why the hell didn't HE think to monitor Grace's room?

• This Week's Best Lines:
Sherloque: "I don't understand. Explain again to me what the difference between this day and every other day in America?"
Cisco: "It's a holiday when we all get together and celebrate and eat a ton of food.Like, a gross amount."
Sherloque: "Again, what the difference between this day and every other day in America?Cisco: "That's legit."

Caitlin: "And we here at Team Flash are sort of a family, and you're becoming part of that family, so we would like to invite you to celebrate Thanksgiving with us."

Sherloque: "Caitlin, I'm afraid that I must decline, all right? Because I don't have a lot of reason to celebrate, and you of all people should sympathize with that."
Caitlin: "Why should I sympathize?"
Sherloque: "You lost your father, right? And then you find him only to discover that his body is being possessed by a icicle demon who's trying to kill all of Team Flash, yourself included.Not great, right?"
Cisco: "Okay, that's enough, Debbie Downer. Don't listen. You know what? Maybe you should lay off the paint fumes."
Sherloque: "Do you know what, young Ralph Macchio? You have nothing to celebrate either, right? What your last year has been, huh? Let me recap for you. First, heartbreak. 
So this past year, not been very kind to any of us. And then second, Cicada crushes your powers forcing you to fake your own death, also not great, and as for me, multiple divorces have left me with a mountain of debt that's insurmountable. So, this past year? Has no been very kind to ANY of us."
(I loved the defeated looks on Caitlin and Cisco's faces as they realized Sherloque was right)

Orlin: "Hey, listen to me! I'm supposed to be the parent here."

Grace: "No, you're not a parent! Parents are supposed to me the world better for their kids.You make everything worse. I hate you, and you hate you too."
(Kudos to Chris Klein's acting in this scene, as the truth of Grace's words sink in)

Cisco: "That's the other thing, celebrating the decimation of an indigenous culture so a bunch of greedy colonizers can get their turkey-lurkey on.Do you know about this? Do you know about the sham? The sham we call Thanksgiving?"
Iris: "Okay, I'm sorry, am I missing something? Since when did you guys become anti-Thanksgiving?"
Cisco: "Since a bunch of guys wearing hat buckles fed us some old bull, wrapped in lies, stuffed in propaganda. It's a deception Turducken."
Nora: "Actually, I think the hat buckle weren't real either."
Iris: (whispering) "Don't encourage him."
Cisco: (pointing at Nora) "You get it."

Cisco: "By the beard of Zeus, she's making a tornado out of lightning!"

Iris: "We live in a world full of meta-phones and meta-weather vanes. What's next? My electric toothbrush?"

Iris: "So it wasn't so much the taste as it was the crunch."

Caitlin: "Wait, are you actually saying..."
Iris: "Yes, that was the year I found out why Grandma Esther's yams tasted so good— because she never cleaned her favorite skillet."
(everyone groans)
Cisco: "I take it this was also the year you stopped eating Grandma Esther's yams?"
Iris: "Uh-uh, I didn't say all that."

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