Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Flash Season 5, Episode 19: Snow Pack

This week on The Flash we get an episode that's chock full of plot, as by my count there're at least three main storylines going on simultaneously. Unfortunately none of them matter, as they're all just filler, designed to eat up time until we get to the season finale. 

Seriously, you could cut out every second of the "Snow Family Reunion" plot and it literally wouldn't change the episode in any noticeable way. 

Same goes for the "Cicada Kidnaps Her Younger Self" plot, although it's possible that one may be setting up a future storyline down the road a bit.

Even the main "Nora's Turned Evil By The Negative Speed Force" plot goes absolutely nowhere. I'm assuming next week's show will deal with the fallout of her "shocking" turn to evil, but I'm betting it'll all be resolved by the end of the episode.

Once again, Cisco sits out an entire episode. This makes the fourth time so far this season. This is more than simple coincidence, as something's definitely up with the character. I'm starting to believe the rumors that Carlos Valdes wants to leave the show, and the writers are trying to prep us for Cisco's departure.

Last week I noted that Eobard Thawne seemed to genuinely care about his "little runner" Nora, and wondered if he really was attempting to atone for a lifetime of misdeeds. 

Welp, that didn't last long! This week it's patently obvious that he's expertly manipulating Nora into secretly helping him carry out some sort of nefarious plan. Just what it is, isn't quite apparent yet, but he's definitely up to something and hasn't turned over a new leaf. 

The Plot:
Picking up right where the previous episode left off, Barry returns to the present after stranding Nora in 2049. Iris confronts him and asks how the hell he could do such a thing to their daughter. He says they can no longer trust Nora after finding out she's been working with his archenemy Eobard Thawne for months. Incredibly, Iris says none of that matters, and that Barry's making decisions based on his emotions (!!!).

Iris goes on to say that Nora working with Thawne doesn't bother her. Quite rightly, Barry says she'd feel differently if Thawne had killed HER mother, as he did his. He wraps up by saying she's making decisions based on her emotions toward Nora. Realizing she's just been epicly faced, Iris storms off.

In 2049, Nora visits Thawne in his cell yet again, telling him she's lost her father a second time. She says she should never have lied to Team Flash. She mentions that Barry told her that he'd sense it in the Speed Force if she ever attempts to go back in time again. Thawne verifies this is true, and Nora asks how he time traveled without any speedsters sensing him. Cryptically, he says there's a way, but that it's not for her.

Nora begs Thawne to tell her, and he says he created his own Negative Speed Force. Sure, why not? He says Nora can learn to use it herself, but warns that it's dangerous. Of course it is.

Back in the present at STAR Labs, Barry tells Team Flash he took Nora to the future for good. Sherloque agrees with Barry's decision, saying it's for the best. Once again the others treat Sherloque like absolute sh*t, and tell him maybe it's time he left as well. Wait, these people are supposed to be the heroes, right?

Just then Joe gets a call from the hospital. It seems that someone broke into Grace Gibbons' room and abducted her. Gee, I wonder who could have done that?

Meanwhile, Caitlin's mom Dr. Carla Tannhauser is working late in her lab. Her husband Thomas Snow, aka Icicle, kills a security guard and enters. Carla hears the commotion and hides. She watches as Thomas breaks into a cryogenic chamber, steals a high-tech device and leaves.

The next day Barry, Caitlin and Joe investigate the break-in. Caitlin says the device stolen was a Cyro-Atomizer, designed to explore the coldest reaches of space. Carla scolds Caitlin for not telling her that Thomas had escaped his icy prison and was roaming about freely. Caitlin counters by saying Carla never told her Thomas was alive all these years. Zing!

At the West house, Cecile and Ralph are trying to figure out where to find Cicada II. Iris sits on the couch, moodily writing an angry letter to Barry (?). Ralph notices and says their love is eternal, and she and Barry just need to talk. An angry Iris storms out. Cecile tells Ralph to follow her, as she senses Iris is "determined."

At STAR Labs, Iris enters the Time Vault to talk to Gideon. She has her lock the Time Sphere to her, so as not to set off any alarms, whatever that means. She turns to find Ralph's followed her into the Vault, and he tells her he's coming with.

In 2049, Thawne begins training Nora. She takes off running, and he tells her to focus on her pain. Before long a red portal opens up— the Negative Speed Force. Before she can enter it though, the portal collapses. She asks Thawne why it didn't work.

In the present, Iris and Ralph are in a snowy field somewhere (?), attempting to use the Time Sphere. Iris sits inside it, while Ralph uses some kind or technobabble gun to open a portal. He then jumps into the Sphere a second before it's pulled into the portal.

At STAR, Caitlin says the Cyro-Atomizer can slow down particles to absolute zero. With it, Icicle could freeze the entire city. Caitlin says they can track him with an Oscillating Inversion Scanner, but Carla says a Modified Field Array would be better. The two then begin bickering over which item Barry should grab. Eventually he gets tired of their cackling and says he'll get both—  at normal speed.

Suddenly Joe notices the room getting colder, and tells the two women to run. Right on cue, Icicle enters and knocks them both across the room with a freeze blast. Joe draws his gun just as Icicle blasts him. Barry enters (dressed as the Flash) and manages to push Joe out of the way of the blast, but is hit by it himself. Of course he is. The two men are both knocked cold, pardon the pun.

At STAR, Sherloque's preparing to leave when he hears an alarm that's Barry's in trouble. He uses a portable breacher to teleport to Carla's lab, where a now-conscious Joe's trying to revive Barry. Sherloque says Barry's in cardiac arrest from the cold (?), and uses two live wires to heat up his suit and restore him.

Caitlin and Carla wake in a remote Tannhauser site in the Badlands, both wearing power-dampening cuffs. They begin arguing again, and Caitlin asks her mother why she's always been so "cold" to her. Get it? Icicle enters and takes a blood sample from Caitlin. He calls their family the "Snow Pack" (Houston, we have a title!). Carla says Icicle's planning to use the Atomizer to give them all new "ice" personas, and erase their regular personalities. Based on what I've seen so far, I don't see this as a problem!

Iris & Ralph arrive in 2049 and sneak into Iron Heights Prison. Ralph knocks out Shinick the guard and uses his powers to impersonate him, so Iris can talk with Nora (I guess she tracked her to the prison somehow).

Iris enters Thawne's cell and sees Nora talking with him. She tells a very shocked & surprised Nora to come with her. Instead of doing so, Nora starts asking why Barry's not with her. Nora says Barry doesn't know she's here, and to step away from Thawne. He tells Nora to listen to her mother.

For some reason Nora takes Barry's absence as proof he doesn't love her. She begins building up Negative Speed Force Energy and zooms out of the prison. She opens a Negative Speed Force portal and runs into it, seeing glimpses of all the bad things that've happened to her this season.

Thawne tells Iris that Nora is going back to 2019, and says he made a mistake in showing her how to get there. He tells Iris that she and Barry need to reconcile, as Nora needs them united now more than ever. She hisses that Thawne doesn't get to comment on her family, and leaves.

At the Tannhauser site, Carla asks Caitlin what it's like having someone else in her head. Just then Icicle enters and drags Carla away. Caitlin tries to intervene, but Icicle fires an ice blast at her and leaves. Caitlin smiles, as the ice blast hit her power-dampening cuffs.

At STAR, Barry says he has no idea how to track Icicle. Sherloque suggests mapping all the cold spots around the city, as he might be in one of those. Really? It took Sherloque to suggest something that simple?

Icicle throws Carla into a typical supervillain cyro chamber and activates it, freezing her. Just then Killer Frost enters and blasts Icicle across the room. He asks how she escaped, and she explains he froze her cuffs, causing them to shatter. Icicle ramps up the power on the chamber and says Frost can either save Carla or capture him. He then flies off.

Killer Frost is frozen (heh) with indecision. Just then the Flash enters, and Frost tells him to save Carla while she goes after Icicle. We're then treated to a pretty cool (heh) chase scene, as the two of form ice ramps in mid air and slide along them.

Barry tries to open the chamber, but it's so cold it freezes his hand. Sherloque radios him and suggests he phase through the chamber, grab Carla and phase back out. Again, it took Sherloque to think of this? Barry's the one with the powers! Barry concentrates and begins phasing, jumping through the chamber and exiting with Carla.

Meanwhile the ice ramp chase continues. Killer Frost fires a blast at Icicle, destroying his ramp. He then falls down toward her, and generates an icy dagger and hurls it into her chest. She immediately transforms back into Caitlin. 

Icicle pulls the dagger out of her chest and is about to slit her throat with it, when suddenly he stops. He seems to struggle with himself, and then transforms back into regular old Thomas Snow. Caitlin asks if he's really her father, and he tells her everything's going to be OK.

Caitlin and Thomas return to the Tannhauser site, where Carla's regained consciousness. She's stunned to see a normal Thomas, and asks what happened. He explains that when he saw Icicle about to kill Caitlin, he found the strength to break through and save her. He says thanks to her, he may have finally banished the monster inside him.

Just then Cicada II enters (sigh...) and attacks Flash, knocking him out (of course). Caitlin tells her parents to beat it, and transforms into Killer Frost. Despite the fact that Frost has long range powers and could freeze Cicada solid from a hundred feet away, she insists on fighting at close quarters with ice daggers.

Predictably, Cicada easily womps Frost, delivering an epic beatdown. She then hurls her dark matter dagger at her. Suddenly Thomas somehow appears in front of Frost, as the dagger plunges into his back. What the hell? Did he teleport back into the lab? How the holy hell did he get back there?

Anyway, Cicada grabs the Cryo Atomizer and flies off. Caitlin cradles her dying father, as Carla returns. He tells her he'll always love them and promptly dies.

At STAR, Team Flash wonders why Cicada took the Atomizer, or how she knew it was at the site. Iris tells Barry they need to talk, and they return to their loft.

Caitlin runs tests on her mother to see if Icicle's freezing chamber altered her genetic makeup. Caitlin produces a vial of green liquid, saying if there were any changes to Carla's DNA, the sample would turn white. Plot Point! Carla suggests the two of them go out for a drink to talk and possibly reconnect. As they leave, naturally the vial turns white.

Ralph sees Sherloque packing (wait, didn't he already do that earlier?) and tells him he still has much to offer his "family." Sherloque decides to stay.

At the loft, Iris says Barry was right about Thawne, and says he's definitely manipulating Nora. Barry admits he shouldn't have marooned Nora without talking it over with Iris. She says she worries that Thawne might actually care about Nora, and see himself as a father to her. Barry says they should bring Nora home.

Elsewhere, a red portal opens on an empty street. Nora exits, her eyes glowing an eerie red. 

Also elsewhere, Cicada II is in a remote cabin, tending to her younger self. She turns and stares at the Atomizer she stole.


• For some reason, episode writers Jonathan Butler & Gabriel Garza did their best to make the regular characters in this episode as unlikable as possible. Iris callously dismisses Barry's feelings about his arch enemy Thawne, Team Flash treats Sherloque like crap for the second week in a row and Caitlin spends the entire episode bickering with her mother. Jesus, if I wanted to see unpleasant drama like this I'd just watch my own family!

Iris is the worst offender by far. The minute she finds out Barry marooned Nora in the future, she tears into him, asking how he could have made such a decision without consulting her. 

If she'd stopped then and there, I probably would have been on her side, because Barry should have consulted her before taking such momentous action. But she keeps going, accusing Barry of becoming "overly emotional" just because Nora's teaming up with his archenemy Eobard Thawne! You know, the evil supervillain who murdered Barry's mother right before his very eyes!

As if all that wasn't enough, she tells Barry that it doesn't bother her in the least that their daughter's working with a speedster serial killer. Jaysis, Iris! Did you really just say that? We're... we're supposed to like her character, right? I didn't miss an episode in which she turned evil or something?

The rest of the cast fares no better, as for the second episode in a row they treat poor Sherloque so shabbily that he actually packs his bags and prepares to return to his own Earth! Team Flash has become such assholes that a man is literally leaving the planet to get away from them!

• Thawne brags about the personal Speed Force he invented, causing Nora to salivate over it and demand he teach her how to access it. I love the tiny hint of a smirk on his face when he says, "Well, I I have to warn you, Nora. It's a little bit negative."

Tom Cavanagh is a national treasure!

• Although it seems like the Negative Speed Force was pulled directly out of the writer's ass, it's actually a thing from the comics. It made its debut during Geoff Johns' 2009 Flash Rebirth series.

Additionally, in the comics there's also a Sage Force (whatever the hell that is), a Strength Force and a Still Force (which I guess would be the opposite of the Speed Force?).

• It seems odd to me that Icicle, a supervillain who already has cold powers, would need to steal a device that can freeze all of Central City. Eh, but what do I know? I'm sure he knows what he's doing.

• Icicle's familiar look was intentional, wasn't it? I mean, it had to be, right? It's too big of a coincidence to be otherwise.

• Inside the West house, Ralph helps himself to some pizza. Note the pizza box is labeled, "Milgrom And McFarlane" (in the green banner).

These are likely references to comic book creators Al Milgrom and Todd McFarlane. OK, Milgrom I get, as he co-created Firestorm at DC. McFarlane penciled Infinity, Inc. at DC for a couple years, before moving to Marvel and then eventually co-founding Image Comics. To my knowledge, neither one of them ever worked on The Flash comic, so I'm not sure why they're getting a shoutout here.

• When Iris sees Ralph in the Time Vault with her, she asks how the hell he got in. He says he sneaked in by flattening himself and slipping under the door. Hmm. I get that his clothing could probably fit under the door, but what about his shoes? Did they flatten themselves as well?

• Is it wintertime in Central City? Or are there heretofore unmentioned mountains in the area with snow-capped peaks? I'm just struggling to figure out exactly where Iris & Ralph are during this scene. Did they breach to the Rocky Mountains so no one on Team Flash would try to stop them from going to the future?

• Iris asks Ralph if he's ready to open the breach and activate the Time Sphere. He says, "All set to hit eighty eight miles per hour!" For those of you born in this millennium, that's a Back To The Future reference.

• Once in 2049, Iris and Ralph infiltrate Iron Heights Prison to see Thawne. Ralph tries to distract Shinick, the sadistic prison guard, so Iris can sneak into Thawne's cell.

Note the ad on the back of the magazine Shinick's reading. It's for Gingold, Ralph's favorite soft drink (you'll have to zoom in to see it). In the comics, Gingold was also the substance that gave Elongated Man his powers.

• For at least the third time in the series (maybe even fourth?), Ralph uses his stretchy powers to imitate a black man. I'll accept that he can rearrange his face to resemble Shinick's features, but how the hell is he altering his skin color?

Apparently Ralph must be part cuttlefish!

• Iris meets with Thawne in his cell in 2049. Suddenly Ralph enters and says they have to go. I love the odd little look Ralph gives Thawne when he catches a glimpse of him. This is his first encounter with Thawne, so it's probably quite disconcerting to see an evil supervillain with the same face as his pal Sherloque.

• I loved the awesome battle between Icicle and Killer Frost, as they chased each other through the skies above the Badlands on icy ramps. This is the way most ice-based characters (such as Iceman of the X-Men) travel in the comics, and it looks exactly how I imagined it would in live action. Well done!

• Just as Icicle's about to kill Caitlin, Thomas takes control of his own body again.  Thomas and Caitlin then hug it out, as the camera pulls back to reveal they're perched precariously on the edge of an ice ramp, several thousand feet in the air!

Hopefully Killer Frost manifested herself again to help get the two of them get down. Otherwise they're gonna have to slide all the way back to the ground!

• At the end of the episode, Caitlin's reunited with both her parents. Their reunion's short-lived though, as they're attacked by Cicada II. Caitlin tells her parents to run for their lives, as she transforms into Killer Frost. Note that we clearly see Thomas and Carla flee the facility. A few seconds later, Frost is saved from certain death when Thomas throws himself in front of Cicada's dagger.

As I said in the plot description, where the hell did Thomas come from? He left the building with his ex-wife! Yet somehow he comes between Frost and the dagger in time to save her. The only explanation here is that Thomas is a teleporter. That or he can turn invisible, and sneaked back into the facility unseen. 

There's also a third, and more likely option— bad writing!

• This Week's Best Lines:
Thawne: "I used to idolize your father. I wanted to be just like him. But that was not my fate. I was to be the reverse. Opposite of him in every way. So instead of tapping into the Speed Force to access my powers I created my own."
Nora: "You created your own Speed Force?"
Thawne: "Yes, I did."
Nora: "And I can access it to go back in time?"
Thawne: "That and more."Nora: "Can you teach me how to use it?"
Thawne: "Well, I I have to warn you, Nora. It's a little bit negative."

Joe: "Future Grace steals past Grace. I don't even know if there's a police code for kidnapping yourself."

Carla: "Your father is trapped inside an ice monster, Caitlin. What was I supposed to do? Split custody with him on the weekends?"

Caitlin: "The inversion scanner."
Carla: "The field array."
Barry: "I'll get both. Might take my time."
Killer Frost: "Cool knife. I've got two."

Joe: "So you went to the future?"
Ralph: "Yeah. John Stamos still handsome."
Sherloque: "He'll never not age."
Ralph: "No, never. Man, he looks good."

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