Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Flash Season 5, Episode 21: The Girl With The Red Lightning

Welcome to the penultimate episode of The Flash Season 5!
Overall this is a "setup" episode, as spends its runtime arranging the pieces around the board for next week's season finale. 

Of course this means there's also quite a bit of filler. In fact Thawne's plotline, which makes up maybe 5$ of the episode, is really the only one with any actual relevance. All the stuff about rounding up metas to cure them, and Nora resenting her parents treating her like a kid is nothing more than chaff.

This week we finally get a reveal of Thawne's master plan, and what he's been working toward all season. Turns out he really wasn't repenting or making up for past sins after all, but was just scheming to save his own hide. Shocking, I know.

I knew it was likely never going to happen, but part of me was hoping he really did care about Nora and was trying to turn over a new leaf. I was a bit disappointed to find out his surrogate father relationship with her was all just an act. Pity.

The Plot:
At Iron Heights Prison in 2049, the timer outside Eobard Thawne's cell counts down to zero. Shinick, the sadistic guard, enters and tells Thawne he's about to become extinct. He then tortures him once more for old times' sake. Several guards wheel in a portable futuristic electric chair (so they didn't have to build a death chamber set). 

In 2019, Cicada II works on the Atomizer in her remote cabin. She hallucinates her uncle Orlin Dwyer, aka Cicada I, who tells her it's time to finish their legacy and kill all metas. Cicada II summons her dark matter dagger to her hand. 

At STAR Labs, Caitlin explains Cicada II's plan to use the Atomizer to spread Cisco's proto-cure over Central City, which will kill all metahumans. Team Flash already figured this out last week, but I guess she's going over it again for people who came in late. Iris says if they gave the cure to every meta in the city, then Cicada's Atomizer couldn't hurt them. For some inexplicable reason, Joe says they could administer the antidote at CCPD instead of STAR Labs. Caitlin begin whipping up thousands of doses of the cure.

Cisco shows the others the Mirror Gun that Nora stole last week, and demonstrates what it can do. He shoots a fragment of the satellite core, which is made of the same material as Cicada's dagger. The core violently implodes, completely destroying it. 

Joe and Cecile go to CCPD, where they explain their plan to Captain Singh. He reluctantly agrees to let them use the place but tells them they're gonna have to organize the whole operation themselves.

Meanwhile, Sherloque meets with his gal pal Renee Adler on the steps of Central City University. He reveals he knows she's secretly a meta, and tries to warn her that she's in danger. Just then Cicada II lands nearby. Sherloque tells Renee to run, and signals Team Flash. Cicada hurls her dagger at Renee, who uses her powers to deflect it. 

Barry and Nora speed across the city to Sherloque's location. Nora, who's linked to Cicada after spending time in her mind a few episodes back, begins seeing what she sees. Barry, Nora, Cisco and Ralph arrive on the scene and confront Cicada. As usual, she grabs her dagger and flies off while they all stand and watch. Barry notes that Nora's lightning is red again, which is a bad sign.

Cisco determines that Cicada stole a Quantum Tunnel Converter from Central City University, which can be used to power the Atomizer. The last part she'll need is a Hyper Conduit. Cisco and Ralph figure if they can find one, they'll also locate Cicada. 

Iris suggests that Nora's red lightning isn't being caused by her own anger, but by Cicada's. Since they're psychically linked, Cicada's negative emotions are manifesting in Nora. Nora says she's the key to finding Cicada, but Barry & Iris fear she'll lose control, and decide to find another way.

The next day, Caitlin starts administering the cure to a huge crowd of metas at CCPD. Sherloque meets with Renee, telling her she's still in danger from Cicada. He suggests she take the cure for her own protection. 

Cisco thinks they'll be able to locate a Conduit at Ollins Laboratories. Barry speeds to Ollins, where he finds a suspiciously conduit-like case. When he opens it, he sees a bomb inside. It explodes, but Barry easily outruns it. He realizes Cicada set a trap for him, and now has the Conduit. With it, she can kill every meta in the country. 

Ralph begins wondering about Thawne's plan. He says in the original timeline, David Hersch was Cicada. Thawne sent Nora back in time to interfere, thus creating the Orlin Dwyer Cicada. He says at some point in the future, Grace Gibbons wakes and becomes Cicada II. She then goes back in time and kills her uncle Orlin and takes his dagger. He asks if all the metas Dwyer killed would then get "unkilled." He says nothing about the situation adds up (boy, that's for sure!). The others tell him he may be right, but they're too busy to worry about it right now. 

Meanwhile Nora sneaks into Cisco's lab and attaches a mental amplifier (no jokes, please) to her head to try and locate Cicada II.

Sherloque brings Renee to CCPD to take the cure. While there the crowd begins to panic, and Joe gives everyone a Patented The CW Pep Talk™ to calm them down. Renee decides she doesn't want the cure and high-tails it the hell out of there. Who could blame her?

Barry & Iris wonder if they're doing the right thing by benching Nora. Just then there's an alarm, and Barry speeds into the lab. He sees Nora standing there, surrounded by red lightning. He zips over and removes the tech from her head, causing her to collapse. Once she wakes, Barry scolds her for risking her life. Nora says it's time they started treating her like an adult and let her make her own stupid decisions. 

Sherloque finds Renee, who tells him she doesn't want to get rid of her powers. He thinks about it and says he knows how she can be a meta and still be safe from Cicada— by relocating to another Earth. He uses a portable breacher to open a portal to his Earth. She asks him to come with, but he says he needs to stay and defeat Cicada. She steps through the portal by herself, and gives Sherloque a wave before it closes. 

At STAR, Barry & Iris finally decide Nora's right and let her help. She places the mental amplifier on her head again, then steps into a souped-up containment chamber they once used to trap the Reverse Flash. Cisco activates the chamber, and Nora links with Cicada II. She looks around and seemingly finds herself in an empty hospital room. She sees Cidada, and tells her they won't let her release the cure. Cicada begins raging, claiming metas tear families apart. In the real world, Nora begins glowing red with power.

Nora accuses Cicada of still being the angry little girl she was when she first met her, and says she refuses to be like her. Nora's lightning returns to its normal color. Nora then gets a glimpse of Cicada carrying the Atomizer to CCPD. She warns Barry and the others where Cicada is. 

Cicada breaks through the CCPD skylight, and uses her dagger to steal the powers of all the metas present. She then sets up the Atomizer and activates it. Cecile orders everyone to evacuate, while Joe begins firing at Cicada. She easily deflects his bullets.

At STAR Labs, Barry, Cisco, Caitlin and Ralph prepare to breach to CCPD. Nora wants to come of course, but Barry says she's visibly exhausted from linking to Cicada and insists she stay. She agrees, and tosses Barry the mirror gun before he zooms off. Jesus, did he just forget to bring the goddamned thing?

Team Flash arrives at CCPD, and Barry saves Joe just before Cicada is about to kill him. Killer Frost fires an ice blast at her, and Barry speed-punches her before she hits the ground, knocking her out. Cisco prepares to breach the Atomizer to the dead world of Earth-15, but there's a snag. He says the device is so sensitive that breaching it could set it off. 

Cicada comes to and begins blasting the heroes. She knocks Barry against the wall, causing him to drop the Mirror Gun. Frost forms an ice wall to keep Cicada out, while Cisco tries to diffuse the Atomizer. She breaks through the wall just as Cisco manages to deactivate the device. Flash recovers long enough to punch Cicada across the room, knocking her out again. 

Barry picks up the Mirror Gun and aims it at Cicada's dagger, intending to destroy it once and for all. Suddenly Ralph has an epiphany, and understands Thawne's plan. 

In 2049, we see Thawne strapped into a futuristic electric chair. His power-dampening harness is removed, and we see that Cicada's dagger is strapped to his chest. It's been neutralizing his powers all along, and his entire plan revolved around Nora defeating Cicada and destroying the dagger so he could free himself.

At CCPD, Ralph yells for Barry to stop just as he pulls the Mirror Gun's trigger...

• I'm assuming the episode title is supposed to be a play on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Maybe?

• At long, long last, Thawne's execution timer finally runs out at the beginning of this episode. It's about freakin' time. That thing's been counting down since at least the mid-season break.

• Shinick, the sadistic Iron Heights prison guard, enters Thawne's cell and gloats. He then wheels out a futuristic electric chair, shows it to Thawne and says, "Ironic, isn't it? The same thing that gives you your powers is gonna end you."

Wait, what? From that exchange it sounds like Shinick's saying that Thawne's powers are electrical-based. But doesn't he get his quickness from the Speed Force? Or I guess in his case, the Negative Speed Force? Either way, I never once thought his powers came from electricity.

• For the second week in a row, Grace sits in her remote cabin and hallucinates her late Uncle Orlin. And once again, the two carry on an imaginary conversation about wiping out all metas on Earth. Oddly enough, this week she actually argues with her hallucination! 

That's definitely gotta be the definition of insanity, right?

 Adult Grace, aka Cicada II, tinkers with the Cryo Atomizer she stole from Dr. Tannhouser a couple episodes back. So where'd Adult Grace learn how to work on privately created, bleeding edge technology like this?

 According to Caitlin, the Cryo Atomizer was designed to disperse cold particles high into the atmosphere to create rain, in order to fight forest fires. Comic Book Science!

 Cisco tests out the Mirror Gun on the remnants of the dark matter satellite. As he aims the Gun, he says, "We shouldn't be firing this in such a small space, but what's life if you don't pull down your shorts and slide on the ice every once in awhile?"

This may be a reference to M*A*S*H— specifically Dr. Sidney Freedman, a psychiatrist who visited the 4077th once per season. Freedman's most famous quote was, "Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants and slide on the ice."

• I don't know who this director is, but he definitely needs to buy a vowel!

• Locations, locations, locations!

Early in the episode, Sherloque meets up with Renee Adler on the steps of Central City University. There, Renee, who's secretly a meta, is attacked by Cicada II.

Those steps are actually part of the Law Courts Of British Columbia, located in downtown Vancouver. If they look familiar, there's a reason for that— the location's been used many times before in the various Arrowverse shows.

I know for a fact they've appeared two or three times over on Legends Of Tomorrow. You can spot them in the left background in this scene from Aruba-con.

By the way, how the holy f*ck can I remember THAT, but I couldn't tell you what I ate for dinner yesterday?

Later in the episode, Barry zooms to the scene of Ollins Laboratories to locate a Hyper Conduit.

The part of Ollins Labs is played by Building F of Vancouver Film Studios, which, as you might have guessed, is also located in Vancouver.

• In order to protect Renee from Cicada II, Sherloque suggests she take the meta cure to eliminate her powers. Renee refuses, claiming she likes being a meta.

Sherloque then tells her the only way she can be safe is to hide out on another Earth. He opens a breach to his own world (which he STILL refuses to name!), and Renee steps through. She pauses, asking if he's coming with. He says not yet, as he owes it to Team Flash to stop Cidada II. Once that's done, he assures her he'll return to Earth-? and find her.

Did he just dump her on a completely unfamiliar world and expect her to somehow fend for herself for weeks or even months? Yes. Yes he did!

Granted, Sherloque does have a throwaway line about "having some friends there to meet her," but still... Renee's now on an alien Earth with no money, no job and no place to live. I guess she'll be crashing on the couch of Sherloque's friends till he arrives?

Sometimes plot holes are minor and easy to hand-wave away. Other times they're so massive that they completely torpedo an episode. Guess which I'm about to discuss...

Cicada II plans to kill all of Central City's metas with her Atomizer. In order to keep that from happening, Team Flash wants to preemptively administer the cure to the city's entire meta population. Joe & Cecile go to Captain Singh, seeking his permission to let use CCPD as a meta cure center.

Naturally Singh asks why there. Joe explains that CCPD is a public place, and "everyone feels safe going there." He goes on to say it's the only choice, as "red tape alone would take weeks to clear at a medical facility."

Apparently Team Flash's minds have all been dulled by weeks of constant defeat at the hands of Cicadas I and II. WHY THE HELL DON'T THEY GATHER EVERYONE AT FRAKIN' STAR LABS? For f*ck's sake, if we believe the elevator signage, there are SIX HUNDRED LEVELS in the place! It's more than spacious enough to house every meta in town while they administer the cure. Jesus Christ, writers!

• Joe and Cecile turn CCPD into a meta refugee center, and administer the cure to anyone who wants it. 

Get a load of the size of that crowd! How the hell many metas are there in Central City anyway? Hundreds? Thousands? How come this massive meta population's never been discussed until now?

• All through the episode, Barry and Iris insist that Nora sit out the various missions because they're "too dangerous." In effect, they treat her like she's a teen. Granted she acts like one most of the time, but she's in her mid twenties! Why doesn't she just tell them to piss off?

Answer? Because this is a The CW show, and they need to fill the runtime with drama.

• Ralph attempts to make sense of the show's timeline and simultaneously figure out Thawne's plan. He brings in a dry erase board and tries to explain his theory:

"All right, so, this is the original timeline with the original Cicada, David Hersch. This is the night of the Enlightenment, when Nora interfered with the satellite, giving us our Cicada, Orlin Dwyer. That's also the same night that Grace goes into a coma. This is where it gets complicated. At some point in the future, Grace wakes up, she becomes her own full-fledged Cicada. She goes back in time, she kills her Uncle with his own dagger. What happens to all the metas that Dwyer killed? Do they get un-killed? What about all the metas that Grace killed in the future? What did she kill them with? And most importantly, what happens in the timeline where Grace never killed Dwyer. Something doesn't add up."

I've read that paragraph backward and forward a dozen times, and still don't get it. If you can understand ANY of that, you're a better person than I am.

• In order to find Cidada II's location, Nora enters a containment cell. Barry notes it's a modified version of the one they used to capture Thawne way back in the Season 1 episode Fast Enough.

• Supervillain Landing!

• Barry and Killer Frost battle Cicada II, while Cisco attempts to defuse the Atomizer. As he stares at the device he says, "I'm gonna have to science the crap out of you."

This of course is a G-rated reference to The Martian, in which Matt Damon's character says he's going to have to "science the sh*t" out of his situation.

• At the end of the episode, Shinick has Thawne strapped into the portable sauna, er, I mean the futuristic electric chair.

Shinick then removes Thawne's harness, and we see he has Cicada's dark matter dagger strapped to his chest. All this time we assumed the harness was electronically dampening his powers, but it was the dagger all along!

So much to unpack here. So apparently once Thawne was captured and sentenced, Iron Heights personnel placed the dagger on his chest to negate his powers, which prevented him from escaping. Thawne then concocted a convoluted plan, in which he sent Nora back in time to interfere with DeVoe's Enlightenment satellite, which created the Orlin Dwyer version of Cicada.

Eventually Dwyer was killed, but Cicada II popped up and took his place. It's unclear as to whether that was part of the plan or not. Anyway, Thawne knew that Nora would eventually destroy Cicada and the dagger, which would cause it to disappear in 2040 and allow him to escape. 

Is that it? Did I get it right?

I'm a bit puzzled as to why Iron Heights is using such a relatively crude method to cancel out Thawne's powers. Over on Arrow we've seen that ARGUS has a metahuman prison that's outfitted with power dampeners, complete with redundant backups. There's no way their system uses multiple Cicada daggers, so there must be existent power dampening technology. 

So doesn't it follow that they'd have even more sophisticated dampening tech in 2040? Why strap a dagger to Thawne's chest?

This Week's Best Lines:
Meh. Once again, there's not much there.

Renee: "Oh! Sherloque, you scared me to death."
Sherloque: "Well, I apologize. But when you don't answer my many emoticon pictograms, no, I fear the worst, huh?"
Renee: "I was in the library. What could've happened to me?"
Sherloque: "Stacks collapse. Livid librarian."
Renee: "Really?"
Sherloque: "Death by Dewey Decimals?"
Renee: "Yeah, life lost by late fees?"

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