Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The Flash Season 7, Episode 10: Family Matters, Part 1

Apologies for the lateness of this review. Blame it on The CW, who in their infinite wisdom decided it'd be a great idea to air new episodes of all the Arrowverse shows at the same time. Which means I gotta try and write up a whopping THREE reviews per week! Impossible! I'll muscle through and catch up eventually, but it's gonna take me a while.

This week on The Flash, the series begins setting up the welcome end to the less than impressive Four Forces storyline.

Finally! They can't finish it fast enough if you ask me! Granted, this arc hasn't been anywhere near as bad as the execrable Mirrorverse Saga (nothing could be), but that doesn't mean it's been enjoyable either. This entire plotline's been plagued by subpar writing, inconsistent characterization and poor pacing.

Sigh... Remember last season when Eric Wallace became the series' new showrunner? And how fans of The Flash rejoiced and took to the internet to sing his praises, claiming he'd "saved" and revitalized the show?

Yeah, how'd that work out for us this year?

For some reason the writers lean reeeeally hard into the whole "family" concept in this episode, as Barry & Iris believe they birthed the Four Forces, and consistently refer to them as their "children."

That would be fine if they meant it in a metaphorical sense. But it's clear from the dialogue and their attitudes that they mean it literally! What the hell?

That would be bizarre enough on its own, considering the Forces' avatars are all fully-grown adults. But then after a while THEY begin to think of themselves to be siblings as well! It's all very strange and nonsensical.

Elsewhere, Joe clashes with Kristen Kramer again this week, in a truly baffling scene that defies all logic and sense, and made me wonder if the writers are using a dartboard to come up with their character motivations. You'll know the scene when you see it, and be just as bewildered and incensed as I am.

Finally, last week I noted that the writers seemed to be setting up Cisco's exit from the show, and predicted that he & Kamilla would ride off into the sunset in the season finale. Welp, it looks like it may happen a LOT sooner than that! At the risk of spoilers, the upcoming 12th episode is titled Good-Bye Vibrations. Clearly that's gonna be Cisco's swan song, and he'll be leaving mid-season instead of the finale.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Picking up right where we left off last week, the Speed Force confronts Deon and says she's his "sister." When he tells her to piss off, she zooms up behind him and threatens his life. She says their "father" Barry Allen is their common enemy, as he rejected his "children" after creating them.

The next day at STAR Labs, Barry tells Alexa that he's the Flash (because of course he does). He & Iris reveal that they inadvertently created the four Forces, and are in a sense their "parents." They're worried that the Speed Force intends to kill the other three.

Barry tells Alexa he wants to train her how to control her Fuerza side, so she can help them defeat the Speed Force. Alexa's reluctant to summon the monster within, fearing she'll accidentally kill someone. Barry assures her they won't let that happen.

Kamilla tells Cisco she has a job offer in Miami, and asks how he'd feel about living there. He's surprised by how fast things are changing, and seems to be having second thoughts about leaving Central City.

That night, a billionaire named Caleb Fairweather is chilling in his spacious mansion. He hears someone calling his name, and suddenly Psych appears. He makes his mask disappear, and Caleb recognizes him as Bashir Malik, a former friend & associate. Psych says his life's become a nightmare and he wants to share it. Caleb begins screaming in terror as Psych invades his mind.

The next day Caleb's found in a coma, and Joe & Barry investigate his home. Joe figures Psych was responsible, and says Caleb's the 
fourth billionaire to suffer the same fate that week. Iris is there for some reason (?), and spots a photo of the "League Of Lions"— a local group of six billionaires, including Caleb. She says Psych must be targeting everyone in the League.

Joe returns to CCPD, where Kristen Kramer's waiting for him. She tells him the Governor's assigned her to stay in Central City a while longer, to investigate why so many meta-criminals are taken into custody but then mysteriously disappear. She also points out that the officers assigned to their cases (like Patty Spivot and Julian Albert) always seem to get reassigned. He spots a weapons requisition on her desk, which raises a red flag.

Back at STAR, Barry places Alexa inside a powerful forcefield that'll protect them when she changes into Fuerza. She tries to change, but nothing happens. Barry begins pressuring her, which stresses her out even more.

Elsewhere, Team Citizen tracks down Naomi LaSalle, the next person on the League Of Lions list. Iris tells her a dangerous meta's targeting everyone in her little club, and she and Lucas Sharpe are the last two alive. Leslie's skeptical, but just then Psych appears. She recognizes his voice as Bashir's, and asks if he's broke again and came to beg for money. He uses his nightmare powers to put her in a terror-induced coma as well.

Cisco detects isotopic forces downtown, and Barry speeds to the scene. He zips Team Citizen away, then tries to reason with Psych. The Sage Force taunts Barry and calls him his "father." He then manifests two energy tentacles, which violently hurl Barry into a car and knock him out. Psych then disappears.

Back at STAR, Caitlin treats Barry's injuries. He says he wants to bombard Alexa with isotopic rays to force her to change into Fuerza. The others wonder if that's a good idea, but Barry's obsessed now, and says it's the only way they can hope to defeat the Speed Force. For no good reason, Alexa agrees.

At The Citizen, Iris discovers that Bashir was orphaned as a child, then adopted by a wealthy couple. He became a member of the League Of Lions, and ultra exclusive club for rich kids. Unfortunately his adoptive parents died in a plane crash, and it was discovered they were $50 million in debt. This left Bashir penniless, and he's now using his Psych powers to get back at his rich friends for not helping him out.

At CCPD, Joe goes to the armory and finds a case containing glowing darts filled with the meta-cure. He realizes Kristen requisitioned them, and intends on shooting meta-villains and "curing" them against their will. Just then Kristen enters, and Joe asks her what the hell. She says it's her duty to protect innocent citizens from dangerous metas. Joe threatens to call the Governor, but she points out that's who she's working for.

Back at STAR, Team Flash conducts their experiment, bombarding Alexa with isotopic radiation. She transforms into Fuerza and begins pounding on the force field, which shorts it out. Cisco shuts down the radiation emitter, but for no good reason it takes thirty seconds for Fuerza to revert back to normal (?). She takes a swipe at Cisco, knocking him across the lab. Eventually she transforms into Alexa again.

Sometime later Caitlin says she's examined Cisco and he'll make a full recovery. Barry insists Alexa continue training, but she refuses and leaves. Caitlin tells Barry he needs to lay off and give her some space.

Kamilla visits Cisco, and says he doesn't seem very excited about the idea of moving to Miami. He starts whining about not knowing what he's supposed to do or some hooey. He says a few episodes back, Psych showed him a glimpse of the future— in which everyone had moved on except for him. Kamilla looks disgusted, says she's leaving him and marches out. Nah, just kidding— she says he doesn't have to make a decision right now, and the perfect job will find him.

Caitlin gives Alexa the mental activity dampener she used back when Frost was living in her head, and says she may be able to use it to "talk" to Fuerza. Barry enters and says he was wrong to force Alexa into the experiment. For absolutely no reason whatsoever, Alexa says she wants to keep training.

Just then an alarm sounds, and Cisco detects Psych's signature outside of town. Cut to billionaire Lucas Sharpe tooling along in a sports car. Suddenly Psych appears in front of him, causing Lucas to spin out. Psych removes his mask, and Lucas recognizes him as Bashir and asks where he's been. Bashir says he's going to pay, and starts to use his nightmare powers.

Just then Barry zooms to the scene with Alexa, and tells Psych he won't let him hurt Lucas. Psych senses Alexa is his "little sister," but says it doesn't make any difference.

Barry tells Psych he can't keep punishing the world for what happened to him. Psych refuses to listen, and forms his tentacles again. He grabs Barry and begins violently shaking him. Alexa puts the dampener on and tells Fuerza she needs her help.

Alexa transforms into Fuerza, bats his tentacles out of the way and grabs hold of him. Barry says they don't have to fight. Fuerza changes back into Alexa and begs Bashir to listen. Barry tells Bashir that Iris found out the League set up a special fund to help him out, but he never knew about it because he shut them out. Alexa then infodumps her backstory again, and pleads with her "brother" Bashir to knock it off and stop fighting them.

Cut to CCPD, where Joe meets with Kristen. He tells her he can't stand by and watch his ideals stripped away as she destroys Central City. He then inexplicably turns in his badge & his gun and resigns (!). What the hell?

Barry and Alexa return to STAR with Bashir, who says he's still not sure about all this. Alexa threatens to turn into Fuerza and beat his ass if he doesn't behave, and eventually he stands down. Barry & Iris assure him it'll be OK, as they're all a "family." Oy.

Barry tells Bashir about the Speed Force, and says she's going to come after him and the others. Bashir boasts that he's not scared, but Iris warns him not to underestimate their opponent.

Just then the Speed Force appears, with Deon in tow. He tells the others he's sorry, and stops time for everyone, freezing them in place. The Speed Force says Barry made her do this, and she blasts Iris, Alexa and Bashir, instantly killing them. They zoom away, and time returns to normal. Barry looks around in horror at his dead wife & "children."

Thoughts: 
• The title of this week's episode is a nod to 90s sitcom Family Matters, in which Danielle Nicolet (aka Cecile) had a recurring role.

That's right, our little Cecile used to act alongside Steve Urkel. Hey, maybe she could get Jaleel White to make a guest appearance on The Flash! He'd probably make a decent comic book villain.

Nicolet also played Caryn, one of Dick Solomon's students in Third Rock From The Sun.

• In the opening scene, the Speed Force threatens to kill Deon unless joins her and helps kill their "father" Barry Allen. 

So why didn't Deon, who can control time itself, just freeze the Speed Force in place and be done with it? That'd solve everyone's problems! 

Ah, but it gets more baffling! In the final scene of the episode, the Speed Force & Deon appear in STAR Labs. Deon apologizes to Team Flash as he freezes them in place, allowing the Speed Force to kill them.

Deon seems legitimately upset by his actions, and acts like he's being forced (heh) into it by the Speed Force. Again, why doesn't he just freeze HER instead? What power does she have over him that allows her to bend him to her will? I honestly don't get any of this.

• All through Deon's encounter with the Speed Force, you can see it's raining like crazy in the background. It doesn't show up very well in this gif, but trust me, it's pouring!. As it does pretty much EVERY time The Flash shoots on location. Hey, that's what you get when you film your show in the fourth rainiest city in all of Canada.

I love how the actors always just ignore the downpour and do their best to get through their lines. I guess they have to, as the crew has to pump these episodes out in a week, and they don't have the luxury of waiting till the rain stops.

• Kamilla tells Cisco she submitted her work to various galleries, and one in Miami is interested in hiring her. Um... what?

Does Kamilla know how jobs work? Typically galleries feature the work of an artist, and split the commission when one of their pieces sells. It's not a normal gig at all. Unless maybe they're wanting to hire her to run the place? 

By the way, I checked and there's no McAlpin Gallery in Miami here on our Earth.

• Psych targets tech billionaire Caleb Fairweather, leaving him in a coma. The next morning, Joe & Barry investigate.

So what the hell is Iris doing at the crime scene? Aren't sensitive areas like that generally restricted to police personnel? There could be aspects to the case that the police don't want leaked to the media until they've had a chance to make an arrest. Having a freakin' journalist there could jeopardize that. 

And think about all the evidence she could clumsily or inadvertently destroy. And yet there she is, wandering around the scene and actually picking up items! 

I guess being married to a CSI is a great advantage to a reporter!

• While ruining evidence at the crime scene, Iris comes across a photo of the "League Of Lions," a group of rich whiz kids. A couple things here:

First of all, this episode establishes there are a whopping SIX tech billionaires living in Central City! Impressive!

That seems like a lot concentrated in such a small area. A quick trip to Google reveals that out here in the real world, Missouri (where Central City's located) contains a grand total of six billionaires. Forget about St. Louis, apparently all six of 'em are in Central City!

Then Joe confirms that Psych is targeting the members of the League. Iris says she's gonna figure out which one he'll strike next.

Wow, she's really got her work cut out for her. She knows the four who've already been attacked, so... that leaves just TWO potential victims. Why is she even getting involved here in the first place? This is definitely Joe's arena, as he should be sending out officers to provide protection to the remaining two billionaires. 

• Kristen Kramer returns to Central City this week, and tells Joe she's concerned about the high number of meta-criminals who seem to disappear from CCPD custody. In particular she mentions the Rainbow Raider.

That's a pretty deep cut, as he first appeared wayyyyy back in Season 1's Flash Vs. Arrow. Rainbow Raider, aka Prism, aka Roy G. Bivolo, who became a criminal after being hit by the Particle Accelerator explosion, which gave him the power to manipulate emotions. 

His fate was no mystery though, as he was captured by Team Flash and thrown into the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail. Sometime later he freed by Captain Cold and his sister Lisa Snart. Later on he was recruited by Hartley Rathaway, aka Pied Piper, and joined his supervillain gang.

Note that nothing about Captain Cold or Pied Piper is mentioned in Kristen's report. All she says is, "One minute he's in CCPD custody, the next, missing. Any thoughts?"

Does Joe just write really bad reports, leaving out huge swaths of information? Or is the omission a result of the Crisis? We know it changed Pied Piper's history, so maybe it altered Rainbow Raider's as well.

Kristen also mentions Patty Spivot, who worked on numerous meta-criminal cases before she claims was mysteriously "reassigned."

Hmm. That's interesting, as Patty was a CCPD detective and Barry's love interest back in Season 2. She was never reassigned to another precinct though, she moved to Midway City to go back to school and become a CSI.

I suppose this is another potential mistake that can be handwaved away by the Crisis?

She also claims that Julian Albert was reassigned as well. Again, this is news to me, as he was a CSI who became Alchemy, after being mind controlled by Savitar in Season 3. He eventually became a member of Team Flash, where he fell in love with Caitlin. Once Savitar was defeated and Caitlin friendzoned him, he moved back to London.

Apparently the Crisis altered his backstory as well, as according to Kristen he was also "reassigned."

Whatever the hell happened to them, I really miss both these characters. I'd take them back any day over Allegra & Chester.

I wonder... do the producers have to pay the actors when they don't appear in an episode, but their likenesses are used like this?

• This is some heavy duty nitpicking, but whatever. In this episode, Psych suddenly develops the ability to generate energy tentacles, and uses them to toss around the Flash.

Why a meta with psychic powers would need tentacles, I have no idea. Wouldn't it make sense if he just used telekinesis or mind blasts instead? And even if I accept the tentacles, why the hell do they come out of his back? Shouldn't they come out of his head? Maybe the FX Team tried that it and looked too silly, I dunno.

• Joe discovers that Kristen's newest plan is to skip costly and bothersome trials like Frost had. Instead the cops will simply walk around the city shooting every meta-criminal they see with glowing meta-cure bullets, rendering them harmless.

There's NO way in hell that would ever be legal. Think of it this way— imagine if the police here in our world had a gun that could instantly sterilize a person, and they walked around shooting suspected criminals with it— without benefit of a trial first! Oh, how the ACLU would howl! And rightly so!

I don't care if the Governor did task Kristen with this project. It's illegal and a violation of human— and metahuman— rights.

• In order to understand Bashir's motives, Iris researches his rough childhood. At one point she says, "He was orphaned twice. First by his birth parents and then by his adoptive parents."

Well, yes Iris, kids are generally orphaned by their birth parents! That's kind of how it works!

• Team Flash attempts to train Alexa to control her Fuerza persona, so she can fight the Speed Force. It occurred to me this week that Alexa is yet another murderer who's been forgiven and taken in by Team Flash, as she killed Abra Kadabra back in Central City Strong. Yes, she was in the form of Fuerza at the time, but it still counts.

I've often said that murder doesn't appear to be a crime in the Arrowverse, as long as the perpetrator feels bad about it later. Alexa's another prime example of this.

• Alexa isn't able to change into Fuerza on her own, so Team Flash cooks up a plan. They'll bombard her with isotopic energy in order to initiate the transformation. 

Unfortunately things get out of hand quickly, as she changes into Fuerza and threatens to destroy the lab. Cisco instantly shuts off the isotopic bombardment, but then Caitlin pipes up and says, "It’ll take 30 seconds for the isotopic effects to wear off!"

Are you freakin' kidding? THAT would have been a handy little tidbit of info to know BEFORE they started this little experiment! Caitlin never said jack about that to Barry, Cisco OR Alexa!

• Let's talk about Alexa & Fuerza's clothing, shall we? When the isotopic bombardment begins, Alexa's wearing a STAR Labs t-shirt and black sweatpants.

A couple seconds later she transforms into Fuerza, and is wearing some kind of purple jumpsuit. At first I thought maybe she had that on under her other clothes, and they just ripped off when she grew. But there's no torn clothing lying anywhere on the floor.

Additionally, Fuerza's wearing purple elbow pads and gloves, which most definitely were not hidden under Alexa's shirt & pants.

A few seconds later Fuerza changes back into Alexa, and sure enough, her original outfit is back, none the worse for wear.

Apparently Alexa's transformational powers extend to her clothing, as well as her body. Either that or she's wearing some kind of magical outfit.

This isn't a one time occurrence either, as it happens again in the third act. This time Alexa's wearing a STAR Labs sweatshirt...

That magically disappears or morphs into the purple jumpsuit when she turns into Fuerza.

• A few weeks back in Fear Me, Psych attacked Team Flash by showing each member their worst fear. For some reason we saw everyone's nightmarish vision except for Cisco, who moans, "No... this can't be how it ends!" 

Speculation then ran rampant online as to what he actually saw, and why it was too shocking to reveal. I conjectured that he saw his own death (again!) at the hands of Barry, which would be an oblique reference to the Future Flash Saga from the comics. Either that or he saw Kamilla's untimely and tragic death.

Welp, it turns out I was wrong on both counts. So just what horrifying vision did Cisco witness then? He saw... he saw... job security! GASP!

Seriously. I'm not kidding. In this episode he confesses to Kamilla that Psych caused him to see a vision of himself still working at STAR Labs forty years in the future. Um... oh my god, I guess?

Yes, yes, I understand what he's saying— he doesn't want to stagnate and never take a chance and all that. But honestly it's tough to work up any sympathy for him here. There are people out there right now who would literally kill for such a stable, permanent job.

• As Team Flash discusses how to stop Bashir/Psych, Barry reaches into his pocket, pulls out his Flash ring (the one that contains his suit) and puts it on. Wha...?

At first I wondered why he doesn't wear the ring all the time, so his outfit would be on hand (heh) whenever he needed it. Then I realized the problem— the ring's got his freakin' Flash lightning bolt symbol on it! Wearing it would be a dead giveaway of his superhero identity.

So who thought THAT was a good idea? By all means, store the costume inside the ring, but don't put his frakin' LOGO on the top of it! Jaysis! 

If I remember right, Ryan Choi (whatever happened to him?) invented it at some point in the future, and Barry's daughter Nora stole it from the Flash Museum and gave it to him in the present. So I guess Ryan's the one to  blame.

• At one point Barry & Alexa confront Psych on a highway outside Central City. It's a beautiful stretch of road, complete with spectacular snow-capped mountain peaks in the background. 

There's just one problem with this scene— Central City's supposedly located somewhere in Missouri. While there are mountains in the Show-Me State (specifically the Ozarks), they look absolutely NOTHING like the ones seen here. 

Methinks the show's Vancouver-ness is showing again.

• Annnnnd of course this week we get another "Care Bear Lecture" in lieu of an actual superhero battle, as Barry chooses to talk Bashir to death rather than actually fight him. 

Even more astonishing, Fuerza herself jumps aboard the Love Train as well! Incredibly, the Hulk-like behemoth actually speaks for the first time this week, and roars at her "big brother" to stop being a jerk and listen to their "Dad." It's jaw dropping (but not in a good way), and truly something to behold.

• Late in the third act, Cisco gets a call from ARGUS Agent Chip Cooper. He's the agent we saw back in Central City Strong, who acted like a robot, took everything Cisco said literally and could neither confirm nor deny that he was a hologram. 

Nothing ever comes of this scene though, and it's never addressed in the rest of the episode. I assume this is a setup for Cisco's departure from the show?

• By far the most baffling part of the episode comes at the very end. 

Joe fundamentally opposes Kristen's plan to forcibly administer the meta-cure, which is surely illegal under the law. So what does he do? Report her to the proper authorities? Launch an investigation into her actions? File a suit with the State Supreme Court? Alert the media?Punch her in the gut? 

Nope, none of that. Instead he throws a hissy fit and QUITS his job as Police Chief! What the f*ck?

How does that accomplish anything? As Chief Of Police he could have thrown all sorts of roadblocks in her way and delayed her plan for months, if not YEARS. Now she's completely unopposed and can start shootin' & "curing" metas with impunity.

And why the hell does he resign TO Kristen? She doesn't even work at CCPD!

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