Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Flash Season 8, Episode 13: Death Falls


This week on The Flash we get the end of the Deathstorm Saga, Iris' boring time sickness arc is mercifully ignored and in a shocking turn of events, a major character bites the dust— permanently, it would seem.

Overall the Deathstorm plot wasn't the worst storyline the show's ever done— that would be the execrable Mirrorverse Saga— but it could have been much better. It was plagued by murky writing, nonsensical and inconsistent "science" and a seeming lack of direction. 

Heck, we were a whopping FOUR episodes into the arc till we finally found out the Big Bad was actually Deathstorm! I can understand the writers wanting to prolong the suspense, but this is ridiculous!

Robbie Amell's back this week to fulfill his two episode commitment, as Deathstorm takes his human form to save on the CGI budget. He makes a good psychotic villain, but unfortunately he's defeated WAY too quickly, as if the writers are done with the arc and want to get it over with as quickly as possible.

As I mentioned above, Iris' time sickness takes a backseat this week, as it's never even mentioned. That can only be a good thing, as I'm tired of watching her and Sue talk about it every week, with no resolution in sight.

The biggest development this week is the unexpected and untimely death of Frost. For months I've been saying the cast of The Flash is seriously bloated, and could use a good culling. Unfortunately the writers decided to kill off the most interesting character on the show, leaving us with a posse of second stringers that no one cares about. Ah well.

The Plot:
Picking up right where we left off last week, Iris' ex Eddie Thawne appears before her in the loft. He says he's missed her so much, and announces he's gonna stay with her till she's all better. Sue wakes and Eddie introduces himself. A stunned Iris mutters that this is impossible.

Elsewhere, Barry returns to STAR Labs and says he can't find Deathstorm anywhere. Chester's working on the Mental Augmentation Chamber (aka the MAC), and says it's almost ready Team Flash plans to use it to collect particles from the singularity (I think?), beam them into Frost and turn her into a being like Deathstorm— which will allow her to absorb the fire demon's energy and eliminate him for good. Sure, why not.

Cecile calls everyone to the Med Lab, where Caitlin's still recovering from her encounter with Deathstorm (who wants to make her his bride!). Cecile says she's sensing a huge wave of grief from Caitlin as she violates her mind with her powers again. Caitlin confirms this, saying she keeps picturing her father dying in her arms.

Barry theorizes this is Deathstorm's doing, as he needs Caitlin to experience as much grief as possible to transform her into a demon like him. Frost says they're gonna need backup if they want to win, and calls in Chillblaine for backup (oy).

The rest of Team Flash is then menaced by Deathstorm. Chester walks down a corridor as the lights go out, and sees his late father Quincy again. Allegra's in the lounge, where the lights flicker and her dead "prima" Esperanza appears. Barry's in the Time Vault talking with Gideon for some reason, and she shorts out as his deceased mother Nora steps from the shadows.

And in the Med Lab, Deathstorm— taking the budget-friendly form of Ronnie Raymond— appears before Frost. She fires an ice blast at him, but it goes right through his body. He says she can't harm him, as he's the embodiment of death and entropy. He tells her that the real Ronnie taught him what loneliness means before he died in the singularity— which is why he wants Caitlin as his bride.

Frost stabs Deathstorm in the gut with an ice blade, but he effortlessly pulls it out. She wonders why he's not attacking her with "grief ghosts" like he is the others. He says it's because he doesn't sense grief— or any other emotion— inside her. In fact, he points out that she isn't actually real, as her father Thomas created her to protect Caitlin, and she's nothing more than a faint echo of her. She hisses at him to shut up, and he disappears.

Elsewhere, Chester flees from his "father" and bumps into Allegra, who's similarly running from her "cousin." They hide in Chester's lab and seal the door. Allegra wonders why the grief ghosts don't just walk through the walls. Chester notices the door lock's melted, and they realize the ghosts trapped them inside the lab.

In the Time Vault, Barry tells his ghost that she isn't really his mother. He tries to leave, but the walls are red hot and burn his hand. "Nora" tells him there's no cure for Iris' time sickness, and he's going to lose her— which means Bart & Nora will never be born.

Back at the loft, Iris distracts "Eddie" so Sue can get to her phone and signal Barry. Unfortunately when she grabs her phone it scalds her hand, as "Eddie" says no one's leaving until Iris is all better.

In the Med Bay, Cecile tells Frost that Caitlin's getting worse. Suddenly Caitlin raises up as her eyes turn all black. Cecile says Team Flash's grief is all pouring into Caitlin at an alarming rate. Frost realizes Deathstorm's torturing the team in order to fuel Caitlin's transformation.

Just then everyone's favorite character Chillblaine arrives, with some cryongenic tech he stole from Fastrack Labs. Frost says they can use it to finally get the MAC working (?), and they head for the Speed Lab.

Allegra tries blasting her way through the door of Chester's lab, but it's made of pure titanium. The entire room begins heating up, and "Quincy" appears and says they have just twenty minutes left before they die. He says he knows Chester & Allegra love one another, and now they'll have to watch each other die.

In the Time Vault, "Nora" taunts Barry for not saving her from Eobard Thawne. Barry says he's accepted his real mother's death. "Nora" asks if he's OK with all the other deaths he's caused, and he clutches his head in pain.

At the loft, Iris says she knows "Eddie" isn't real. He gives a big speech about how he thought sacrificing himself would wipe Thawne from existence, but the evil speedster keeps returning over and over (I'll say!), making his death pointless. He tells Iris her death will be as meaningless as his.

"Eddie" then turns to Sue, and asks why she's so happy. She says because she managed to hit the alert on her phone before he destroyed it. Right on cue, Joe appears and fires a blaster (that he got from... somewhere) at "Eddie." They all take off running, but Sue & Joe are stopped in their tracks as "Eddie" recovers and makes them see their own personal grief ghosts. He says their additional grief will be just enough to make Caitlin's transformation complete.

Back at STAR, Chillblaine somehow knows how to install his stolen component and get the MAC up and running. Frost steps into it, as Chillblaine activates the chamber. Frost is bathed with energy particles, and staggers out. She tries activating her new Deathstorm powers, but nothing happens.

She says she knows what went wrong— the MAC only works on living people, and she's just a copy like Deathstorm said. Chillblaine says Deathstorm's just messing with her, and she's as real as anyone. Frost wonders why the fire demon couldn't find her grief, and Chillblaine says she may have buried it too deeply to sense. Somehow this causes him to realize how to complete her transformation.

At the loft, Iris tries to convince Sue and Joe their grief ghosts aren't real. She hisses to "Eddie" that he'll get no grief from her. Suddenly a bullet wound appears on his chest where the real Eddie shot himself. Another appears in Iris' stomach, as "Eddie" tells her she's going to die.

Back in the lab, Chester & Allegra are still dying. Chester collapses from the heat, and Allegra crawls over to him, takes his hand and says she's happy she met him.

Chillblaine takes Frost to the Med Lab, where Caitlin's babbling about the endless stars or something. Frost sees her and says she doesn't want to lose Caitlin, as she makes her life complete (oy).

Suddenly the grief from the members of Team Flash seeps out of their bodies like clouds of black smoke, and flows into the ghosts. 

Back in the Med Lab, Frost beings glowing blue. There's a huge flash of light, as she morphs into a new form. She asks what happened, and Chillblaine says she had to actually feel grief for the transformation to work. Frost announces she's now Hellfrost, and says it's time to kick Deathstorm's ass and save her sister.

She then releases a huge wave of energy that sweeps through STAR Labs (and somehow the loft as well), destroying all the grief ghosts. The members of Team Flash quickly recover from their ordeals.

Barry and the others filter into the Med Lab, where Cecile says Caitlin's getting worse. Hellfrost says she's going after Deathstorm, and tells Barry to back her up. Chillblaine realizes for the first time that Barry's really the Flash. Hellfrost then plants a kiss on him and he says he'll be waiting for her when she gets back (uh-oh...).

Deathstorm (still in the form of Ronnie) enters the Lounge, where he sees what he assumes is Caitlin staring out the window. He says her transformation is complete, and it's time to make her his bride. He's dumbstruck when she turns and reveals she's actually Hellfrost. She grabs Deathstorm and flies him out of STAR, high above the city.

The two then have a (VERY) brief but intense battle, as they blast each other in the sky. Deathstorm (now in his full fire demon form) flings Hellfrost into a building, and she falls to the pavement far below. He comes after her, and she suddenly reaches up and rips the relica of the Quantum Splicer from his chest. For some reason this releases all the energy within him, and he disintegrates.

Hellfrost easily absorbs all his energy, and tells Team Flash that Deathstorm's gone. Even better, Caitlin wakes and is back to normal.

Suddenly Hellfrost stops in her tracks and collapses. Barry speeds to her location, picks her up and takes her back to STAR. A shaky Caitlin wobbles over to help her. She says Deathstorm's energy is overwhelming Hellfrost, and doesn't know how to save her. Suddenly she gets the bright idea to inject her with "cold fusion" (?). Amazingly it works, as Hellfrost transforms back into regular old Frost.

Frost wakes up, and is seemingly OK. Unfortunately she suddenly flatlines, and Caitlin tries defibrillating her. After several minutes Barry gently tells Caitlin to stop.

The rest of Team Flash (including Iris, Sue and Joe) are in the Lounge waiting. Barry enters and tells them the sad news that Frost didn't make it. Chillblaine takes it hard, saying he and Frost still had lots of plans togehter. Caitlin breaks down sobbing, as Cecile rushes to comfort her.

• So the big news this week is obviously the death of Frost. I gotta admit, I did not see that coming! Looking back though, it shouldn't have been a surprise. As I watched the episode a second time for reviewing purposes, I noticed the clues are all right out in the open:

— Frost eagerly volunteers to be morphed into a fire demon to battle Deathstorm. That was a BIG red flag, especially since Barry and the others kept mentioning how dangerous it was. From that point on she had a big ol' target on her back.

— Deathstorm tells Frost she's not a real person, but just a flawed copy of Caitlin. That could be seen as a not-so-subtle hint by the writers that she's a disposable character.

— Frost had a heart-to-heart with Chillblaine, in which she opened up about her past— including her first memorys. Over on The Walking Dead they use this trope all the time, and it's a clear sign that a character's on the way out. Anytime someone brings up their past, they're immediately killed by walkers by the third act. Apparently that goes for The Flash as well.

— Lastly, Chillblaine tells Team Flash about all the things he and Frost are gonna do together once the Deathstorm Saga's over. Again, that's a giant flashing neon sign in fiction, as it pretty much amounts to a death sentence for a character.

Given all those warning signs, I should have seen Frost's death coming a mile off.

• When Eddie showed up in last week's tag scene, I wondered if he was another of Deathstorm's grief ghosts, or Iris' time sickness had yanked him out of the past.

Welp, he's definitely Deathstorm-related, as he stands in Iris' kitchen and heats up a teapot with his bare hands. Wait, I thought Deathstorm's powers are supposed to be cold-based? Oh well.

• Once again we see a news report from Channel 52— which is apparently the only TV station that exists in Central City.

As I've pointed out ad infinitum, this is a reference to the New 52— one of DC's many, many reboots of its comic book universe.

• Ever since the Deathstorm Saga began, the fire demon's powers have been WILDLY inconsistent. When he first appeared, Team Flash said he was pure "cold fusion" and emitted energy so frigid it burned. In other episodes his flame was clearly depicted as hot.

In this episode Chester readies the MAC as Barry comments, "We know Deathstorm is made up of pure thermodynamic energy." Thermodynamics is the study of how heat changes to and from other forms of energy— including going from hot to cold. 

Hmm... you know, that could almost work as an explanation for Deathstorm's ever-changing powers. Almost. 

Do I think the writers had the definition of thermodynamics in mind when they depicted Deathstorm's powers as alternately cold and hot? No. No I do not. I think they've just been pulling scientific turns out of their collective asses at random, and got lucky this one time.

• Chester says he'll have the MAC done in an hour, prompting Frost to announce she doesn't have that kind of time. She then whips out her phone and calls Chillblaine for help. Oh boy, it's gonna be a Chillblaine episode! I was hoping the writers had forgotten about him.

By the way, note that ex-supervillain Chillblaine apparently has a mobile AND an office number! How incredibly unlikely!

• Barry consults with Gideon to try and figure out a cure for Iris' time sickness. You remember Gideon— she's the helpful AI that was introduced way back in Season 1, and was/will be created by Barry Allen at some unknown point in the future.

So far Barry— who's a CSI— has shown neither the talent nor knowhow to create a sentient artificial intelligence like her. I don't know why the producers thought this was a good idea, but I bet they're reeeeeeeally hoping the audience forgets this particular big of trivia for good. 

Curiously, Barry also asks Gideon to run a citywide scan to locate Deathstorm. Wait, what?

Think about all the episodes (including this one) in which Barry searches for a dangerous meta by literally running up and down every street in Central City. Why not just let Gideon scan for them? Why keep her locked up in the Time Vault 99.9% of the, er, time?

Surely Chester could patch her into the Cortex, and they could just her to run searches and do other tasks, just like the Legends Of Tomorrow do on their show with their version of Gideon. Seems like a real missed opportunity to me.

• Last week I pointed out how the labeling of STAR Labs' various floors doesn't make the least bit of sense. We regularly see displays reading Level 600, which to me means the building extends underground at least that many floors. 

But then in the previous episode, Deathstorm attacked Allegra on Level 200, which— according to one of Chester's readouts— appeared to be on the top floor. Wha...?

This week Frost runs past a screen displaying a schematic of the place. It looks like there are three floors underground (or maybe it's just one big spiral one), but nowhere near six hundred. 

This layout looks much more realistic, logical and likely to me. I still don't understand their internal marking system though, and how and why they have a Level 600.

• This week Deathstorm appears in the guise of Ronnie Raymond to confront Frost. Gosh, I wonder why he'd take that form instead of his glowing blue fire demon one? It couldn't have anything to do with the fact that CGI's expensive, and having Robbie Amell stand there and spout dialogue is a hundred times cheaper, could it?

By the way, note that Deathstorm's Ronnie mode comes complete with the Quantum Splicer on his chest. I guess that makes sense, as Ronnie was wearing it when he died inside the singularity, and Deathstorm's consciousness likely  noticed it. 

Deathstorm even recreated the Quantum Splicer for his fire demon form! Unfortunately for him, this "fidelity to the source material" ends up being Deathstorm's downfall, as we see late in the third act.

• Deathstorm tells Frost, "I was born a long time ago— before Maltus, before the stars, during that lonely, blackest of nights." A couple things here:

Maltus was the home planet of the Malthusians (natch). In 7980 BC, Mar Novu and his wife Xneen conducted an experiment to try and get a peek at the Dawn Of Time. Novu's experiment inadvertently created the Antimatter Universe, and started the whole Crisis On Infinite Earths.

Secondly, Deathstorm mentions being born during the "blackest of nights." Sigh... That's yet another Green Lantern reference.

In the comics, a demon named Nekron resurrected an army of dead superheroes and turned them into his Black Lantern Corps— complete with their own corrupted power rings. 

Among these resurrectees was the late Ronnie Raymond, who became Deathstorm— an evil version of Firestorm. The other Black Lanterns were eventually destroyed, but Deathstorm managed to merge with the Firestorm Matrix, allowing him to become an independent entity.

This is all a VERY abridged version of the Blackest Night storyline from the Green Lantern comic. Hence Deathstorm's reference.

The Green Lantern shoutouts have been popping up pretty regularly this season, but the character's still yet to appear in the Arrowverse. Either bring the guy in for a guest appearance, give him his own show or quit teasing us with the constant references already!

• You'd be hard pressed to prove it, but in this shot Frost is actually stabbing Deathstorm in the gut with an ice blade. I don't know if they hid the actual weapon penetration due to TV censorship standards, or if the director just didn't know how to properly stage an attack scene.

• Once again the writers forgot the premise of the show. Deathstorm locks Barry in the Time Vault with a grief ghost of his dead mother Nora. He tries to leave, but burns his hand on the door and realizes he's trapped inside.

Soooo... why doesn't he just phase through the wall? Even if it's white hot as well, it still wouldn't hurt him— 
he'd pass through it in a billionth of a second— far too little time to be injured by the heat. Or he could spin his body and drill through the floor to the level below. Or cool the door by creating a vortex of air.

That's the problem with writing for a character like the Flash. He's so ridiculously overpowered that it's nearly impossible to come up with a situation he can't easily handle.

• More examples of Deathstorm's muddled powers: Barry's trapped in the Time Vault and sears his hand on the door when he tries to get out. Iris & Sue are cornered in the loft, and are both burned when they try to escape. And Chester and Allegra are locked in a lab that gradually heats up and threatens to kill them.

So the fire demon who's made up of "cold fusion" uses HEAT to trap and kill Team Flash. Got it.

• Michelle Harrison returns yet again as Nora Allen— or another version of her at least. This is at least the third iteration she's played of the character now. There was actual Nora who was Barry's mom, there was the Speed Force, which took the form of Nora and now a grief ghost who looks like her. 

Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. It feels like I'm missing a version or two that she's played.

Harrison also appeared as Joan Williams, wife of Jay Garrick— the Earth 2 (or is it 3?) Flash.

• In a surprisingly well-written scene, Deathstorm accuses Frost of not being a real person, in an effort to demoralize her:

Frost: "So what, you got my dad hiding in some other room so you can sic his grief ghost on me?"
Deathstorm: "My phantoms only appear to those who can grieve them, which is why you won't be having any visitors."
Frost: "What the hell does that mean?"
Deathstorm: "It's simple. You don't have anyone to grieve because your grief isn't real."
Frost: "Hmm, I wish I knew that all those nights I was drinking away my pain at O'Shaughnessy's."
Deathstorm: "The sadness you've experienced in your existence is just a copy, an echo of real emotion. Like all of your feelings. Like you."
Frost: "You're so full of it."
Deathstorm: "Then why can't I sense any loss inside your mind? Why can't I smell those hormones dancing along your neural receptors? It's because when Thomas built you in his lab, he gave you everything you'd need to protect Caitlin— cryo-kineticism, healing, rage— but as for the rest of you, he just copied what was inside her. He cloned a few scraps of her feelings, tinkered with her personality traits, but he never gave you any authentic emotions. He never built you your own consciousness, your own soul."
Frost: "That's not true."
Deathstorm: "Grief and pain. Those are the things that make people truly alive, and you don't have them."
Frost: "Shut up!"
Deathstorm: "Because you are not a real person. You're a faulty experiment, a broken mirror who can't aid me in my cause like the others."

Wow, a debate over whether Frost is real or just a simulacrum of a person. That's... surprisingly deep for a show like this.

I actually thought about this last season when Frost first became an entity separate from Caitlin. I hate to admit it, but I kind of agree with Deathstorm here. Technically she's NOT real. She's a homunculus. She looks, speaks and acts like a human, but she came into the world fully formed— much like Athena sprang from the mind of Zeus. She was never born, she didn't have a childhood and for decades was nothing more than an aspect of Caitlin's personality— basically just a voice in her head.

It was only through sheer chance and comic book science that she found herself in possession of her own body.

I get that the show's arguing that she's become her own person, despite her sketchy origins. And it's true, she's grown quite a bit since she separated from Caitlin, becoming an individual in her own right. But I still think Deathstorm may be right.

• Chillblaine arrives at STAR with some cryo tech he stole, which they use to get the MAC working. Wait, what? Did we skip a reel or something? 

When did anyone ever say the MAC was missing a vital component? At the beginning of the episode Chester says "I just gotta finish the MAC's cryo circuits and we should be good to go." At no time does he say anything about needing tech they don't have.

And even if he did, how would Chillblaine know what to bring him?

Obviously Chillbaline's back this week because it's Frost last show, and the writers wanted him to be present for her death. But there's a secondary reason for his inclusion was well. He's here to serve as a cheap narrative device, in order to move the plot along. At this point in the script, Chester's trapped in his lab, so they needed to bring in someone to fix and operate the MAC.

Amazingly, I found myself not completely hating Chillblaine in this episode. That's a huge change from when he first appeared back in Season 7, where he was positively insufferable. 

I think the producers were blindsided by the overwhelmingly negative fan reaction to Chillblaine, which prompted them to huddle and rethink their plans. It definitely feels like they've workshopped the character quite a bit in recent episodes to make him tolerable.

• Deathstorm traps Chester and Allegra in a lab, which begins rapidly heating up for some reason. A lot to cover here:

First off, Allegra freaks out as the temperature reaches 137ยบ. Chester tries to calm her down by saying, "Humans don't go hyperthermic till 200 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take."

Chester is basically correct here, as HYPERthermic means having an abnormally high body temperature. It's the exact opposite of HYPOthermia, which is an abnormally low body temperature. What chucklehead thought it was a good idea to give these two wildly different states practically the same name?

Secondly, Allegra tries blasting her way through the door with her UV powers. Chester tells her it's hopeless, as the door's made of solid titanium. Inexplicably, he then grabs a plain old ordinary crowbar, shoves it under the bottom of the door and tries to pry it open. Seriously? Powerful energy blasts won't scratch it, but a crowbar will? 

Plus, what good will prying it at the bottom do? Does he really think he's gonna tear a hole in the bottom so they can crawl through? Yes, he has some impressive biceps, but even they aren't gonna bend titanium. If he's gonna try prying at all, wouldn't it make more sense to do it at the side— you know, where the lock is? 

Maybe Chester's just delirious from the heat.

Third, why the hell is it getting hot in the lab? Is Deathstorm heating it up? If so, why's he actively trying to kill them? He needs their grief in order to transform Caitlin into his bride, right? I feel like it's gonna be hard for them to grieve if they're both dead.

Lastly, note the proliferation of Dutch angles whenever one of the grief ghosts appears onscreen. That's so we know they're evillllllll!

• When the grief ghost of Chester's father Quincy appears, he says, "Why do we love science, Chester? Because regardless of who's conducting the experiment, the results are right and wrong, black and white... just like this situation."

Note that when he says "black and white,"  we get a reaction shot of Allegra. Was... was that a commentary on the fact that she and Chester are a mixed race couple? Or am I reading something into it that's not there?

• In the Time Vault, the Nora grief ghost tells Barry, "I want to prepare you, Barry. Iris' impending death won't just mean that she's gone. It will mean that Nora and Bart will never exist."

She's got a point. When the hell are Barry & Iris ever gonna start having these kids that they know exist in the future? We're more than halfway through Season 8, and it's likely Season 9 will be the show's last. Time's running out for Barry to knock up Iris already.

• The Nora grief ghost taunts Barry, saying, "Then why didn't you fight for me? Why did you stand by while Thawne stabbed me in the gut? "

OK, I get that Deathstorm's using her to cause Barry to despair and feel grief here. But the reason Barry didn't fight for the real Nora was because he was only nine or ten years old when Thawne killed her! What the hell was a normal kid supposed to do against an adult speedster?

• While trapped in the loft, Iris tries to distract "Eddie" long enough for Sue to hit the Flash Alert button on her phone. We see her actually grab the phone, but "Eddie" makes it burn her before she has a chance to even turn it on.

Despite that, a few minutes later Joe shows up brandishing a large blaster. 

So I guess Sue must have somehow activated the alert after all. But how? As I pointed out, the phone never lights up. Did she use her cat burglar skills to secretly push the button? Or is the panic button on the side, and sort of like a "silent alarm?" Actually that would make a lot of sense to have a "secret alert" mode, in order to keep evil metas from hearing it.

Anyway, however she activated the alarm, why the hell would it call JOE instead of Barry? Or does it alert ALL the members of Team Flash, and he's the only one who could answer? 
And where'd he get this blaster? He can't have gotten it from STAR, as it's currently locked down by Deathstorm. I guess it was in the CCPD armory?

• "Eddie" incapacitates Joe and Sue by making them see their own grief ghosts too. Apparently the guest star budget ran dry here, because Joe & Sue's ghosts don't actually appear onscreen— they only see them in their heads.

Note that when Joe sees his ghost, he sobs and whispers "Chyre." That would be his CCPD partner Fred Chyre— who was killed wayyyy back in Pilot. Sue sees her Nana, who apparently suffered a tragic death as well.

• Back at STAR, Chillblaine puts the finishing touch on the MAC, which he somehow knows how to fix and operate. He says, "All right, cryo-circuit is functional, ready to merge your cold fusion cells with Douche-Storm's dimensional particles."

That's pretty funny coming from him, as he was the world's biggest douchebag in his first few appearances!

• Frost steps into the MAC, but it fails to transform her for some reason. She says it's because 
Deathstorm was right and she's not a real person. Chillblaine then sits down with her and has a long, sensible and rational talk with her about her "realness." They then do the "Somebody Makes A Random Statement That Triggers A Solution To The Relevant Problem" thing, as he says:

Chillblaine: "I'm sorry, Snowflake. Grief is a necessary part of life, and you are very much alive. Whoa, that's it! Yes! Frost, the MAC's been working fine all along, but the chemical reaction was missing a necessary ingredient. Frost, I think I know how to finish your transformation!"

I reeeeally hate this hackneyed trope. Unfortunately The Flash absolutely loves it, as they use it on practically a weekly basis.

• At the loft, Iris hisses to "Eddie" that she knows he's not the real thing. He agrees, saying the real Eddie died senselessly several years ago. He then slumps to the floor, as blood begins staining his shirt— in the same spot in which the real Eddie shot himself.

"Eddie" then tells Iris that she's going to die too, as we hear an audible gunshot on the soundtrack. Iris looks down and sees she's been shot as well.

So what exactly's happening here? Eddie did indeed shoot himself back in Season 1, in order to prevent Eobard Thawne from ever being born. But I don't recall Iris ever getting shot before. So why the gunshot wound? Is Deathstorm saying she WILL get shot & die some day? I dunno.

• As the lab continues to heat up, Allegra professes her love for Chester just as they're about to die. Jaysis, it's about freakin' time! We've had to endure their interminable and awkward "romance" for weeks now, as these two thirty year olds have fumbled around one another like a couple of nervous adolescents.

I'm not looking forward to seeing them as a couple, but at the very least we should be spared any more cringeworthy attempts at flirting.

• Chillblaine drags Frost to the Med Bay, where she sees Caitlin on the brink of death and finally experiences grief for the first time in her life (I guess?). That was apparently all that was holding back her transformation, as she then morphs into... Hellfrost. Sure, why not.

Not liking what they did with her eyebrows though. They look... strange. In fact in some shots they're barely visible, almost like they've been shaved off.

• Hellfrost's first action is to release a burst of energy that vaporizes all the grief ghosts attacking Team Flash. 
Chester and Allegra hug after the Quincy grief ghost vanishes. So... the ghost is gone, but what about the rapidly heating lab? Did Hellfrost cool it down as well? And are they still locked inside the lab? It looked like the door lock was melted. Surely her energy blast didn't restore that, did it?

Apparently they must have gotten out somehow, because in the very next scene they're both in the Cortex— wearing fresh clothing yet!

• As Hellfrost preps for battle, Chillblaine discovers Barry's really the Flash. It honestly took me a second to figure out what was happening in this scene. So many people on the show know his secret identity that it felt odd to find someone who actually wasn't aware of it.

• I get the distinct feeling that Chillblaine's being groomed to become the newest member of Team Flash. Why else would the writers spend a good part of the season trying to redeem his character, and let him in on Barry's secret?

• Ronnie enters the Lounge, where he sees what he thinks is Caitlin. Suddenly she turns around and uses a high tech doodad to reveal she's really Hellfrost.

Not sure why she bothered to disguise herself, especially since Deathstorm can sense emotions within a person. He should have been able to tell she wasn't really Caitlin, based solely on the lack of grief inside her.

Also, I'm assuming Frost is using HR's facial transmorgrifier here— the one he used back in Season 3 to disguise himself when he went out, so he wouldn't be mistaken for mass murderer Eobard Thawne.

• Hellfrost and Deathstorm then clash with one another high over Central City.

I absolutely loved this intense battle scene between the two of them! It looked pretty darned good to me (especially for TV), as the CGI was well done and on point.

Unfortunately (you knew there'd be a "but," right?) the budget reared its ugly head again, as the fight only lasts about thirty seconds— if that! Ah well. Quality over quantity, amirite? It's The CW, not Marvel Studios.

• Supervillain Landing!

• Welp, that was easy! Once they're back on the ground, Hellfrost punches Deathstorm a couple times, then casually reaches over and rips the replica Quantum Splicer from his chest. For some reason, that causes Deathstorm to completely disintegrate— just like Ronnie did when he removed his Splicer. I guess Deathstorm duplicated the thing a little too well?

• Immediately after Deathstorm disintegrates and Hellfrost absorbs his energy, we get this very deliberate shot of the now-empty street where he executed his supervillain landing. Wha...? I guess this is to show us he's no longer standing there? Even though we clearly just saw him shredded to atoms? How incredibly bizarre. 

I know The CW thinks its audience are all idiots and need everything explained to us, but this is ridiculous!

• Immediately after Deathstorm's defeat, the writers trot out the old, "Hero Wins The Day And Seems Fine But Then Suddenly Says Something's Wrong And Collapses" cliche, as Hellfrost wins the day and seems fine, but then suddenly says something's wrong and collapses. I've seen this hackneyed trope in a dozen movies and TV shows lately (I'm lookin' right at you, Spider-Man: No Way Home!).

• The second Hellfrost collapses, Barry speeds to her side. Note that when he zooms out of STAR Labs he's wearing his regular clothes, but when he arrives on the street he's in full Flash mode. 

Apparently even though Hellfrost is dying, he took the time to change into his superhero duds. Yes, I get that he's a speedster and it likely took him a millionth of a second to change, but still... 

• We then come to the biggest jaw-dropper of the episode, as Barry rushes Hellfrost to the Med Lab. A groggy Caitlin— who's just come out of her coma— then wobbles over to treat her. Suddenly 
Hellfrost goes into cardiac arrest, prompting Caitlin to say, "Um, okay, I'm going to inject her with cold fusion. That'll bring Frost back, and that'll kick in her ice healing."

Wow, where do I even start here?

Once again, the writers seem to have absolutely NO idea what cold fusion is. It's as if they heard the term once a while ago, assumed it had something to do with frigid temps and just started tossing it into their scripts at random.

Cold fusion isn't a physical substance that can be injected— it's a scientific process. It's a type of nuclear reaction that occurs at room temperature (hence the "cold" in the term). Their use of it here makes zero sense, as it's like having Caitlin say, "I'm going to inject her with photosynthesis!"

Even more bizarre is the fact that Caitlin had an entire freezer full of glowing blue "cold fusion" within arm's reach, stored in vials containing the correct dosage!

• Not surprisingly, injecting Frost with "cold fusion" doesn't save her, so Caitlin tries defibrillating her. I've covered this a hundred times over the years, so I'm not gonna go into detail about it again— but as in 99.99% of 
all movies and TV shows, Caitlin doesn't use the defib machine correctly. They're not jumper cables for the heart— in fact they actually STOP it from beating!

Also, Caitlin repeatedly shouts "Clear!" before shocking Frost, even though there's no one anywhere near the bed. I guess I can cut her a little slack here, as she's likely stressed.

• So, R.I.P. Frost, I guess. As I said above, her death took me very much by surprise. I had a small inkling that something might go wrong when she eagerly volunteered to transform into Lady Deathstorm— but I didn't think the producers would go so far as to actually kill her off.

For months now I've been whining about how bloated the cast is, and how they desperately need to whittle it down some (Allegra) and write out a character or two (Cecile). I feel like there were plenty of other candidates (Chester) they could have eliminated (Iris) besides Frost. Be careful what you wish for and all that, I guess!

I'm actually gonna miss Frost, as she's really grown on me the past couple seasons. Caitlin's always been a bit too rigid and uptight, almost like the team's resident Vulcan. So it was nice to see Danielle Panabaker get to cut loose a bit and play a free spirit like Frost.

Speaking of acting, Danielle Panabaker hits it out of the park yet again (as she always does). She plays Caitlin and Frost so well that I seriously believe I'm looking at two completely different people. In fact I was honestly feeling a little emotional when Frost died, but then it hit me— Danielle's still gonna be on the show! She's not going anywhere!

In addition to the emotional void she'll leave, Frost's death is seriously gonna affect the strength of Team Flash. She's the second most powerful member after Barry, so the team just took quite a hit. I guess Allegra could step up and take her place, but her powers don't seem to be in the same league as Frost's.

Oh, and about that shot of her stretched out in the Med Bay. Maybe it's just me, but I wish they'd had her pose differently. Her feet look reeeeally awkward splayed out to the sides like that, and those black heels make her look like a witch.

• Despite the fact that I'm saddened by Frost's demise, I hope her death actually sticks. For decades now it's been standard operating procedure for comic book characters to shake off death the way the rest of us recover from a bad cold.

Having her come back after giving her a heartfelt and emotional death scene would be a HUGE cheat, and completely negate any impact it may have had. It'd be cheap and manipulative, and the audience deserves better. She needs to stay dead.

• Team Flash gathers in the Lounge, where they wait for word about Frost. Allegra notes that Caitlin & Barry have been in the Med Lab forever, prompting Cecile to assure her, "Frost is gonna pull through."

Wait a minute... this is Cecile! The empath/telepath who keeps sticking her powers into everyone's business and reading their minds. 
There's no way in hell she didn't feel Frost die or sense Caitlin's subsequent anguish!

• Wow, this is the closest we've seen Joe and Cecile in proximity to one another in... well, several seasons. For a married couple, they're definitely not very demonstrative. In fact they're rarely even in the same scene together anymore. I don't have any insider information, but it almost makes me wonder of the two actors had a falling out and can't stand to be around one another. 

• Chillblaine paces back and forth while he waits for news about Frost, prompting Joe to ask, "You doing OK, Mark?" I guess now that Chillblaine's started dating Frost and treats her decently, everyone's just forgotten about the fact that he's a straight up killer. 

Plus Joe just retired from CCPD— he's the absolute LAST person who should be worried about how Chillblaine's feeling. He ought to be cuffing him and hauling him off to Iron Heights instead!

I've often said that murder doesn't seem to be a crime in the Arrowverse, and this just goes to prove it. All you have to do is feel really bad about killing someone, and all will be forgiven and you can become a member of Team Flash.

UPDATE!: Whoops! I forgot about last season's Rayo De Luz, in which Chillblaine bragged that he'd been released from prison after turning state's evidence.

At the time I noted that while it was technically possible for a murderer to receive immunity in exchange for testimony, it's HIGHLY unlikely. Such action is generally reserved for petty crocks with info on drug lords or organized crime figures.

Also, criminals who testify against other criminals generally place their lives in danger, and are often the target of retaliation from their peers. They're usually forced to keep a VERY low profile or even go into Witness Protection. 

Anyway, this explains why Chillblaine's brazenly strutting around in public and no one's throwing him back in the hoosegow. Sorry about that.

• Caitlin announces that Frost died, then collapses to the floor. All the couples in the Lounge then embrace one another, as poor Caitlin's left sobbing by herself. 

Jeez, I thought Team Flash was her "family?" It takes a full minute before Cecile finally runs over to comfort her.

• At the end of every episode we always get a flash (heh) of sizzling yellow Speed Force Lightning before the screen fades to black. This week there's a bolt of icy cold BLUE lightning— presumably to honor Frost.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Strange New Show

As regular readers know, I've been a Star Trek fan for the vast majority of my life— and I have the books, blu rays and action figures to prove it! I loved the Original Series of course, but my fandom really kicked in with The Next Generation. It was everything I ever wanted in a Trek series, and I anxiously waited for each new episode to air back in the day.

That's why it pains me to see how far the franchise has fallen with NuTrek. Gone are the epic adventures, metaphorical plots and social commentary of the various old series, as they've been replaced with identity politics, maudlin histrionics and nonsensical "End Of The Universe" serialized storylines.

I gave Star Trek: Discovery (or STD, as I like to call it) a fair shot, as I watched the first three episodes before realizing it was a woke nightmare that wasn't made for me. Picard (or Puke-Hard) was somehow even worse. It was a massive dumpster fire, and I only got fifteen minutes into the pilot episode before I noped out.

It's clear to me that the current crop of creators don't understand Star Trek or what made it work in the past. In fact I hate these new series so much that I consider them to be nothing more than expensive fan fiction, which can be safely ignored. 

That's why when CBS first announced Strange New Worlds, I had absolutely ZERO expectations, figuring it would just be more of the same. For some reason I decided to give it a shot though, and watched the first episode this past weekend.

So how was it? Welp, I can't believe I'm saying this, but... I didn't hate it? In fact it actually wasn't that bad! Believe me, no one's more surprised than I am to hear me saying those words.

Anson Mount is terrific at Captain Pike, lending the character a sense of authority mixed with some badly needed humor. Rebecca Romijn was great as the efficient and capable Number One as well.

But then there's Ethan Peck as Spock— arguably the most important character in the series. Oy, gevalt! He's EXTREMELY miscast in the role, as he seems to lack the talent and gravitas to pull off such a demanding character. I don't think he quite understands Spock or Vulcans in general, as he seems to think "emotionless" means "dull and boring."

At this point Danny DeVito would have been a better choice for Spock! He'd certainly have been more interesting in the part! Heck, even Todd Haberkorn would have been better— he does a great job as Spock in Star Trek Continues— and that's a fan-made series!

I'm worried that this Spock misfire could end up harming the series in the long run.

The rest of the crew didn't have much of a chance to show their stuff yet, but so far I'm not seeing any potential problems. Hopefully they'll get more to do in subsequent episodes.

From what I gather, this series will be more episodic than the previous serialized ones. I think that's a wonderful idea, as it harkens back to TOS and TNG. I know ongoing storylines are all the rage these days, but there's nothing wrong with good old fashioned standalone plots.

STD and Picard also suffered from an overabundance of "Threat To The Entire Galaxy" arcs. If you blow up the universe every week, the audience is eventually gonna get bored. Strange New Worlds' back to basics approach seems like the way to go to me.

I've noticed another potential red flag, this one concerning Captain Pike. As all good trekkies know, Pike's character eventually suffers a horrific accident involving exposure to delta rays, leaving him a crippled husk that trundles around in a motorized chair.

This NuTrek version of Pike knows about his grim future, and is understandably weirded out by it. Unfortunately the writers milk this for all it's worth, as he sees visions of his maimed body at least THREE times in the first episode alone. 

I get how something like that could affect a man, but if he's going to freak out about it every time he sees himself in a reflective surface, it's gonna get old reeeeeeeeeal fast.

So far Strange New Worlds isn't near as insufferably woke as STD, but there are still a few hints of it. Take the character of Hemmer, for example. He's an Aenar— an alien species who are all blind. Of course since this is 2022, it's required that Hemmer be played by an actual visually-impaired actor. 

I don't begrudge the guy a gig, but... why is it people are only allowed to portray what they are now? What happened to, you know, acting? I shudder to think what NuTrek would do with Geordi LaForge if his character was created today.

Strange New Worlds is also lousy with continuity errors that contradict previously established canon— something which has plagued ALL the NuTrek series from the beginning. I really don't understand why they insisted on setting these shows in the Prime Universe, instead of just doing a hard reboot or saying they take place in an alternate timeline.

That's the way I'm handing this show— it's set in a parallel universe. It's the only way I can watch it without my head exploding.

So far The Orville is still the only real Star Trek we have right now. Strange New Worlds has potential, and I like what I've seen so far. But we're only one episode in— my opinion of it could change any second, depending on how the rest of the season plays out. I'm cautiously optimistic, but I'm not gettin' my hopes up too high.

Better enjoy this series while you can, because even with all its faults, I have a feeling this is probably the best that NutTrek is ever going to be. 

Small Medium At Large!

Just a reminder to everyone out there that this man exists. Gary Spivey, Psychic Medium, Healer and trendsetter. Clearly Mr. Spivey has seen the future, and it is thick with poodle-esque white afros.

You know, his "hair" reminds me of something, but I can't quite put my finger on what it could be...

Ah! There it is!

I noticed that as Mr. Spivey gets older, his trademark coiffure seems to increase in size as well. Maybe he's similar to Sampson, and derives his psychic energy from his hair— the bigger it gets, the more powerful he becomes.

If that's true, then this must be his ultimate form. He's probably powerful enough to read the minds of Earth's entire populace all at once! 


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The Flash Season 8, Episode 12: Death Rises

This week on The Flash we get a slight bit of progress in the ongoing Deathstorm Saga, as the deadly fire demon goes on a rampage and gets thirsty for Caitlin (no, really!).

Unfortunately Death Rises feels a lot like a dreaded filler episode. Nothing much really happenes, as the characters all stand around rehashing the plot points that we're all very familiar with by now. 

I assume this was done because actor Robbie Amell agreed to come back for just two episodes. By cramming a filler episode in between his appearances, they were able to drag out the Deathstorm Saga for an extra week. Pret-tee sneaky, sis!

Despite the filler shenanigans, it still managed to be a relatively decent outing— just not a very exciting one.

I gotta say I'm growing very weary of the whole Iris Time Sickness plot at this point. For weeks now we've seen the exact same scene— Iris clutches her head in pain as her sickness flares up, Sue looks worried and Deon appears and says he doesn't know what's wrong with her.

This entire arc is virtually identical to the execrable Mirrorverse Saga in Season 6, in which Iris and Eva McCullough stood in the exact same room and did nothing but talk for weeks and weeks on end.

Supposedly Candace Patton (aka Iris) wanted some time off from the show (?), so I'm betting they filmed a crap-ton of these scenes early in the season, and are now doling them out a little at a time in each episode. That would explain why this whole arc seems completely disconnected from the rest of the show, like it's from a different show altogether.

I still think the writers are doing a simplified version of the "Iris Is Actually From The Future" storyline that appeared in The Flash comic back in the 1980s. There are rumors that Patton's chomping at the bit to leave the show, and sending her to the future would be the perfect way to write her off.

That would pretty much destroy the series though, as we'd then get no more "We Are The Flash" exclamations from Iris, and no more "Running Home To You" scenes between her and Barry.

Lastly, I just want to say that I feel bad that these reviews are coming out increasingly later as time goes on. Part of that's due to life— I have a full time job and a household to run, and there are only so many hours in a day.

But it also has to do with my annoying habit of gradually overcomplicating everything I do. As you may have noticed, these reviews have gradually become longer and more elaborate over the years. For example, my very first Flash review clocked in at a brisk 1,891 words. The most recent one was a ponderous 12,475! 

In addition, I'm now adding tons of screen shots, animated gifs and dialogue quotes. I've even started researching shooting locations! 

I need an editor to rein me in, stat!


The Plot:
Picking up right where we left off last week, Deathstorm appears before Caitlin, announcing that life is an aberration, and he's come to end it everywhere. He tells her she completes him as he grabs her by the shoulders, intent on incinerating her.

Caitlin cries out, and Flash arrives a split second later. He fires a lightning bolt at Deathstorm, causing him to drop Caitlin. Deathstorm blasts Flash across the room and flies off (He flies now? He flies now.).

Later in the STAR Labs Med Bay, Caitlin says she's lucky to be alive. She realizes Ronnie's most sincerly dead, and apologizes to Barry for not believing him. Team Flash asks her about Deathstorm, but she doesn't know who he is, where he comes from or why he seems to want her. 
Barry tells Frost & Allegra to keep Caitlin safe, while he tries to find Deathstorm.

Cecile enters STAR and violates Barry's privacy by saying she senses he's hurting. He tells her Iris' time sickness caused her to disappear, and no one knows where she is. Just then he gets a text from Sue, who just happens to say Iris is back. He speeds away to the loft.

Iris wonders how she survived Tinya's attack last week, and Barry theorizes that her sickness pulled her into the Still Force to protect her. Iris points out that the Still Force contains ALL time— past, present and future. She ominously says that when she was in it, she couldn't see her own future.

Just then Barry gets a Flash Alert from Kristen. He figures it must be serious if she's calling him, and Sue assures him she'll watch over Iris.

Flash arrives at CCPD, where the cops are inundated with calls about Deathstorm, who's gone on a killing rampage. Flash tells Kristen that Deathstorm feeds off of grief, and he doesn't know how to fight him.

Kristen's at a loss as to how to deal with such a meta threat, but Joe (who's in her office for no good reason) says he was in her position once and she'll do fine. Kristen orders the city locked down, and tells her officers not to engage Deathstorm if they spot him.

Back at STAR, Chester says he can no longer track the Fire Meta now that it's taken on Deathstorm's humanoid form. Barry wonders if Cecile's powers could help them locate him. Chester rigs up a technobabble device that'll synch his monitors with Cecile's mind and allow her to sense Deathstorm.

In the Med Lab, Caitlin blames herself for trying to get Ronnie back and inadvertently unleashing Deathstorm. Frost says it's not her fault, as Ronnie was her husband and she can't help still loving and missing him.

Back at the loft, Iris & Sue doze. Suddenly Deon appears, and Iris tells him she's getting worse. He says he's afraid her time sickness has affected him too, as he can no longer see the future inside the Still Force.

Deon says once he's back to full strength he'll try to find Tinya's mom (who Iris seemingly disintegrated a few episodes back). In the meantime, he creates some sort of time energy bubble and places it in Iris' chest, in order to track her when she disappeasrs. He then says something's wrong as he falls down and vanishes in a burst of energy.

Chester hooks up Cecile to his monitors, and tells her to try and locate any large pockets of grief that could attract Deathstorm. She senses one inside STAR Labs (the call's coming from inside the house!). Just then the lights go out, and Cecile's eyes turn all black as she's possessed by Deathstorm. The fire demon tells Barry they'll never be able to stop him.

Cecile reverts to normal, and says she could feel Deathstorm's determination. She says he won't ever stop till he gets what he wants— namely Caitlin.

Elsewhere in STAR, Allegra's walking through the halls when she sees her late cousin Esperanza. She figures it's Deathstorm messing with her, as the two trade barbs. They both blast each other simultaneously with their UV powers, as Allegra's knocked out.

Chester picks up the ruckus on the monitors, and Barry speeds to the scene. He finds Allegra on the floor, and no sign of Esperanza. Allegra says it was Deathstorm, and wonders why he's targeting her now.

We then get another repetitive Iris scene, as Sue tries to calm her down after Deon's disappearance. Suddenly Iris begins blinking in & out of existence, as Sue tells her to fight it. Eventually Iris manages to stabilize herself.

Joe (who seems to be wandering aimlessly in this episode) finds Barry moping in the Lounge. Barry frets that he doesn't know how to stop Deathstorm, and Joe gives him a Patented The CW Pep Talk®, saying he's stopped countless metas before, and he'll figure out how to do it again.

Back in the Med Lab, Caitlin dozes off while Frost sketches. Deathstorm appears and blasts Frost across the room, knocking her unconscious. He then grabs Caitlin and flies off with her.

Chester's monitors detect Deathstorm, and track him flying through the city with Caitlin. Barry chases after him, but the fire demon's too high to reach. Barry gets the bright idea to toss bolts of Speed Force Lightning ahead of him, and use them like stepping stones to run across the sky (!).

He reaches Deathstorm, but just as he's about to grab him the demon opens a portal and disappears inside it. Barry falls back to the ground, defeated.

Deathstorm takes Caitlin to an amusement park just outside Central City— which seems like an odd place for a "grief vampire" to go. He scans the crowd— actually finding a few grieving people— and incinerates them. We then see him absorbing their grief.

Caitlin tells Deathstorm to get it over with and kill her already. He says he's come to end his loneliness, as he intends to make her his bride (!). He cltches her and begins burning her with his black flame.

Chester detects the flames and Barry zooms to the scene. He finds several corpses, and sees Caitlin kneeling calmly on the ground. He asks what happened, and she says Deathstorm told her she's "not ready."

Back at STAR, Caitlin gives herself a physical and says her cells are in a state of constant regeneration or something, and she's currently not aging. She figures Deathstorm's trying to change her into a creature like himself.

Barry tells Chester & Allegra that when he chased Deathstorm, he got a brief glimpse inside his portal. He says it looked like the black hole that Chester absorbed a couple years ago. He figures Ronnie's grief somehow created the demon inside the singularity, and it's taken this long for it to travel back to our dimension.

Chester says he could modify the MAC (Mental Augmentation Chamber) to emit singularity particles, which they could use to defeat Deathstorm— but they'd need a human vessel to contain the energy. Frost volunteers, saying she was literally born to keep Caitlin safe.

Back at the hotel, Iris wakes and senses something watching her. She gets up to see what it is, and her ex Eddie Thawne steps out of the shadows, saying it's great to see her again.

• When Caitlin recovers from her assault, Team Flash gathers around and asks what the hell attacked her. She says "It calls itself Deathstorm."

Note that this name gets absolutely zero reaction out of Barry, which is odd. Way back in Season 2's Welcome To Earth-2, Barry, Cisco & Harry journeyed to that world in order to rescue Jessie Wells from the clutches of the evil Zoom. While there, they met Zoom's two enforcers— Killer Frost, and an evil version of Firestorm who called himself... Deathstorm.

This Deathstorm even killed the Earth-2 Joe in that episode! There's no way in hell Barry would forget a thing like that, which makes it all the more strange that he acted like he'd never heard the name before.

Did the producers not want to confuse things by bringing up a previous version of the character? Was the Earth-2 Deathstorm wiped out by the Crisis? Or did the writers simply forget any of this ever happened? I vote for the latter.

• Speaking of Killer Frost... I MUCH preferred her original Earth-2 appearance. She was downright hot (heh) in Welcome To Earth-2, and it's a shame they didn't use that look for the Earth Prime Frost.

• I know I keep harping on this, but I think it's worth mentioning. Back in Phantoms, Iris decided to take a trip with Sue to Coast City, and left Allegra in charge of CCC Media. Allegra's then spent every moment of every episode ever since hanging out at STAR Labs. I suppose it's possible she may be running the place remotely or scheduling Zoom calls with the staff, but it seems unlikely.

• Cecile shows up and tells Barry, "Look, from the second I walked into STAR Labs, I could feel how worried you are. But what I'm sensing, it's way more than just concern. You're hurting, badly. Hey, what's going on?"

Remember back in The Fire Next Time when Barry asked Cecile to read Jaco Birch's mind to find out if he was guilty? And remember how she got all hoity and "that wouldn't be ethical" on him, and refused to do so?

Welp, she's freely invaded the minds of each and every one of her friends and family every week since then. Heck, she does it at least TWICE in this episode alone— once right in front of Barry while he's looking at her. So which is it, Cecile? Is reading a person's mind without permission moral or not?

• At one point, Deathstorm— who feeds on human grief— attacks a man sitting at a bus stop, who's sobbing and holding a bouquet of flowers. 
I assume he must have planned a big night out and been shot down by his crush? That would generate disappointment more than grief though. Maybe he's gonna lay the flowers on someone's grave?

Whatever the victim's doing, we see that Deathstorm apparently has a flair for the theatrical. Instead of simply killing the poor guy where he stands, he flies him high into the air, incinerates him and then lets his charred corpse fall hundreds of feet below to the pavement! Ta-daaaa!

• At the loft, Barry gets an alert from Kristen— her first since he gave her his special Flash Signaler a couple episodes ago. He ignores her message though, saying he can't leave Iris alone. Bitch, Sue's standing five feet away from you! What the hell is she, chopped liver?

• Joe has literally nothing to do again this week, as he wanders from one set to another for no discernible reason. 

Ever since the writers had his character retire from the force, it's clear they have absolutely no idea what to do with him. Which is probably why Jesse L. Martin's announced he's leaving the show at the end of the season.

• Remember in the early days of the series when Barry would hide his secret identity by vibrating his face to make it blurry, along with altering his voice? Welp, the writers sure don't! 

I had to laugh at this scene in which Officer Korber enters Kristen's office and talks directly to the Flash. He doesn't make the slightest effort to conceal his true identity, and yet somehow she doesn't pick up on the fact that she's clearly talking to her co-worker Barry Allen. 

Maybe she actually does know and she's just playing along to be polite?

• The Flash has always featured its fair share of nonsensical technobabble, but they shoveled it on extra thick in this episode. Attend:

Allegra: "So wait, you want to use Cecile as, like, a Deathstorm compass?"
Barry: "Yeah, think about it. Deathstorm absorbs grief. Grief is an emotion."
Cecile: "My powers. My powers feel other people's emotions, even from a distance."
Chester: "If we can figure out a way to interface Cecile's empath powers with STAR's search systems, it would be like using a wireless neurogenic array synced with the Med Lab's synaptic monitoring relay!"

In other words, "If we can meld completely different branches of science by combining two incompatible pieces of technology, we can do the thing to move the plot along!"

• When gushing about his wireless neurogenic array, Chester utters another of his Black History Month oaths, saying, "Holy Paschal Beverly Randolph!"

As I've pointed out ad nauseam the past few weeks, I don't object to the idea of these exclamations— I'm bothered by the fact that they tend to be irrelevant, and have nothing to do with the current situation. For example, Paschal Beverly Randolph was a multiracial doctor, occultist, spiritualist and writer, who introduced the principles of erotic alchemy to North America (!).

If you can figure out what any of that has to do with hooking up Cecile to some psychic machine, I'll eat my hat!

I feel like the writers have a copy of The Big Book Of African-American Scientists, and just pull names from it at random and stick them into their scripts.

• While keeping Iris company, Sue reads a copy of Uncaged Desire.

We've actually seen this book many times before in the Arrowverse. It was written by Rebecca Silver, aka Mick Rory, aka Heat Wave of Legends Of Tomorrow fame, back when he was authoring romance novels. It appeared on The Flash as well, back in Season 5's The Flash And The Furious. In that episode, Barry was cooling his heels in the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail for reasons, and Sherloque Wells brought him a copy of the book to pass the time.

It looks like they may have dug up the original prop and handed it to Sue!

• Deon appears in the loft to help Iris. He states that as the Still Force, he can see everyone's future— except Iris.' He then looks worried, exclaims, "Yo, something's wrong" and vanishes in a cloud of temporal energy. 

So... I guess he must not have been able to see HIS own future either then, right? Else he'd have known he was about to disappear. Unless this is one of those deals where he knows the future but isn't allowed to change it, and just has to go with the flow. If that's the case though, then there'd be no advantage to being the Still Force— there'd be no free will and he'd be like the rest of us, being swept uncontrollably along the river of time.

• Once again, Deon very carefully and deliberately calls Iris by her name. No more referring to her "Mom," as he did back in Season 7. I'm still convinced this is due to the producers being blindsided by the overwhelmingly negative backlash to the whole "Barry & Iris Are The Four Forces' Parents" thing from last year— causing them to hurriedly pivot and send that idea into the cornfield where it belongs.

• In order to locate Deathstorm, Chester hooks up Cecile to his psychic wifi and tells her to "concentrate on any large pockets of grief." So all she has to do is look for any theaters playing The Last Jedi, amirite? Hi-YOOOOO!!!

• How do you feature an expensive CGI character like Deathstorm all through an episode when you have a limited FX budget? Why, by rarely ever showing him, that's how! 

In order to avoid rendering Deathstorm, the producers have him possess Cecile and speak through her. He takes the form of Allegra's cousin Esperanza, and Eddie Thawne (maybe) as well!

While this all makes good financial sense, I can't help but feel a bit cheated by it. We can look at Cecile any old time! Deathstorm's a cool looking character, and we want to see him, dammit!

• Allegra's confronted by Deathstorm, who appears as her late cousin Esperanza. To Allegra's credit, she's smart enough to realize it's not really her, and that the fire demon's just messing with her (unlike Chester, who was completely bamboozled when Deathstorm took the form of his dead dad).

The two of them then taunt each other in their native Spanish. I freely admit I don't speak Spanish, but it sounds to me like Allegra and Esperanza don't either! Their delivery sounds VERY stilted and awkward, like they both learned their lines phonetically. They don't sound like people conversing naturally.

• Barry retreats to the Lounge to sulk, as Joe enters and gives him a Patented The CW Pep Talk® (one of several in this episode). I thought we were gonna get another "Run, Barry, Run" in this scene, but it doesn't happen, as Joe stops just short of one:

Joe: "In due time, you will find a way to get the advantage over Deathstorm."
Barry: "And until that happens?"
Joe: "You do what you do best. Run... into the unknown and trust yourself."

Oooh, so close, but not far enough!

• OK, I'm VERY confused about the layout of STAR Labs. For years now, we've been seeing the characters strolling past displays that say "Level 600." In my mind I took that to mean the place is divided into at least 600 floors, most of which lie deep underground.

This week we finally get a glimpse of a different one— Level 200. As near as I can tell, this is the first time we've ever seen this particular floor. Don't get too excited though, as it looks exactly like all the others.

One would think that the two hundredth floor would be far underground, just like good ol' Level 600, right? Wrong! According to Chester's onscreen graphic, Level 200 appears to be located in the upper ring of the building, between two of the three pylons! What the hell?

When I saw that I thought, OK, maybe Team Flash thought it'd be cool to add a couple extra zeroes to the numbers, so Level 200 is really just the second floor.

But that's not possible either, because Chester looks at his readout and says, "Guys, I'm picking up a category-three spectral discharge, four levels beneath us!"

So somehow Level 200 is at the top of the building, and the Cortex is located four floors above it— which means it's either hovering outside, above the actual structure or it's crammed inside one of the narrow pylons! Neither seems particularly possible or likely.

As I said, none of this makes the slightest bit of sense.

• Wow, Deathstorm got back! I gotta admit, I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I saw this scene. Apparently when Deathstorm took on humanoid form, he decided to give himself a shapely ass while he was at it. Look at that thing! You could bounce a quarter off it!

• Deathstorm abducts Caitlin and flies off with her. Barry speeds after them, but Deathstorm's too high for him to reach. He then gets the bright idea to use his Speed Force energy as stepping stones to literally "ride the lightning" and hopscotch across the sky. It's actually a cool scene, but several things here:

First of all, the technobabble flows again, as Barry says:

Barry: "Chester, my boots can redirect most energy sources. Does that include currents equal to the kinetic output created when I run?"
Chester: "Uh, it should, and the force of those two equal energies would probably cancel each other out. It'd be like running into a brick wall."
Barry: "I'm counting on it."

Yeah, I don't know what any of that means either— other than his new magic boots can stand on lightning.

Secondly, I'm of two minds about this scene. It was indeed pretty darned awesome, and I love it when Barry figures out new and interesting ways to use his speed. On the other hand, the Flash is one of the most overpowered superheroes there is. The absolute LAST thing he needs right now is yet another goddamned power.

Lastly, now we know why there aren't a lot of FX in this episode— they blew this week's budget on the rights to Metallica's Ride The Lightning, which blares on the soundtrack while Barry's leapfrogging across the sky.

• Deathstorm opens a portal and steps through it with Caitlin into Ripley's Wild World. Seems odd that a demon who feeds on grief would head for an amusement park to find more food, as few people would head for such a place to wallow in sadness.

By the way, you may be wondering why people are milling around in a theme park when Kristen just placed Central City on lockdown. Actually this isn't a mistake— there's a line of dialogue from Chester in which he says Ripley's is "just outside the city."

• Despite the fun & happy setting, Deathstorm actually senses grief in many of the park's patrons, and incinerates them in order to absorb their emotions.

Note the guy in the background here, who's apparently just won a large stuffed animal. Even though he's literally fleeing for his life from Deathstorm, he absolutely refuses to drop his big purple dinosaur! He paid good money to win that thing, goddammit, and he's not about to lose it— even if a Fire Demon is murdering everyone around him!

• Not necessarily a mistake, but an observation: As soon as his victims are incinerated, their grief (I guess?) exits their bodies like jet-black, smoky souls— which Deathstorm then absorbs. This is the first time we've ever seen this happen after one of his kills. 

I suppose it's possible he's been doing this all along, just when we weren't looking.

• Barry arrives at the amusement park, where he finds Caitlin sitting in a pool of light, with Deathstorm nowhere to be seen.

Note the "Cincinnati Bud's Burger Co." food truck seen behind her. Clearly the director wants us to notice it, as it's VERY deliberately placed in the frame. It's been established that Central City's in Missouri— a good distance from Ohio— so there's no in-universe reason for it to be there.

Does this food truck belong to a friend on the writing staff? I don't think so, as I looked it up and couldn't find any business with that name. I guess the production team just made up a fictional food truck and gave it a puzzling name!

• Cecile does it again! 

After Deathstorm's attack, Barry takes Caitlin back to STAR. While there, Cecile just blatantly scans Caitlin's mind and says, "I'm sensing a massive amount of grief inside of you. It's... it's enough for an entire family."

Team Flash needs to band together and tell this witch to stay the hell out of their heads unless they specifically ASK her to invade their privacy.

• I'm assuming that since Deathstorm was created from the energy expelled when Ronnie died in the singularity, that the demon has at least some of his thoughts and feelings. This would explain his attraction to Caitlin, and why he wants to make her his bride. 

Caitlin actually steps right up to the edge of this notion, but never actually says it out loud, which I thought was odd.

• Barry says it's taken the entity seven years to travel through space to get back to Earth— and Caitlin. This triggers another of Chester's Black History Month exclamations, as he says, "Great Benjamin Banneker!"

Banneker was an African-American farmer from the 1700s who was self-educated in astronomy and mathematics. Eh, it's a pretty big stretch, but I'm willing to give 'em this one. It's slightly relevant, what with the whole astronomy thing and all.

• Chester suggests modifying the MAC (Mental Augmentation Chamber) to defeat Deathstorm, saying, "The M.A.C. saved my ass by absorbing the entire mass of black hole energy that I accidentally unleashed a couple years ago."

For some insane reason, we then cut to Allegra, who gives Chester this look. What's up with that? Is... is she somehow turned on by the fact that he accidentally absorbed a black hole or something? Talk about bizarre!

• What a difference a couple of weeks can make! 

Back in Reckless, Frost wanted to use herself as bait to trap the Fire Meta. Barry threw a HUGE hissy fit, saying it was too dangerous and forbid her try it. It took the combined Patented The CW Pep Talks® of ALL the members of Team Flash to finally convince him to let her do it.

Then in this episode, Chester says they can modify the MAC to emit energy that will kill Deathstorm, but they'll need a human vessel to contain all the cosmic energy. Frost volunteers for the dangerous mission, and this time Barry says, "Well that sound just fine."

What the hell? Why the difference?

• In the tag scene, Iris gets a visit from her ex Eddie Thawne (who died seven years ago).

So is this Deathstorm up to his shenanigans again, trying to manipulate her by taking Eddie's form? Or— since she's suffering from her time sickness— is this the real Eddie, and she inadvertently yanked him out of the past?

At this point it could go either way, and we'll have to wait till next week to find out which it is.

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