Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Flash Season 9, Episode 2: Hear No Evil

This week on The Flash we get what may be one of the worst episodes of Season 9 (and possibly the entire series) and we're only two episodes in! Well done, writers!

Over the years I've felt many emotions while watching The Flash: Excitement, enjoyment, shock, surprise, sorrow and occasionally even boredom. Rarely have I ever felt outright anger and rage though— until now.

The reason? Because this episode confirms that Caitlin died in the Season 8 finale— without a tearful death scene or even any final words. In fact her death happened completely offscreen, like it didn't even matter. 

Then before we even have time to process that info, the episode introduces us to Caitlin's dollar store replacement, who looks just like her (but now with new blue highlights!). This new and definitely not improved version of Caitlin (who calls herself Snow) dispenses wisdom like an ersatz Counselor Troi, and seems to have nature-based powers as well.

Jesus wept.

Caitlin's one of the three core characters, and seeing her treated so shabbily is honestly infuriating. I knew Eric Wallace wasn't gonna be able to deliver a decent final season, but I didn't expect him to botch things this badly.

To make things even worse, somehow Hear No Evil felt like a dreaded Filler Episode, and that ain't good. We're only getting thirteen episodes in this truncated ninth season, so one would think the writers would want to make every one of them count. 

We also get more of the interminable Chester/Allegra romance that absolutely no one cares about (including the actors), and a brief but pointless glimpse at Red Death, this season's puzzling Big Bad.

Feh. Enough preamble, let's get this over with.


The Plot:
Barry brings the mysterious Caitlin/Frost entity to STAR Labs to meet Team Flash. When they ask who she is, she tells them to call her "Snow." She says she's neither Caitlin nor Frost, but a new entity with no memories of her own.

Chillblaine's there as well, and the others ask him what the hell happened. He says he and Caitlin built a CRC machine to bring back Frost, but something went wrong and they ended up with Snow instead. He then casually informs them that Caitlin's dead (!), but with a stable power source provided by Team Flash he can bring her back again.

Team Flash reacts to this news by... no wait, that's not right. They have absolutely zero reaction whatsoever to this grim news about Caitlin, who was one of their oldest friends and a valued teammate. About all that happens is Barry looks haggard and says they'll get to work right away and help Chillblaine restore her.

As the others all leave, Chillblaine cryptically tells Snow she did great, and things are going better than planned.

In the Lab, Chester's distracted by Allegra and wants to talk about their big kiss last week. Mercifully, Allegra shuts him down and says they need to focus on restoring Caitlin. By the gods, I don't care about these two's adolescent relationship.

At the West home, Joe tells Cecile he's worried that her powers are putting her in danger from evil metas. He says he can't stand the thought of losing her, and once again says he wants to move away from Central City. She asks him how she's supposed to choose between her family and protecting the city (!). I smell a breakup on the horizon! Good thing the two of them never officially tied the knot!

Cut to the Krakatoa Club, which is run by Hartley Rathaway (aka Pied Piper) and his boyfriend Roderick Smith. Hartley leaves, and a strange woman follows him out to the parking lot. She pulls out a violin, says she's The Fiddler and uses the instrument to fire a blast of sound at Hartley.

He dives behind a car and activates his sonic gauntlets, which he's wearing because it's in the script. The Fiddler says Hartley has something she wants, and the two of them blast one another and are both thrown backwards. Hartley escapes by flying off on a wave of sound. The Fiddler warns Roderick that she'll be back.

Back at STAR, Team Flash is ready to restore Caitlin. Snow enters the CRC pod, while Chillblaine and the others monitor the controls. They activate the pod, and everything goes OK for a few seconds. Suddenly Chester detects a technobabble overload, and Snow screams in pain. Barry zooms her from the pod, causing Chillblaine to shriek that she has to stay inside it if the experiment is to work.

Snow then slips up by saying she didn't know the procedure would hurt, and thought it would bring THEM back. The others realize they've been bamboozled, and Chillblaine's still trying to bring back Frost as well as Caitlin. They ask why he lied, and he petulantly says he can't trust any of them and he'll never give up trying to restore Frost. He angrily storms out.

Just then an alarm sounds in the Medbay. Barry rushes in and sees Hartley there, dying from The Fiddler's attack. As a former STAR Labs employee, he's familiar with their equipment and tells Barry to use a sonic cuff to stabilize his heart. Barry does so, and Hartley's condition improves a bit. He tells Barry about The Fiddler and then lies down to sleep (?).

Cut to the warehouse from last week, where The Fiddler reports to the Shadowy Mystery Villain. He says failure isn't an option, and fires an energy blast at The Fiddler. He tells her not to screw up again or he'll kill her.

Barry finds Chillblaine drowning his sorrows at O'Shaughnessy's Pub. He tells Chillblaine he knows how much he loved Frost, but he did the wrong thing for the right reason. He tells him he's part of the team now (?), and he needs to learn to trust them. Just then Barry gets a text and says they both have to leave immediately.

Barry zooms Chillblaine to STAR, where Chester informs them that the procedure was never going to work, as it needed neural imprints from Caitlin to bring back Frost. Chillblaine says there's no way to ever find a map of Caitlin's mind, but Barry says her late father Thomas Snow had one. He says Caitlin stored all his research in her apartment and at Tannhauser Labs. He vows to retrieve all the data and bring back both Caitlin and Frost this time.

Back in the Medbay, Hartley's awake and trying to boost the power of his gauntlets. Snow enters and intuitively knows he plans to kill The Fiddler. She senses he's afraid someone he loves will be hurt, and says killing is wrong. She tells him the choice is up to him.

At the Loft, Iris goes through Caitlin's laptop, trying to find something that can help restore her. Barry enters with Thomas' research, which says it's impossible to restore BOTH Caitlin and Frost— meaning they'll have to choose which one to bring back.

Cut to STAR, where Team Flash votes on who to restore— Caitlin or Frost. 
Allegra and Iris both vote for Frost, while Chester says Caitlin. Barry can't decide (!), prompting Chillblaine to say he's giving him eight hours and then he's bringing back Frost with or without their help.

Just then Snow enters and says they're all being torn apart because of her. She says she wishes she'd never been born and storms out.

Later Barry tells Iris he shouldn't have blown up Caitlin's lab last season, and this is all his fault (which is absolutely true). She says Caitlin made the choice to step into the pod, so it's on her, not him. This somehow sparks a realization in Barry, and he says he knows what they need to do.

Meanwhile, Snow stands in the Lounge and watches the storm raging outside. Cecile enters, and Snow tells her that nature makes her feel at peace and she feels connected to it or something. Cecile's puzzled that she can't read her emotions— a plot point I guarantee will become important later in the season.

Just then Barry enters and says Snow should be the one to decide who to bring back (!), as only she can decide who she's going to be. Which is sort of like asking a condemned criminal which executioner they'd prefer.

Suddenly the team gets an alert that The Fiddler's attacking the Krakatoa Club again. Barry zooms to the Medbay and sees Hartley's gone, and figures he left to kill The Fiddler. Snow says he must have made his choice.

Inside the club, Roderick and several bouncers confront The Fiddler. She fires off a sonic blast that seemingly vaporizes all of them but Roderick. Hartley then enters and tells her to let him go. She vaporizes Roderick, a second before Barry zooms in and destroys her fiddle.

The Fiddler says her instrument was just a tool, as her true power lies within. She picks up a mic, screams into it and unleashes another blast of sonic energy at Barry & Hartley. Barry phases through the onslaught (?), and Hartley manages to fire back at her, knocking her unconscious.

Hartley says he has nothing left to live for, and starts to kill her. Barry stops him, saying he's wrong. He then grabs Hartley's arm and phases him, and they see that Roderick and the bouncers are still alive— trapped in some vibrational void.

Hartley uses his gauntlets to free them, and Barry says he did the right thing. Just then Captain Boomerang 2.0 teleports in. He wakes The Fiddler and the two vanish. Hartley notices they somehow stole his gauntlets as well— which is what The Fiddler was after the whole time.

Back at STAR, Chillblaine asks what Team Flash has decided about Caitlin & Frost. Snow pipes up and informs them she's not getting in the pod, as she's decided she wants to be her own person. Furious, Chillblaine says she doesn't even have a name. She says she's already picked one out— Khione, after the Greek goddess of snow.

Chillblaine isn't having it, and orders Snow into the pod, as none of this was the plan. Just then Hartley enters, says plans change and destroys the pod with a sonic blast. When Chillblaine asks if he knows what he's done, he replies that he helped a new friend. Chillblaine hisses to Hartley that the next time they meet he's taking him down.

Back at the Loft, Barry tells Iris he thinks Caitlin would have liked Khione. He then suggests they continue their "babymoon." Oy.

Cut to the Krakatoa Club, where all of Team Flash (including Joe) whoop it up on the dance floor— just hours after finding out their teammate Caitlin died. What the hell?

Back at the warehouse, Boomerang 2.0 hooks up Hartley's gauntlets to a device. The Mystery Villain steps onto a platform and The Fiddler activates it. A sonic field then envelops the Villain, which I guess stabilizes them. We then see it's Red Death. He says the Flash disgraced him, and Central City will pay the price (?).

• As I said in the intro, my main problems with this episode are the revelation that Caitlin's dead (for real, if you can believe showrunner Eric Wallace), and the various characters' reaction to her demise. Or rather LACK of reaction.

The episode begins with Chillblaine and Snow meeting with the team, and informing them that Caitlin died trying to restore Frost. Team Flash reacts to this news with all the emotion of someone who just found out the toast is burnt. For frak's sake, she's been on the show since the Pilot episode, and everyone just kind of shrugs when they find out she's gone.

Team Flash doesn't even hold a memorial service for Caitlin. Instead they all go clubbing at a techno bar. With a woman who looks exactly like Caitlin. What. The. F*ck?

Caitlin's been on the show since the very first episode. I don't think I'm overreacting when I saw this is a HUGE slap in the face to the character, as well as the fans. It made me angry and disgusted with the characters and the series' writers.

• Last week I said that according to behind the scenes info, the new incarnation of Caitlin would be called "Snow." That much was accurate.

I also confidently stated it was obvious that this new version was an amalgam of both Caitlin and Frost. Whoops! Looks like I was wrong there.

While that was indeed a logical assumption, turns out I was way off base. Snow seems to be a completely new entity— one who has no memories of either previous version.

Ah well. Can't predict 'em all correctly.

HEAVY DUTY NITPICKING: Chillblaine describes Snow as "a total blank slate, with zero memories." Wellll, that can't be true. She can't be a COMPLETELY blank slate, otherwise she wouldn't be able to walk or talk and would be crappin' herself like a newborn baby.

• Team Flash has just been informed that Caitlin's dead and gone for all time. So Chester picks that exact moment to try and talk to 
Allegra about the kiss they shared last week. Are you frakin' kidding me? Time and place, Chester!

• Last week Joe told Cecile it's time their family left Central City for good.

This is no doubt due to the fact that actor Jesse L. Martin left the show at the end of Season 8, and this is the producers' way of writing him out of the show. But what about Cecile? What's gonna happen to her character? 
Will she leave with Joe? Or will the writers have the guts to split them up so he can go and she'll stay?

I'm starting to wonder if maybe there's a third option. I'm betting they'll drag out this storyline for the entire truncated thirteen episode season. That way Joe & Cecile can move away in the series finale, and won't need to split up.

• When Joe says he wants to move away, Cecile— whose telekinetic powers are increasing exponentially— tearfully replies, "How am I supposed to choose between our family and the greater good of the entire city?"

Are you f-ing kidding me? Of all the reasons the writers could have come up with for her to stay put, that's gotta be the lamest. We're seriously supposed to believe that Cecile would willingly give up her husband and child in order to stick around and play superhero? Jesus Christ! 

I'm sure the writers thought they were making her look noble and selfless here, but instead she comes off as a selfish, narcissistic asshole.

• For some reason, this episode gives us numerous flashbacks to things that just happened last week. Sure, they've always done this on occasion to remind us of important plot points, but never to this extent. It was truly bizarre. 

Showrunner Eric Wallace directed the episode, and he apparently doesn't think the audience can remember anything that happened just seven days ago.

• After the stunning news of Caitlin's offscreen death, Iris asks Barry if he's OK. This triggers a flashback to last season, where Barry found out Caitlin was trying to resurrect Frost, summarily decided this was wrong and used his Speed Force lightning to destroy her equipment. The memory of this then gives him icky bad feelings.

As well it should! I said last season that whether he agreed with her experiment or not, he had no right to trash her lab. Now he's apparently upset to find out that his actions have consequences, and Caitlin would likely still be alive if he hadn't thrown a hissy fit and blown up her equipment.

MORE HEAVY DUTY NITPICKING: At the Krakatoa Club, Hartley says goodbye to his boyfriend Roderick and then walks out the front door. We then see a Mystery Woman get up and follow him. Let me repeat that: She FOLLOWS him out the door.

We then cut to him walking to his car in the parking lot. Suddenly the Mystery Woman appears IN FRONT of Hartley and confronts him. Wait, what?

How in the name of Stan Lee's Mighty Toupee did she walk out AFTER he did but end up in the lot BEFORE him? Did she elbow her way past him really fast, and he was diddling with his phone and didn't notice? Did she walk out backwards so he thought she was coming in? Or can she secretly teleport, in addition to her musical powers?

• The Mystery Woman turns out to be The Fiddler, who fires off a sonic blast at Hartley with her, er, fiddle.

Amazingly, this is the fifth version of The Fiddler in the Arrowverse! There was the Izzy Bowin version, who appeared in The Flash Season 4 episode Subject 9. Then over on Stargirl we saw the original Fiddler, a male villain who was a member of the Injustice Society Of America. After his death, his wife Anaya Bowin became the new Fiddler. Then after she was killed, her son Isaac Bowin took up the family mantle.

I don't exactly get why, but the producers of these shows are positively obsessed with the whole Fiddler concept!

• When Hartley exits the club, he's most definitely NOT wearing his sonic gauntlets. 

A few seconds later The Fiddler then attacks him, causing him to duck behind a car. When he emerges— you guessed it— he's suddenly wearing the gauntlets!

OK, there's plenty of time for him to put 'em on while the camera was pointed elsewhere. The real question is where the hell did they come from? Did he have 'em stuffed inside the pockets of his trench coat? Was he wearing them under his coat and rolled up the sleeves while we weren't looking? Can he materialize them somehow?

• Before The Fiddler can finish off Hartley, he uses his gauntlets to literally fly away, propelled by sonic beams. I gotta admit, that was pretty darned cool!

• Hartley shows up at STAR Labs, seconds away from death. As a former employee of STAR, he's familiar with the Medbay and its equipment, and tells Barry to get the sonic cuff from the bottom drawer and place it on his arm. He's then annoyed when Barry can't find the cuff and finally locates it in the top drawer.

Jeez, Hartley, cut him a break! It's been at least nine years since you worked in the STAR Labs Medlab. It's a given the place has been rearranged and reorganized at least once in that time!

• After Chillblaine storms out of STAR, Barry tracks him down at O'Shaughnessy's Pub. There, he tells Chillblaine he's part of the team now, and needs to trust them.

Wait, what? When the hell did THAT happen? And why would they make this former— and probably  still current— criminal a member of Team Flash? Because he was snogging Frost?

Barry also tells Chillblaine that being part of the team means no more "going rogue." Is... is that some foreshadowing there? Like a subtle hint that Chillblaine might be forming his own Rogue's Gallery, as seen in The Flash comics?

By the way, for the past couple seasons now we've been getting establishing shots of O'Shaughnessy's like this one. As I pointed out in past reviews, the part of the Pub is played by the Back Forty bar, located at 111 Robson Street in downtown Vancouver. Amazingly, it's literally right across the street from the BC Place— the stadium used for STAR Labs exteriors.

So why no establishing shot this week? Welp, because the bar doesn't exist anymore!

According to the CBR website, the building was razed for some reason back in December 2022. RIP O'Shaughnessy's Bar!

I don't get why the producers still couldn't have given us an establishing shot of the place though. They clearly filmed numerous angles of it in both day and nighttime, so I don't understand why they couldn't just splice an old shot into the episode. Puzzling!

• In the Medlab, Snow talks with Hartley, who's now wearing an official STAR Labs t-shirt. I guess he took off the shirt he came in with and helped himself to one from their storeroom (or the gift shop!). Note that he would have had to remove the sonic cuff around his upper arm to do so! I guess it didn't kill him to take it off for a few seconds?

• During their chat, the highly innocent Snow seems to intuitively sense Hartley's mental pain, and knows exactly what to say in order to get him to reconsider about his life choices and do the right thing. Apparently Snow has the incredibly useful superpower of Patented The CW Pep Talks®!

• Hartley tells Snow that Central City has more meta violence per capita than any other city in the world. After nine seasons of The Flash we all knew that of course, but it was nice to have it confirmed.

• Snow spends hours staring out the windows at the rain, and tells Cecile she loves nature and feels connected to it or something. It's impossible to watch this scene and not think of the plant-controlling Layla Williams, Danielle Panabaker's character in Sky High.

• Cecile's puzzled (but strangely unworried) when she finds out she can't read Snow's thoughts. I have a feeling this throwaway line's gonna become really important later on, and Snow's gonna turn out to be a secret evil meta or something.

• Barry discovers the technobabble pod can't separate Snow into both Caitlin AND Frost, and can only restore one of them. Team Flash then takes a vote to decide which one to resurrect. Snow gets wind of this and refuses to go along with it, saying she's a real girl now and doesn't want to die.

If this all sounds vaguely familiar, that's because it is. This storyline is virtually identical to the plot of the Star Trek: Voyager Season 2 episode Tuvix.

In that episode, a transporter malfunction fused Lt. Tuvok and Neelix into a brand new being, dubbed Tuvix. The Holographic Doctor began looking for a way to separate Tuvix into his component halves, but in the meantime he experienced life onboard the ship, and became a valued member of the crew.

When the Doctor finally discovered a way to restore Tuvox and Neelix, Tuvix objected. He stated he was his own person now, and the procedure would effectively kill him. In the end, Captain Janeway made the decision to literally murder Tuvix so she could have her original crewmembers back.

Methinks Eric Wallace is a secret Voyager fan and hoped no one would notice his copy & paste job here.

• A thought just occurred to me about Khione's situation. In the third act she puts her foot down and refuses to get back in the pod, because doing so will make her cease to exist and she wants to live.

Is... is this some weird Right To Life metaphor? It kind of seems like it, but man, it seems really out of place here. The Flash— and the Arrowverse as a whole— has always been aggressively woke in its storylines and viewpoints. Which makes an anti-abortion subplot the last thing I ever expected to see on this show!

• At the Krakatoa Club, The Fiddler tortures Hartley's boyfriend Roderick with a sonic blast. When Hartley shows up to rescue him she quips, "I knew if I put the squeeze on your squeeze you'd show up sooner or later!"

Hey, it ain't Shakespeare, but it's definitely the best line in this fakakta episode.

• Barry arrives at the club and destroys The Fiddler's, er, fiddle. She then demonstrates her power was inside her all along, and lets loose with a sonic scream. It knocks Hartley to the floor, but Barry manages to withstand the blast by phasing and letting it pass harmlessly through him. Wait, what? 

So... that means he's deaf when he phases then, right? The sound waves would go right through his eardrums and prevent them from vibrating, meaning he couldn't hear anything as long as he's phasing. 

Didn't think about that, did you, writers?

• This new Fiddler's real name is Andrea Wozzack (pronounced something like "Vojack"). She appears to be an original creation of the show, as I couldn't find any evidence of her in any DC comics.

• Snow informs Chillblaine that she won't be morphing back into Caitlin or Frost, because she likes who she is now. When he protests, she says, "I found out today that my father always dreamed of creating something or someone new, and he called her Khione. But science is like nature. It can be cruel as well as beautiful. Either way, we can't control it."

That sounded... ominous, and felt like some more foreshadowing. Despite her gentle and innocent disposition, I get the distinct feeling she's not as sweet as she appears, and will soon discover she has some sort of major nature-based powers.

• As mentioned above, Snow decides to call herself "Khione," after the Greek goddess of snow. If that name sounds familiar, there's a reason for it. Back in the Season 5 episode All Doll'd Up, Team Flash discovered an equation in Thomas Snow's lab, which somehow translated into chemical symbols that spelled out "K H I O Ne." Somehow this made Caitlin realize her father knew she was secretly an ice meta or something. Just go along with it or we'll be here all day.

By the way... if Chillblaine was right and Snow really doesn't have any memories of her own, then how they hell did she know about the whole "Khione" thing? Whoops!

• Chillblaine doesn't take kindly to Khione's decision to live her own life, and orders her into the regeneration pod. Just then Hartley enters and destroys the pod with a sonic scream. 

Woah, wait a minute... if he can generate his own blasts, then why's he need his gauntlets?

Welp, chalk that up to our old friend Crisis On Infinite Earths. The Pre-Crisis Hartley had the incredibly useful power of enhanced hearing, and built his own sonic gauntlets to get his revenge on Harrison Wells for firing him from STAR Labs.

The Post-Crisis Hartley suddenly had internalized powers, and could fire off destructive sonic blasts by screaming. For reasons known only to the writers, he still kept his gauntlets too.

• I actually wouldn't mind if Hartley became a full-fledged member of Team Flash. He's definitely more a interesting character than Chillblaine!

• The god rays return again this week! Jaysis, look at all that atmospheric smoke! Did Barry & Iris' Loft catch on fire or something? Did Barry try & make microwave popcorn and burn it?

• Even More Heavy Duty Nitpicking: Early in the episode, Iris was disappointed when Team Flash business forced her and Barry to cancel their plans to visit the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone Park.

In the obligatory wrapup, she asks Barry if he has any weekend plans and he replies, "Actually, I was thinking we could take in a geyser." We then hard cut to the two of them dancing at the Krakatoa Club.

Yeah, Krakatoa was a famous volcano, not a goddamned geyser. While the two do share some similarities, they're completely different phenomena. A volcano's a mountain or hill that spews molten lava, rock fragments and gases from the Earth's crust. Geysers happen close to the surface, when subterranean water becomes superheated and shoots from the ground as steam.

Geysers generally form near volcanoes, but aren't related. Way to ignore basic science for the sake of a lame joke, writers!

Annnnnnnd then we come to the most infuriating part of the episode, as Team Flash honors the memory of their beloved friend Caitlin by holding a solemn vigil for her. Nah, I'm just kidding. They go out clubbing!

And to make things even worse, they're cavorting around the dance floor with a woman who looks EXACTLY like their fallen comrade, and none of them seems to be the least bit weirded out by it.

Jesus Jetskiing Christ On A Cracker!

OK, lots of people will hold a wake after a friend dies. But that's usually after the funeral ceremony, and involves a small carry-in dinner and polite conversation. Team Flash skips all that nonsense and heads straight for the night club!

It's one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen on a TV show.

Joe here perfectly captures the way I feel about this whole sorry episode.

• Sometimes I feel bad for the actors on this show— especially when they're handed a script like this one. They likely know it's bullsh*t that their characters are dancing at a club right after finding out Caitlin died, but they're contractually obligated to perform such scenes anyway and pretend they're fine with it. Kudos to them for even showing up every day!

• Over at the warehouse, Boomerang 2.0 and The Fiddler hook up Hartley's gauntlets to a technobabble device. They activate it, and it envelops their Mystery Villain leader in sonic waves that stabilize them or something.

Once stabilized, we see the Mystery Villain is indeed Red Death, as I said last week.

In the comics, Red Death started out as the Batman of Earth-52, who went crazy for reasons, kidnapped his world's Flash and stole his speed. He then became an unhinged speedster vigilante.

Obviously this version of Red Death will have a radically different origin, since there's no Batman in the Arrowverse.

Here's a better look at Reddy's armor, courtesy of a behind the scenes photo. A lot of fans are complaining that it looks like a Power Rangers costume, but eh... it's actually a pretty accurate representation of the one from the comics. It'll do.

And no, despite that watermark in the image ("Canadagraphs"), I had nothing to do with this photo.

• Red Death then stares out over the city and hisses, "Central City, the Flash disgraced me. Now all of you will pay the price, and justice will be served."

Yawn. Yet ANOTHER villain who wants revenge on the Flash and/or his home for some perceived slight against them— which seems to be the only plot Eric Wallace can ever come up with.

• We then get a first on the show, as what appears to be a blooper reel of the club scene plays over the end credits. Unless I'm completely mistaken, they've never done anything like this before.

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