Season Three, Episode Five — “Monster”
By Jarrod Jones. So here’s a novel idea — Barry & Cisco, the Odd Couple.
It’s a no-brainer when you think about it. Barry Allen and Cisco Ramon, besties and partners forever, living together where there’s candy lying around and the PlayStation 4 is always kept warm. Bro-pad. Star Wars references and sci-fi novels. Think of all the hilarity at hand. But The Flash wanted Barry to live with his surrogate family, which has only gotten weird now that he’s making out with his surrogate sister.
In fact, it’s been weird for everybody since Flashpoint. Up is only up where it’s most narratively convenient, but this is The Flash, where there’s convenience enough for everything, even the stuff that’s totally topsy-turvy. For one, Caitlin Snow’a burgeoning ice-powers are becoming a problem, but for some reason she just won’t tell her scientist friends — arguably the only folks who can really help her. Instead, the show makes room for another ancillary character: This time, Dr. Tannhauser, also known as Catlin’s Ice-Cold Workaholic Mother.
There’s also a helpful, handsome lab assistant named Nigel, a perfect love interest for Dr. Snow (he calls her “Frosty”) but it isn’t long before it becomes clear that he has chilly ambitions of his own. Guess Ronnie Raymond remains the only good guy that could melt Caitlin’s heart.
Obviousness isn’t just for Caitlin’s subplot this week — there’s Julian Dorn, the antagonistic CSI who is dead-set on seeing Barry get the sack at CCPD. All Barry has to do is get this guy on his side in order for him to more freely operate as The Flash, but of course he can’t tell Malfoy that. So Barry appeals to his vanity, in such an obvious manner that he has to double down on the sugar and offer up his precious lab as an added incentive for his partner to play nice. “All right, Allen,” Julian says. “Don’t slow me down.” (As if.)
Julian has Barry’s number. He sees right through our hero, but doesn’t let that animosity get in the way of doing his job. In a way, he’s like the Anti-Barry, a nihilist who sees the merits of civic duty. (This week, we find out he served in the military.)
Meanwhile, there’s the new Harrison Wells of Earth-19. (He likes to be called “H.R.”) He’s a chipper sort, always smiling, knows precisely what kind of coffee everyone likes, brings bagels to work, and is always eager to please. So, naturally, everyone’s having a tough time trusting him. Of course, he is up to something, and if his ebullient explanation by episode’s end didn’t convince you, don’t worry — we only have the rest of the season to figure things out.
All of this intrigue would be enough, but this show’s called The Flash, not Barry Allen: All-American. So for good measure, we have a giant monster to contend with.
What is the monster for which episode is named? Could it be Caitlin Snow, who showed this week that you don’t want to pin her in a corner? (Hands off, evil-doers!) Is it Wells-19, who obviously has something highly suspicious lurking behind his million-dollar smile? It couldn’t be 70ft leviathan lurking through the streets of Central City — that would be too obvious, right? Maybe, but it is the very showy centerpiece to an otherwise well-constructed episode. “Monster” may be filler, but at least it’s engaging filler.
“Barry, sometimes a man just wants to butter his own bread.” – Cisco.
“If you think I’m gonna break down now and tell you that one killed my parents and that’s why I have to do this job, I’m not, okay? I don’t need a deep, personal reason to hate metas, Allen.” – Julian, who remains a brilliant antagonist for Barry.
“I can be a muse.” – Wells-19.
BEST MOMENT: Julian has his day. Barry and Julian have been at each other’s throats for the first four episodes. We’ve been told we should distrust (or even dislike) Julian, who didn’t have so much as a middle name in this series, let alone a backstory. Well, that changed this week, and Julian’s confession to Barry only added another dimension to Tom Felton’s tremendous performance.
EPISODE’S MVP: Julian Dorn. If he turns out to be Alchemy, I’m going to be very, very upset.
– Is anyone else loving that Wells-19 carries around a wizard’s wand, and nobody acknowledges it?
– “This is something that goes back three years. Something that’s been forged in fire — sometimes literally — so maybe you should just step back and observe…” I’m sure Cisco is referring to Professor Martin Stein and Jefferson Jackson, two halves of the whole that is Firestorm, The Nuclear Man. (Also Ronnie Raymond, but I don’t miss him — do you?)
– Magic lassos… a cheeky reference to Wonder Woman?
– If Hitchcock exists on Earth-19, then he is most certainly a hack. How does Murder on the Titanic sound? Here’s a quote: “Who did it?” “Who cares? We’re drowning!”
– Earth-19’s meta-human war, called World War M. Somewhere on Earth-Prime, Marvel Comics is just twitchin’ to call their lawyers.
– Gladiator is called Sweaty Men on Earth-19, which continuously sounds like an awful place.
8.5 out of 10
Next: “Shade,” soon.
Before: “Magenta”, “The New Rogues,” here.