This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 3 Episode 5
Wow. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an episode of The Flash quite like this one. A standalone episode like “Monster” seems like it would be an excuse to be disposable, right? Roll out an obscure villain, heap in some clever DC Comics trivia, and sleepwalk your way towards that 23 episode obligation.
Nope. Not tonight!
In virtually every way, “Monster” managed to defy expectations. From the fact that the titular monster wasn’t real in the first place, to the fact that Julian isn’t quite the enormous penis he’s been made out to be in the first few episodes, to whatever is up with H.R. Wells. There was no greater evil to be fought, not a sign of Alchemy, as little mention of Flashpoint as possible, and the steady, inexorable march towards evil of Caitlin Snow.
The Caitlin thing is a perfect example of, not just what this episode did well, but what the show in general has been getting right all season long. The season’s big bad isn’t yet fully-formed and certainly isn’t as omnipresent as Reverse-Flash or Zoom were in earlier years. My concerns about Flashpoint being this season’s “villain engine” appear to have been unfounded, as we’ve now had two episodes in a row where that had nothing to do with anything. See, I was completely convinced that Caitlin’s Killer Frost turn would end up being a result of Flashpoint or some contact she had with her other self on Earth-2. Instead, it appears to be the more sensible option, which is that her powers have been dormant since the particle accelerator accident in season one. It’s better this way, and it helps to further drive home how difficult this heel turn is going to be for her, the team, and all of us.
Susan Walters was terrific as Caitlin’s mom, the cool and ultra-professional Dr. Carla Tannhauser. Parental figured are so important to this show, and the chemistry between the parent and child needs to work and work well. You can’t build up standards like John Wesley Shipp/Grant Gustin or Jesse L. Martin/Candice Patton and not deliver on the next one, and we got that here.
Caitlin’s time will come in a future episode, though. “Monster” is really about mysteries like HR Wells and Julian Dorn. What I initially thought was going to be an episode about these two guys trying to outdick each other to their respective professional circles turned out to be something much more interesting.
We finally got some layers to Julian this week, which was nice after opening on him pulling that “bush league” “tattletale” nonsense. Nobody likes a rat, Julian. He can still be a douchebag, I’m cool with that, as we don’t want him getting too sympathetic too quickly. Again, the parallel I keep trying to draw is with Eddie Thawne in season one. They kept us guessing, made us legitimately like him, and then tore us to shreds. Do something similar with Julian, even if he ends up being a bad guy, but whatever it is, make that arc count. His honest assessment of his anti-meta argument sounds vauguely like something you’d imagine Lex Luthor to say in one of his more self-reflective moments, though.
“HR” Wells, by the way, is perfect. His dopey corporate-speak about “team-building exercises” and his self-help book style of not actually doing anything but just mirroring you to get you to like him would make him a perfect fit in either a corporate boardroom or as every self-styled “social media professional” huckster jackass you’ve ever met. Any excuse for Tom Cavanagh to stretch his legs a little is a good one, and while I might be a little bummed that we’re not going to get a “Wells Of The Week” format out of this show (c’mon, you would have watched the hell out of an episode with Mime Wells), there’s still lots to explore here.
But to end it all with the revelation that the villain wasn’t even really a villain at all, there was no greater evil to be fought here, and it was just kind of another day (a weird one, to be sure) in Central City was really something kinda special. Our “villain” was just a scared, sympathetic kid. And this kid that Julian almost killed in his eagerness to make a difference was really just a reflection of his own fears and how so many other characters on this show could have gone with a wrong turn was pretty bold. We could use more standalone episodes like this.
– Was there seriously no DC Universe stuff in this episode? I’m…kinda cool with that.
– I’m convinced that HR is still hiding something and his real mission still hasn’t been revealed. I don’t even necessarily think it’s anything malevolent, mind you, I just think there’s more to it. Like, what if he’s one of Green Lantern’s Guardians? For real, what if he’s Ganthet in disguise and this is how they’re going to…oh, fine, I’ll be quiet.
– The Hitchcock movie where the extra covers his ears before the gunshot is North By Northwest. That little bit of nitpicking aside, that’s a perfect movie and if you haven’t watched it, what are you sitting here reading my ramblings for? Go! Also, there is no such movie as Murder On The Titanic. Or Sweaty Men. Well, maybe that last one, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t star Russell Crowe.
I’m sure I missed something, right? I always miss something. Shout it out in the comments or hit me up on Twitter to let me know!