This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 5 Episode 20
Within the Arrowverse, villains of the week are a necessary evil. Well, they’re necessary inasmuch as these shows refuse to abandon their 22 episode seasons (the upcoming, abbreviated final season of Arrow notwithstanding), or barring that, treating each half of the long season as a more focused “mini-season.” But anyway, from time to time you’re gonna end up with a villain of the week.
It’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes you luck out, and end up with someone like Rag Doll, who made his debut earlier this season in “All Doll’d Up.” While not a classic, it was about as solid as you could hope from a semi-throwaway instalment, and Ragdoll himself is an eerie, occasionally genuinely scary presence, and it’s nice to see him return in “Going Rogue.” In the pantheon of Arrowverse throwaway villains, most are forgettable or bland. But there’s a small handful who make me long for the sweet release of death at the very mention of their name (Arrow’s Cupid comes to mind), and another name on this wall of shame is last season’s Insect Queen, who makes a surprisingly inoffensive return in this episode. Although, perhaps that generally un-irritating-ness has more to do with the fact that “Going Rogue” is so flatly written that you could have substituted just about any other minor villain here and the effect would be the same. It’s never a good sign when you can plug and play characters in an episode for the same effect.
While The Flash season 5 has generally been pretty good, despite delivering the least effective big bad in the series’ (if not the entire Arrowverse’s) history, “Going Rogue” is a prime example of all the little weaknesses catching up to the show at once. Nora’s story has gone on for at least two episodes too long, and while her overall arc is a sound one, there’s been far too much back and forth between Barry and Iris about their daughter and too much angst on the part of Nora. When you think about all of the points that have been central to Nora’s story this year, Iris’ sadness because her daughter didn’t like or trust her feel like it’s from two seasons ago. And that’s only one of the many moving parts.
Despite this, Nora using the Negative Speed Force to return to 2019 without being detected by Barry, with her intentions having been corrupted is a neat trick. It might have been even cooler if there had been a break from Nora at some point (or if this season had ended with Barry stranding her in the future), and the episode kept the audience in the dark as to who was pulling those heists just as Team Flash was early on. They missed an opportunity for a cool dramatic reveal, and once we knew more than the team, there was little doubt where Nora’s loyalties would be at the end of the episode. And while the Thawne mystery has absolutely been a season highlight, I worry that we’re in for a whole lot of talking/explaining in these last two episodes rather than showing/revealing as this all unfolds.
And even though a handful of important things happen in it, “Going Rogue” is endlessly predictable and feels like a filler episode. None of the “Young Rogues” are compelling (although I do appreciate Rag Doll seemingly taking on some more of his Secret Six ways of speaking at times), there’s no chemistry between any of them or Nora, and instead we’re left with an episode that is scenes of Nora doing things that we know she shouldn’t, punctuated with more Barry/Iris drama (although thankfully this appears to have been resolved), and not enough genuine forward motion. There’s little that happens here that could have been done via dialogue in another episode.
There were just enough bright spots to keep “Going Rogue” from slipping completely into oblivion. “The Book of Ralph” having an almost cult-y self-help effect on Cisco is really inspired and genuinely funny, as was Ralph and Caitlin’s “heart to heart” on their side mission. Nothing is fundamentally broken with this show (ok, fine, I still think Killer Frost is completely broken and Cicada doesn’t count), and once again, this cast is able to power through all but the very worst episodes.
Maybe some of the problems would have been tempered if anyone had anything left invested in the season’s big bad story, but we all know that isn’t the case. Sure, we finally learn her plan, and it finally becomes apparent why the similarly insufferable Snow family story is central to that plan, but even this is too little, too late. Is anyone really excited to see a “race against time while metahuman panic sets in” episode, especially after the virtually nonsensical nursery rhyme ending we got with the Cicada family here? My only hope is that Cicada is dispatched next week and we’re left with a Barry/Thawne confrontation for the finale.
– So between “McCulloch Technologies” and that mirror gun at the end, it sure does feel like maybe the show is setting up the second Mirror Master, Evan McCulloch as a potential future big villain. Anyone will be better than Cicada.
– Cisco has named the satellites after the cast of Sex and the City.
– The address 34th and Williamson comes up. Joshua Williamson has been writing The Flash for DC Comics since 2016, and he is crafting one of the all time great runs on the character. Godspeed from a couple of weeks ago was his creation.
– G. Simone and Associates refers to the brilliant Gail Simone, who, among other things, is responsible for the brilliant Secret Six series, in which Ragdoll was a major player.
– Jenni Ognats is the name of the comic book XS, so it makes sense Nora would have her name on her ID.