This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 5 Episode 3
Well, they did it. The rare Flash episode hat trick. We never had three exceptional episodes in a row in season four, and right now The Flash season 5 is three-for-three. Misleading title aside (for real, is this the TV episode title of clickbait?), “The Death of Vibe” is not only a solid hour of The Flash, it’s the kind of unhurried (be quiet!) storytelling that the show could do with a lot more of. It’s got a bigger story to develop, and this week, it doesn’t even pretend to feel obligated to use a villain of the week as a device to get things moving.
It takes something on the order of three minutes for “The Death of Vibe” to give us a better picture of Nora and flesh out the mystery of the Cicada even further. Even before the other revelations that were teased out over the rest of the episode, those opening moments got me fully on board with the idea of Cicada as the season-long big bad. Cicada as a “metahuman Jack the Ripper” who has appeared at various points in future DC Arrowverse history, never to be caught, is a terrific introduction, one that not only divorces him almost completely from his comic book counterpart (for the better), but also adds a layer of mystery nearly as powerful as his power-dampening abilities themselves.
I will confess, I am more than a little fuzzy on the logic of Nora not wanting to change the past too much but then also needing to change it, and thus the drastic steps of bringing in the new Wells. Have I just not been paying close enough attention, or was this all a little vague from the start? I suspect this is one of those things I shouldn’t think too hard about, because the rules change whenever it’s convenient. But whatever, if it keeps moving this season along as efficiently as these first three episodes, I don’t care.
I’m still less “in” on the Caitlin and Ralph sidequest than everything else the show has going right now. However, I’m starting to genuinely like Caitlin and Ralph’s interactions even more, but I do wish it left a little more time for Caitlin/Cisco. But it’s a fine b story, and I never feel like it’s a distraction or a time waster.
It’s more of a relief to see everything on this show lining up like they should, with characters clicking the way we know they can, and nearly everyone getting their little moments. Just Iris’ “I trust you” to Nora when Nora has her plan to save Cisco spoke volumes, reminding us why she is so often the leader of this team. And is it me, or is this by far the most relaxed and authoritative we’ve ever seen Barry Allen? This is the most fully-formed, least damaged Flash we’ve ever had, and while good writing goes a long way, I feel like Grant Gustin is really inhabiting that element of it well. I feel like I’ve said this at various points in previous seasons, but I mean it this time!
And once again, the show finds time for its sense of humor, but compartmentalizes it in just the right way. Ralph volunteering to take care of that armed robbery so that the team can get on with solving the Cicada mystery was a great moment for him, and I love the idea that Ralph will spend time building experience points on side missions rather than being forced into heavier storylines that the character might not fit in with at times. And really, the eco-friendly armed robber was genuinely hilarious, and probably funnier than any single joke we got last year. I think they finally figured out just what to do with this character, just where to deploy him as Ralph and when he should be Elongated Man, and when Hartley Sawyer’s comic timing is most needed.
I spent much of the episode not being sold on Sherloque Wells and…whatever that accent is. Surely, Tom Cavanagh isn’t going to do that all season, right? But he grew on me pretty quickly, and (as expected) the Cavanagh/Valdes pairing produced immediate comedic sparks. With his final moments with Nora, however, my doubts evaporated completely. I’m in for whatever mysteries this character is hiding, and I look forward to solving others with him.
In fact, the introduction of Sherloque is a perfect example of what The Flash season 5 is doing so well right now. Season four felt like such an obviously self-conscious attempt to clear the table of the emotional baggage and “darkness” of season three that it was jarring. But season five is still embracing the weirdness of last year, nodding to it, and making it work within whatever its new context is. “The Council of Wells,” which was the cause of so many eyerolls that I wondered if I was going to end up sending WBTV an opthamologist bill, is touched on here and…the joke worked. I mean, c’mon, “Kinderflash” is charming.
But this is what good TV shows should be able to do. The old “jump the shark” routine is stale. Good shows, provided they haven’t completely betrayed the audience’s trust or intelligence (and for all my annoyance about season four, I wouldn’t go that far) are allowed a wobble. Hell, just look at the latest season of Daredevil (please look at it, I have written so many words on it), which is a genuine masterpiece, coming at a time when most critics have been bemoaning how the show lost its way with too many ninjas and crossover setups in its second season. Good TV finds a way, and so far, The Flash season 5 is good TV.
– I’m so thrilled we finally got to go inside the Flash Museum…even if I didn’t spot anything we didn’t already know about. It’s full of stuff we’ve seen throughout the seasons, but no big clues or revelations, right? Feel free to correct me in the comments.
I did, however, get kind of a Booster Gold origin story vibe from Nora creeping around the museum like that, but I suspect that was probably accidental.
– The new Wells admits to taking out 37 Cicadas at different points in the multiverse, including this one (is this a nod to the infamous Clerks “36 + 1” joke? Kevin Smith is so often in the orbit of these shows, after all), and they’re always David Hersh. And David Hersh is Cicada in the comics, and I’m not entirely convinced that we’re not getting some naming shenanigans here.
Meanwhile, I feel like the presence of old cars and trucks in Hersh’s “lair” where they find him hint at the comics version of Cicada’s immortality. Is that a red herring, especially since apparently this David Hersh isn’t Cicada after all?
And then there’s the matter of the actual Cicada. His name is apparently Orlen, which the miracle of the internet tells me means “unknown source of immortal power.” That…that sure sounds like Cicada, doesn’t it?
In the comics (and again, I got into all of this in detail here), Cicada is trying to bring his dead wife back via the life force he is harvesting from his victims. Here, it appears he is trying to bring a comatose daughter back. As Cicada was the cause of his wife’s um, misfortune, in the comics, will we learn that he’s the reason his daughter is in a coma?
– Are there seriously 14 million people in Central City?!?! This would make it one of the biggest cities in the world, and, not for nothing…it doesn’t look it. Population density in Central City is pretty light.
– How much of the dialogue on this show do you think is improvised? I’m betting that Cisco’s “steaming pile of sideye” and Wells’ “stay here and bite the leaves” (hilarious) aside to Ralph were in the moment. Maybe.