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THE FLASH “Monster” Review

By on November 2, 2016

Pictured: Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow -- Photo: Katie Yu/The CW

By Justin Carter

It’s nice to remember that for all the pomp and circumstance that comes with these superhero proceedings, sometimes it’s good to just be simple.

Last year’s season of The Flash suffered in part from being incredibly convoluted with how it handled its main villain and overarching plot, and one has to imagine that the writers have realized this, which is why we’ve got our second episode in a row that doesn’t address the threat of Dr. Alchemy looming over our protagonists heads.

Instead, we’ve got a simple monster story. A giant beast that looks like it was a concept for Cloverfield at one point is terrorizing Central City. Barry has to deal with the monster on two ends. As the Flash, he has to work with Cisco and HR Wells to find a way to subdue the thing, while his CSI gig means he has to put his problems with Julian Albert in order to track the monster down.

Jumping back and forth between the CCPD and STAR Labs turns out to be enlightening for both (relative) newcomers to the main cast, with Wells obviously getting the spotlight in that regard. It’s nice to see that after two years of being duped by guys with Wells’ face that Barry and Cisco immediately realize something’s up with the guy. Anyone who memorizes everyone’s coffee order in a few days and doesn’t even use the simplest of sayings like “see you later” has to have something wrong with him, and sure enough, there is.

Earth-19’s Harrison Wells isn’t some genius on the same level of Thawne-Wells or Harry, he’s just a con man and sci-fi novelist who discovered the multiverse because an assistant showed him Cisco and Harry’s message. At worst, he’s a liar who managed to hide his lies for a couple of days and barely knows how to use a computer and pretends like he’s a contributing member of the team. It’s a nice little twist on the formula the show has been using the last two years, and it’s just fun to see Tom Cavanaugh try to BS his way to getting the others back on his side after the grand truth is revealed to him. It’s like when your stoner friend seems to have a burst of brilliance, but then turns out to be exactly as much of a dope as he first appeared to be; it’s too endearing and funny to be truly upset about.

Julian, meanwhile, finally gets more depth beyond just being “Tom Felton, But a Cop,” and it’s again refreshingly simple. His dislike of Barry and metahumans are both tied to his hatred for what his family wanted him to be, someone who just used their status to get by. It’s nice to know that his dislike of superpowered people in general isn’t a typical superhero origin story (something that he even points out), he just legit wants to help people and thinks he’d do just that if he were given powers. Even though his speech about he wants gifts of his own may as well come with a footnote reading: “This will not end well for him in about two months,” Felton makes the material work, and there’s some cute irony in having Draco Malfoy talk about how he didn’t want his family’s name to define him.

As nice as it is for simplicity to be the word of the day here for this week’s episode, it does come with some missteps. The grand reveal of the villain being just a teenager controlling a hologram monster doesn’t really work when you think about it (it blows up transformers, but doesn’t cause any damage to the city?), and the talk between the kid and Joe feels a little too on the nose in terms of its message. Yeah, the kid was bullied in high school, but we also don’t know who he is until the last 10 minutes or so of the episode. It’s not even like he was a background character earlier this season, he just shows up and then is gone.

Likewise, Caitlin’s storyline doesn’t hit all the emotional beats it should. With her ice powers growing, she goes to her mom, Dr. Tannhauser (Teen Wolf’s Susan Walters) for help, but her mom is a very cold person, something Caitlin’s very quick to point out. Bad ice puns aside (the show’s never been subtle in that regard), the back and forth between Caitlin and Tannhauser doesn’t really shine until her mother finally opens about retreating into her work following the death of her husband. Caitlin’s certainly no stranger to tragedy herself, given that her husband died twice, she had to watch her alternate universe self die, and her boyfriend turned out to be an evil serial killer. It’s totally understandable that her Killer Frost persona starts to take over, but I also find myself wishing that she was at least considering going to the others for help, since she works with two and a half metahumans.

But, as we all know, just because something seems simple doesn’t mean that it is, and with Dr. Alchemy looming on the horizon, things are certainly about to get complicated. “Monster” works mostly because it doesn’t become overburdened with plot, just don’t think about it too hard.
Additional Notes

  • Okay, so Barry’s definitely going to tell Julian his identity before the winter break, right?
  • “It’s like Empire of the Sun, Barry!” “Empire Strikes Ba–” “Like Empire Strikes Back, Barry!”
  • See you in two weeks, when Wally starts having visions of being Kid Flash!”

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