When the writers of The Flash decide to hammer home a theme, they go at like Thor on...uh..you know, one of Thor’s villains. (Come on, this is DC, not Marvel. I don’t have room for another rogues gallery in my head.) Despite laying it on thicker than deep-dish pizza, “Snow Pack” makes the importance of family into a unifying theme that holds together one of the better outings of the fifth season.
The West-Allen family is not doing so well at the moment, given that Barry whisked Nora back to the future without a word to Iris. That goes over about as well as you’d expect when he returns to the present and Iris catches up with him at STAR Labs. Their argument is raw by this show’s standards, and although Grant Gustin has a tendency to get a little screechy in these emotionally-charged scenes, both actors deliver. There’s no question that Iris is in the right here, as Barry had no right to make a unilateral decision on their daughter without even discussing it with Iris. It was an entirely emotional decision, and his efforts at turning that back on Iris aren’t especially convincing. (Yes, she’s obviously inclined to give Nora a second chance because Nora did the same for her, but that doesn’t change the fact that Barry never even thought to consult with her.)
Iris decides to act on her own, enlisting Ralph’s help with the time sphere to breach ahead to 2049. Nora is still working with “Hannibal Speedster,” trying to figure out how she can get back to her own time without signaling Barry through use of the Speed Force. Thawne has his own version of the Speed Force—a negative version that will require her to tap into her feelings of rage in order to access it. When Iris breaks into Iron Heights (aided by Ralph disguising himself as the guard), it should be a pretty big hint to Nora that she doesn’t need this negative force after all; she can simply hitch a ride back in the time sphere. She’s already too far gone in getting in touch with her anger, however, so she zips off in a huff and does it Thawne’s way.
The B-plot reflects the West-Allen (and Team Flash) family issues through the “Snow Pack,” which was Caitlin’s father’s nickname for their family. Icicle is back, having stolen a cryo-atomizer from Dr. Tannhauser’s lab. This is a little glowing ball with the capacity to freeze Central City, but that’s not why Icicle wants it. Using it and a sample of Caitlin’s blood, he can not only turn Tannhauser into a cold meta, but drain the humanity from both her and her daughter.
If you were to ask Caitlin before any of this happened, however, she would probably tell you Tannhauser had precious little humanity anyway. The irony that the coldest member of the Snow clan is the only one who doesn’t have ice powers is not lost on anyone. Caitlin and her mother can’t agree on anything, not even on how to try to escape the black site room where Icicle has them stashed. Spending this forced time together does have the effect of thawing their relationship a bit (yes, of course the pun was intended, Mr. Freeze), especially once Tannhauser tells Caitlin that she’s the one who felt abandoned when her daughter made a life of her own without her.
In the end, family wins out. Killer Frost emerges to battle Icicle, and they have a visually engaging battle while swooping on ice bridges around the mountainside. Icicle gets the upper hand, but Caitlin’s father is able to break through in time to save her, and later sacrifice himself when Cicada II shows up on the scene to swipe the cryo-atomizer. Caitlin and her mother are on good enough terms by the end to get a drink together. Barry and Iris talk it over and Barry admits he was wrong to act alone. (I’ll believe he’s really learned this lesson when I see it.) Nora arrives back in 2019 with glowing red eyes, and...well, that’s not great. But not all family disputes can be solved within one hour.
- The family theme even extends to Sherloque, who is about ready to head home when he’s called back into action to rescue Barry from hypothermia and help track down Icicle’s location. Ralph convinces him to stay, because, yes, Team Flash is his family.
- Even Thawne gets in on the act, as Iris senses that he has fatherly feelings for Nora.
- The strangest family of all: Grace and her younger self, who she kidnaps from the hospital and watches over back at her lair.
- Although Caitlin tells her mother that the tests show she is not a meta, we later glimpse the discarded tube in a hazmat bin and watch it turn from green to white.