Just when it appears the Cicada saga might finally be at an end, The Flash pulls the rug out from under us again. It’s not that much of a surprise, given that we got a glimpse of a potential future version of Grace-as-Cicada a few weeks ago, but the story isn’t over quite yet. If nothing else, however, we can hope the events of “Failure Is An Orphan” are reason enough for Chris Klein to retire his growly supervillain voice.
Even without the finality many of us hoped for, “Failure Is An Orphan” does a better job of advancing the arc than most recent episodes. The time is at hand for the Flash’s final confrontation with Cicada, at least according to Nora’s chronology, and Barry hopes to use this opportunity to convince Dwyer to take the cure willingly. He hasn’t practiced what he’s going to say, but hey, he’s the Flash! Talking bad people into turning over a new leaf is what he does. At least that’s Nora’s take on the situation, and while she is able to cite some positive examples like Leonard Snart and Killer Frost, Barry is at least self-aware enough to point out that his track record isn’t exactly spotless in that regard.
Sure enough, Barry’s first attempt at talking Dwyer into taking the cure fails miserably, and everyone watching at home knows why. “Talk to him like a father” is the obvious way to go, but somehow he doesn’t think of that, instead prattling on about Cicada’s legacy as a monster of Central City. It’s Joe who tells him to emphasize Barry over the Flash, since Cicada can’t see past the meta to the man within. Barry returns the favor by telling Joe to set his pride aside and let Cecile do her empathy thing in interrogating Dr. Ambres, who the team now suspects of aiding Dwyer. “You’re getting pretty good at this pep talk thing,” says Joe, and jeez, you would sure hope so by now.
Back at STAR Labs, Sherloque continues to be suspicious of Nora and also continues not sharing those suspicions with anyone else. Since the capture of Cicada could mean the end of both Sherloque’s and Nora’s time with Team Flash, Iris is trying to spend as much time with the future version of her daughter as possible, but Nora is preoccupied with the Cicada mission, as Thawne has warned her there’s a potential change to the timeline in the works.
The hour really comes to life in its final 20 minutes or so, once the team learns from Ambres that Grace is now a meta, too. Barry uses this information to convince an extra-growly Cicada to submit the cure, sealing the deal by unmasking, because...well, what even is a secret identity anymore on this show? (Then again, it’s not as if Barry Allen is famous. All Dwyer knows for sure at this point is that the Flash is a guy who looks vaguely like John Mulaney.)
The sequence in STAR Labs with Cicada is suspenseful enough, right down to the power going out at a crucial moment. That marks the arrival of another Cicada, the identity of whom is a mystery only to Team Flash. This version trashes the lab, kills Ambres with the dagger, and makes off with a post-cure Dwyer, a frost suture now holding his chest together. Removing her mask while saying it’s good to see “Uncle Orlin” again seals the deal: this is the adult Grace from the future—most likely the alteration to the timeline detected by Thawne.
So what does this mean for the rest of the season? Presumably, in giving Dwyer the cure and erasing all of Cicada’s future bad deeds, Team Flash has inadvertently created a new future for Grace. But is she now changing that future again by taking Dwyer away from STAR Labs? The timeline is malleable, after all, but at this point it’s almost as if The Flash is setting up a situation where no story can ever truly end, because it can always be changed again. Time travel is a fun narrative device, but as this show has demonstrated before, it can easily be misused. Here’s hoping that’s not the case this time.
- Let’s hear it for Acid Master, possibly the meta-of-the-week with the least screen time in the show’s history. Maybe there’s only so much you can do with a guy who shoots deadly acid out of his hands. Kudos to Cisco for coming up with the nickname before he even knew the guy’s name was Philip Master.
- Nice deep DC cut from Thawne, referencing Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth.
- You know XS has really arrived when she gets her own drink at Jitters - the XS-presso.