To call “Monster” a filler episode might be going a little too far, especially considering the entertainment value of its extended introduction of our latest Harrison Wells and its advancement of Caitlin’s Killer Frost storyline. Still, the generic title is a pretty good indication that the A-plot is not going to be one of the Flash’s most memorable adventures. The giant monster terrorizing Central City turning out to be a holographic projection created by an angry nerd because he wanted to feel powerful…well, it’s a bit of a Scooby-Doo plot twist. (Anyway, shouldn’t that kid be content with hassling videogame journalists on Twitter?) It’s not much of a story on its own terms, but it’s more about the effect the monster attack and its aftermath have on Barry‘s two newest working relationships: Harrison “H.R.” Wells at STAR Labs and Julian Albert at CCPD.
In the case of H.R., the writers indulge in a bit of misdirection, knowing that our initial impulse is to be suspicious of any new Wells in our midst. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose first guess was that H.R. was behind the monster as a ploy to prove his usefulness to Team Flash. What at first appeared to be suggestions designed to push Cisco down the right path without implicating himself turned out to be vague spitballing by a bullshit artist. His sneaking around and recording secret messages aren’t part of a sinister conspiracy, but note-taking for a proposed novel about his adventures on a new Earth. His enthusiasm for learning everyone’s coffee orders has no malicious intent. Probably.
H.R. does turn out to be a fraud, but sort of a lovable one. He’s useless when it comes to providing scientific support, which is the whole reason Team Flash went looking for a new Wells in the first place, but the gang decides to keep him around for a while anyway just to see how it works out. I share their doubts about his long-term viability, but I can’t deny that Cavanagh’s turn as H.R. provided most of tonight’s best moments. Here’s a version of Wells happy to bring donuts to work for his co-workers, one who suggests a team-building exercise involving clues hidden throughout the STAR Labs facility for competing teams to find. His pop culture references are delightfully skewed; on his Earth, Alfred Hitchcock directed a movie called Murder On The Titanic (“Who cares who did it? We’re all gonna die!”) and Gladiator is known as Sweaty Men. Cavanagh embraces the goofiness, and while I’m still not convinced H.R. is a fit for the team, I don’t mind him sticking around a while longer.
The jury’s still out on Julian Arnold. His snippy annoyance with Barry is already getting old as the episode begins, but by the end he’s starting to come around on both his co-worker and the Flash, who he had early dismissed along with the rest of the meta-humans. It takes the Flash saving the life of the teenage monster-maker, and sparing Julian the lifetime of guilt he would have felt had he been responsible, for him to snap out of his resentment for the super-folk seemingly rendering him obsolete. My guess is that Julian is on Dr. Alchemy’s list, and it won’t be long before he has his own meta-powers to deal with.
That’s the case with Caitlin, who seeks out her mother, Dr. Tannhauser (Susan Walters of The Vampire Diaries), for help with her newfound frosty abilities. Tannhauser isn’t particularly warm toward Caitlin. You might even say she’s being cold, or you could just wait a few minutes for Caitlin to say it herself, because why trust the viewer to tap into this subtext when you could just make it explicit? The writing may be on the weak side, but Caitlin’s dilemma is still affecting because she’s the polar opposite of her mother and seems to get nothing but grief for it: a dead husband, a distant parent, and now a power that may consume her and turn her evil. The Killer Frost of Earth-2 delighted in her villainousness, but it’s bound to be heartbreaking if Caitlin goes that route.
In the end, the monster plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Nobody noticed that this giant creature rampaging through the streets of Central City isn’t actually doing any damage? It doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny, even as it does its job as a means to an end, moving several supporting characters from Point A to Point B. Every season needs its set-up episodes, but some are flimsier than others.
- Over/under on how many episodes it’s going to take for Barry to reveal his secret identity to Julian? I say five.
- I’d love to see Harry Wells return and share a full episode with H.R. Exasperated Cavanagh playing off Goofball Cavanagh would surely be a blast.
- It’s killing Cisco to be on the receiving end of a Wells nickname: “San Francisco.”