After a break dating back to before the “Elseworlds” crossover, Cicada is back at the center of the action this week. He remains a weak link, with a simplistic motivation and an even sketchier plan (basically just...kill all the metahumans, right?), but despite that, “Seeing Red” is a solid hour of The Flash. It’s got a clean through-line and a number of satisfying character arcs, though it’s not without its head-scratching moments.
We might as well start with one of those. Thanks to Dr. Ambres, Cicada has gotten his hands on a list of metas who have done time, listed in the order they were arrested. (As Cecile discovers, this list was procured from an inside man at CCPD—Officer Jones, who was hypnotized by meta-tech back in the “fake news” episode.) He’s using this list to kill the metas in that order, so Cecile suggests using their own copy of the list to round up the metas and get them into federal witness protection. In the course of doing this, Barry opens a breach so he and Peek-a-Boo can escape from Cicada. So...why don’t they just breach all of the metas out of town rather than gathering them at a remote location to wait for a helicopter that doesn’t look like it should be big enough to get them out of there anyway?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before they hit on the rescue plan, Team Flash detects a dark matter flare-up that leads them to Cicada. A battle ensues, in the course of which Cicada breaks Nora’s back. (Cue memories of Bane from the Batman “Knightfall” comics and The Dark Knight Rises.) There’s not much doubt that she’ll be fine by episode’s end, at least from the home viewer’s point of view, but Barry doesn’t see it that way. His paternal instincts kick in, fueling his rage and a desire to see Cicada dead. In case you miss the parallel, Cecile is here to point it out: he and Cicada are both driven by the same dark motivation, a quest for vengeance borne of the hurts done to their daughters. If Barry gives himself over it, he’s no better than his nemesis.
That’s a truism of superhero ethics that’s been explored countless times and often broken, as on Arrow. In this case, Barry lays a heavy beating on Cicada, but a healed Nora shows up in time to save him from his rage-fueled impulses. But even as Barry struggles with his dark side, a much more minor character reclaims the good inside him in what ends up being a more affecting subplot. Norvock is the mopey goth meta with the snake in his eye who used to hang around with Amunet. He didn’t make much of an impression back then, but tonight we learn his origin story: he was working at the reptile house saving a kid from a snake when the particle accelerator exploded. Never again will he make the mistake of putting others before him.
When the helicopter arrives and Ralph is helping the metas aboard (with the power of stretchiness, natch), Norvock gives up his place in line and lets every else ahead of him. It nearly costs him his life, as Ralph yanks him up just in time to dodge Cicada’s dagger. There’s not a lot of screen time devoted to this—Norvock’s arc plays out over a few short scenes—but it’s a nice corrective to the show’s history in which the vast majority of metas turn out bad.
On that note, Caitlin is at work on the meta cure (this week’s absentee is Cisco, doing his own work in a Tannhauser black ops site), while Killer Frost keeps sabotaging her efforts. She has cause for concern, in that a cure could allow Caitlin to make her disappear forever, but as we know (and as Ralph informs Frost), Caitlin already jumped through hoops just to get her alter ego back. In talking to the metas on Cicada’s hit list, Ralph confirms that more than a few of them would welcome such a cure, which puts some of the ethical considerations to bed. (Again, though, there’s always the potential of the cure falling into the wrong hands to worry about.)
The other major subplot this week is Sherloque’s continuing investigation into Nora’s time journal. “The Timeline is Malleable” is the only line in the journal that’s not encoded, and perhaps that hints at an explanation for the continued existence of Thawne-as-Wells in the future. It also contradicts the past few seasons in which timeline meddling has created huge problems, so we’ll see where it goes. Iris is onto Sherloque’s investigation and strongly against it, but he continues, conducting handwriting analysis to confirm that the journal is the work of two people. As he ponders who the “mastermind” might be, we see his reflection in his computer screen. The answer is right there in front of his face.
- Aside from a few flashbacks in which he’s gotten to show a more human side of Orlin Dwyer, Chris Klein’s performance has all the nuance of a kid holding a flashlight under his chin and doing a scaaaaaary voice. Even when he’s not in his Cicada guise, he’s a cartoon.
- Nora studied neuro-regeneration in fifth grade. Iris learned fractions.