If no season of The Flash is truly underway until it has gotten its Harrison Wells, then “The Death Of Vibe” marks the real beginning of season five. Yes, we have already met the new Big Bad, and for some that might be considered the starting point, but for Wells connoisseurs, the introduction of Tom Cavanagh’s latest variation is the point where things really kick into gear. “Connoisseur” is an apropos word choice in this case, as the new Wells comes with a French flair. After a false-start visit from Sprockets Wells (dubbed an asshat by Cisco, but a perfect gentleman to everyone else), we are introduced to “Sherloque” Wells, greatest detective in the multiverse.
You could make the argument that Sherloque would have come in more handy in the battle against the Thinker, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for being a touch concerned about Cavanagh maintaining a French accent for the length of a season. The accent isn’t as intrusive as others that various Wells (Wellses?) have been saddled with over the years, though, and Sherloque has some strong comic potential, particularly (as is always the case) in his interactions with Cisco. I particularly enjoyed Sherloque deducing that Cisco had been “dommmaged” by heartbreak.
But perhaps the title “The Death Of Vibe” has you concerned about Cisco’s longevity? If that’s the case, you’re reading this review before watching the episode. Why are you doing that? Rest assured that Cisco is alive and well at the end of the hour. My working theory before watching the episode was that Cisco would be drained of his vibe abilities, leaving him the super-smart non-meta we knew early in the series, but that’s not the case either. It’s a faked death, and not even the first one in the episode; earlier, Sherloque stages an accident scene indicating that he’s managed to incinerate himself in order to get out of paying back the hefty fee he’s charged Team Flash for his services, but Cisco quickly sees through that.
Not that Sherloque’s failure to identify Cicada’s true identity and location is entirely his fault. Nora shares the blame for tampering with the timeline, with the result that Cicada does not have the same civilian name (David Hersch) he did on the 37 other Earths where Sherloque has already solved the case. For someone who never got to spend any time with her father, Nora certainly is Barry Allen’s daughter. At least the irony of lecturing her on impetuousness and messing with the space-time continuum isn’t completely lost on him, but as usual Barry’s pep talk is the weakest element of the episode. These little life lessons like “take a moment to stop and think before you act” are so simplistic, and they play out in such literal fashion (Nora’s “I’m thinking now” face as she figures out how to thwart Cicada is too much), they turn The Flash into a Saturday morning cartoon.
Fortunately this is a strong enough episode to recover, and the rest of the cartoonish elements are more enjoyable. That includes Ralph taking on the villain-of-the-week, who barely rates a cameo with his underwhelming solar gun. Ralph’s goofy methods are effective, but they hardly earn him the respect of jaded Central City residents who are quick to meme-ify his temporary pear-shaped physique. As Ralph tells Sherloque and reminds us, he is also something of a detective, which pays off this week when he helps Caitlin investigate the faking of her father’s death certificate. Mom plays dumb, but with Ralph’s help, Caitlin is able to sneak into her company’s records and find a suicide letter from Pop. That doesn’t feel right either, but Caitlin uses a fake periodic table they made together to puzzle out a coded message: Caitlin, come find me.
Although Sherloque is wrong about Cicada’s true identity, we do learn more about the Big Bad here. Joe intuits that he must be a father, and that turns out to be the case as we see him in his civilian guise dropping by the hospital to visit his ailing young daughter. He’s no match in the brains department for the Thinker, as he falls for Nora’s pretty basic ruse and assumes Vibe has been vaporized, leaving only his super-suit behind. Cisco is safely hiding in a pocket dimension until the coast is clear, and although Vibe is not dead—thank you very much, title-writers—he’ll presumably be on the shelf for a while to keep up the pretense. That should give him plenty of time to hang out at STAR Labs bickering with Sherloque now that there’s a Wells back where we need him.
- A number of commenters expressed concern about Jesse L. Martin last week, and this episode did nothing to allay those concerns. Joe is seated in all of his scenes, and there’s a sort of congested quality to his voice. Something is up and I certainly hope it’s nothing serious.
- Other things that made me laugh: all the different pronunciations of Sherloque; Sherloque referring to Ralph as “baby giraffe”; Cisco calling Sherloque “Cumberbatch.”
- In telling Team Flash that they were never able to capture Cicada in her timeline, Nora also references the failures of Supergirl, the Legends, and “the League.” Interesting.
- True, David Hersch didn’t turn out to be Cicada, but since he is a Unabomber-style terrorist, it’s not like Sherloque did nothing to earn his fee.
- Sherloque asks Nora if it was her idea to help Barry stop the satellite back in last season’s finale. She says it was. He appears unconvinced.