When the writers of The Flash decide to hammer home a theme, they don’t hold back. You could hardly miss it this week: Thinking is overrated, emotions are where it’s at! Now, when you’ve built your season around a villain called the Thinker, this is an obvious direction to take the narrative. As DeVoe becomes more and more intelligent, his capacity and tolerance for emotion are greatly diminished. Since Team Flash can’t outthink him (especially now that Harry has shit-canned the thinking cap), it stands to reason that they’ll have to rely on some other method to defeat him. Brute strength would be one option. And then there’s...feelings. Whoa-o-oa, feelings.
Barry Allen, you see, has not yet dealt with his grief concerning the death of team member Ralph Dibny. This first becomes apparent during a session with Dr. Finkle, who has a surprisingly encyclopedic familiarity with Barry’s roster of dead loved ones and colleagues. Barry’s pretty sure he’s gotten used to the whole death thing by now, so there’s no need to go through all that processing of emotion again. When Citizen Cold, the Leo Snart of Earth-X, is called in to help with the transporting of Fallout to a secret ARGUS facility, he figures out pretty quickly that Barry hasn’t dealt with his unresolved feelings, and pushes him to get it over with for the sake of the mission.
This is not just a one-off conversation, either. Cold continues to badger Barry about this throughout the episode, right up until and including the climactic showdown with the Nazi Siren of Earth-X (sometimes I still can’t believe the words I type when writing about this show). Is this really the best use of special guest star Wentworth Miller? I’m always up for the return of Snart in some incarnation or another, but his campy delivery is a poor fit for pep talks. Nonetheless he manages to break through, as the Flash relieves his relationship with Ralph at super-speed, coming to the realization that he blames himself for the Elongated Man’s death and the regret that he never got the chance to tell him how proud he was of the hero he’d become.
Barry is hardly alone in getting in touch with his feelings. Caitlin is missing Killer Frost and the charming Post-It relationship they’d struck up. After all that time she spent trying to get rid of her alter-ego, she now wants her back. And it appears she’ll get her wish, because even though her body was drained of dark matter, she still carries a cryogenic anomaly in her DNA. She was born to be Killer Frost, and it won’t be long before she figures out how to bring her back.
And then there’s Harry Wells, whose tampering with the forces of dark matter has triggered a Flowers For Algernon situation where his intelligence is rapidly dwindling. Cisco, despite witnessing Harry’s addiction to thinking cap, has decided that two caps are better than one. Harry reluctantly goes along, but sabotages the second cap in order to spare Cisco the harmful effects. Eventually he confesses his fear that all he’s good for is his brain, and once that goes, he’ll be of no use to Team Flash. Cisco assures him that it was his caring, nurturing side and not his IQ that resulted in raising a daughter like Jesse...which sounds like a bit of a stretch, but hey, it fits the Theme of the Week, so let’s just go with that!
The only one who isn’t going along with the touchy-feely crowd is DeVoe, whose behavior this week suggests he might as well have been dubbed the Mansplainer. Now that he has Marlize completely under his control, he’s lost all interest in the great love story that was so important early in the season. The sight of her in his favorite dress does nothing for him. He’s so out of touch with the possibilities of emotion that he miscalculates for the first time, unable to understand why the Flash froze in a key situation until Marlize reminds him that he killed Barry’s pal Dibny a few days earlier. The tag scene points to the season’s end game: DeVoe announces that they must eliminate the variable of emotion altogether. With no love to bind her to him, Marlize has every reason in the world to turn on him. Spending an entire hour to get to that point (which we basically already knew anyway) is the very definition of filler, and the result is a truly forgettable episode of The Flash.
- Katie Cassidy is always a welcome presence as far as I’m concerned, but she was used as the pre-commercial stinger so many times tonight, it became laughable. Did she even have five lines of dialogue? I liked her translucent puke-screams, though.
- The one funny sequence tonight: the recounting of the various incarnations of Laurel Lance, hanging a lampshade on the absurdities of comic-book continuity.
- Cisco gives Cold a breach-button as a wedding present, so at least future appearances by Snart are on the table.