Grant Gustin, Keiynan Lonsdale/The CW

Theory: there’s a meta we haven’t met yet, one who has been pulling the strings since the beginning. Let’s call him Memento. His power is the ability to inflict a very specific kind of short-term memory loss on Team Flash. They can still remember the things they’ve done, the villains they’ve battled, the lives they’ve saved, and all of that. But every day they forget the lessons they learned from all those exploits: that working together is what makes them a success and that keeping secrets from each other is what tears them apart.

That has to be the explanation, right? Nothing else makes sense. “Untouchable” is just the latest offender, an hour that hits the same old beats with thudding familiarity. We’ve known it was coming ever since the rest of Team Flash decided to keep what Barry learned about Iris in the future from Joe. It should come as a relief that it’s out in the open now, but the reassurances that this will never happen again, that they’ve learned their lesson once and for all this time…well, they ring hollow. We’ve heard it all before.

The episode starts out well enough with a race between speedsters, accompanied by the gang back at STAR Labs betting on the outcome. In Barry’s eyes, this is part of Wally’s training, getting him up to speed so he can save Iris when the time comes. For Wally, this is an opportunity to show he’s really the fastest man alive. It’s neck and neck most of the way, but the Flash has a trick up his sleeve: he phases through a building just before the finish line, something Kid Flash is still unable to do. It’s a clever way for Barry to undercut Wally’s cockiness and let him know how far he still has to go to fulfill his potential, and it’s the last effective piece of teaching he’ll do for a while.

The meta-of-the-week is a relative obscurity who doesn’t even rate a nickname from Cisco: Clive Yorkin has the death grip, causing the rapid decay and desiccation of anyone he touches. The pattern of his victims makes no sense until Barry realizes that their Flashpoint doppelgängers all worked for the CCPD. That makes Joe a likely target, a theory that proves correct when he and the gang (including girlfriend Cecile and her daughter Joanie) get together for coffee at Jitters and Yorkin crashes the party. Wally saves the day, but this brush with death spurs Iris to spill the beans about the fate that awaits her. The moment is well-acted by Candice Patton and Jesse L. Martin (turning on the classic Joe West waterworks), but we’ve seen the same pattern play out so many times by now, it’s hard to get caught up in the moment.

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It’s not as if this is the only part of the episode that plays like a rerun either. Barry’s impatience with Wally’s learning curve leads to the sort of “believe in yourself” pep talk these actors have to be sick of reciting by now. Caitlin’s use of her power to prevent the necrosis from spreading through Iris sparks a resurgence of her Killer Frost side, and this time it’s Julian who has to talk her down by insisting she’s too strong to fall victim to the dark side. You see, they all need each other. They work better as a team. They need to trust each other and be honest about everything if they’re going to succeed. Do you get it now? No? Well, don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll be hearing it all again soon.

After an episode like this, it’s tempting to say that the creative team doesn’t recognize the strengths of their own show. Every time I think that, however, they turn around and deliver something that makes me remember why I fell in love with The Flash in the first place. The coda to this week’s episode, in which Jesse Quick jumps out of a breach and breathlessly tells Wally that Grodd has captured her father and taken him to Gorilla City, nearly knocked me off my couch. Now that’s a Flash episode I want to watch right now. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait two weeks for that one.

Stray observations

  • When asked if there’s anything she misses about Central City while going to college on the coast, Joanie gushes about Kid Flash. It’s a setup for a lighthearted debate over which speedster is Central City’s real hero, but it makes no sense in that Kid Flash has only been known to the public for a couple of weeks at this point. How long has she been away at college anyway?
  • The train sequence is well-done, but how did Yorkin get from the train station to wherever he caused the wreckage faster than the train did?
  • Gambling is illegal on HR’s Earth, and it has something to do with “Vice President Al Capone.”
  • They’re not going to try to push a Julian/Caitlin romance on us, are they? I mean…maybe?

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