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The Flash tackles fake news in a rare bid for political relevance

Grant Gustin
Photo: Robert Falconer (The CW)
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On another Earth, tonight’s softball sequence might have aired against Game Six of the World Series, but on this one the Flash has the diamond all to himself. Not that Barry Allen would have proved to be much competition for the Red Sox, the Dodgers, or even any of their Single-A farm teams. Superman always made a point of acting like a clumsy weakling while in his Clark Kent guise, but there’s no indication that’s what Barry is doing here as he botches routine fly balls and gets easily thrown out running to first. It doesn’t make much sense that he would be a terrible athlete just because he’s in the wrong uniform unless he has such command of the Speed Force that he can dismiss it entirely rather than take an unfair advantage into a charity game...but again, if that’s what he’s doing, we aren’t let it on it.


Anyway. The softball game really isn’t that important except as a vehicle for introducing the villain of the week, Spencer Young. (Cisco isn’t around this week to give her a suitable code name.) Young has an app called Spyn Zone that delivers all the latest in meta news even before it happens, often scooping Iris (and getting three times the followers). She’s able to do this by manipulating events using her cell phone: she casts headlines onto screens that hypnotize those who see them into committing foolish and destructive acts. Are you picking up on the current events metaphor The Flash is laying down?

Yes, “News Flash” is an allegory about fake news, and just in case you didn’t catch it, Iris hammers it home with a “talk about your fake news” comment. The episode doesn’t go so far as to make the villain an actual Russian bot, but the message that people are easily brainwashed by provably phony headlines on dodgy platforms is received loud and clear, thank you very much. Barry sees a report that the Flash has been spotted in Vegas, his eyes flash purple, and he finds himself on the outskirts of Sin City. Iris suspects her rival Spencer, but Nora has developed a crush on the Spyn Zone creator and already has a big chip on her shoulder regarding Iris.

Jessica Parker Kennedy
Photo: Robert Falconer (The CW)

We finally learn what that’s all about, at least: future Iris implanted a power-dampening chip in Nora’s shoulder when she was young, and consequently the Flash’s daughter never knew she was a speedster until six month ago. (Six months ago for her, that is; please adjust for time travel.) I do appreciate the writers for not holding that revelation back much longer, as Nora’s grudge toward her mother is already the most annoying aspect of this season and not knowing the reason for it made it even more so. It doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon, however, as Iris tells Nora her future self must have a good reason for doing it, while Nora insists her mother only did it to control her.


With Cisco off tending to his wounds, Sherloque teams up with Ralph for this week’s buddy comedy. Sherloque takes a page from the HR playbook by pretending to be useful while he’s really just writing down what everyone else is saying, but Ralph proves he’s not just a trendy pear meme by tracking down a fiber from Cicada’s mask that leads to a factory where the respirators are manufactured and used by every employee of this and many other facilities. His hunch looks like a bust (although we can see that Cicada does work there), but Sherloque enlists Caitlin to punch him in the chest, which leaves him in a breathless state that replicates the signature Cicada sound. Ergo, Cicada has a lung injury.

In the climactic scene, Nora is fake news-ed into trying to kill Barry: the action plays out in a soccer stadium and looks like something out of a Lego movie. Not the best special effects the show has ever mustered, but Iris saves the day by breaching in and hitting Nora with a power-dampening dart. As it turns out (as it always turns out where time travel is concerned on this show), Nora’s assisting Barry with smashing the satellite has had several unintended consequences. It redirected a piece of dark matter-infused debris into the chest of this Earth’s version of Cicada, and it created a new threat entirely: meta-tech! Now the real danger can be inside your cell phone and can be used by anyone at any time. And that’s enough with the politically relevant analogies for one week.


Stray observations

  • Iris being bad at making breakfast is a gag as old as television itself, but I did get a laugh out of “I’m going to make you a banana.”
  • The Flash is taking Election Day off, but returns in two weeks with an episode that looks like it was intended to air tonight for Halloween.
  • At least Joe is standing in one scene this week. Still, his two appearances are brief and feel weirdly disconnected from the show.

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About the author

Scott Von Doviak

My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.