The Flash (The CW): S3 E5: "Monster"
The Flash? Who Me?
One of these things might not be like the others, but yes, I am doing recaps of The Flash this season.
have watched every episode of the show since its inception and I find it both a starkly different (lighter) take on Superheroes but also occasionally provocative (sometimes in ways that the writers might not have intended).
If you haven't read last week's recap, read about "The New Rogues" here.
As always, if you have not watched S3 E5 "Monster," watch it and then come back immediately, in other words, * Spoiler Alert *
Friendly Flashism Part 3
So, one of the reasons that I started writing about the Flash is that I think that the writing of the series, in some ways, is a perfect reflection of our own larger cultural relationship to terrorism in a post 9/11 world.
Yes, I know that The Flash is an intentionally lighthearted take on Superhero stories. In a way, that is exactly my point.
We look the other way, or entirely ignore, abuses in the War on Terrorism because we believe (despite our overall distrust of the Government) that our leaders are protecting us against something that truly terrifies us (currently that fear is centered around ISIL). We believe, because that they have our own best interests at heart, that what they are doing is either necessary or better than the alternative (for us).
Hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of civilians killed since the second invasion of Iraq...no problem. Torture of prisoners...no problem. Curtailment of personal liberties...no problem (thank you, sir, may we have another).
What becomes clear is that our perception of the "intent" of the actor is more important to us than the actual results of those actors actions. We still get furious and excoriate people with "criminal intent" for killing (and rightfully so), for instance, but when the government kills we care more about the intent than the results.
Grant Gustin's Barry Allen is the nicest person with the best and who seems to have the most obvious intent to do good on television. He is not a typically complex and brooding superhero.
Because we so love and trust him, we seem to ignore many of the bad things that he does.
Because he is a hero, who often saves people from doom (and sometimes the appearance of impending doom) we do not hold him accountable in the same ways we would hold other normal people accountable.
But, it is exactly this kind of double standard that sits at the foundation of fascism and it is this double-standard that often lets fascism (or Flashism) grow.
Why is it okay for Barry to put metahumans in tiny cages without trials for indeterminate periods of time without any legal representation or trial processes?
Because, as viewers, we like Barry more than we care about the "criminals" he disposes of?
Because at the end of the day, even if he does something bad, he does it trying to protect us?
Is this just like when we all wanted to have a beer with George W. Bush while he was implementing "shock and awe" on the people of Iraq?
Don't get me wrong, I am part of this too. I am not sermonizing from a place of exceptionalism. I feel the same things.
I love The Flash, I want us to fight ISIL, and I don't pay as much attention as I should to excesses of power. I am way too ready to throw people away and pretend that they no longer count.
But, we like Barry Allen because, no matter how many eggs he breaks, he is trying to make a safer omelet.
But what about when he isn't trying to make a safer omelet?
This week the "main" storyline revolved, ultimately, around a kid who figured out how to create a "Monster" hologram and let it rampage around the city (or at least the parts of the city where the kid still had a line of sight on the Monster).
This was, in my opinion, one of the dumbest plotlines in the entire history of the show, so I don't want to spend very much time on how silly it was.
However, there was this conversation between Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and the kid ho created the rampaging hologram after the kid was caught.
Joe: "Do you realize how many innocent people could have been hurt, or worse? What made you do something like this?
Kid: I just wanted to feel powerful for a change.
Joe: And that did it? Scaring people?
Kid: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, it did. You know, the kids at my school, they tease me every day. I'm a weirdo there. And I'm just sick of feeling scared all the time. I just wanted someone else to feel that way for a change.
Joe: Look, I know sometimes things are hard at your age. But trust me, it does get better. So what happens now? Well, there are severe consequences for what you did, and you're just gonna have to accept that, but listen, you're young. You can turn all of this around.
This conversation gets to the core of what I am talking about, we know, because of what the kid said, that he certainly had "criminal" intent. But, in the global scheme of things is what he did (unleash a projected beast with no actual powers on a few blocks) nearly as consequential as what Barry did in precipitating Flashpoint?
Remember, that when Barry decided to save his Mother (creating the Flashpoint timeline), he erased entire people from existence.
We know that Arrow's John Diggle's (David Ramsay) daughter, who existed before Flashpoint, no longer exists post-Flashpoint. For her, I suspect, it was no different than being hit by a car or truck or dying of a gunshot wound on impact. One second she existed and the next, she did not exist.
We hold criminals responsible for the unintentional consequences of their criminal acts.
For instance, if in a shootout a criminal accidentally shoots someone, they are still tried for murder.
In fact, if you are the getaway driver for someone who commits murder, in many states, you can be tried for first-degree murder yourself.
But Barry erased a massive amount of people from existence (we have to assume that if one person in just Barry's small circle disappeared you would see a proportional number of other "erasures" throughout the population of Earth 1) but we still love him.
Joe is talking about facing consequences for this poor bullied kid who created a big and mean-looking night light but why has he never held Barry responsible for what he did?
Why don't we, as viewers, hold Barry responsible for what Barry did?
I suspect that Fascism is born in just this way.
Yes, this is a television show.
Yes, it is an often fun and silly television show.
But it reflects our own judgment and our own cultural morality. Why do we find it light, funny, and silly? Why do we still like Barry so much? Why do we care more what Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton say than what they want to do?
Why don't we really care too much when civillian facilities in other countries are bombed by us, but we go insane when it happens here?
My point is certainly not that we shouldn't care, but rather, that we should always care.
Anyway, if you wanted a traditional recap of this part of the show, a kid unleashed a hologram on Central City, Team Flash figured it out, the kid is now in custody (nobody was really at much risk because it was a hologram).
Monster Part 2 - One Chilly Mom
We know that Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) doesn't seem to be too comfortable with her new powers.
Last week, I openly wondered at why she seemed to think she would be turned evil by accepting her powers. I wondered this since so many of the other people around her on a daily basis were also "different" on Earth 2 but remain good on Earth 1.
For instance, on Earth 2, Cisco (Carlos Valdez) was one of Zoom's close henchmen while on Earth 1 Cisco uses the exact same set of powers for good.
I read a few articles and thought a bit about Caitlin's backstory, and after watching Monster I understand things a bit better.
Caitlin's new powers do seem to be triggered by anger and fear (think Dark side of the Force).
We learn that Caitlin's Mom basically abandoned her emotionally after the death of her husband (Caitlin's father). We can fill in the details (Mom saw her husband every time she looked at Caitlin's face and it was too hard for her.
So Caitlin, in a sense, lost both her Dad and her Mom at the same time.
In addition, we know that Caitlin lost her husband (who was one-half of a polymorphic superhero).
We also know that last season Caitlin was both involved with and then held captive by what turned out to be the evil speedster Zoom.
She has lots of reasons to be angry and, apparently, lots of repressed anger that manifests itself through fits of COLD rage.
Anyway, she goes to see her Mom Carla Tanhauser (who is also a scientist) to see if she can help her manage her new powers.
Carla (Susan Walters) decides to run a series of tests on her with the help of her assistant Nigel (Thomas Cadrot). They find out that she is capable of absorbing large amounts of energy and turning it into cold. We also learn that if Nigel and Carla can figure out Caitlin it would be very important to their research.
Nigel, tired of playing second-fiddle to Carla tries to trap Caitlin in order to finish the testing.
Look, I like The Flash, but knowing what Nigel knows about Caitlin's powers, why exactly would he do this again?
Is your argument that he is suicidal? Was his plan against a meta who controls freezing powers really just to lock the doors?
Sometimes, I just wonder what writers are thinking?
Unsurprisingly, Caitlin freezes him. Carla says that she will clean everything up with the authorities and with Nigel and tells Caitlin to just leave. She also apologizes for not being a very good Mother.
Later in the episode, Carla is video chatting with Caitlin and tells her that the more she uses her powers, the harder it will be for her to go back to her normal temperament. Unfortunately, it might be a little too late for that advice, Caitlin seems to have lost control and has frozen everything all around her.
Good Old H.R.
Yes, I find this HR storyline so silly that I am not even including a Harrison Wells picture.
Well, actually, I only have a few Harrison Wells pictures and when else will I get to show a Nigel picture?
Anyway, HR (Tom Cavanaugh) is a fraud. He is not actually a scientist, he did not actually decipher the answers to Harrison Wells test, and he seems to mostly be really annoying so far.
Cisco, like the audience I suspect, finds him intolerable so far.
The story? He got into trouble on Earth 19 for representing himself as a scientist when he is really just a "face man." One of his partners on Earth 19 took the Harrison Wells test for him and helped him escape to Earth 1.
Team Flash figures it all out, but agree to keep him around for a few weeks because HR promises he will become useful or leave on his own accord.
That is really all I want to say about this. Maybe it will get better, but I hate this subplot so far. Not only would Harrison Wells have never suggested it but HR is not much fun so far IMHO.
Is Julian Albert really Doctor Alchemy (Part 2)
Much of the "Monster" episode involves Barry trying to create a better relationship between himself and Julian Albert (Tom Felton).
There is a funny bit where Julian tries to rat on all of Barry's "rule-breaking" to their boss but it doesn't go like Julian hopes (Barry is good at what he does even if hee doesn't always show up on time etc. Plus he is The Flash lol).
Barry agrees to give up the lab if Julian will let him tag along and "learn" Julian's superior techniques (Barry is levering Julien's ego to get information that he needs to solve the hologram "monster" case)
We learn that Julian came from a rich family, that he rebelled against his family leaving the promise of great wealth to become a CSI in America, and that he is a military veteran.
We learn that he is particularly angry about meta-humans who use the great gift that they were granted by the particle accelerator accident for ill and that he thinks the Flash makes the police lazy by solving all of the meta-human cases for them.
He seems to want very badly to have those kinds of powers himself and resents people who have them instead of him (kind of like Wally West).
Ultimately, the Flash stops Julian from shooting the kid creating the giant hologram and Julian changes his attitude towards The Flash and towards Barry.
But, as much as I wasn't sure that Julian would turn out to be Alchemy, I am starting to change my mind. Alchemy was a comic book character with Dissociative Identity Disorder who had a public face (Albert) who was law-abiding and a private face (Alvin/Alchemy) who was more destructive.
I already made clear how much I dislike this kind of take on DID a few weeks ago, but I am starting to think that Julian's longing for powers and extreme OCD led him to become Alchemy (is this universes Albert/Alvin) plus there are not any other candidates who seem available to take up this role.
I have liked, to this point, how he has called Barry on his BS. I thought that Julian actually came across as a more sympathetic character this week (Barry was after all manipulating Julian for information just as much or more than he was trying to get to know Julian).
Oh well, two weeks until the next episode of The Flash....Because that is the way they do things at The CW (if you remember the last few seasons, it gets worse).
What did you think of Monster?
Is Julian also Alchemy?
Should Barry face the consequences from creating Flashpoint?
Let me know what you think, leave a comment!