Friday, May 10, 2019

The Flash 5x21 Review: "The Girl With the Red Lightning" (That Title is Meaningless) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

“The Girl With the Red Lightning”
Original Airdate: May 7, 2019

Here we are, folks: the penultimate episode of season five of The Flash. How’s everyone feeling? If you’re anything like me, the emotional descriptors would be along the lines of “underwhelmed” and “frustrated,” since this season didn’t so much “ramp up” to its finale as it lazily, haphazardly oozed toward it. Like emptying a bucket of water across a swath of dusty desert sand, the culmination of this show’s latest season feels uneventful, inevitable, and ultimately fruitless.

In keeping with that same metaphor, The Flash’s attempt to stretch too thin a plot over too large a season once again reared its ugly head, furthering season five’s narrative entropy even worse than last season. I mean, I liked the episode before last season’s finale — this one? Not really anything to write home about.


In a well-written story, the return to focusing on a primary antagonist this close to the finale would be tense and heavy with foreshadowing and impending doom. In the lead-up to the end, this is when the story gives the villain the upperhand, strikes the heroes down, and asks “What now?” as the audience eagerly anticipates the possible answers. For The Flash, Cicada II — the primary antagonist we return to focusing on in this episode — is too underdeveloped to be anything more than a passing curiosity. It doesn’t matter how much power the show gives her, how many lives she threatens, or what sort of crazytown bananapants reasoning they saddle her with. She’s nothing to us.

This week, we follow up with last week’s realization that Cicada II plans to launch a meta-killing virus that could murder thousands. She has the last piece necessary to make her bomb and, other than the dagger-destroying plan, Team Flash has few options for stopping her and no way to find out when she’ll strike first or where. (Side note: there’s vague mention of Cicada II having a follow-up plan to her bomb launch, but no one raises the logical question of how she expects, as a meta, to survive the meta-killing virus. Did the writers not realize she’d die along with everyone else, or are they trying to imply that Cicada II doesn’t care?)

Nora realizes she still has that mental connection with Cicada from being stuck in her memories way, way earlier in the season. With the help of the same psychic device Caitlin used for all of one episode in order to better connect with Killer Frost, Nora tries to control her mental connection long enough to figure out Cicada II’s plans. You know, I would usually applaud a show for bringing back plot points and props like this brainwave thing, but I genuinely can’t this time. The device was used so briefly and so insignificantly (I think it was also the thing that helped Cecile, and the thing that helped King Shark? But those could have been totally different but functionally similar technobabble machines, so I don’t know) that it feels less like picking up plot breadcrumbs and more like the writers just ran down an arbitrary list of things that could benefit the finale. Even Nora’s mental connection with Cicada II should have been played up more; instead, it’s always felt like something of an afterthought for the characters that only existed because the writers knew it’d come in handy in the eleventh hour.

Speaking of conveniences: turns out, the key to Cicada’s master plan (i.e., launching a bioweapon to kill all metas in an instant) is the dagger — you know, the only thing Team Flash technically has a weapon against? Cicada crams her dagger into her homemade bomb in order to “supercharge” its power or reach or blah, blah, blah megalomaniacal villain jibber-jabber. Still no mention of how Cicada won’t die in the blast. I really don’t think anyone thought of that when they were writing out Cicada’s evil plan.

Despite her usefulness as a spy on Cicada, Barry and Iris fight with Nora about involving herself in dangerous villain-stopping activities. Even this West-Allen Family Drama scene is lackluster, as it basically just retreads the same ground that’s been tread all season. Nora wants to be a hero. Barry and Iris want to protect her and keep her from doing stupid, harmful stuff out of over-eagerness. Iris is a mediating voice of reason. Barry is emotional and reactive. Nora borders on teenager-esque rebellion despite being old enough to rent a car without the “young renter” surcharge. In the end, Nora gets her way and uses her Cicada connection to figure out the villain is launching the bomb at CCPD headquarters, where all the city’s metas who haven’t turned into either villains or heroes have gathered to get the metahuman cure.

At the end of the episode during the fight with Cicada II, it’s revealed that Cicada II doesn’t really need the dagger to fight. Understandable, since I’m sure her actual powers come from that glowing head wound of hers. Team Flash seems shocked and confused, though. Ralph connects the dots between Cicada, the importance of the dagger, how she could kill people in the future without the dagger, and how her time travel should affect the timeline (Hey, Ralph: this season established with Nora’s presence that nothing affects the timeline! You’re using your logical past seasons thinking cap, buddy) and arrives at the conclusion that, while stopping the metahuman virus bomb — which Cisco manages — is good, shooting the dagger is not good.

In a twist that isn’t really a twist because, what’s that you say? The arch nemesis of The Flash is actually evil and he showed up this season so clearly he’d have a significant role in the finale? Yeah, that twist — Eobard Thawne has been plotting things with Cicada all along and he’s in possession of the Cicada dagger.

Okay, cool. This does... very little to explain away all the problems I’ve had with this season’s plotting.

Other Things:

  • The episode is titled “The Girl with Red Lightning” but it’s just... such a nothing title. They could have called it “The Girl with a Nose Bleed” and it’d be just as meaningful to what happens in the episode.
  • Ralph says “timey-wimey”!
  • Sherloque sends the Earth-1 version of his girlfriend to his own Earth, but wasn’t it established that he marries the same woman over and over again from different Earths? Wouldn’t his original Renee still be there?
  • I’m glad we get a tiny supporting story with Joe. I’m not glad it only lasted about three scenes.


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