Friday, June 18, 2021

The Flash 7x13 Review: "Masquerade" (Masks and Mindscapes) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

Original Airdate: June 15, 2021

This week on The Flash: Chester’s initiation as an official member of Team Flash involves messing up royally first. Hey, it’s how everyone on this superhero team cements their place (and none so catastrophically as Barry Allen himself). We also learn a bit more about Cecile, which is pretty cool. I think I’ve been on record as saying that I enjoy it when the show occasionally focuses more on secondary characters, and “Masquerade” is a solid episode for that. So let’s take a look!


In the home of Joe and Cecile, Joe is still investigating Kramer (who has replaced him as captain somehow? Is that really how police forces work?) despite no longer being a CCPD officer. Cecile has found a clue for him that sends Joe off to dig up more dirt, which allows Cecile to do evil things in the meantime. Because she’s actually Not Cecile! Real Cecile is being held in an all-white psychological prison while an evil entity uses her body as a meat puppet.

And poor, poor Chester is the perfect eager-to-please patsy to fit into Not Cecile’s machinations. Chester’s trying to make himself at home in S.T.A.R. Labs, painting and redecorating his new office more to his tastes, but he’s still unsure of his place on the team without Cisco there to be his pal. He even offers to undo all the hard work he put in on his office when Caitlin mentions how different it looks, but Caitlin reassures him that he’s where he belongs. As we learn throughout the episode, Chester is not all that reassured.

When Not Cecile knocks Barry into the same psychological prison holding Cecile and then carts his unconscious body to S.T.A.R. Labs for examination, Chester and Caitlin determine that Barry is at risk of a permanent coma if they don’t figure out what’s wrong with him. Not Cecile uses her empathy powers to dip into Barry’s head and determine what attacked him. Now do me a favor and put sarcastic quotes around like, every other word in the previous sentence since we all know Not Cecile is just play-acting in order to manipulate everyone.

But especially Chester! Chester, who knows Cisco’s binder of metas so well he immediately latches onto Not Cecile’s empathic reading and pulls Psyho Pirate out of the lot. Psycho Pirate wore a golden mask that apparently has powers in its own right, as Chester cites historical documentation of the mask going back to Gilgamesh — which is why it’s currently in Central City’s museum, even though that sounds like a horrible idea because the mask literally feeds off people’s minds and drives them insane. The mask is currently feeding off Barry, but they think if they can use the cerebral inhibitor they can stop it. They just need the mask first.

Not Cecile surreptitiously hints at stealing the mask from the museum, which Chester latches onto immediately. You know you guys could just tell the museum they’re holding an incredibly dangerous madness-inducing evil mask and, as the lead superhero team in the general area (not to mention a bunch of super smart scientists) ask to borrow it in order to save someone’s life? No, not going to bother with a simple phone call and just gonna skip right to a heist? Okay, that’s cool.

Since she’s a thief and probably has time to kill while her partner is recast, Sue Dearbon is called in to help with the heist. Sue has gathered intel in record time, down to a 3D map of the museum, stats on the vault, and information on the guard schedule. The guard and the combination to the vault is the only thing she can’t get around (which seems like a bad weak spot for a thief) but Chester volunteers Not Cecile to mind-whammy the guard into opening the vault door. When everyone clears out to get ready for the heist, Sue mentions how suspiciously easy this whole plan is to Chester, but Chester brushes her off.

Heist time! It’s a short one: Sue dances around some lasers, Not Cecile poorly rappels down from the ceiling, the guard is mind-whammied, and the vault is opened. This all happens just in time for Iris to also figure out that something’s not right, but it’s too late and Not Cecile gets her hands on the mask, going full Mask Entity. She forces Sue to tranq dart herself and then heads off into the night.

Sue wakes up in S.T.A.R. Labs’ medical center and berates Chester for falling for Not Cecile’s evil plot. Chester was already feeling guilty about his plan being the one to get the mask into the wrong hands, and Sue just makes him feel worse — like, “shouldn’t be on Team Flash” levels of worse. Iris finds him sadly working in his office and contemplating leaving. He was putting on a brave front this whole time, but he hasn’t felt sure about his place on the team since Cisco left. He thinks if he were really a part of Team Flash, to the point of really knowing them all the way Cisco knew them all, he wouldn’t have fallen for Not Cecile’s ruse. For some reason no one mentions that literally everyone thought that was actually Cecile, including Joe, so clearly knowing her better wouldn’t have helped.

Still, it’s a blow to Chester’s confidence. In true The Flash fashion, Chester will have to overcome this in the end so that he can save the day. Unbeknownst to Chester, this enemy is also being tackled from another front: real Cecile, trapped in the “mindscape” with Barry, needs to overcome the issues keeping her imprisoned.

As it turns out, the mindscape is based on Cecile’s memory of a psychiatric hospital she was a patient at around the time she graduated from law school. Guilt over not being with her ailing mother when she died sent Cecile into a spiral and, eventually, a complete breakdown, ending with her checking herself into the hospital. Shame has kept Cecile from admitting that she suffered from mental illness, and it’s that shame that the mask is feeding off of and amplifying in order to retain control of Cecile’s body.

Barry encourages Cecile to face her past and accept the struggles she went through — and that their existence shouldn’t be a source of shame — because he thinks doing so will break the mask’s hold on her. As Cecile follows Barry’s advice, Chester and Iris take on the mask-wearing Cecile, who is trying to use the Thinker’s chair to amplify her mental abilities. Iris serves as a distraction while Chester leaps out of nowhere and stabs the chair with a sword, giving him an “outward” hero moment while Cecile has an “inward” hero moment by coming to terms with her past.

It’s unclear which attack actually saved Cecile, but that’s fine. The episode ends with the mask dealt with, Cecile confessing her history of mental illness to Joe and getting nothing but support back, and Chester finally feeling like a real part of Team Flash.

Wow, just when I was giving up hope, The Flash delivers two good episodes in a row! Here’s hoping the streak continues.

Other Things:

  • Special shout-out to Danielle Nicolet (Cecile) and Brandon McKnight (Chester) for some stellar acting moments this episode. I hope the show does more with you guys in the future!
  • Really surprised at how much relevance the Thinker’s chair had this season.
  • Joe has uncovered something about Kramer’s past: she was in command of a squad and led them into an ambush. She was the only survivor. I would’ve assumed this was the event that Kramer already talked about, the one that made her hate metahumans? But Joe thinks it means Kramer was working with the enemy, which is why she’s kept it secret.


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