Dear TV Writers: Your Fear of the Moonlighting Curse is Killing Your Show

What is the Moonlighting Curse, and why is it such a big deal to television writers? Read this in-depth look at the crippling phenomenon and find out!

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction, by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

A mask does not a hero make. In this piece, I discuss why it's wrong to dismiss characters without costumes or masks as superheroes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Flash 6x05 Review: "Kiss Kiss Breach Breach" (All In Good Faith) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Kiss Kiss Breach Breach”
Original Airdate: November 5, 2019

Our most recent episode of The Flash features a Cisco-focused murder mystery plot, plus someone has apparently declared that the word of the day is “faith.” So, so much faith going around. Have faith in other people, have faith in yourself, have faith in black-fingered proto-supervillains controlled by a hunger for blood. Sometimes that faith pays off; sometimes it almost gets you killed. I guess you just have to have faith that having faith won’t get you killed though.

CISCO: TEAM LEADER?


Remember how, in last week’s episode, Barry told Cisco he’s his choice for leader of Team Flash after Barry bites the big one during the upcoming Crisis? Well, that’s still the plan, and Barry is giving Cisco something of a trial run of things while he and Iris take a vacation to Tahiti. Despite the fact that Ramsey’s been a no-show for two weeks and the West-Allens will only be gone two days, Cisco is still feeling the pressure and has developed an artificial intelligence computer program called B.A.R.I to help him make the same choices Barry would make in any given scenario while the real Barry is sipping tropical drinks on a beach and/or eventually dead. This is clearly not what Barry had in mind when he wanted to leave Cisco in charge, but Barry has faith that Cisco will figure all that out while he’s away. Since this show is this show, Cisco — of course — does.

But plot must happen first! After (I assume) a day of taking orders from the B.A.R.I program, Cisco returns home and he and Kamilla go to sleep — only for Cisco wake up holding a pair of scissors to his hair. According to Kamilla, Cisco has been sleepwalking a lot lately. She chalked it up to general exhaustion and the pressure of what’s been going on in Cisco’s life and he buys that explanation. They settle back down to sleep the rest of the night, Cisco almost tells Kamilla he loves her before awkwardly exiting that confession. And then Breacher, a.k.a. Cisco’s ex-girlfriend’s dad, slices a hole in the universe and steps into Cisco’s bedroom. He sits down and tells Cisco that Cynthia is dead.

To the credit of Kamilla and the writers of this show, there is zero relationship drama resulting from this plotline. Kamilla is so far from jealous or uncomfortable about Cisco mourning his ex-girlfriend, she even offers his intelligence (since he’s no longer a metahuman) up to the investigation into her death. When the topic of Cisco’s lack of powers comes up, Breacher mentions a side-effect called “breach psychosis,” the symptoms of which — we are led to believe — coincide with Cisco’s new sleepwalking habit.

Cisco and Kamilla go to the crime scene on the order of B.A.R.I. Once there, they meet Earth-19 collector agents and, more specifically, Zak Zeal — a man so immediately hostile and unlikable he can only be the red herring of a murder mystery. Regardless of their distractingly unsavory team leader, the collector agents have been doing their jobs. They’ve narrowed Cynthia’s time of death down to a two-hour window between 2:30 and 4:30 in the morning, have arrived at the cause of death, and have marked out the place of death. Cynthia was completely vaporized — all that’s left of her is an ashy smudge on the concrete, which understandably strikes the mourning Cisco. He starts crying at the crime scene while Kamilla comforts him.

After a third failure to tell Kamilla he loves her is interrupted by Zak Zeal, Cisco voices his suspicions of the obvious suspect. He devises a plan to, with Breacher’s help, mimic his Vibe power of seeing events based off physical items. On top of the breaching devices that have been around for a while now, this really raises the question of whether Cisco lost anything at all when he gave up being Vibe — can he just come up with a technical solution for everything? Sure, the device is a bit slapdash and Cisco implies it only works because of his memories of Cynthia, but if he were to make improvements would it render his entire “stop being a meta” subplot last season pointless?

Anyway, Cisco and Breacher concentrate on Cynthia and use the bullet that killed her as a focus for the time and location. They watch her get shot and vaporized, then the killer pushes back the hood shrouding his face and reveals not Zak Zeal, as everyone assumed, but Cisco himself!

Breacher attacks Cisco. His suspicions are not only fueled by what he witnessed, but also Kamilla finding the vaporizing gun that killed Cynthia, and the revelation that Cisco has been sleepwalking — including a sleepwalking session that coincides with Cynthia’s time of death. Though Breacher concludes that breach psychosis is to blame, not Cisco himself, he still can’t let his daughter’s killer go unpunished. He gives Cisco an hour to get everything in order and turn himself in to the collector agents, or else Breacher will kill Cisco.

Kamilla still has faith in Cisco, though. She urges him to have faith in himself, to get past all the doubts he has about living up to Barry’s expectations and legacy and recognize that he’s a good person with good instincts and he did not kill his ex-girlfriend. During her speech, Kamilla gives Cisco a eureka moment and he checks the white noise machine he’s been using to relax. Turns out, it’s in wifi mode (really, Cisco?) and got hacked into brainwash mode. Cisco recognizes the code as his own.

It turns out Echo, the hacker Cynthia had been hunting down for some time now, is a Cisco from another Earth. Echo used this to get the jump on Cynthia, who hesitated when she saw her ex-boyfriend’s face and breached them both to Earth-1 — giving Echo the chance to vaporize her. Cisco outsmarts his evil twin in the end, though, by altering the vaporizing gun into a force field that encloses Echo long enough to call in the Earth-19 agents and get him hauled away.

Later, Breacher theorizes that Cynthia, though dying, brought Echo to Earth-1 because she knew Cisco would be able to bring him to justice. More of that faith going around. Breacher takes his leave and Barry and Iris return from their vacation to a Cisco who has learned a valuable lesson in having faith in himself as a leader and a hero in his own right.

Other Things:

  • Secondary plots of this episode: Joe finds Nash Wells in some underground tunnels and they get caught in a standard cave-in story. Joe teaches Nash a little something about having faith in the people around you. Meanwhile, Frost gives over to Caitlin just long enough for Caitlin to try — and fail — to get through to the villainous Ramsey, who wants her to join him in his pursuit of immortality. Both thematically resonant plotlines but too tiny to warrant sections in the review.
  • Cisco’s middle name is Baracus, named after the A-Team character. I don’t know what to do with this information.
  • Barry’s favorite thing that Iris makes for breakfast is, hilariously, “banana.” A callback to Iris’s terrible pancakes last season.
  • I love every instance of Joe calling Barry his son.
  • Cisco apparently owns adorable kitty cat pillowcases.
  • I don’t know if I’ve mentioned yet how much I appreciate the Joe’s in the show a lot more this season. It’s nice that you’re feeling better, Jesse L. Martin!
  • “I knew I smelled SPF-90.” Hee.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Flash 6x04 Review: "There Will Be Blood" (Always Be Saving) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“There Will Be Blood”
Original Airdate: October 29, 2019

We’re dealing with death again this week on The Flash. Appropriately, to accompany Team Flash’s struggles with the probability of Barry’s demise during Crisis and Ramsey’s struggle to defeat death itself, we have more dark matter zombies. Zombies make a great metaphor for mortality and the dangers of attempting to circumvent death, only to end up a monster of your own making. Also, it’s Halloween week, so they’re great spooky decorations! Anyway, while all that is well and good, the real star of “There Will Be Blood” is acting. My goodness, there was some stellar acting this episode.

NEVER GONNA GIVE (LIFE) UP


Team Flash still seems to be coming to terms with Barry’s future doom. It’s actually really sweet how much everyone — even a newbie like Ralph and the prickly Frost — cares about Barry. Say what you will about any other element of this show, but The Flash does the “found family” trope incredibly well.

Cisco is reacting the worst out of the lot. Even when Barry manages to pull a promise out of him to just accept that Barry has to die, you can tell that Cisco’s lying through his teeth when he says it. Barry catches on to Cisco’s mood and decides he can ease his friend through these dark times by giving him something else to focus on: saving Ramsey Rosso instead.

I always like when an episode of The Flash gives us a thematic center that all the plots revolve around, and this week’s version of that is: “You can’t always save everyone, but you can always save someone.” This is Barry’s approach with Cisco, trying to get him to understand that being unable to save his friend doesn’t mean forever failure — that, as a team of heroes, there is always someone else out there they can save or help in some way and in this case, it’s Ramsey. Iris delivers a little bit of the theme to Ralph, who’s working on a missing persons case (searching for Sue Dearborn) but has given up in the wake of hearing Barry’s news, and Joe practically embodies the idea as a genuinely good police officer dedicated to serving Central City.

So Barry wants to save Ramsey. He manages to get Cisco to agree, but only because the perpetually smudged Nash Wells shows up and seems to distract Barry and Cisco into making a deal with him. Nash wants Cisco to build him a circuit necessary to his plans on Earth-1, and in return, Nash will get Barry and Cisco into McCulloch Technologies. The McColloch lab holds a serum capable of healing organic tissue of anything, which is exactly the sort of cure for all ills that never, ever works in TV shows or movies. The trio breaks into McCulloch Technologies, but Cisco secretly swipes the serum and lies to Barry, saying it wasn’t in its special sub-zero safe.

Cisco’s lie backfires immediately, which I find pretty wonderful. That’s something that would usually fuel an angst-fest for at least three episodes on this show, and it lasted an act break. I hope that bodes well for this season’s pacing. Despite being found out, Cisco holds his ground and threatens Barry not to go near the serum, then gives us the first stellar acting moment of the episode. Goodness, the pain Carlos Valdes delivers when Cisco talks about the unbearable possibility of waking up in a world one day without his best friend in it — I easily forget how talented the actors on this show are because it’s a silly comic book show, but man.

Barry explains that he wanted Cisco to be his partner on saving Ramsey because he wanted Cisco to take over Team Flash after he’s gone, and being the leader means making tough decisions for the greater good. In Barry’s mind, the tough decision was ignoring the serum’s potential to protect Barry from the antimatter blast during the Crisis, and using it to save a single person, now, instead. Grant Gustin perfectly balances the empathy and disappointment of Barry finding out he’d chosen wrong in his decision to name Cisco the new team leader, by the way. (Acting! It’s the star of the episode!) Chastised, Cisco tells Barry he can do what he wants with the serum and Barry delivers a possible cure to Ramsey.

Unfortunately for Barry’s heroic dedication to saving Ramsey, Ramsey quickly turns to villainy when the STAR Labs cure fails. The dude goes from “just a man desperately trying to survive” to “I gotta murder all the people” in, like, fifteen seconds. He thinks the key ingredient in Romero’s blood that made it a viable healing solution when combined with dark matter was the adrenaline (epinephrine) coursing through Romero at the time of his death. Apparently Ramsey got his magnificent reputation as a doctor and a scientist without ever realizing that you can literally buy just about any chemical, including epinephrine, online for remarkably cheap and just combine that with his blood samples. Buying necessary testing materials from reputable online sources? Nah. Time to murder!

And murder he does. Barry is understandably shocked to find the guy he just got into a fight with his best friend about saving has turned murderous — and has turned multiple people into undead, black-fingered dark matter zombies. Barry and Frost try their best to stop Ramsey, but he gets away while his creations go all gross and melty. Why did that happen? Does Ramsey have a self-destruct button on all his dark matter zombies now?

I gotta be honest, there’s a lot about the Ramsey/Bloodwork plotline that seems... convenient, I suppose, is the right word for it. Barry just met the guy and he’s suddenly top on his list of people he can save with that serum, even knowing that Caitlin/Frost no longer trusts him and Barry himself caught him trying to steal dark matter. Then Ramsey’s turn from a well-meaning but desperate doctor to a perpetrator of multiple gruesome homicides was far too fast and, as I mentioned earlier, completely unnecessary for someone who could buy the ingredients he needs off the internet. Now his powers have expanded to being able to liquify his creations — which I assume will be his “calling card” for CCPD/Team Flash to find throughout the season in order to remind us he’s out there — and I get the impression that the writers were desperately trying to find ways of making what really looks like a metahuman-of-the-week-level villain into a season arc foe.

But I can’t criticize the show too much because then it smacks me in the face with even more stellar acting, this time delivered by the duo of Jesse L. Martin and Grant Gustin. Joe, who hasn’t weighed in much regarding the impending Crisis over the past couple episodes, finally breaks down at how unfair Barry being the Flash truly is. Joe gets to help people as a police officer and then retire and live out the rest of his life, but Barry gets to die? He saves the world over and over, never truly being recognized for his efforts, and then has to die at the end of it all — it’s unjust, and for a man who sees Barry as his son, unbearably painful. Barry tries to comfort Joe by telling him he’s thankful for all the inspiration and lessons in being a real hero Joe has given him over the years, but his kind words just make Joe sob harder while they hug.

Well, that was heartbreaking.

Other Things:

  • I’m glad the new Wells isn’t a whisper-talker or a person with a funny accent this time.
  • Maybe that cure for Ramsey would’ve worked if the actual biochemist of the team hadn’t been riding shotgun to a surly ice meta.
  • “It’s not like I’m looking to get married,” Ralph says about Sue Dearborn. Cute, show.
  • It appears that Nash is actually hunting down The Monitor. Intriguing.
  • Next time: Looks weird! Can’t wait!

Dickinson Proves to Be an Insane Ride and a Hot Mess [Contributor: Jenn]

(Image credit: Apple)

In 2018, I got my first tattoo. It’d been something I’d contemplated for a few years and finally decided to get. The tattoo is an anchor breaking apart into birds, and I felt it represented two elements of the word “hope,” a word that I leaned into throughout 2017. One part of the tattoo is representative of a verse from the Bible saying hope is an anchor for our souls, and the other is representative of my favorite Emily Dickinson poem about how “hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.”

When I saw that Apple TV+ was making a show about Emily Dickinson I was intrigued. And I was even more interested when Hailee Steinfeld, of Pitch Perfect and Transformers recent fame, would be playing the lead. And then the first trailer for the series dropped and I immediately felt a simultaneous sense of confusion and disappointment. Emily Dickinson was using the word “dude,” the characters were implementing 2019 slang, and it all seemed to be representative of the kind of show that happens in a world where Glee and Riverdale also proudly exist. Was I signing up for a period comedy/drama or a soapy teen series where people wear period clothes but also dance around to Lizzo?

I’ll readily admit that for the first half (or perhaps a bit more) of Dickinson, I hate-watched the series. Like I did with Glee. Like I did with Smash. And like I’ll undoubtedly do many more times. I texted two of my best friends, former English majors like me, and told them that it was a trainwreck but I also couldn’t stop watching it. Isn’t that just like modern television though? TV doesn’t always have to be particularly award-worthy to keep us invested, especially these days — it just has to be more interesting and bizarre than anything else rivaling our attention.

And I won’t lie to you: Dickinson is certainly bizarre.

I think what could have made this show immediately genius is if Emily Dickinson, poet ahead of her time, was the only one to speak in modern slang. If everyone else in the series seemed stoic and stuck and a little rigid, Emily Dickinson would’ve stood out. She’d be imagining Death as Wiz Khalifa, and slipping into fantasies and challenging the status quo, and she would’ve been misunderstood and genius. The audience would have clearly seen that.

But that’s not what happens in Dickinson. Emily’s sister Lavinia says “woke.” The young adults dance like they’re in a 2019 club. And even Emily’s parents seem to slip in and out of modernity. That’s what’s so jarring about the series: everyone feels like they were told they’re on a different show. Some were instructed to act only as if they were in a BBC period drama (Toby Huss, who plays Emily’s father, is one such example), while others were not. It’s... incredibly jarring and off-putting to watch the characters slip in and out of modernity.

And honestly, it’s what makes the show hard to connect with. Is Emily Dickinson supposed to be a poet ahead of her time or just Hailee Steinfeld in a teen drama on the CW? The constant shift between Emily Dickinson’s deeply 19th century voice in her writing (the episodes open and generally close with her reading a poem aloud while the text is also floating across the screen) and her modern-day slang keep me unable to understand what the show’s trying to accomplish by it’s seemingly random use of modernity. Nothing else about the show focuses on 2019: the costumes, sets, and technology are all distinctly period elements. So for the dialogue and musical decisions to be a jumbled mess of current and past rhetoric feels... well, less than ideal. It takes the viewer out of the story, and leaves us questioning why we should believe any character would be saying the things they are in the 19th century.

That doesn’t, however, mean Dickinson is without redemption. While the plot of Emily Dickinson’s life lends itself to some scandalous soapy drama (she’s pretty much explicitly depicted to have romantic, reciprocal feelings for her best female friend in the show), the highlight of Dickinson comes in the form of Hailee Steinfeld’s dramatic acting.

The show excels when it leans into the things that made Emily Dickinson compelling, not just scandalous. The series seemed to jump out of the gate trying to be edgy, fun, and relatable (hence the dialogue and incorporation of pop music), but that didn’t work for me as I noted above because it was haphazard and lifeless. The true highlight of the series was found in the exploration of Dickinson’s emotional complexities.

There’s a scene later in the series where Dickinson pleads with Death, and it proves that Hailee Steinfeld can really elevate whatever she’s acting in. She’s the emotional heart of the series and when she’s allowed to be a poet who feels like she’s alone — in her head, heart, and world around her — you palpably feel that pain and tension between where Dickinson is living and where she wants to be. We hear her inner critics and people beyond her own head, like her brother, tell her that she’s ordinary. They tell her that there’s nothing special about her.

It’s heartbreaking, but it works because it allows us to see cracks in Emily Dickinson’s exuberant, larger-than-life character. Tonally, the final three or four episodes of the show began to prove to me what the series should have been from the beginning. Dickinson works when I’m compelled by its characters, not distracted by their dialogue. The problem is that it takes most of the first season to get to that point.

I pretty much only stuck around with the show because I wanted to watch it implode on itself (which it does throughout the first six or so episodes), and because I needed to see John Mulaney play Henry David Thoreau. But then I found myself genuinely struck by the ending of “Faith Is a Fine Invention” and wondered why it had waited so long to try and hook me, emotionally. I still don’t know where I land on Dickinson — it’s a trainwreck and a hot mess and, because of that, genuinely compelling for (probably) not-so-great reasons. But it also has something right there, beneath its surface: a genuine possibility to be something great if it’s willing to shed its need to be shocking or subversive. The mish-mashed dialogue doesn’t work; Steinfeld’s performance does.

Emily Dickinson was interesting on her own, and I wonder if the creators were worried she wouldn’t be compelling or interesting or fun enough without trying to turn her into some soapy heroine. Episodes in the latter half of the first season strip those parts away gently. While the modern dialogue still exists, we see characters subvert expectations in other, far more organic ways (there’s an absolutely wonderful moment where Lavinia decides to stand up for herself at the end of episode nine, and some touching moments with Austin in the seventh episode).

I hope that Dickinson allows more people to discover Emily Dickinson’s poetry for exactly what it was: complex, deeply emotional, rooted in questions about faith and life and hope and death. And far, far ahead of its time. If the show manages to do that, at least, maybe I can forgive its transgressions.

Maybe.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Grey’s Anatomy 16x06 Recap: “Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard” (Happy Halloween!) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard”
Original Airdate: October 31, 2019

Unlike last year’s tear-jerking Day of the Dead episode, Grey’s Anatomy has gone all out on a comedic Halloween hour. This might be one of the most fun episodes to watch as of late. Between the haunted hospital and characters in “scary” situations, it’s impossible not to snicker through this one.

SPOOOOOOKY


The scare fest begins with Meredith snoring in a jail cell. Upon waking up, we learn that she is getting out of the brig today. The scary part is that we never learn how long Meredith was imprisoned for, or why we have never heard her snore before now. Jo has decided to properly celebrate Halloween by donning her wedding dress as a costume. With her face painted to make her look like a corpse, Jo tells Alex she is going to have a relaxing day off at home. Alex, on the other hand, is stressing about his meeting with potential investors.

Halloween doesn’t get off to the best start at the Grey/Pierce/Shepherd household. Zola asks Maggie when Meredith is coming back from sleep over community service, which might be the best analogy for jail that I’ve ever heard. Maggie is having a hard time looking after the kids and is grateful when DeLuca arrives to drive them to school. Unfortunately for him, trying to help Zola with her costume prompts a “You’re not my dad!” outrage.

Over at Pac-North, Alex and Richard are trying to complete their investor pitch without a hitch. Their pitch includes how they are trying to enhance the flow of the ER and teaching programs, with the hope of getting more funding for a much-needed skills lab. Right as Alex mentions that the new research wing construction is on budget and schedule, a construction worker interrupts with a problem. Alex leaves Richard to finish the tour, and you know the patient with a geyser of blood shooting out of the abdomen in a nearby room signifies how bad things are about to become.

Things start to get spooky at Grey Sloan Memorial too when Bailey confides in Amelia about her pregnancy. These two practically never share scenes, yet they become quick friends when Amelia gives Bailey advice about how to deal with the stress and cravings. Amelia giving Bailey advice is something I never thought I’d see. After getting away from her boss, Amelia is stopped in the hall by Link, who wants her to come to lunch with his parents. Halloween happens to be Link’s “cancer-versary,” or the day that his doctor told him he was cancer-free. Apparently, Link and his divorced parents meet every Halloween for lunch to celebrate. The more Link talks, the more nervous Amelia becomes. She is less than psyched about meeting his parents for the first time and having to tell them she is pregnant.

Jackson, DeLuca, and Schmitt have a young patient named Mary Rose who can’t be exposed to UV light without getting severely burned. Mary Rose has been treated by Alex her whole life and wants to see him. She presents with burns on both arms and claims not to know how she got them. The patient is upset by the news that she will have to have surgery and stay the night in the hospital because Halloween is the only day she can go outside and be a normal kid. As we collectively wipe the tears from our eyes, Jackson tells Schmitt to organize the annual Halloween party that Alex used to throw in order to lighten the spirits of the children in the hospital. Speaking of Alex, the construction worker at Pac-North brings him to a pit they have been digging. Work stopped when they found several skeletons in the ground.

SURPRISE!


Bailey, Teddy, and Koracick are outside to help with an incoming trauma. When the ambulance arrives, they learn their new patient is a teen who was hit by a car while walking to school. Don’t worry, the ax sticking out of his body is fake and part of his Halloween costume, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t cause real damage. Back at the potentially haunted hospital, Alex finds Richard and tells him about the mass grave the construction workers found. He isn’t sure how to break it to investors that a 100-year-old burial ground for mental hospital patients happens to be right where a new research wing is to be built. Richard says that Pac-North is haunted just as Jo walks in with her wedding dress coated in fake blood. Alex doesn’t like her joke or the fact that she too thinks the hospital is haunted upon learning about the mass grave. Things get real spooky when all the patients in the ICU have arrhythmias at the same time, prompting Alex to ask Jo to stick around and help out.

Before Link and Amelia’s lunch from hell begins, we get a quick shot of Link’s parents waiting in the restaurant saying how they hate surprises. On that good note, Link and Amelia arrive, and Link’s mother asks how long they have been seeing each other. She’s a little surprised it’s only been a few months, but the surprises keep coming when Amelia goes into full word vomit mode... everything from her living with her ex-husband and raising two kids with him to Link trying to get with her sister Meredith first makes an appearance. The shock factor only increases when Link’s parents then announce that they are getting remarried, and the bewildered look on Link’s face says it all.

OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN


The laughs take a short break to check in on Jackson and DeLuca. Jackson asks how Meredith is handling jail, and DeLuca complains about trying to not be her kids’ parent. The advice from Jackson that follows makes DeLuca realize that he can have a relationship with the kids without them thinking he is trying to be their new father. Now it’s time to get back to the comedy. Teddy and Bailey start to have a very real conversation in the OR. Teddy feels she is a bad mom because Owen threw her off by showing her the handmade costumes that his mom had made for him and Megan as kids. Owen’s mom was an army nurse and super mom at the same time, which makes Teddy feel inferior. She then declares that she and Owen skipped too many steps and went from being best friends to a family of four overnight.

As she says she doesn’t know what they are doing, the camera pans over to Koracick, who has been in the room the whole time and quietly listening. Awkward doesn’t even begin to cover it, and Teddy feels very embarrassed by forgetting about Koracick once again. After putting in his two cents and leaving, Teddy and Bailey are left to remove the teen’s pancreas after realizing that the fake ax caused some very real damage.

Jail doesn’t seem to be suiting Meredith too well, as she is pacing in her cell while staring at the clock. Her cellmate tells her to stop, but Meredith is mad that her paperwork hasn’t arrived from the courthouse allowing her to leave. Things aren’t going well over at Pac-North either. Owen, Alex, and Jo are trying to figure out what is happening to all the ICU patients. They find a transfusion form in every patient’s chart and come to the conclusion that they all must have been given bad blood. As they go to check the blood bank, all the patients start to crash again.

Link might be having the worst day of any of the characters. At the already cringe-worthy lunch, Link’s dad tells the story of how he got back together with his ex through dating apps that kept matching them up. They met up to laugh about it and realized that those apps weren’t so wrong. The usually level-headed Link loses it when his father asks him to be his best man at the upcoming low key wedding. Link laughs in his face and describes the terrible details of their divorce. His parents forced him to pick sides, making Link hate his life. Link describes all the horrible things they made him do, but the worst has to be the reveal that he double majored in college just so his parents could go to different graduation ceremonies. Link says that he literally doesn’t know what to say about his parents getting remarried, blurts out that Amelia is pregnant and that they won’t put their child through what happened to him, and storms out. The icing on the cake is that his parents look less than thrilled that Amelia is pregnant.

REALITY CHECK


The Pac-North blood mystery gets solved pretty quickly when Alex finds that the blood bank is not at the right temperature, which has made the blood go bad. Good news is that they now know how to help their patients. Bailey and Teddy’s patient is also going to be okay, but the two doctors might not be. Bailey is clearly struggling with hormonal issues and tells Teddy not to worry about her kids’ costumes. She says spending time with the kids is more important, but Teddy doesn’t look convinced.

Over at the prison, Meredith tells her cellmate how she got jail time. After Meredith is done griping, the cellmate tells her story, which is way sadder. The cellmate has two kids and works two jobs to make ends meet. After her childcare for the night fell through, she put her kids to bed and went to work her night shift. One of the kids woke up, realized they were alone, and called 9-1-1. The police didn’t want to listen to her story, and she accidentally hit a police officer with an errant gesture while talking. She was arrested for assault and still hasn’t had a court hearing. She also can’t afford bail, her kids are in foster care, and it might be another month before she gets a hearing. If this doesn’t scream reality check for Meredith, then I don’t know what will make her realize her situation isn’t so bad.

Outside of the restaurant, Amelia tries to calm Link down. He is quite mad, but manages to divulge a hilarious story about attempting to Parent Trap his parents as a kid. Amelia tells him that she thinks he’s angry that his parents are making his cancer-versary all about them. She goes on to say that she understands family dysfunction and that he needs to decide whether to leave or give his parents a chance to do better. Back at Grey Sloan, Schmitt is approached by a small child while setting up for the Halloween party. The kid asks Schmitt to help him find a costume, which leads to Schmitt taking the rest of the day to embrace the holiday and make the kid the sunflower costume he wants. Maggie has arrived at the hospital after picking up Meredith’s kids from school and wants DeLuca to watch after Zola after she refuses to go to daycare. Zola is not happy about the situation, but doesn’t have a choice since Maggie has a surgery to get to. DeLuca is just as unhappy, but he tries to be a good person anyway and agrees to help.

BONDING


DeLuca leaves Zola outside of Mary Rose’s room before joining Jackson to check up on their patient. The girl is still asking for Alex, so Jackson does a decent impression of him. Mary Rose says that she got the burns on her arms from running outside to catch her kitten that had gotten out of the house. She didn’t have time to put on her jacket and apologizes for her mistake. She asks Jackson not to tell her parents and assures him she won’t leave the house without her protective clothes again. As they leave the room, DeLuca notices that Zola has run away.

Amelia has convinced Link to give the lunch one more chance, so they rejoin his parents. Of course, his parents say that there could be two weddings in the future, which doesn’t go over well with Link. He and Amelia both immediately say that they have no plans to get married and simply want to raise their child together for the time being. The parents go on to discuss their wedding and ask Amelia when her due date is because they have already put down a deposit on a place for the third week of April. Link nearly launches himself across the table, but the look on his face is enough to have his dad backpedal and say they can work the wedding around when the baby is born.

Just as Meredith has finally started to bond with her cellmate, her paperwork arrives and she is free to finally go home. Her boyfriend had better hurry up and find Zola if he wants the family reunion to go well. DeLuca luckily finds Zola hiding out in one of the OR galleries and takes the chance to ask her what he did to upset her. Zola explains that Derek helped her fix her Halloween costume before he died and that she doesn’t want to forget him. DeLuca is touched by the story and launches into a “you will never forget him” campaign. He finally starts to bond with Zola by telling her stories about Derek, who he never met. Zola particularly likes the story about lab tech with the massive spinal tumor, which should make the entire audience smile with nostalgia.
Even though things are going much better over at Pac-North, the staff is convinced that the hospital is being haunted by the skeletons found in the mass grave. Alex has pretty much had it with the conspiracy theories and explains how everything that has happened has a rational explanation. As he says that he wants everyone to get back to work and stop worrying about the burial ground, Richard and the group of investors walk by. This prompts the stunned investors to turn around and walk away.

YOU MAY KISS THE BRIDE


Back at Grey Sloan, Bailey finds Koracick, who is being a major grumpy pants. Bailey calls him out, so Koracick explains how Halloween was his and his son’s thing. He gets very emotional when he starts talking about a Luke Skywalker costume that his son was so excited to wear one Halloween, but he never got to wear it because he died two weeks before the holiday. Bailey bursts into tears, and the scene quickly turns and has Koracick consoling Bailey instead of the other way around, leading to some more laughs. Pac-North’s day is also coming to a close, and Alex wants to take Jo home. She tells him how good of a job he is doing at the hospital, and Alex reveals that the investors decided to give him the funding in spite of the whole burial ground fiasco. Alex wants to celebrate by going to the courthouse and getting married for real, which is easily the biggest and best shocker of the night.

Celebrations continue at the Grey/Pierce/Shepherd house when Amelia makes Link a plate of candy with a candle in it to mark his cancer-versary. Meredith surprises everyone when she walks in still dressed in her jail attire. Of course, the kids think she has a great costume, while the adults are trying to hide their smiles. Back at Grey Sloan, Teddy tells Owen that she won’t be a super mom and can’t live up to his mother’s standards. Owen says he only brought the costumes to see if they would fit the kids, not to shame Teddy. Too late because Teddy was inspired by the costumes after all, as she shows everyone that she dressed Leo and Allison up as zombies, much to the dismay of literally everyone who works at the hospital.

The episode ends with a trio of happy endings. The hospital’s Halloween party is a big success, and everyone has a great time. Alex and Jo are finally officially married, but the ceremony doesn’t go quite as planned. Jo decides to prank Alex, and the audience, by announcing that she is pregnant in the vows. Alex couldn’t be more excited, but she says that she is just joking. They get married as the audience does a collective sigh, but maybe that’s a hint that it won’t be long before a little Karev will be running around. The third ending shows that Meredith posted her cellmate’s bail, and it seems that Meredith has an idea of what she wants to do with her life if the medical board takes away her license.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

5 Lessons We Can All Learn From Modern Love [Contributor: Jenn]


Love is messy.

And I’m not just talking about romantic love (though that is, in my experience, messy). I’m talking about the act of loving another person — a significant other, child, friend, parent or stranger. Love is messy because it requires sacrifice. We give, with open hands and hearts, knowing that our love may not be reciprocated. And even if it is, we give risking someone breaking our trust or crushing that love.

Like I said, love is messy. Because people are messy.

Amazon Prime’s Modern Love is an anthology based on a popular column from The New York Times of the same name. Throughout eight episodes, we witness all kinds of love between individuals. And through these little windows into love, we learn something about ourselves and the people around us.

I won’t pretend that Modern Love is a flawless TV series (tbh for a series set in diverse New York, there sure are a lot of white people), but what I will say is that it deeply touched me and I feel like there are quite a few lessons we can apply from its stories.

I’ll be sharing the plot of most of the episodes below (fair warning, I didn’t make it through more than five minutes of “So He Looked Like Dad. It Was Just Dinner, Right?” but the good news is that you too can skip it and it won’t make much of a difference at all!), so this is your spoiler warning. Ready? Let’s dive in.


Lesson #1: Platonic Love is Powerful


The first episode, “When the Doorman is Your Main Man” is probably the most deeply touching (save for the finale) of Modern Love starring Cristin Milioti and Laurentius Possa. Milioti plays Maggie, a young book editor and Possa plays her doorman, Guzmin. The two have a lovely platonic relationship: he looks out for her best interests, and she confides in him. The relationship never develops into romance, but I think that’s what makes this particular episode so important: love isn’t always romantic.

Platonic love can be as powerful as romantic love.

Maggie never feels judged or shamed by Guzmin. He never chides or taunts her; he always reminds her that he’s there and will support her no matter what. Her life is hers to decide, but he’ll tell her in a gentle, loving way when she’s too good for a guy.

Platonic love is often overlooked in television these days in favor of romantic love. That’s not to say one should always take precedence over another, but there’s something powerful about knowing that on Grey’s Anatomy, Alex will always be there to support Meredith and romance won’t be on the table.

Similarly in Modern Love, Maggie knows that she can count on someone who has no hidden agenda, no ulterior motives, and wants nothing but her happiness. There’s something so pure and unhindered about Guzmin’s love for Maggie. We watch him help her raise her daughter and push her out of her comfort zone to move to Los Angeles. Guzmin isn’t jealous, condescending, or selfish.

He’ll always be there with an umbrella. He’ll help Maggie because he loves her. And it’s beautiful.


Lesson #2: Self-Love Love Demands the Truth


“Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am” is a powerful episode in which Anne Hathaway (long live my Queen of Genovia) stars. This episode tells the story of Lexi, a lawyer who we learn, about half-way through the episode, is bipolar. But no one knows Lexi is bipolar or that she’s struggled with her condition since she was a teenager. She’s tried everything under the sun to help, but Lexi is locked in a prison of her own making: her silence and shame.

So she bounces from job to job, claiming she likes moving on. She pushes away potential romantic suitors, including Jeff (played by Gary Carr) whom she meets at a grocery store during a manic episode. Lexi goes through multiple, heartbreaking manic and depressive bouts throughout “Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am.” Anne Hathaway does a wonderful job conveying the utter pain and frustration when Lexi is hit with an intense bout of depression as she puts on mascara for a date.

But the most powerful lesson we can glean from the episode is that love, especially self-love, demands honesty. We can’t truly love ourselves or others if we’re not honest with who we are, what we struggle with, and what we want. I’ve been in relationships and have watched friends’ relationships fall apart because one person is too afraid to let down their walls and let others in. Shame is a door we lock from the inside, believing that if anyone saw who we were — the ugly, painful, secretive stuff — that they wouldn’t love us. The truth is that the reason we hide is because WE don’t love those parts of ourselves. Until we learn to stare our insecurities, doubts, pasts, and shadowy parts in the eye and accept them, we’re just running.

I’ve seen what running and hiding does to a relationship. I’ve watched people crumble before my eyes because they can’t accept who they are, or what they’ve done. They can’t come to grips with the fact that they’re broken and messy so they put up walls and only let other people see them a certain way. I once dated a guy who said he never cried in public; he wouldn’t let anyone, not even his close friends and certainly not strangers, see him weep. He hid his emotions. He hid his brokenness. And that might not cost him dearly in the short-term (we never think we’ll have to pay a price), but it will in the long-term.

Love, at the very least, is sitting across the table and saying, “You’re not okay. I won’t try to fix you. I’ll just sit here in your brokenness with you.” And that’s what happens to Lexi. Her friend and colleague won’t let her be alone in her brokenness, but she also doesn’t pry or force herself or her expectations onto her. Slowly, Lexi opens up. And shame dissipates. Not permanently. Not forever. But something cracks and the light begins to pour in.

Self-love demands we take a hard look at the parts of ourselves we don’t like, and acknowledge that they’re present. They exist. Whether we choose to love or hate ourselves really does affect how we love others. We can pretend it doesn’t, and we can shove our emotions, insecurities, and self-doubt way down deep, pretending we’re fine. Pretending we’re not flawed.

But true self-love thrives when we’re honest with our shortcomings and issues. Admitting our cracks helps us step out of shame and into a light where we feel free to tell our stories, truthfully, to others we can trust. It allows us to get the help we need. And it also allows others to open up about their own struggles. Vulnerability begets vulnerability.

Self-love opens the door to all kinds of deep, meaningful connection. And I love that Modern Love focused on this through Lexi’s story.


Lesson #3: Romantic Love is Work


I thought I was going to skip “Rallying to Keep the Game Alive.” Not because I dislike Tina Fey (quite the opposite), but because the subject matter seemed too tense and real. A majority of Modern Love’s fourth episode is devoted to a sparring married couple; their relationship is on the brink of divorce. Sarah (Fey) and Dennis (John Slattery) can’t communicate or agree on anything. They’re fighting. Their kids are fighting. The couple is going to counseling but it’s not sticking. Even when the counselor tells them to find an activity to do together, they fight. They use tennis to wound each other. And Sarah’s breaking point, it seems, is when she snaps at one of her husband’s fans (he’s an actor) at dinner.

What I love about this episode is the thing I thought I’d hate: its realism. Often, we turn to romantic movies or television shows for escapism. We dream of what could be while fleeing from what’s happening in our real lives. “Rallying to Keep the Game Alive” is an apt title, because Sarah and Dennis finally hit a point in their marriage where they have to decide if they’re going to be honest and vulnerable or keep avoiding and shutting down. Both choose unhealthy ways of processing their emotions (Sarah gravitates toward anger while Dennis chooses to be emotionally distant or physically absent).

The turning point is when Sarah lays down her anger in favor of emotional vulnerability, and Dennis chooses to sit in the discomfort of the moment instead of checking out or running away. It’s a painful, but necessary, reminder that love is work. It’s a choice. It’s not something we’re innately programmed to do. We’re programmed to run, to hurt when we’ve been hurt, to fight back. Dennis’ apology where he doesn’t excuse his behavior or try to pin blame is so significant.

Sarah puts down her armor. Dennis apologizes. That’s it. That’s not the end of all their issues, but the start of their next step. And the beginning of an actual choice — to pursue their marriage.

Love is work, friends. Love is hard, hard work. And it’s forgiveness (within reasons, of course: don’t let anyone make you confuse abuse with love) when it can be, and tentative steps forward in trust.

Love can be good. But boy is it hard.


Lesson #4: Love is a Choice, Over and Over Again


People often tell us that love is a feeling, but that’s only partially true. Real, lasting love is a choice. A daily surrender. A constant decision that’s day by day and sometimes moment by moment. I dated a guy once who had a lot of emotional baggage and issues loving himself. As a result, he believed that love was a thing that was supposed to make him feel good. When he loved someone, he’d feel it and everything would fall into place; he’d love himself if someone else loved him first. Maybe I’ve been deprogrammed because of rom-coms but I told him that love is a decision you make even when you DON’T feel good about yourself or the person you care about.

A few episodes in Modern Love demonstrate the fact that love is a choice (one of them is the “Rallying” episode I noted above), but perhaps none more than “When Cupid is a Prying Journalist.” I adored this episode, and not just because it featured Dev Patel, who needs to star in all the rom-coms possible. I enjoyed it because it featured a realistic look at what it takes to make love work. It showed relationships falling apart, and the consequences of peoples’ decisions or indecision. Patel plays Joshua, creator of a dating app. He’s interviewed by a journalist named Julie (played by Catherine Keener) about the aforementioned app. In the process, the two strike up a friendship as they share stories of lost loves.

The conversation spurs both to reach out and take a chance on a love that they thought they’d left behind. Joshua’s relationship with his ex rekindles, and Julie’s relationship with her what-might-have-been doesn’t ever leave the ground. But the encounter leads them both to make decisions: Julie ends her stalled marriage, while her might-have-been decides to make it work with his wife. And Joshua professes his love, via Julie’s article, for his ex.

Finding or losing love isn’t the end of the story (a fact that’ll be reiterated in the season’s final episode), but it is a choice. Julie, Joshua, and every other character in this episode had to choose something: whether to end a relationship, forgive, or fight to keep love alive. Their choices were intentional, and I think that was really important to witness.

(Additionally, “Hers Was a World of One” features a beautiful display of this theme in its depiction of a found family. Tobin and Andy decide to adopt the newborn of a surrogate named Karla who’s young, homeless, and a lot to handle. The couple makes room for her in their lives and realizes how complex relationships, families, and preconceived notions of people can be. They choose to love her, even when she’s hard to love. And she chooses to connect with them emotionally even though it’s easier to do life alone.)


Lesson #5: True Love Moves Us to Action


“Talk is cheap.” 

“Actions speak louder than words.”

As much as we hate clichés, there’s a reason they exist: there’s truth in them. And clichés like the ones above hold one important truth about love: love, any love, demands action. Every episode in Modern Love depicts love being an action, a choice, and a thing someone does.

True love pushes us to keep changing and evolving — no matter what kind of love you’re talking about. “The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap” is Modern Love’s season finale, and I love it for a lot of reasons: it nicely ties stories together through the season, it focuses on new love found in an elderly couple, and it’s hopeful. The finale tells the story of Margot (Jane Alexander) and Kenji (James Saito) who meet one another at a race. Margot invites Kenji to join the running club she belongs to, and the two strike a kinship that turns into love. They’ve both experienced a lot in life by the time they meet, including loss. But, as Margot says at Kenji’s funeral, new love in old age is something truly special.

Margot decides to walk home from the service rather than take a car, and as she walks, she passes runners. Something stirs within her and she begins to jog, clearly feeling freedom and joy. As she jogs and cars pass, the audience witnesses glimpses of the other storylines we hadn’t gotten before: of Karla meeting Tobin and Andy for the first time, of Guzmin walking home with Maggie in the rain, of Joshua running into Julia and her new flame, and Dennis and Sarah playing tennis in the rain.

All the while, life is moving. Love is still all around (I’m sorry, I just had to sneak in that reference somehow), and Margot is still running. But she’s not running AWAY from feeling; she’s running TO it. She’s not slowing down, even though she loved Kenji. She’s acting because she loved him.

In Modern Love, we see characters act out of love for each other more than we hear “I love you” uttered. That’s so important. And it’s something we can learn from.

The Flash 6x03 Review: "Dead Man Running" (Dark Matter Zombies and More) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Dead Man Running”
Original Airdate: October 22, 2019

This week on The Flash, we get a little bit of dark matter zombification, a more focused look at Ramsey Rosso, some character stuff, and a sprinkling of season arc angst. With decent B and C stories to supplement the rare Barry and Killer Frost team-up main story, “Dead Man Running” is a pretty jam-packed episode that still manages to seem focused — on both the single-episode story and seeding the ground for things to come in the season.

UNDEAD AND DEALING WITH DYING


The episode begins with some low-level villains getting taken out by an unseen, growling entity. It’s actually a fun fake-out, since you almost get the impression that these villains will be the metahumans of the week, or at least will have something to do with the conflict. These guys even have some internal drama that, in any other episode, would result in the even-lower-level villains turning on their usurper leader fifteen minutes before credits roll. But nope! They all get killed by the actual threat of the episode, leaving behind mangled and mauled bodies for Barry, Joe, and Frost to find during a CCPD investigation. Why is Frost there? Unclear. Do any non-members of Team Flash recognize her as Caitlin, but with blue lipstick and a gray wig? Unclear. Would it matter if anyone did find out Caitlin is Killer Frost? Unclear. Especially since this show has never exactly treated secret identities with the same reverence as other shows of the same ilk.

When Frost finds a stash of guns empty of dark matter ammo, she has a sudden epiphany regarding who the attacker could be. The next we see her, she’s holding an ice dagger against Ramsey Rosso’s throat. Barry stops her from going full villain on (what appears to be) an innocent man, but she remembers him meeting with Caitlin and getting angry over her refusal to help him obtain dark matter in the season premiere. You know, I’m a little confused about how aware Ramsey is of his inner dark matter demon — was he just pretending to not know where Romero’s oozing black shoulder wound came from during his autopsy recording in last week’s episode? Later this episode, he seems legitimately afraid of getting attacked by Romero even though he should know he can fend the zombie man off. Is it a Jekyll and Hyde situation where Ramsey is just possessed by the thrall of dark matter occasionally? I suppose things will be made more clear as the season progresses.

Anyway, the dark matter zombie needs a steady stream of said dark matter shoved into his oozing black shoulder wound in order to keep going. There’s news of another break-in at a location sure to have loads of dark matter and Barry and Frost arrive just in time to catch Romero in the middle of his rampage. Although Barry tries to cuff him, he easily breaks free. Frost ice blasts him out a window, which Barry doesn’t like so much. I don’t remember this deal being made, but Barry has three weeks to teach Frost how they do things on Team Flash and she’s failing. Frost insists it’s only because Barry is a crappy teacher. Hey, that’s what I’ve been saying!

The reason why Barry and Frost are teamed up on this Ramsey storyline goes deeper than Barry showing Frost the ropes, though. All three of them are fueled by a response to impending death: Ramsey is fighting, Barry has accepted it, and Frost — who is just learning what it means to be alive, only to get the news from Iris and Barry that the universe could be ending before Christmas — is lashing out at anything and everything around her. Most of the parallels are between Barry and Ramsey, but Frost is definitely in there as well.

Later, Ramsey is attacked by Dark Matter Zombie Romero (Oh, hey, I just got that reference!) but learns that his undead creation will follow his commands and mirror his movements. Barry doesn’t notice the father-monster bonding and instead lures Romero away and into the Pipeline, where one of those metahuman holding tanks should neutralize his powers. “Should” being the operative word, since Romero promptly breaks free. Frost freezes him by the feet and gets the bright idea to essentially OD Romero on dark matter, which works — and by “works” I mean it explodes him into chocolate pudding. Ew.

To end the arc, Ramsey is seen with a vial of Romero’s blended dark matter blood. Like Romero had, the blood follows Ramsey’s movements. Ramsey believes the zombie blood will heal anything, including the disease that’s killing him. He throws the blood at the wall, then sucks it up again. He declares that he needs more.

SECONDARY STORIES


But the episode wasn’t just about dark matter zombies! The other members of Team Flash were having adventures and figuring stuff out, too. First up: Ralph teams up with Cecile (and I’m still surprised at how well those two work together) when Ralph’s mother shows up, having just been arrested for armed robbery. Apparently Mama Dibney has quite the colorful past — and present, considering that her usual haunt is a gambling den and she’s a viable culprit in an armed robbery. Also, her name is Deb, which is weird for me personally.

Through a series of wacky hijinks, the trio uncovers the truth of Deb Dibney’s whereabouts during the robbery as well as a long-buried truth from Ralph’s past: though Deb told her son all her ex-boyfriends had died and he’d mourned them, she was actually lying to protect him from repeating the pain he felt when his birth father left the family. You know, I don’t think much about Ralph Dibney’s emotional depths, but his interactions with his mother were genuinely good this episode — just a teeny, tiny snippet of something that allowed the character to be more “real” than he was before. Good job, show!

Our other secondary plotline of the episode involved Iris and Cisco hunting for the new Harrison Wells duplicate after new cub reporter Allegra (from the last episode) spotted him in a photo. The new Harrison — “Nash” — Wells is an Indiana Jones type searching for a substance called Eternium, which I can only assume will become important later in the season. While not as character-driven as the Ralph plot, this segment of the episode was interesting in the way it explored Iris’s struggle with telling the truth about alternate universes and whatever to Allegra.

I’m glad to see that Allegra’s inclusion on Iris’s news team was more than just a throwaway ending for the last episode. It’ll be fun to see yet another instance of secret identities and the hidden realities of Team Flash meaning nothing when Iris inevitably breaks down and tells Allegra the whole truth.

Other Things:

  • It is really funny to me that Barry being a terrible teacher is a consistent character trait.
  • Barry throwing Frost her first ever birthday party was adorable. It’s a real shame he had to follow it up with telling everyone he probably has to die in order to save the multiverse.
  • Nash Wells is still looking for Eternium and finds some in a sewer. I don’t really know where this New Wells plot is going.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Flash 6x02 Review: "A Flash of the Lightning" (Waves of Trouble) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]



“A Flash of the Lightning”
Original Airdate: October 15, 2019

First up: anyone else think this week’s episode is titled with some strange grammar? “A Flash of the Lightning”? What’s that “the” doing in there, The Flash? This has no bearing on my opinion of the episode, which I thought was well-acted and delivered a lot of interesting information but still seemed a bit slow for some reason. I just wanted to mention it.

THE MATTER OF ANTIMATTER


If you recall last week’s episode, the Monitor stopped by to drop the bad news that Barry’s gotta die or else the whole multiverse is doomed. To quote Iris quoting the Monitor: “To save the lives of billions the Flash must die — what kind of crap is that?” Oh, Iris. Calling shenanigans on comic book prophecies like the genre-savvy boss you are. Please never change, unless that change is an increase in screen time.

Barry and Iris come up with a plan to go into the future, to the day after Barry’s meant to disappear, and see what’s there to be seen. Armed with a mobile Gideon to let Barry (and the audience) know when stuff starts going wrong, Barry zips into the future. When he starts to approach the December 10, 2019 date he’s aiming for, something spits him back out into the present with a glowy wound on his leg and not much information. Turns out, the glow on that wound is antimatter (I wonder if it’s French Vanilla flavored?) and if Barry didn’t have super fast healing powers, he would have ceased to exist.

Time for yet another trip! Onto another Earth, rather than into the future: Barry pays a visit to Jay Garrick of Earth-3 because he’s apparently a top expert on antimatter. Jay has noticed antimatter popping up all over the place in “walls,” thus endangering all Earths everywhere. There’s no way past the antimatter wall physically, but Jay has built a device that could potentially send Barry’s mind past the wall instead.

Barry gets strapped into Jay’s device but things start going wrong quickly. Barry witnesses billions of timelines, all of which involve the destruction of everything. After witnessing all his loved ones get wiped out of existence, we see a different timeline where a running Barry seems to dissolve mid-stride in a sequence reminiscent of the Flash’s death in the actual Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book the upcoming Arrowverse event is based on. Jay and his wife (who’s a doppelgänger of Barry’s mom, fittingly) pull Barry out of a medical crash but he’s passed out for a while.

When he wakes up, Barry’s feeling physical pain from neural entropy and emotional pain from realizing that his death really is the only option for saving the rest of the multiverse. He gets carted back to Earth-1 and Iris, who’s still trying to stay positive in the face of her husband’s newfound negativity. Grant Gustin and Candice Patton seriously ace all their scenes together this episode, the one where they discuss their choices for the upcoming Crisis especially. Barry is utterly defeated, but Iris still has hope they’ll figure something out without losing Barry.

ELECTROMAGNETIC BOOGALOO


Speaking of good acting: Danielle Nicolet as Cecile got a lot of great stuff to do this episode as well. Cecile is carrying the Meta of the Week portion of things while Barry and Iris deal with the weight of the season arc, and she does an excellent job swinging from absolute faith in her empath powers to doubt and frustration. The meta she’s dealing with is named Allegra, who can control wavelengths along the electromagnetic spectrum and is about to be sentenced in a murder case when Cecile senses not only a lack of guilt in her, but also knowledge of the real killer.

Cecile turns to the rest of Team Flash (sans the Flash himself) to figure out how Allegra could have an eyewitness pin her at the scene of the crime but not be guilty. The first step is to talk to that eyewitness, but when they show up at the person’s apartment they find the witness dead and Allegra present at the crime scene. She throws UV waves directly at Ralph’s face, resulting in a nasty sunburn that matches the burns found on the first victim in Allegra’s case.

Twists and turns lead Cecile & Co. to the only logical answer: the cousin Allegra was with when they were caught in the particle accelerator explosion years ago hadn’t died, as Allegra assumed, but gained the same powers Allegra got and turned down a far more murderous path in life. Allegra thinks mentioning her theory of her cousin Esperanza’s survival is guaranteed to make anyone laugh in her face and call her crazy, but I’m not so sure why. In a city often dealing with everything from people who can call upon lightning to people who can turn matter into cubes, I don’t really think “someone I thought was dead could still be alive” would rank in the top twenty of a Central City citizen’s weird-o-meter.

Once she gets the truth from Allegra, Cecile calls up Ralph and Iris, who have gathered together five years’ worth of juvie files, and asks Ralph to look up Esperanza. Turns out, she was in a vegetative state after the particle accelerator explosion, not dead. More interestingly, though: Esperanza was taken from the detention center’s hospital by a shady company and her file was largely redacted. Even more interestingly: Esperanza attacks CCPD looking for Allegra, who she wants to kill to keep the secret of her survival a secret. Um... wouldn’t it be better to just lay low until Allegra goes to jail? No one was believing her about Esperanza being the real killer anyway.

Anyway, the attack on CCPD pushes Barry out of his convalescence and his defeated funk. He speeds over to the police station and faces Esperanza head on — literally. He gets one of those UV burns on his face for his troubles, but he does manage to get a good punch in to knock Esperanza out. Presumably, she’s apprehended after that.

At the end of the episode, Barry’s experience with Esperanza has taught him to face his impending doom with less of a mopey attitude, I guess? Iris is still adamant that he shouldn’t go down without a fight, but Barry is convinced his death is a definite possibility, especially if it’s what needs to be done to save Iris and the rest of existence.

Other Things:
  • The Killer Frost/Cisco/Ralph storyline this episode was also wonderful, though it didn’t fit into the main body of this review. It’s also really funny that Cisco had a convenient fix for Frost’s icy-echo voice effect and glowy eyes. Guess the folks in post-production weren’t on board to add those effects over so much screen time.
  • “It’s not getting any less ow.” I’m still amazed by how funny Ralph is now that he’s not being gross all the time.
  • Esperanza/Ultraviolet’s strobe fight set to rock music was pretty cool. Is every episode this season going to have a cool sequence vaguely related to music cues?
  • Speaking of cool: Joe this episode? Even more cool than usual. I can’t pinpoint why, but he is.
  • My only real problem with the Cecile and Allegra plot is that it sort of buried the lede on that shady business of turning metahumans into assassins.