Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Flash 5x11 Review: "Seeing Red" (Rage Against the Dark Matter) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Seeing Red"
Original Airdate: January 22, 2019 

Cicada and his awful Batman Voice is back in full focus this episode. Rumors online keep telling me he’s not the real villain of the season but they’re sure dragging his story out in a way that implies he’s the villain of the season. Anyway, “Seeing Red” — as the name would suggest — focuses a lot on the effects of anger, not only in Cicada and the people on his anti-meta side, but also in Barry.

Although it’s not as precisely balanced as episodes have been in the past and it lacks a certain “wow” factor (possibly due to the absence of Cisco through the whole thing), this isn’t a bad episode. It’s certainly a step up from the frustration-fest we dealt with last week, I’ll say that much.


Huh. So it turns out the Dr. Ambres, the doctor lady we’ve seen helping out Cicada since the beginning, is a lot more bloodthirsty than she originally seemed, since she directs him to go on his killing spree that sets off the plot of this episode. Between this and the somewhat heavy-handed planting of the “blame all the metahumans” idea she gave to Orlin in "O Come, All Ye Thankful," I’m wondering if maybe she’s the big villain of the season instead of (I assume, as the most logical alternative to Cicada) Eobard Thawne from the future. I really wouldn’t put it past this show.

After getting a list of meta targets from Dr. Ambres, Cicada hunts down a man named Bork (which just makes me think of the Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show) and our old friend, Matthew “Snakeface McGee” Norvok. You remember Norvok, right? The guy with the snake in his face. Anyway, Cicada kills Bork Bork Bork and Norvok flees, to snakeface again another day.

Oh hey, Barry Allen doing his non-superhero job! Always a delight, especially when Nora gets to be his intern-slash-sidekick. At the Bork crime scene the next day, the two quickly realize that Bork’s injuries resemble those of past Cicada victims and determine that Bork was a meta. He’s also one of three victims of Cicada’s attack, which means Cicada is escalating after his little murder hiatus. As Team Flash is discussing this escalation later at S.T.A.R. Labs, an alarm goes off, indicating that Cicada’s striking again.

Cicada’s latest victim is seriously injured but still alive. In all the chaos, Cicada is able to attack Nora — she gets stabbed in the back, resulting in a broken spine, paralysis, and a temporary pause in her speed-healing. Even though the show dips into dramatic “what if Nora never gets better?” territory for, like, half a second, she definitely does get better. In this very episode in fact. Her injury is less of a catalyst for exploring Nora herself and more about exploring Barry’s attachment to Nora as his daughter. When he sees Nora hurt, Barry goes a little murder-y himself in his anger and that becomes a key beat of the episode.

The actual episode plot, however, is all about gathering up Cicada’s potential victims and getting them into protective custody. The show actually does a pretty good job mimicking some typical procedural stuff for this storyline, including getting Cecile to organize a safe house for the metas and hunt down the leak within CCPD that provided Cicada with the metahuman list in the first place. Spoiler: it was Officer Jones, the victim of meta-tech from the fourth episode of the season. He did it because he was angry. That’s a big motivator this episode.

See, for example: Barry almost killing Cicada in the climactic final battle, after our villain gets a tip-off from Officer Jones on where the metahumans are getting picked up for transfer to the safe location and shows up to kill ‘em all. Like I said, Barry’s anger over Nora’s injury made him contemplate more drastic measures for dealing with Cicada. I was actually surprised the episode never brought up Barry exploring his angry feelings during the crossover event, since it would have made a good connecting thread from that to this. There was also Barry’s rage when he traveled back in time and met up with Eobard Thawne. I’m not sure how much more of this season will be dedicated to Barry’s darker emotions, but it’s interesting how that subject keeps popping up.

With a little help from Killer Frost — the only meta unaffected by Cicada’s dagger — the team manages to get all the metas to safety and Barry doesn’t kill anyone, but Cicada does get away. Barry’s strong protective feelings over his daughter give him an idea to appeal to Cicada’s emotions using Grace, the comatose adoptive daughter of Orlin Dwyer. They just have to wake her up, and Orlin/Cicada’s killing spree will have no more purpose. Easy-peasy, right? Of course, we’re ignoring the fact that Orlin’s kill count is in the dozens at this point and he’s definitely going to jail, so he’d probably see no reason to just stop killing metas for an adoptive daughter he still won’t ever be allowed to see. And, in fact, he would probably continue blaming metas for sending him down the spiraling path of murder in the first place but... Yeah, wake the little girl up, Team Flash. It’s a good deed regardless.


A minor subplot of this episode is Sherloque investigating Nora, and I know that this is a significant thing simply because so much time is dedicated to it — but seriously, what is going on with this? Why was Sherloque suspicious of Nora from the start, and how is this going to play out? It’s probably the most frustrating mystery of the season, since I can’t figure out what the angle is supposed to be, or even what the bait-and-switch angle might be. Are we supposed to be thinking Nora is a villain? That she isn’t who she says she is? Or are we supposed to be thinking Sherloque is a villain and isn’t who he says he is? A lot about the way the show frames his investigation implies he knew from the start that Nora was a lying liar, but I really don’t know how he could have known.

But I don’t know, maybe his character is just that he notices stuff no one else does, he noticed Nora’s shiftiness, and he didn’t want to openly accuse her while no one on Team Flash even likes him. Iris certainly gave him a real talking-to in this episode (yet another anger motif, by the way) and Barry almost killed a guy for hurting Nora, so Sherloque should definitely be wary of crossing Team Flash where she’s concerned.

Other Things:

  • Norvok got a redemption arc, by the way. That was nice. He still has a snake in his face, though, so that’s a bummer.
  • The final scene of the episode was Orlin looking at pictures of Team Flash while making grimacing faces and I have no idea what it’s meant to convey.
  • I still really like the Caitlin and Killer Frost relationship development. It just didn’t fit into this review too well, since anger did not factor into their quarrel so much as fear did. Important, though: Killer Frost snatches some Cicada blood for Caitlin to use in the metahuman cure.


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