Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Flash 5x14 Review: "Cause and XS" (If At First You Don’t Succeed) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Cause and XS"
Original Airdate: February 12, 2019 

Who’s ready for a Groundhog Day episode? And if you’re not ready, just wait a bit and maybe some seemingly inconsequential thing in your day will change, thereby making you ready the next loop.

This week, Nora’s playing with time (she learns nothing from the sins of her father) so she can save members of Team Flash from getting killed by Cicada. What would normally be just a typical time loop episode is uplifted by a ramping sense of desperation on Nora’s part — kudos to Jessica Parker Kennedy for being stellar at emotionally losing it, again — and a heavy emphasis on character moments for both Nora and, surprisingly, Cisco.


The episode opens on Cisco in the arctic black ops site, cyber-stalking the bartender he met a couple weeks ago. Oh, and doing metahuman cure science stuff, too. Before he has a chance to breach home for his date with Kamilla and the announcement of the metahuman cure, he gets some news on his computer that stops him in his tracks. Turns out, the cure won’t synthesize for another month — so that’s a month of Cicada continuing to kill metas. After he breaks this news to the team, Sherloque gets the idea of sending the cure into the Speed Force to, er, speed things up. Cisco likens it to “nuking” the cure in a “pan-dimensional microwave,” and it’d take the month-long wait down to about an hour.

So, cool. That’s a plan. Barry volunteers himself for hanging out in the Speed Force for an hour (I sure hope the Speed Force isn’t still angry at him) but Nora isn’t happy to see him go. She’s worried about having to handle things on her own, and Barry reassures her that everything will be fine and anything he can do, she can do. Oh how right you are, Bartholomew! Nora’s a chip off the old block, at least where blatant disregard for the laws of time and physics is concerned.

Once Barry is tucked away into the Speed Force for an episode, Nora runs into Ralph in the hall on the way back to the lab. Ralph has plans to “help” Cisco with his upcoming date by using the Book of Ralph, the same “guide” he used to help Cisco get over Cynthia. Cisco wants nothing to do with Ralph’s misguided assistance and that sentiment is shared by the rest of the team, who all flee: Caitlin leaves to develop the delivery method of the metahuman cure (Sherloque tags along with her, confused), Iris goes to her office to write an article for her blog/paper, and Nora has no idea what’s going on so the help she can offer Cisco is limited to just telling him he’ll be late for his date. Ralph does manage to get inside Cisco’s head by mentioning the types of guys Kamilla usually dated, though, which makes Cisco show up to his date with a wildly different personality in order to impress her. It does not go over well.

I mention all these moments that I would normally gloss over in a review because they’re critical elements of the time loop — they’re the little things that change, or don’t change, depending on what iteration of the loop Nora instigates. Where everyone goes after that moment in the hallway where Nora runs into Ralph (the farthest she’s capable of going back, for reasons unexplained) is important to who ends up alive or dead by the end of the timeline. The loop also affects how Cisco dresses for his date, either making himself into a slick businessman, a fitness enthusiast, or a… hipster, I guess? And the dates with Kamilla are what eventually clue Cisco into the whole time loop fiasco, since he repeatedly gets a sense of déjà vu.

In the first loop, Caitlin/Killer Frost dies. Loop number two kills off Ralph. The third loop gets Cisco. The fourth loop goes beyond Team Flash’s main players and Cicada kills Cecile, who isn’t even a meta (as far as he knows) so I don’t get how he can justify that within his narrow serial killer justifications. Nora relives the same hour 52 times before finally being found out and confronted by Team Flash, although it’s not really clear how they figured it all out. Nora confesses that she keeps going back, but someone — sometimes multiple someones — always dies with Cicada’s dagger in their back.

This revelation is followed by a nice little scene between Cisco and Nora, and as-yet-unseen combination of characters that work surprisingly well together. I don’t recall if Nora ever mentioned Cisco being a part of her upbringing — did she only know about Team Flash through the museum in the future? If so, I wonder what happens to deteriorate the team’s relationship so completely. And I bring this all up because Cisco does a really good job playing the role of a wise “Uncle Cisco” character to Nora, sharing the self-doubts that led to his repeated failed attempts to be someone other than himself on his date. It’s basically a lesson on psyching yourself out, accepting yourself as you are, and so on. Nora learns she should lean on the rest of the team for the answers to her time loop problem, and they all devise a plan: if someone has to get stabbed by the dagger, why can’t it be Cicada himself?

Cicada ends up back on the roof, but Iris is there waiting for him. He throws his dagger and the rest of the team arrives, but Nora uses her time-warping speed to make sure the only person in the dagger’s path is Cicada. He gets stabbed in the glowy wound (I guess Iris’s epiphany at the end of last episode was the existence of that weak spot? Still not exactly groundbreaking, though) but doesn’t die. Let me just say: if this episode had actually ended with the rest of the team officially defeating Cicada while Barry was chilling in the Speed Force for an hour, “Cause and XS” would have earned an immediate place in my list of top five episodes of the series. That would have been absolutely genius.

Though wounded, Cicada does leap away in the end. Later, Iris basically says he’s disappeared, which is par for the course where Cicada injuries are concerned. The team encourages Cisco to go on his date as himself and, since Cisco is amazing, it goes over much better. Barry returns, having missed all the action, and lectures his daughter on playing with time travel. Kinda pointless, Barry — her existence is time travel! Just spending time with you guys means she’s messing up the timeline!

Of course, Barry doesn’t know that Nora is messing up the timeline even more than her mere existence implies. She zips forward to 2049 to confront Eobard Thawne about the mess she’s likely making of the timeline, but even though he yells at her like a crazy person, she still seems to be on his side.

Other Things:

  • So, that metahuman cure — is that tiny vial Barry took with him all the team has? Because that seems like a fine amount for Cicada, but literally no one else. Also, having extras of your solution serum? Probably a good idea, guys.
  • Nora learns that Eobard Thawne is responsible for the death of yet another person close to her (Cisco), albeit only in an alternate timeline. Seriously, Nora, what else do you need to realize that dude is bad news and you shouldn’t be partnered with him?
  • When The Flash comes back in March: KING SHARK VS. GORILLA GRODD!


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