Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Flash 5x16 Review: "Failure is an Orphan" (Things Happen!) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

 "Failure is an Orphan"
Original Airdate: March 12, 2019

The main plot is back on The Flash, which means no more silly episodes about disappointing shark/gorilla battles that barely happen. Instead: Cicada! Dr. Ambres! Barry making questionable, but kind of nice, decisions! West-Allen Family Stuff!

Let’s go.


The episode begins with Nora in the future, where the still-caged Eobard Thawne is freaking out about timeline changes related to Cicada. Thawne pulls up a newspaper article on a confrontation between Cicada and Barry, assumed to be the last chance for Barry to use the cure on his foe. Nora claims she’s been trying to “engineer” such a moment the whole time she’s been in her past, which makes no sense since the cure’s only just been formulated. What would have been the point in getting Barry and Cicada to meet up without the cure? But whatever — turns out, a new timeline is trying to manifest, and the unpredictability of said timeline could ruin Thawne and Nora’s plans. Nora must ensure that Cicada is found before this new timeline comes along, and we have ourselves a ticking clock for the episode.

Nora is all-engines-go on the Cicada front, much to the annoyance of the rest of Team Flash — and the pride of Barry (which is adorable), until she turns on him and asks if he has his “convince Cicada to take the Metahuman Cure” speech down. Hey, Barry’s been ad-libbing inspiring speeches for five seasons now, I think he’s good. With the fun of watching his daughter organize the rest of the team thoroughly run out, Iris distracts Nora with a fake emergency at Jitters. Instead of a metahuman attack, it’s the reveal of an XS-themed coffee drink.

I’m actually really charmed by this little moment. It’s just a super cute West-Allen family moment without any drama or angst or secrets. Barry and Iris are just happy, proud parents who are thrilled to see their kid excited about something. The proud parents have also apparently been keeping a list of things they want to do as a family with Nora, including road trips, karaoke, teaching Nora to drive, and a Star Wars movie marathon. Adorable!

The adorable-ness is interrupted by an actual, not-a-distraction metahuman emergency, however. An acid-based meta is drinking chemicals in a college classroom. Weird, but we all have our quirks. After Barry uses his science knowledge to briefly neutralize the acid man, Nora notices the acid burn patterns and recognizes them as the same ones in the future picture of Barry battling Cicada. Surprisingly, Nora doesn’t withhold this information and just straight-up tells Barry that he’s going to confront Cicada later.

This knowledge puts Nora even further into a frenzy over the Cicada thing. Since Barry’s still trying to figure out how he’s going to talk Cicada into taking the metahuman cure, Nora tries inspiring him with some direct quotes from his history of big, heartfelt speeches to villains. The sticking point in the case of Cicada, though, is the fact that Orlin Dwyer doesn’t actually care if he lives or dies, and Barry doesn’t know how to appeal to that kind of mindset.

Whether Barry is ready or not, the time to meet with Cicada has come. Killer Frost helps pull a little switcheroo when Cicada chases the acid meta from earlier into an alley, safely depositing Acid Master into a cell while she freezes Cicada’s dagger to a wall and uses a breaching device to skedaddle. I think it probably would’ve been a wiser plan to breach the knife out with you, KF, but you go ahead. The Flash shows up to talk Cicada into taking the cure, but since we’re only twenty minutes into the episode at this point, it goes poorly.

With the failure to get through to Cicada weighing on Barry, it’s time for Joe to provide a classic pep talk that basically boils down to “appeal to Cicada as Barry Allen, not as the Flash, since Cicada hates the Flash and stuff.” Good advice, Joe. In exchange for this good advice, Barry gives some advice of his own to Joe regarding his little subplot with Cecile stealing his thunder with her lie-detector powers during the interrogation of Dr. Ambres. Man, this episode is really nailing the West-Allen family interactions. Case in point: the next scene’s little moment between Iris and Nora, in which Iris confesses she’s pushing that whole list thing on Nora because she wants to get as much out of her time with her daughter as she can. Aww!

Bolstered by his chat with Barry, Joe apologizes to Cecile and they tackle the case of Dr. Ambres together. They manage to figure out a motivation for siding with Cicada (the doctor’s fiancĂ© was killed by metahumans during the Zoom season) but even the Joe-Cecile interrogation tag-team isn’t enough to jar Ambres from her hesitation to help. She says that CCPD’s two choices are “kill [Orlin]” or “put [Orlin] in jail” and… uh, does the good doc not realize that murder, regardless of the murderer’s feelings on dark matter, is a jailable offense?

Bizarrely, neither Joe nor Cecile bring this up, instead choosing to reveal the creation of a metahuman cure as a way to “save” Orlin’s life. After Ambres agrees she’ll try to get Orlin to cooperate, Cecile senses she’s hiding something else, and Dr. Ambres reveals that Orlin’s niece, Grace, is a meta! Dun dun duuu— wait, the audience already knew that.

After a brief meeting with Team Flash, Barry reiterates that he’ll be confronting Cicada as Barry instead of the Flash. When the time comes, I gotta admit — as stupid as the whole “just talk to the maniacal serial killer” plan sounds on paper, Barry delivers a pretty fine speech. Mostly, it’s about how Orlin’s choices, should he continue his vendetta as Cicada, are limited: he can adhere to his anti-meta plan and kill Grace, who is a meta, or he can let her live and force her to grow up in a world where she’s terrified of the murderer killing people like her. Barry draws on his (admittedly strange) experience as a father to relate to Orlin on a human level, even unmasking to show how serious he is about just wanting Orlin to try the cure. I notice the continued failure to mention that Orlin has to go to jail.

Oh hey, I spoke too soon. During Orlin’s agreed neutralization/surgery (on account of his sucking chest wound opening up when his powers are gone) Joe mentions he’s going to jail for a long, long time. Thank goodness someone on this show is finally being logical. Unfortunately, before Orlin can be sutured up by Dr. Ambres and shipped off to jail, the power goes out and a new Cicada leaps through the S.T.A.R. Labs window. Caitlin quickly freezes Orlin’s wound (not sure that’d work, but fine) and Dr. Ambres skedaddles with her patient while Team Flash confronts Cicada II: Destructive Boogaloo.

The power outage means Dr. Ambres is too slow to get out out of dodge, so when Cicada II shows up to steal the still-unconscious Orlin, things do not go well. The doctor begs for her life, but Cicada II stabs her with the newly-empowered Cicada dagger anyway. It’s revealed at the end of the episode that this new Cicada is a future version of Grace (which pretty much everyone saw coming), but I don’t really get why Grace would stab the only friend and ally her uncle had throughout the whole Cicada ordeal. Maybe the glowing head wound made her crazy?

Other Things:

  • “You two did this.” “You made her.” “You’re responsible.” Hee.
  • Hey, if Team Flash spritzed the meta-tech devices like Cicada’s dagger with the cure, would it neutralize the dark matter?


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