Monday, 7 November 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S03E05 - 'Monster'

It feels a bit strange to have to admit that, in an episode based around a giant monster terrorising a city, it would actually be this central plot-line that would prove to be the episode's weakest element. Yet, that seems to be exactly where I find myself with the third season's fifth episode – as The Flash gives us what, at first, feels like an episode promising some fantastic action, only to spoil things with the reveal of what is actually behind this current conflict.

It was, more than likely due to the simple fact that The Flash was never going to be able to pull off something as ambitious as a true 'Kaiju' attack (not without it all starting to look like an old episode of 'Power Rangers', at least) – but, still, the reveal that this CGI creation was actually little more than a hologram wasn't nearly the interesting twist that the writer's probably hoped it would be. Even worse, though, the reveal that the actual creator of this surprisingly sophisticated hologram was actually little more than a bullied kid, angrily lashing out at the world around him, was just frustrating. Bullying is a very serious issue, of course – but, while we were clearly supposed to have some degree of sympathy for this anonymous kid, I found that I just couldn't quite manage it. In the end, I think the main problem is that we never actually learn anything about him beyond what he tells Joe during his only real scene in the episode – and, as a result, I just didn't really care.

Still, though, the idea of the whole 'Kaiju attack' plot-line did hold some promise, for the first half of the episode – and, the CGI work that went into creating the massive beast was actually reasonably impressive. It was just frustrating to have it all come to such a disappointing end.

Fortunately, this wasn't the only plot-line running throughout the season's fifth episode – though, unfortunately, these also meet with somewhat mixed success. Caitlin Snow, for example, finally received some much needed time in the spotlight, here – as she took the time to pay a visit to her mother, Dr Carla Tannhauser (Susan Walters), looking for some emotional support as she struggled to deal with the 'Killer Frost' abilities that Barry's meddling with history had, somewhat, left her with. Unfortunately, while the strained relationship between mother and daughter was played very well by Danielle Panabaker and Susan Walters, there were a couple of issues with this sub-plot that genuinely bothered me.

For one thing, I'm not too sure what to make of this episode's implication that Caitlin's abilities could, eventually, turn her into a villain, just like her Earth-2 double. The scene in which she attacked the assistant who tried to hold her against her will, for example, clearly seemed to imply that she was struggling to control herself – and, that just didn't make much sense, to me. No other character who has ever gained super-human abilities has ever been 'turned evil' by them – so, why does this seem to be happening to Caitlin? It is possible, of course that there is still some deeper mystery at work, here (like, for example, her new abilities could be tied to Dr Alchemy – he is, oddly, absent for another episode). But, if that is the case, then I think it would be best for the series to simply reveal whatever this might be.

Fortunately, the episode does still have its clear strong points, alongside these weaker elements. Clearly, the writer's new that the audience would be instantly suspicious of the new Harrison Wells – so, it was definitely entertaining to have the episode play on that in such an interesting, and amusing, way. The whole idea that HR (as he prefers to call himself) actually did have a secret, but that it should prove to be something so comparatively harmless, was an amusing way to play on the expectations of both the audience and the rest of the team. Also, the idea that this version of Harrison Wells is actually a fraud, who built his reputation on the hard work of his partners, sets up a potentially very interesting character arc for Tom Cavanaugh's latest character – as we now have a man desperate to prove his worth to his new team.

Also, while the episode's central plot-line may have been somewhat disappointing, it did still serve as a great way to finally get Barry Allen and Julian Albert on the same side. In previous episode, Julian Albert had felt like something of a one-dimensional antagonist, set up simply to make Barry's life more difficult (though, admittedly, he had been very well played as such, by Tom Felton). Here, though, we begin to see that there is actually much more to this character than we had been led to believe – as we are given the opportunity to delve into the reasons behind his (actually very understandable) bitterness toward meta-humans. If nothing else, this episode does do a great job of turning Julian Albert into a genuinely sympathetic character.

So, in the end, the season's fifth episode wasn't a complete failure – but, it still feels like something of a weak-point in the season, so far. Unlike many of the 'villains' we have met on this series, I do have to admit that the angry kid responsible for terrifying an entire city is not one I have any interest in ever seeing again. I just don't care who he really is, or what is true reasons are for doing what he did. But, there were other aspects of this episode that I was genuinely interested in – character arcs set in motion which seem to promise interesting developments for the future.

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