Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of The Flash! Proceed with caution, speedsters. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched this week’s episode, “Monster,” we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.
What it lacks in great symbolism (please don’t ever have your characters say aloud that the “Monster” in the title of their story is a metaphor for hopelessness) this week’s episode of The Flash makes up for in characterization—always the strong suit of the DC shows produced by Greg Berlanti.
After announcing his intention to move out of the West family household last week, Barry has taken up with Cisco. Though a little cranky, his new roommate uses his powers to do just about everything for him (a First World problem if ever there was one), so Cisco seems to have completely forgiven him for essentially killing his brother when he altered the timeline a mere two weeks ago. Well, if it doesn’t bother Cisco… What does cause both Cisco and Barry concern is the fact that “HR” has been lying to them regarding his scientific background. It turns out he’s merely “an idea man,” one whose partner at Earth-19’s STAR Labs was the face and executor of its scientific breakthroughs. I’m having a little trouble swallowing HR’s claim that he went to all the trouble of relocating to our Earth for the sole purpose of researching a novel. Though again, if Cisco and Barry don’t care. At least they give him two weeks to prove himself.
The real emotional truth of “Monster” comes via two of the show’s more overlooked characters of late, Caitlin and Julian. We finally get a chance to meet Cait’s mother, a biomedical engineer-turned-business executive from whom she inherited her genius, and, it turns out, knack for detachment. Apparently Dr. Carla Tanhauser closed herself off to her daughter when her husband died, prompting Caitlin to leave her for Central City and S.T.A.R. Labs. Manifesting the same powers as her Earth-2 doppelgänger Killer Frost, Caitlin says she’s seeking her mom’s technical help, but what she’s really looking for is the emotional support they’ve denied each other for years. Oddly enough, it takes her mom’s traitorous assistant Niles, who seeks to harness Caitlin’s powers for himself, to bring the two women to a mutual reconciliation. Niles’ abrupt change from good guy to one-dimensional cad is laughable, but actress Susan Walters makes Mama Snow’s turn from bitchy to vulnerable believable enough to make me glad she’ll be a recurring character this season.
Tom Felton also gets a chance to show what a strong actor he can be when not asked to play characters who are merely hissable. His Julian is at long last given a degree of depth when he opens up to Barry, in the wake of a fumbled attempt at subduing the 15-year-old responsible for creating this episode’s titular hologram. (A hologram more than a little reminiscent of the Cloverfield monster.) Barry’s lab partner reveals he was heir to the estate of a wealthy English family, but fled to America to pursue his dream of becoming a scientist. After hearing his story, Barry invites him to grab a drink. This leads me to believe it won’t be too long before Julian becomes a member of Team Flash, and then, as almost every recurring good guy on this show tends to do, either dies or becomes a metahuman himself. I’m hoping for the latter. Because any character who can take us from antipathy to sympathy to a level of admiration over the course of a scant 42 minutes is a character worth keeping around. Besides, Team Flash is gonna need all the help it can get now that Caitlin’s losing control of her powers!
— “Barry, sometimes a man just wants to butter his own bread.” So many jokes.
— Pizza pockets? Bagels? Big Belly burgers? I’m okay with scientists who look like models. But are we really to believe the characters on this show are scientists who look like models when this is all we ever see them eat?
— Murder on the Titanic and Sweaty Men. Earth-19 has trouble with movie titles.
— Julian’s concern that CCPD has grown too complacent due to the Flash’s presence is later justified by Joe’s words to Iris about the behemoth rampaging through their city: “We’ll get ’em. We always do.”
— For once it’s nice to see Joe’s weekly pep talk directed at a kid who could really use one instead of a grown man who should know better.
— “We’re gonna do Empire.” “Empire of the Sun, Barry.” “Empire Strikes Back, Barry.”
— So just what is Carla going to do to “take care of” Niles?
Next week: Is Wally finally getting powers? Great! Is Doctor Alchemy behind it? Uh-oh!
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).
Images: The CW