One of The Flash’s greatest strengths has always been the group dynamic. Regardless of the conflict, the thing that makes this show so watchable is how these characters relate to one another. So it seems only apropos that “Monster”, an episode promising a gigantic Kaiju-esque attack on Central City would yield an hour of excellent ensemble acting and phenomenal character beats that drive the story home.
So let’s be fair; there is no way that the CW could afford to pull off a gigantic monster assault on a TV budget. It’s just not happening. Much like the King Shark cameo around this time last year, the “Monster” premise turned out to be a “can we do it?” proof of concept. Fortunately, it turns out that they can. The thing that really surprised me about “Monster” though was the villain behind the Cloverfield inspired beastie. It turns out that the “metahuman” in question wasn’t a super powered individual at all, but a bullied teenager who was lashing out against a city that ignored his pain.
For me, this felt like a flashback to the 80’s After School Special where the network would tackle an “issue of the day” in an hour long special. With the internet invading every facet of our lives, it’s timely to remind viewers that every screen name is actually a person with feelings. What makes the reveal so effective though is that this kid could be anyone and that makes him easily relatable. Fortunately his actions only resulted in property damage which relieved the show of tackling anything deeper but it was still nice to see the bad guy formula get swapped out. Instead of fists and technology saving the day, good old Joe had a sit down with the distraught kid, talking him through the repercussions. It became one of the many highlights this week as the cast had to burden the scope of the story.
It was great to see Caitlin Snow take center stage again after spending so much of Season Two in the bleachers as she continues to wrestle with her newfound powers. In an attempt to get them under control Caitlin leaves to visit her mother, world renowned scientist Dr. Tannhauser (Susan Walters). During Caitlin’s visit we learned a lot concerning her crappy childhood. The big reveal this week was that Caitlin has been haunted by the death of her father since she was a kid and, much like Barry, it’s weighing on her. The result is that her powers are beginning to manifest subconsciously, unleashing a cold murderous rage from within. The hints that her powers are only growing stronger and will eventually cause her to lose control is a haunting reminder of her Earth-2 counterpart Killer Frost. I can only imagine the damage that will happen when the rest of the Flash Family finds out.
Speaking of the Flash Family, we had a big week with the newest iteration of Harrison Wells (or H.R. Wells as he likes to call himself) or as I like to call him: Hipster Wells. Having a regular Wells back in the mix is fantastic as Tom Cavanagh is such an important part of this show’s success. When you combine the writing with his unique take on the hilariously odd Hipster Wells, you get a unique take on a persona we’ve come to love over the last few years. One of the more interesting results of this take was the writers playing against viewer expectations. For instances, it’s really hard to believe that Wells is 100% altruistic. We need to suspect him of being somewhat sinister, with an agenda that could challenge his relationship with Team Flash.
Seriously, before the season started, I read a lot of theories about Wells’ agenda for the season, even an assumption that he would turn into the season’s evil speedster, Savitar. While it could still happen I suppose it’s becoming less likely as Hipster Wells confessed that he’s not a super genius, his associates are. He is, in his own words, an “idea man”. A guy who comes up with the fanciful ideas that others find a way to make into real. Disgraced in his own world, Hipster Wells sees this journey to a parallel universe as a chance to win back some lost prestige, which paints him in a completely different light. Somewhat pathetic, a little bit goofy, and a lot funnier – Hipster Wells is quickly winning me over.
Another huge leap forward was Barry’s relationship with his CSI coworker, Julian (Tom Felton). After a pretty funny game of tattletale at the top of the hour, the episode delved into Julian’s motivations, his dislike for Barry and why he hates metahumans. In a fun twist, Felton had a chance to make a mini commentary on his previous work as Draco Malfoy. The first born son of a British Aristocrat, Julian was expected to follow the family path. Unlike his magical counterpart, Julian decides to become the hero of his own story. As he rises to the top of his field, he finds the rug pulled out from under him as metahuman’s arrive, changing the world and making his place in it unstable.
This cold jealous rage of super powered individuals certainly makes him more sympathetic, especially after The Flash saves him from killing the teenage boy in control of the “Monster”. It makes him question his own views and even how he’s treated Barry over the last year. While they’re certainly not friends, it’s clear that Julian and Barry are becoming colleagues who can work together and have a passing relationship out of work. Despite this, if I had to put money down on who Savitar is, I’d say it’s Julian. His anger over missing out on powers seems to make him a perfect choice for the “friend who betrays you” role. If they go this way though, they need to spend some serious time with these two bonding, or it wont have the right impact.
Regardless, it’s a welcome change of pace as we take our first break of the year. We’ll be back on Nov 15th, for our next recap!