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Troy James as Rag Doll

Barry and Iris discuss Rag Doll

Contortionist Troy James Brings Rag Doll to Life on The Flash

After a week off, The Flash is back with one of the coolest and creepiest villains this show has ever had. Contortionist Troy James injects this episode with an element of horror that we have never seen before on this show. He is the perfect choice for embodying DC’s Rag Doll; to watch his body bend and move and slither across rooms and rooftops is the stuff nightmares are made of. I loved it.

The episode opens at S.T.A.R. Labs where Barry and Iris are waiting to train Nora. Nora doesn’t show because she is still angry with Barry for siding with Iris in that future power dampening issue. Barry and Iris get a call about a robbery at an art museum and the Flash is off. With Iris’s help, Barry is chasing a robber on a motorcycle, but when he catches up to him, there is no stolen art in sight. Barry and Iris missed the robber handing off the stolen Monet to another motorcyclist. Luckily, Nora saw the handoff and dashes to the rescue, capturing the second thief, but losing control of his motorcycle which almost kills two elderly pedestrians. Barry reached the pedestrians in time but Nora is in for it now.

Back at the lab, a sheepish Nora is getting a full dressing down from Iris. Nora snaps and tells her she is sick and tired of the whole ‘I know better than you and I’m just trying to keep you safe,’ lecture that she has heard her whole life. She goes off back to Joe’s house and Iris is left there obsessing over the fact that she will become such a bad mother to her daughter. Barry is stuck in the middle. The mother/daughter dynamic is absolutely incredible although it feels like Nora is acting more like a petulant teenager than the young adult that she is.

In the meantime, we see a young, soon to be married couple in their home. The would-be groom is showing his fiancé a 383 carats diamond heirloom necklace that is to be hers after they are married. He places the necklace back in its box and the couple leaves the room. The camera cuts to a larger wedding gift on the floor, which the Rag Doll contorts out of. He is definitely scary looking with a face covered in what looks like a cracked porcelain mask, and red crayon colored dreadlocks resembling a Raggedy Andy doll. He smashes his fingers flat, and opens the jewelry box, easily pocketing the necklace before making his escape. He is seen by the woman going back to the room and he shouts, “Mazel Tov” to her before leaving by the window.

Iris and Barry show up at the house. Iris is getting a statement from the couple for her blog, and Barry is investigating the robbery as the CSI on the case. Barry suggests to Iris that they work together. He is trying so hard to distract Iris from her problems with Nora and is very cute throughout the episode, trying to get in some couple time. It’s adorable.

Back at the West house, Nora is sitting with Cecile, complaining about Iris. Cecile is great, going into full Grandma mode, reprimanding Nora that in this house, everyone is treated with respect. She instructs Nora to get to work helping put a shelf together and as she does, Cecile will treat her to stories about her dad that did not make it into the Flash Museum of her time. Of course, Nora can’t wait.

We next see Rag Doll in the office of an award-winning architect. He is slithering through an air duct above the architect’s head. Next thing you know, Iris and Barry get an alert about a bomb threat in the office building. Barry gets there just in time to see Rag Doll and rescue the architect before the building blows up. It was a great special effect, seeing Barry race down the side of an exploding building. And an even greater effect seeing Rag Doll emerge from the rubble of the building afterward. Not even an explosion can kill Rag Doll!

Barry’s CSI evidence is not helping in the discovery of Rag Doll’s identity until Barry realizes that he is able to contort and flatten his hands. Using a computer to shrink what he thought was a fingerprint down to regular size, he learns that Rag Doll is Peter Merkel – the son of a wealthy woman who is throwing a fundraising gala in Central City. Barry talks Iris into attending the gala to get some information on this wayward son. He thinks it could be like a date night and fun; at least they’d get to dress up.

And dress up they do! Iris looked stunning in a plunging red gown (I have to congratulate the wardrobe department for that dress – I want it!) Barry looked great in a tux too, but not great enough to fool Rag Doll’s mom into thinking they were there to donate a huge sum of money to her charitable cause. Assuming Iris is there for a story, Mrs. Merkel grants Iris a short audience to ask her questions. Iris asks about her son, and coldly Merkel tells them that she has not seen or heard from her son in two years, since he broke into their own home and she had him arrested. Then she goes into mother martyr role: after providing him with everything (except motherly affection or warmth) his entire life, how could he have done that to her? The woman’s coldness effects Iris deeply.

Recognizing his wife’s distress, Barry tries to charm her into good spirits and asks Iris for a dance because it wouldn’t be date night without a dance. The scene is cute, and I was reminded of Mr. Darcy dancing with Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice for some reason. But Iris was distracted and cut the dance short to run outside for some air. While they are out there, Iris is fretting about her relationship with Nora; maybe future her was as cold to Nora as Mrs. Merkel was to her son. While Barry is consoling Iris, we see Rag Doll lurking on the roof and watching the two of them.

Back at their apartment, Iris is looking at her Rag Doll clues, and Barry comes in the room for a heart to heart with her about Nora. Iris is afraid that she will become a bad mother like Mrs. Merkel and like her own mother Nadine; fretting that she pushed Nadine away until it was too late to get to know her and that Nora is doing the same to Iris. Barry tells Iris that she can choose not to be a bad mother and in one of the best lines of the night, advises Iris to stop worrying about who she might become and reconnect with the woman she is now.

Cecile is still regaling Nora with stories about Barry, and the scene cuts in with Cecile talking about how he saved the day for a school production of Guys and Dolls. (Knowing of Grant Gustin’s musical abilities, it is not hard to picture a young Barry singing and dancing his way through “Luck Be a Lady.”) Anyway, Cecile then tells Nora about how Barry befriended a boy who lost his parents, sitting with him at lunches, devoting a page in the school yearbook to the boy and his winning science project. When the boy saw the page, it was the first time he had smiled since losing his parents. Nora realizes that this story is not about Barry being a good friend, but about Iris befriending Barry after Barry lost his mom back in the day. All of the stories Nora had been enjoying were actually about Iris. Cecile tells Nora that Iris really is a great person, not the controlling mother that Nora knows from the future. She hands Nora a photo album full of Joe’s remembrances of Iris and her accomplishments. Nora is starting to see Iris in a new light.

Barry is alone in the apartment while Iris is off following up on a clue and hears something scratching in his apartment. Iris Facetimes Barry telling him that she has figured out that Rag Doll’s motivation is to hurt people in the most psychologically hurtful ways, first by stealing the couple’s legacy gift, then by destroying the architect’s life work. This clue could help them figure out where he will strike next. But uh oh, Rag Doll is in the apartment and knocks Barry out.

We next find Barry tied up on the roof, duct taped to a chair teetering on the edge of the building. He has meta power dampening cuffs on, which Rag Doll conveniently picked up in the apartment. Rag Doll doesn’t know Barry is the Flash; he just thought they were cool cop cuffs that Barry used in his police work. Iris goes to S.T.A.R. Labs to get help and tries calling Nora who doesn’t answer her phone. Cisco can’t vibe her to Barry’s location (more on this later.) Ralph comes to the rescue, saying he will go with Iris to save Barry. Iris grabs the big gun and Ralph wants to travel a different way that he found in a comic book. We next see Iris hanging on to Ralph’s back and he is stretching his arms, swinging through the city like Spiderman – great visual and reference to the late Stan Lee.

Ralph and Iris get to the building just as Rag Doll is saying to Barry that he wants to see Iris suffering when Barry dies. There is a bit of stand-off between Rag Doll and Iris and Ralph, and then Rag Doll pushes Barry’s chair off the side of the building. With a flurry of movement which I thought was Ralph stretching to grab Barry, we see Barry falling. But it wasn’t Ralph hurtling toward Barry, it was Iris! Badass Iris threw herself off the side of the building to save Barry!  I am not 100% convinced of the physics of the fall, but it was cool to see Iris catching up to Barry with the key to unlock the cuffs and Barry getting his speedster powers back in time to save them both! This was a true comic book superhero moment. Awesome.

Rag Doll is captured

Nora finally gets Iris’s message and is all amazed that Iris leaped off the building to save Barry. She has a new appreciation for this Iris and it looks like the mother/daughter rift has been healed. A large ballooned Ralph ends up on the ground in front of Iris and Barry. It looks like Ralph swallowed Rag Doll to capture him, and we see the outline of Rag Doll in Ralph’s belly. Ewww…

As for Cisco and the rest of the team, their time on the episode was spent in search of Caitlin’s father. The trail leads them to Professor Stein’s office at the University, and then to Vera Chemicals, an abandoned lab at the edge of the city. It seems that Caitlin’s father was researching something called KHIONE, who, thanks to Sherloque’s great mind, we learn was the Greek goddess of snow. The team was getting the clues through Cisco’s vibe powers, not noticing that each time Cisco attempted to use those powers it caused him pain, with the effects getting worse and worse each time. His hands bled and finally the last vibe attempt caused a nosebleed and a seizure.

Back at the labs, Caitlin tells Cisco that there are still traces of Cicada’s dagger in Cisco’s hands. Every time he vibes, the effect will become worse and worse and why didn’t Cisco tell them that he was in pain? Cisco explains that he wanted to help and wants to be a full member of the team. Without his powers, who is he? The scene felt a bit awkward considering that Caitlin has already lost her powers and still contributes to the team.

Anyway, Cisco also has his smarts to help the team and he figures out that even though their satellite was taken out, they can use smaller satellites that the Thinker had launched to find Caitlin’s dad. I was a bit puzzled as to why they hadn’t thought of this before. But Caitlin again hesitated. She is afraid of what they will find when they finally catch up to him. So, we have to wait again until Caitlin is ready to unravel this mystery.

The episode ends with Ralph saying it’s off to Iron Heights for Rag Doll. Given the fact that Cicada is still out there and the last meta they sent to the prison was killed by Cicada’s daggers, I think this is a bad idea. I hope this is not the last we see of Rag Doll.

One member of The Flash was conspicuously absent from the show this week. As mentioned in my last recap, we have seen very little of Joe West this season, and when we have, he’s been seated or leaning in a doorway. Now we know why. According to TVLINE, Jesse L. Martin is on a medical leave of absence from the show due to an injured back. It is not known how long he will be out or when he will return to the show. The show will be addressing his absence at some point. I hope he gets well soon and will have a speedy recovery.

Next week we will learn more of Caitlin’s father in an episode entitled The Icicle Cometh. I’ll be away for Thanksgiving but will have a recap up as soon as possible. Till then, enjoy this episode of The Flash and let me know what you think of Rag Doll in the comments below.

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Cindy Cardozo

Freelance Writer and Critic: Theater, Film, and TV.

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