The Focus is on Family in the Thanksgiving Episode of The Flash
One of the many things that I love about The Flash, is that ultimately, this show is about family. With Thanksgiving just behind us, and a full holiday season ahead, what better time to explore the concept of family in all its glorious imperfections? O Come, All Ye Thankful does just that, and we are treated to a deeper understanding of the complicated relationship between Nora, Iris, and Barry. We also get a glimpse of Cicada’s origin story, with a few surprises along the way.
Last week’s episode focused on Caitlin Snow finally finding her father only to find out that he is a supervillain named Icicle. That’s bad news for Caitlin but good news for us; the shock of having her friends’ lives threatened by her dad is enough to bring back Killer Frost.
This week, Nora has to work through her own Daddy issues. Iris and Nora are having a chat after coming home from a mother/daughter mani-pedi afternoon, with Iris telling Nora that what Barry does is not always exciting but nerve wracking and dangerous. Iris explains that she is not always sure that Barry will be coming back when he puts his life on the line to save Central City.
When unexpected, unexplained weather threatens to cause massive damage to Central City, Barry and Nora go off to investigate. Lightning is descending upon a power plant, and as Barry goes to remove an experimental cold fusion device from the plant, he is struck by the lightning, which stops his heart. Nora of course loses it…crying as she rubs her hands to form lightning of her own to restart Barry’s heart, afraid that she will lose him again in this timeline. She saves him, but is shaken by the experience.
The lightning was caused by a meta, so Barry, Nora, and Iris head off to Iron Heights to make sure that Mark Mardon, aka Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre) has not escaped. While there, the ceiling caves in thanks to another meta, Jocelyn Jackam (Reina Hardesty), who has lightning meta tech and claims that Mardon is her father. Before she can collect him, Barry and Nora capture and speed Mardon away. Joss threatens to rain terror on Central City until he is released to her.
Mardon explains to Barry that he did not expect his daughter to try to help him escape. He left her with her mom, choosing to focus on his criminal career instead of being a father. The poor girl grew up without her dad, a story that Nora can relate to. Nora is still shaken by almost losing Barry, and it turns out that she has been harboring her own anger issues toward her father. Barry chose to be a hero and chose to risk his life and leave her, instead of putting aside his super suit to just be a dad. Because he had to be a hero, Nora also grew up fatherless.
Barry and the team try to capture Joss, who they are calling Weather Witch, using Mardon as bait. They show up at the designated meeting point, ready to give up Mardon to his daughter. But instead of a happy Thanksgiving reunion, Joss uses her weather powers to drop a truck on her dad, saying that he was not a good father because he abandoned her and therefore deserved to die. Surprise! But the surprise was on her, because Mardon wasn’t really there. He was just a hologram, being controlled by Iris back at S.T.A.R. Labs.
Joss’s anger escalates and she heads off to the airport to terrorize more of the city. She tries to hurt the hero Flash by making him watch innocent civilians die at her hands. The team figures out that they need to fight weather with weather and Nora speeds to Barry with the Weather Wizard’s wand to use against the Weather Witch.
Joss creates a tornado of lightning but Barry hesitates for a second, with a meaningful glance at Nora…pleading with her to understand that he needs to put himself in danger and absorb all the lightning or else all the people near them would die. Nora nods to him, giving the ok and Barry runs around the tornado with the weather wand. With an effect reminiscent of Harry Potter fighting off Voldemort, Barry hurls his lightning at Weather Witch as she hurls her lightning at him. The lightning explodes; there is a brief moment of not knowing if Barry survives but when the smoke clears, we see Barry emerging from the cloud with a captured and cuffed Weather Witch at his side.
Cue the waterworks as Barry explains to Nora that putting himself in harm’s way is not a choice he takes lightly. He does not choose to save other people over being with his family; he takes the risk of losing his life in order to save his family. His first thought in that deciding moment with Weather Witch was to protect Nora and Iris and everyone he loves. Nora accepts this and hopes that with training, one day she may be able to save Barry. This ‘aw’ moment ends with a hug and I am again left marveling at Barry’s parenting instincts. For someone who has had parenthood thrust upon him with the appearance of a grownup daughter, Barry is a natural at this.
In the meantime, throughout the episode, we are getting snippets of how Cicada came to be, and his relationship with the girl in the hospital. The end of last week’s episode provided clues to the Team that Cicada was the father of someone injured from the satellite that was destroyed at the end of the Thinker’s Enlightenment. Barry heads off to the hospital to inquire about the father of Grace Gibbons. Dr. Ambres lies to Barry, telling him that Grace has no family left. Barry leaves the hospital, not knowing that Orlin was in the girl’s hospital room the whole time.
It turns out that the doctor’s fabrication wasn’t entirely false. Grace’s parents are in fact dead, but Orlin is her uncle who has custody of Grace as next of kin. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Orlin didn’t want to have custody and the two of them had a rough, shaky start. It was not until Grace confronted him about hating her and hating himself, that Orlin had a change of heart and took his new parenting responsibilities seriously. He got a new place to live and promised to turn his life around, forging a close relationship with the child.
Orlin took Grace to the fair on the night of the Enlightenment as a special celebration for their first anniversary as a family. Then tragedy struck, with pieces of the Thinker’s satellite piercing Orlin’s shoulder and knocking Grace to the ground. Orlin brought Grace to the hospital, blaming himself for taking her to the fair to begin with. But Dr. Ambres convinced him that it wasn’t his fault, but the fault of out-of-control metahumans wreaking havoc unchecked. Oh yeah, they went there!
I love the fact that The Flash and other CW shows (Supergirl’s Children of Liberty storyline comes to mind) do not shy away from tackling complicated and controversial issues that are manifest in real life. Our daily news is rife with unrelenting and unabated xenophobia; it is therefore not surprising that it is reflected in these shows that focus on superheroes whose moral standards are antithetical to these pervading prejudicial thoughts. Kudos to the writers and especially to actress Lossen Chambers who, as Dr. Ambres, was able to convey in a single sentence the fear, hatred, and antipathy that many people feel when confronted with a changing world. I am very interested to see how our heroes deal with the issue of prejudice against aliens and meta humans. But enough with the soapbox for now.
On the lighter side…I want to mention the deliciousness that is Tom Cavanagh and his new iteration as Harrison Sherloque Wells. I have not been 100% on board with this French version of Wells or his ego or investigative style, but this week’s episode brought back some of the familiar comedic banter between Wells and Cisco that we have come to love over past seasons. Sherloque had his moment of fully becoming a part of the team as he, Cisco, and Caitlin bonded over their struggles with celebrating Thanksgiving given their disappointing histories: Cisco with his broken heart after losing Cynthia and the loss of his powers, Caitlin with her father issues, and Sherloque with his massive debts due to many divorces.
Each was bemoaning their lack of family, but it was Killer Frost who points out that instead of drowning their sorrows in their individual miseries, they could have been enjoying a delicious Thanksgiving meal with Barry, Iris, and Nora – their Flash family. Back at the loft, they all celebrate the holiday, complete with a politically awkward toast by Sherloque over the appropriateness of celebrating the colonization of America (the look on Nora’s face along with Barry spitting his drink back into his glass were priceless!) I can’t help but love these guys!
At the end of the episode, the team watches security footage from the hospital, discovering the identity of Grace’s only visitor, Orlin Dwyer. So, there we have it, with the lines having been drawn between an extended family of misfits and metas against a man dedicated to protecting his family by ridding the world of these metahuman meddlers. I am looking forward to next week’s episode which hints at Barry traveling to the past to change Cicada’s history. Time travel is always a bad idea, but it feels like a great way for the show to celebrate its 100thepisode which is directed by Tom Cavanagh. We are in for a crazy ride.
Let us know what you think about this episode and about Barry’s impending time travel in the comments below!