It’s almost a statistical certainty that, if a show clocks in at twenty plus episodes in a season, there are bound to be a few clunkers parsed in with the drama-filled goodness. And despite a very strong start, The Flash briefly falters this week, giving us the first forgettable episode of its third season on air.
The titular drama of “Monster” centers around, well, a monster, terrorizing the Central City streets. The massive creature, an amalgam of kaiju from Cloverfield and Pacific Rim, tromps and stomps the downtown scene, blowing out transformers and other electronics in its wake. Curious though is that, even in its monstrous fury, the only damage is from the aforementioned electrical shorts. Turns out said monster is nothing but a hologram, created by a faceless fifteen year old boy whose fear of being picked on a ridiculed, drove him want “someone else to feel that way for a change”. Working together, Team Flash is able to track down the boy and just in time as Barry saves the kid from being gunned down by Julian Albert.
One of the better aspects of “Monster” is that we get to see more than just the arrogant arse who hates Barry with a passion. Instead of a one-note antagonist, Tom Felton’s character finally becomes more. Not only does he admit to his disdain for metahumans, but said disdain is rooted in Julian’s desire to do good. Sure, there may be a speckle of jealousy in his opinions (let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want some of those fantastic powers?! I know I would!) but it comes from a place of true benevolence. Julian sees a world gone wrong, with metas shamefully abusing their powers and wants nothing more than to “improve the world”. We discover why towards the end where, after admitting the Flash saved him from making a huge mistake, Julian opens up to Barry. It just so happens that Julian was the black sheep of his family, a family of Old Money where oftentimes the children’s lives are expected to follow a particular path. Julian diverged from that path, embracing science so that he could make the world better. The advent of metahumans halted some of that progress and, despite his accomplishments Julian seems to be adrift and alone. Those emotions are all too familiar with Barry and the two rivals end up going out for drinks.
Whereas the developments into Julian’s character will have repercussions down the road, the biggest plot point is Caitlin reaching out to her mother, Dr. Carla Tannhauser, to research her ever increasing Killer Frost powers. It’s apropos that Caitlin’s abilities involve cold, considering the frigid nature of her mother. Dr. Carla is a picture of the stereotypical scientist—emotionally distant and consumed with her work. We do get a bit more of the story as Dr. Carla wasn’t always so detached. She admits to Caitlin that the pain of losing her husband pushed her to get lost in work, which only expanded the gap of estrangement between mother and daughter. It’s a gap that, by episode’s end, seems to have been narrowed, albeit a bit too fast for my likings. But mother/daughter bonds aside, the biggest aspect of this story arc is Caitlin’s burgeoning powers. Unlike most metas we’ve seen, Caitlin’s abilities come with their own Killer personality, one that is on full display when Nigel, a scientist working under Dr. Carla, gets it in his idiotic head to corral Caitlin in order to crack the riddle of her energy absorption abilities to make a name for himself. Only her mother’s (weak) emotional plea presses through the murder/death/kill of Frost’s glacial glare but it’s a temporary caging of the beast. In the final scene, the Killer Frost temporarily breaks free again, as a message from Dr. Carla warns Caitlin that use of her powers will only make it more difficult to control, to reverse.
Something tells me the Killer Frost in Caitlin knows this and will do everything in its power to break free.
- To paraphrase the great Georges St Pierre, I was not impressed by this performance. “Monster” was an overall filler episode that, at its best, mildly intriguing. But whereas past shows had just as bland of through lines, “Monster” lacked the verge and humor that oftentimes have saved episodes with similar narrative deficiencies. In this case, it was the disappointing misses in scenes involving HR. I know it’s only his second episode but, as early returns go…BRING HARRY BACK!!! The poor chemistry between HR and Cisco cannot hold a candle to the brilliantly written back-and-forth between Harry and Cisco. The caveat on this is that it’s early in the HR character’s development so there’s a lot of room for improvement. And now that he’s been outted as a fraud, we may get a bit more genuine take on the character. I still think he’s hiding more than his lack of scientific know-how and designs on writing a book.
- When, oh when, will our Team Flash folks realize that it’s not in their best interest to hide the truth from their friends? Caitlin remaining silent about her powers, even after Barry came clean about his Flashpoint Flub is damn irritating. While I’m not sure if Cisco’s admission of his vibe abilities followed the same pre-Flashpoint path, doesn’t Caitlin get that her friends could help her? More to the point, why didn’t she open up when Harry was around? I’m sure he and Cisco could have made some progress on her affliction. Now? Well, it’s almost a given that her Killer Frost persona will come to light at the worst moment possible.
- Though we don’t see much from Joe this go round, more hints are thrown out that he and DA Horton may be on the cusps of exploring their burgeoning feelings. It’s about time; everyone else is getting all romantic, Joe might as well catch the romance train.
The Flash: “Monster” – 3/5 Bolts