“Sometimes for people with our abilities, the most impressive feat is restraint.”
Like their comic book counterparts, shows like Arrow and The Flash are known for the buildup. Over a period of weeks, they calculatingly introduce the audience to the Big Bad Villain with the white hats often a step behind until the two sides cross paths. Generally, the first meeting — if you want a legitimate threat for the heroes, that is — does not go well for the good guys. Questions arise on how to bring down the baddie while the heroes question everything they thought they knew until, eventually, they come across the solution to take the villain down.
It’s fair to say that, despite being only two weeks into Season Five, The Flash has pretty much subverted at least a portion of that formulaic approach, sending viewers and, by proxy, Barry and company on an unexpected path.
Picking up where last week left off, the newest villain’s fight with Gridlock is spotlighted. His abilities, though largely unknown, are heavily boosted by his lightning dagger that absorbs dark matter and, with it, a meta’s powers. It’s even more surprising when, after the fight, he returns to work and we see him unmasked for the first time. It’s the earliest The Flash has ever shown us both the story’s big villain and his ‘normal’ alter ego and it’s a good change. Besides, the reveal coincides with a major theme of “Blocked”: finding your truth.
One of the biggest frustrations in the superhero genre is the idea of keeping everything a secret.
Sure, it makes a lot of sense why a hero keeps his or her identity from being known; endangering loved ones is a no-no and spouting off who you are to the general public could get your Malibu home on the hillside blown to bits. But aside from that, the way these shows (and many drama shows, to be honest) foster tension is when the protagonists keep the truth of a situation from their friends or family with the “I did it to protect you” as the tried and true mantra for their oversight. But “Blocked”, it seems, is straying from that (at least for now) and moving towards the only way for a unit to be truly on the same page: telling each other the truth.
As with the audience getting such an early glimpse of the villain, Team Flash is, for the most part, truthful with one another. From Barry and Nora coming clean about her reason for coming to this timeline to the multiple personal subplots, friends and family are being honest with their loved ones. Cecile is terrified that, now that her telepathy is fading, she won’t know how to take care of her daughter’s needs. Joe reminds her that you’re not always going to know the why of something and that venture into the unknown is a scary prospect but one she has to take. Cisco doesn’t coddle Caitlin on her fears that her father wants nothing to do with her. As he comes to his own truth—that Gypsy was not truly the one for him, he also concedes that Caitlin’s fears could be true. But unless she faces it head-on, she’ll always be left wondering.
As serious that some of these themes appear to, there’s quite a bit of levity in “Blocked”. From Cisco’s constant moping (and Ralph’s 27 steps to overcome heartbreak) and subsequent makeover to Nora once again derping her pseudo-team-ups with her dad, much of the episode gives us a bit of a break from the action drama. Yes, there is a new villain of the week, Block, who is the center-stage baddy but we also get a lot more of the Barry and Nora dynamic which is schway fun. Yet, all good things…
Parallel to last week, the Big Bad makes his presence known. Though it’s very early for the good guys to meet the antagonist, the result of that meeting goes by the book. Unfamiliar with their adversary’s powers, Barry, Cisco, and Ralph get their butts handed to them, unable to make a dent in the Cicada’s defenses, especially after his mysterious dagger saps their powers. And it’s only Nora’s panicked scream of “Dad” that saves Barry from a grisly death. If that beatdown wasn’t enough, Nora’s face at the lab when the villain’s nom de guerre is given is that of someone reliving a bad dream.
Cicada is here and that’s bad news for Team Flash.
- When approaching the meta-of-the-week outline, The Flash writers do not have an easy job. To kill or to cage is always the question. Last season, several of the metas introduced ended up being cannon fodder for the Thinker’s plan. Sadly, several of them would have made for great recurring characters. It would have been cool to see Gridlock return somewhere down the line as well but fate had other plans for him. Though Block seems to have survived, it seems almost a given that, somewhere down the road, Cicada will track her down and take his pound of flesh.
- It appears there is a concerted effort to remind us how vital Iris can be for the team. Putting her in a leadership role last season was a big mistake that weakened an already iffy story line. But now, that’s two weeks in a row that her reporter skills have come in handy. More than that, it’s organic and makes sense. Her disappointment with Nora’s uneasiness around her notwithstanding, Iris is becoming the character she should have always been and as long as they keep it going, that’s only going to strengthen everything else around her.
- The slowly evolving mystery of Caitlin’s backstory is also one to pay attention to. Based on how they’re setting things up, we should be getting a Caitlin-centric episode somewhere down the line. Danielle Panabaker’s portrayal of Caitlin and her Frost-y alter ego has always been a show positive so giving her more screen time and a bigger story arc gets two thumbs up.