“I think you should stop worrying about who you might become and reconnect with who you are, now.”
If there’s one thing this season of The Flash has done well thus far is to remind us that, despite all the fancy costumes, crazy metas, and wild fights, this show is built upon the back of one incredibly powerful ideal: the love of family. This narrative through line saves “All Doll’d Up” from falling victim to another boring and questionably motivated meta as both Caitlin and Nora are faced with their own personal prejudices as it relates to their parents and Iris revisits her own pain with the estranged mother she never got to know.
Let’s get this out there quickly; the villain-of-the-week, Peter Merkel, aka Ragdoll, is the weakest of the meta-villains this season. While his appearance and Elongated Man-like abilities make for some cool visual effects, the character is about as flat as his abilities allow him to get. It’s true that many villains get that cookie-cutter treatment, their powers with speedsters often help alleviate some of that dryness. Not the case with Ragdoll though, in fairness, the piece of backstory that we do get on him falls right in line with the strong themes of family.
With Nora still peeved at Barry and Iris for not taking time to understand her anger at Iris, she’s taken to staying with Joe and
Cecile. Nora vents like many do when they believe their point of view is not being considered. Though Cecile does reprimand Nora at one point for inklings of disrespect towards Iris, the older woman does listen, eventually sharing stories about ‘Barry’ with the future speedster. Only, all the stories Nora hears aren’t about her father; instead, they are about Iris. Cecile points out that, while Nora may have every right to her anger on what future-Iris puts her through, she’s putting the blame on a woman who has, as of yet, has done none of those things. It’s one of those difficulties when dealing with future events; do you punish someone for actions they have yet to do or give them the benefit of the doubt, allowing them to prove themselves with their present deeds?
It’s the same question Iris has to face. As often as her character has been put in positions to be criticized (and fairly), Iris is also in a tough spot. She cannot speak to the whys of her future actions nor can she understand Nora’s anger (and doesn’t really try to) but she does fall into that trap of worrying about how her actions scar Nora, souring her daughter’s feelings toward Iris. These feelings of despair are exacerbated during the investigation of Peter Merkel. It turns out that his billionaire mother was a successful yet cold parent who has shut her son out. Compare that with Iris’s reaction when her own mother, Francine, returned to her life and one doesn’t have to go too far to express a bit of sympathy for Iris. The guilt and what-ifs that follow such a revelation can be paralyzing but somehow Iris is able to push past that, even risking her life and jumping off a building to save Barry.
The other family crisis is Caitlin’s search for her father Thomas. She’s assisted by the three-man team of Sherloque, Ralph, and Cisco. Thanks to Cisco’s vibing and Sherloque’s deductive reasoning, they’re able to track down Thomas’s old lab at Hudson University. The clues they gather strongly suggest that Thomas has more information on Caitlin’s killer alter ego and that her mother, Susan Tannhauser, may be indirectly involved. When Caitlin realizes the pain Cisco’s vibing is causing him, they share a powerful moment that reminds us that family is just not something defined by blood. She and Cisco are the best of friends and, like a real family, will do anything for one another. It’s why, at the end of the day, when they get what they need to pinpoint Thomas’s location, Cisco never pushes. “Whenever you’re ready” he tells her.
- As mentioned, it’s easy to get lost in the cool visuals and snappy dialogue (not to mention the pop culture references) littered throughout this series since its inception. But the true origins of The Flash finds its nucleus in family. Barry’s entire journey has been fueled by finding the man who killed his mother. Even in the best meta fights, that idea of family has always been paramount. It was good to be reminded of that from both Iris and Nora’s perspective. Mother and daughter were only able to reconcile once they accepted the other’s point-of-view and set aside the idea of letting a potential future outcome affect their present relationship.
- Cisco’s shortcomings due to Cicada’s attack seems to be a plot line that will stay with the show for the next few months. Having fragments of the power sapping dagger in his palms may affect his vibe powers but not his intelligence. Which is why the fact that he didn’t think of re-tasking DeVoe’s four minor satellites sooner is a head-scratcher. It must have been one of those just-in-time “Eureka!” moments; nevertheless, team Flash is not armed with HAL, Robbie, Data, and Colossus. Meta baddies beware.