“You’re just like your father. Your light is your greatest strength.”
This week’s The Flash sees Thomas Snow, aka Icicle return, intent on creating his own ice family with Caitlin and her mother while Barry, Iris, Nora and the others deal with the fallout from Barry’s decision to banish his daughter back to the future.
After his unilateral decision to exile Nora back to her time, Barry is rightfully castigated by Iris. To make such a far-reaching decision without consulting his wife—particularly since their daughter is involved—was an exceptional reminder that, despite being a hero, Barry’s a majorly flawed individual. His strengths—that emotional core—also double as a weakness. Barry is an emotional character and, like Iris mentions, too often he allows his emotions to take over and decide his course of action.
In the heat of the moment, when bullets are flying, maybe that could be excused. But the entire Flashpoint ordeal (as Iris expertly points out) or his decision last week were not things that required instant solutions. Neither time was Barry able to step back from what he was feeling, instead falling into the instant gratification solution more often associated with acts of pleasure, though no less accurate in this situation. Both Grant Gustin and Candice Patton are exceptional during their initial confrontation, the emotion their characters feel are palpable with each line they speak (or yell) and the tension going through their bodies. It is far and away the best scene in a good but flawed episode.
Ironically, Iris’s anger bleeds over into her own emotional decision; with an unexpected hand from Ralph, she decides to jump to 2049 to bring Nora back. This action backfires as Nora, upon seeing her mother, is overcome with every ounce of anger, pain, fear, and loss cultivated over the years. Building on Thawne’s attempts to tap into the Negative Speed Force, Nora finally embraces those negative emotions and becomes something that… well, to be honest, I’m not quite sure what she becomes.
As good as the entire West-Allen family drama is, the Snow/Tannhauser part of “Snow Pack” falls on the opposite end of the spectrum. Icicle’s designs on creating his own ice family by completely transforming his wife into an ice meta while banishing the Caitlin portion of his daughter is a droll and awfully rushed subplot that seemed to be tossed into the mix as a narrative crutch. There has not been enough of Caitlin’s story thus far this season to provide any sort of emotional depth for what she and her mother go through this week.
Granted, the emotional beat of her and her mother reconciling over Thomas’s sacrifice (dying to save Caitlin from Cicada 2.0 after overpowering Icicle to save her earlier) and the idea that her mother has indeed been transformed, the meta DNA still lurking within, does offer a future payoff, this was again a plot point that should have been sprinkled in through one, possibly two previous episodes to provide a better structure for what occurred.
The final—and dare I say—most egregious example of a senseless inclusion is Cicada 2.0’s eleventh hour arrival to steal this cryo-Atomizer device. This bookends her earlier action when she steals her younger self from the hospital. What it all means for these last few episodes is up in the air, especially since it looks as if Nora is fully embracing her darkness. My hope is that the Grace version of Cicada is quickly snuffed out in favor of the infinitely more entertaining drama of Barry having to face a pissed off, negative version of his sweet, sweet Nora.
- Over the past few weeks, I’ve teetered between Thawne being a manipulative prick to Nora or him actually caring about her. As Iris suggests, those aren’t mutually exclusive ideas. He’s definitely orchestrating her actions for his own gains but, at the same time, he truly cares for her, even trying to cull her before she goes fully negative. Imagine Barry being forced to work with the man who killed his mother in order to save his daughter. That is what you call captivating character drama.
- Have I mentioned just how uninteresting the entire Cicada antagonist angle has been this season? Somehow it has eclipsed the yawn-fest of last year’s The Thinker arc. At least there, DeVoe’s relationship with his wife, Marlize, offered a bit of depth (in addition to some of the cool metas he created). Cicada’s arc has been non-existent, derivative, and just plain boring. Nora’s transformation into a potential antagonist could actually buff up this Cicada narrative to the point where I’m not trashing it.
- I have to give another shout-out to Gustin and Patton for just a brilliant performance early on. Their argument was one of the strongest emotionally tense moments in the entire series and is probably the best moment of the season. Though they got back on the same page and made their apologies at the end, the depth of pain and betrayal from Barry, for a split second, made me wonder if this power couple would be toast. Good writing and even better acting made their personal dynamic the strongest aspect of “Snow Pack”.