THE FLASH Season 5 Episode 5 Review: All Doll'd Up

This week Barry and Iris, fresh off their most recent parenting dilemma, decided to handle their newest meta problem as a husband/wife crime-fighting duo instead of bringing the whole team onto the case. Historically, the writers have had a little trouble with getting STAR Labs involved with everything and not letting the characters do things on their own (look no further than Caitlin’s search for her father if you want a current example of this), so this deviation from the norm was a welcome surprise. By keeping this investigation to just the two West-Allens', the episode got to skip the roundtable discussion of vaguely scientific sounding explanations for how the meta’s powers work, instead relying on the chemistry Grant Gustin and Candice Patton have built up over the past five years to propel the action forward. 

Since the two characters know each other so well, they can communicate with looks or tone what they’d have to voice aloud to other characters, which allowed the two leading actors to give more subtle performances than they often have the opportunity to. These quieter moments especially played to Patton’s strengths—Iris is often Barry’s moral compass and guide in tough times, and consequently her own reactions and point of view tend to be treated as secondary. However because of this, Patton has become a master communicating Iris’s feelings through looks alone. During a longer nonverbal sequence like the gala dance, where she’s balancing so many bittersweet feelings about her family, you see how much a journey she can truly take you own without having to say a word. 

Their titular mark for the evening, Ragdoll, ended up being mysteriously turned into a metahuman in this adaptation for no other reason than the series seems to think it automatically makes villains more interesting (it doesn’t), and there there was no hint of the colorful and creepy personality he has in the comics. In fact, given he was almost entirely silent, I can’t help but wonder if it would have been better to continue the trend from last episode and make Ragdoll a literal doll who got infused with dark matter to become a sort of pseudo-Chuckie. At least it would have been a type of villain we haven’t seen a dozen times over. 

Nevertheless, his kidnapping of Barry did at least result in a truly epic rescue scene from Iris, complete with jumping off a building (!), that caused Nora to finally soften towards her mother, which is a welcome relief. Although the West-Allen family conflict has been one of the most intriguing parts of this season, I think it would have derailed Nora’s character had it gone much further. While fighting with our mom can bring out the child in most of us, Nora’s attitude this episode seemed overly immature, to the point where she didn’t even act concerned about almost getting some motorcyclists killed because of her irritation with Iris. Much better for her to reach an understanding with Iris quickly than for her grudge to become so exaggerated the fight feels absurd rather than properly dramatic. 

On a side note, it continues to be a little disconcerting how willing the series is to retcon itself-- Iris disliking journalism and accidentally falling into the role was a fairly major plot point in the first season, and yet both Iris and Cecile tell Nora spent her entire childhood with a pen in hand. But hey, I guess there’s always the classic “blame it on Flashpoint” excuse, right? 

Cisco, meanwhile, despite being stuck in Killer Frost purgatory with Ralph and Sherloque, revealed the aftermath from Cicada’s attack was more lasting than previously shown. Cisco has always been self-sacrificing to the point of the martyrdom, so realizing he can no longer vibe without risking a seizure creates a very compelling dilemma for him to grapple with for the rest of the season. Honestly, his somber reflection on how the powers he spent years hating have now become the source of his self- worth gave him more character development in two minutes than he got the entire last season. While the show may still be struggling with balancing the entirety of its cast, this year it has definitely shown a promising knack of knowing when to focus in on a character so that we can get the most effective character growth and development.

Written by Kaitlin Roberts, THE FLASH Beat Writer

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