THE FLASH Season 5 Episode 13 Review: Goldfaced

With a viable meta cure inching closer to realization, Team Flash decided to turn to the city’s dangerous underbelly to get some stolen tech as an extra resource to help administer it. The trouble is, we’re never told why any of this is necessary. Sure, it turns out there’s a slight delay in the metahuman cure kicking in, which means Cicada will have to be restrained for a whopping sixty seconds. But we aren’t even given a token excuse as to why tranquilizers or physical restraints won’t do the job. Instead the team jumps straight to convoluted plan to buy a top secret prototype off the black market. The whole affair was reminiscent of the drawn out and often irrelevant side quests that kept Season Four’s plot moving at a glacial pace. 

Had Barry’s partner been someone he had more chemistry with, such as Cisco or Iris, the mission could at least have at least been a humorous or entertaining distraction, but instead he was saddled with Ralph, and if there’s anything we did take away from last season’s frequent side jaunts it’s that the two aren’t much of a dynamic duo. At this point, there’s little charm in watching Barry be the boy scout straight-man to Ralph’s goofy sleazeball. 

The cloak and dagger nature of the operation did at least have a certain novelty to it--exploring the criminal underworld is usually something you’d find on a series like Arrow or Daredevil, not The Flash. And while I can appreciate the show trying to mix things up, there is a reason that it hasn’t been touched before. The Flash’s powers a visual spectacle, which is why it’s fitting for him to go against larger than life enemies like Gorilla Grodd or King Shark. Putting him in a gangster setting, even when he’s not using his powers, feels like a tonal mismatch. 

Barry as a character is also poorly suited to espionage. He’s long been established as a terrible liar and his lack of physical prowess is a running gag. Having him turn into a gun-toting badass the moment some power dampening cuffs are placed on him just rings false. Furthermore, there’s never any real question of whether the idealistic and uncompromising Barry will go through with any of the morally dubious acts to maintain his cover, which is usually where the drama comes from for heroes in these situations. 

His daughter on the other hand continues to be less straight-laced. Thawne using his knowledge of Wells’ psyche to give an edge is both fascinating and good reminder of just how much of a plotter he is; watching Nora engineer the couple’s meet cute step by step was a striking way to show how manipulative she has become due to their partnership. Unfortunately, this element was mostly kept to the background, and the scheme turned into a retrospective on Sherloque’s lackluster love life more than anything. The doppelgänger council was annoying enough when it was with Wells, whose multiple incarnations are a staple of the show. Revisiting the idea with Adler, a character we just met, makes the cartoonist personality stereotypes each version has a dozen times worse. 

There was still a pretty exciting bright spot to the episode thanks to Iris’s Orlin Dwyer investigation. The horror tropes the Cicada storyline has tried to emulate this season have been hit and miss, but having Iris be trapped in a serial killer’s lair was a definite win on that score. Despite Cicada obviously being ready to murder her the moment he found her, the necessary suspense and sense of dread were all there. Iris’s nerve and scrappy streak made it easy for her to fit into a genre heroine role; where Barry and Ralph’s fight was showy and their skills were a little improbable, Iris’s run-in with Cicada felt visceral and real. After all the meta tech this season, it was particularly satisfying to see Cicada be taken down by nothing more than a kitchen knife… and it also underscored again how ridiculous the very premise of the covert mission was.

Written by Kaitlin Roberts, THE FLASH Beat Writer

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