THE FLASH Season 5 Episode 14 Review: Cause and XS

When you’ve got a series involved with time travel a good, old-fashioned Groundhog Day episode is usually an easy crowd-pleaser, given how beloved the trope is. Unfortunately, the show’s writers and producers seem to have completely missed where the appeal from a time-loop tale comes from. 

While it’s important to have significant parallels and a fair amount of repetition in this type of story so that we empathize with the lead, “Cause and XS” ended up literally replaying the exact same scene over and over. Line by line, everything was repeated, with only the team member axed by Cicada being switched. Each character wasn’t even given a personalized death scene, despite the obvious opportunity to tug at fans’ heartstrings without the consequences really killing off a team member. 

Jessica Parker Kennedy is a winning actress who is clearly putting in a real effort, but the writing simply gives her nothing to work with. Nora reacts to every timeline with the same identical panic and distress, we don’t see any different sides to her throughout the experience, and it’s tiresome that the person who is supposed to be the big variable in the equation ends being as predictable everyone else. 

Given how familiar everyone on the team is with time travel, it’s baffling Nora wouldn’t just tell the team what happened right after round one. Indeed, once the team does but two and two together literally no one expresses surprise. The solution they come up with, pooling together all of Nora’s time lines for help, is so simple it’s a wonder it takes two-thirds of the episode to arrive there. 

Cisco’s outing with Kamilla does at least offer a few breadcrumbs of variety, but the strikingly uncreative way in which does so robs it of the entertainment value. Being forced to relive a first date over and over again is an idea rife with comedic potential, since, as many will attest to, there are a million ways disaster can strike. But each time Cisco arrives to his date playing up different stereotypes like jock, hipster, or business wizard whilst trying to find Kamilla’s type, and again the ensuing conversation followed almost the exact same script every time. It felt like Cisco’s own Council of Wells more than anything, and the line up of cartoonish buffoons wasn’t any more appealing in this setting. The fact that it was got tied with a rather on the nose “just be yourself” speech from Cisco doubled the corniness of the whole thing. 

But at least Cisco was able to take something away from his time-loop journey; Nora doesn’t appeared to have learned anything from the experience. Oh, sure she gets the supposed moral of “don’t mess with time travel” from Barry — a message all the more incredible given that he’s happily talking to his daughter from 2049 and seemingly doesn’t see a contradiction — but afterwards, Nora expresses a single moment of doubt about changing the timeline that Eobard steamrolls almost immediately, leaving us back at square one. 

After all the promising energy this season started off with, it’s disappointing to see the show revisit its bad habit of dragging the story lines out so long all the drama has fizzled. I didn’t mind saving the Eobard reveal for the special 100th episode, even though it probably would have worked just as well a few episodes earlier. But constantly delaying the team’s discovery of Nora’s deal with the devil just doesn’t make sense; Nora’s in the same uncertain nebulous space that she was before the hiatus, and the longer this goes on, the more incredible her naïveté seems. 

And it doesn’t help that there hasn’t been any true progress with Cicada either. This episode would have been perfect moment to truly take out Cicada, clear the playing field for the Reverse-Flash, and allow Nora a moment of triumph before her parents learn her secret. Instead Cicada is probably going to be out of commission for maybe a few weeks, which is… something? I guess? 

It really forces you to question what most of the episode since the midseason finale have been doing with their time. The meta cure, at least, has come along quite a bit, but when it comes to catching Cicada, Nora’s secret, or Sherloque’s investigation there’s been little to no change. Which only raises the even more pressing questions of how and why the writers expect viewers to keep tuning in to a series so clearly determined to remain stationary.

Written by Kaitlin Roberts, THE FLASH Beat Writer

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