THE FLASH Season 5 Episode 16 Review: Failure is an Orphan

Despite ostensibly being the season’s big bad, Cicada’s plotline has been clumsily floundering for several weeks now. With only the vaguest of evil plots and nothing to make his feud with Barry personal, it seemed like the affair should have been wrapped up a while ago. In typical Flash fashion, however, the matter appeared to be finally and definitively put to bed—only for it to be immediately revived in a way that all but guarantees it’ll be sticking around till the finale. 

Barry’s optimistic plan to win over Cicada that he hatched last episode was ultimately successful, despite a few false starts along the way. Truthfully, I enjoy when there’s emphasis on Barry using his compassion over his speed, even if the speeches can quickly veer into Disney territory. The series wearing its heart on its sleeve is part of the charm, and getting to hear Barry make his appeal as one father to another was a sweet way to show how big Nora’s impact has been. Unfortunately, even when outside of his mask, Chris Klein still uses the over-exaggerated gravelly voice Cicada has, and it’s clearly not one that was for conversation beyond creepily whispering victims’ names. It’s an instant mood-killer in every single scene. 

Because things can never be too easy for Team Flash, Dwyer wasn’t out of commission for more than three minutes before a second Cicada burst onto the scene. I doubt many people were surprised when it turned out to be Grace underneath the hood in the ending stinger. Actually, I wonder in hindsight about the decision to show a dream version of Grace-Cicada only a few episodes ago, if the plan was always to introduce her new character at this point. It sort of steals the thunder from her big entrance. 

Moreover, it’s unclear what exactly Grace brings to table that’s different from her uncle-turned-father and why this is a game changer. I’m glad Grace’s character has evolved beyond being a human MacGuffin, but having her become the copycat version of a villain who wasn’t compelling in the first place is hardly a recipe for success. Maybe Grace will still find a way to stand out, even with everything from her glowing scar to her origin story being designed to be a nod to Dwyer. It just seems unlikely, and I don’t relish spending any more time on the played out meta serial killer concept. 

At least the Cicada saga did lead to a renewed focus on the West-Allen family drama, with Nora’s return to the future on the horizon. One of the reasons time travel is so compelling as a device is that there’s always some form of sacrifice associated with it. In this case, Nora going home to her future family means Barry and Iris will lose the version of their daughter they’ve grown to love for many decades. That’s compelling stuff, especially since the situation is (for once) no one’s fault, just an inherent reality of time travel they can’t change. It’ll be interesting to see how or if their feelings change once Barry’s disappearance is inevitably prevented and Nora’s timeline is rewritten. 

On a slightly technical note, I’m curious about why it’s now being presented as if Nora coming back in time was to stop Cicada, when in fact his presence as supposed to be an unforeseen consequence of her meddling in time. There’s a lot we still don’t know about Barry vanishing or how Nora met Thawne, so it’s possible this isn’t just a continuity hiccup. Since Cicada now seems likely to stick around till the rest of the season, there’s the potential that the feud is more connected to Barry’s disappearance than it first seemed. That would certainly up the stakes more than any Cicada bait-and- switch.

Written by Kaitlin Roberts, THE FLASH Beat Writer

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