THE FLASH Season 5 Episode 21 Review: The Girl With Red Lightning

If the title of this episode had anyone holding out hope we might still get to learn more about the Negative Speed Force, then Cicada-filled 45 minutes we got should have laid those dreams to rest pretty quickly. Nora, predictably, was eager to confront Cicada with their new weapon, despite Barry and Iris trying to shut her down. 

Mysteriously, however, Nora’s rash decision to use her psychic link to talk to Grace was framed as significant character development for her. In fact, Nora explicitly contrasts it with her reckless behavior on the field during her first few missions. But how exactly was going behind her parents’ backs to access Cicada’s mind any different from all the other times she's been deceitful or rash because she wanted to fix things? 

I've enjoyed Nora’s persistent over-eagerness and struggles with finding her footing as a hero, but it doesn't make sense for her to get a pat on the back for behavior that in any other episode would have gone terribly. I want Nora to actually grow, not just get better results every time she hatched a hare-brained scheme. This is made worse by Barry’s supposed revelation Grace’s anger was influencing Nora when she used the Negative Speed Force. More than anything else in the episode, this feels like a cop-out. 

Now Nora doesn't have to actually grapple with any buried resentment of her parents and the writers can claim they were developing the Nora/Cicada connection all along, despite the fact that there hasn't been any actual spent any time on it. The fact that Nora already has a much more personal connection to Thawne that could be getting explored doesn't seem to have factored in at all. 

Although even the Thawne storyline seems to have fallen victim to lazy writing as of late. It seems incredible that, with all the havoc and heartbreak time travel has caused over the past few years, the team would still completely brush off Ralph’s valid concerns about how the changes to the timeline don't add up. I understand wanting to save big reveals for the most dramatic moments, but what is the point if it makes all your characters look like dunces in the meantime. Barry has spent the past few episodes doggedly claiming Thawne has a hidden agenda they have to look out for; watching him to do a complete 180 turn and suddenly say they don't have time to worry about Thawne basically tells the audience that the characters’ beliefs and motivations are all completely changeable depending on what the plot requires that week. 

The one bright spot to the episode was Joe getting some more screen time as he filled in for Captain Singh. Unlike the other supporting members of the team, Joe only coming into focus now makes sense given Jesse L Martin was on medical leave for much of the season. While his absence made for some awkward moments, like Joe conspicuously being out for a walk when other characters came to visit, he’s still managed to have a nice little arc about handling pressure head on after swanning off to Tibet because of his anxieties. 

I'd be happy if Joe staying on as captain next season, which seems likely, gave the series the opportunity to flesh out different aspects of the city--like the problems it has beyond meta-human crime. Comic book Flash was often a bit of folk hero to Central City, and it would do the show good to start exploring that more human side of his super-heroics. Having a big bad with an evil master plan that takes up the entire season hasn't been working for the show, and this latest dud proves just how big a toll it can take on the series as a whole when it happens.

Written by Kaitlin Roberts, THE FLASH Beat Writer

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