The Strangest Timeline.
Warning! Full spoilers for the episode below.
While Monster didn’t disappoint me nearly as much as last week’s The New Rogues did, The Flash managed a (mostly) safe episode this week. While we had an unexpectedly strong showing from Caitlin, as her journey towards Killer Frost-ness continued, the rest of Monster was mostly a wash. It was never bad, and didn’t reach the same level of filler that The New Rogues did, but it was certainly a safe showing.
*Wally Watch 2016 continued this week, with Wally’s voiceover once again included in the intro sequence. No further developments this week. Next week should be much more exciting.
Monster opened with Barry living on his own! Well, not quite. It was nice to see Barry living with Cisco, and even though the duo may not have the same repertoire that they did pre-Flashpoint, it’s nice to see a slow build back towards that. With Barry not living at home with Joe and Iris, I’d expect to see them continue to move forward with Barry and Iris’ relationship, and continue to separate themselves from the weirdly incestuous background that they have (Here’s to hoping at least!). While Iris wasn’t featured heavily in Monster either, it was nice to see Barry and Iris interacting on a much more normal level this week, moving away from that awkwardness of The New Rogues. It’s all, hopefully at least, a step in the right direction towards a future Mr. and Mrs. Barry Allen.
Caitlin’s arc during Monster was through and through, the highlight of the episode. While I should save the best for last, Caitlin meeting with her mother, Dr. Carla Tannhauser (Teen Wolf and Vampire Diaries alum Susan Walters) came pretty early in the episode. This thread was teased all the way back in Season 2’s Back to Normal, where Caitlin met her Earth-2 doppelganger. This is, however, where the timelines deviate. In Back to Normal, when Caitlin meets Killer Frost, her doppelganger reveals that she had a brother, Charlie, who died very young. Her mother couldn’t cope with this loss and became distant and cold. Caitlin was surprised because she herself never had a brother. Back in the present day on post-Flashpoint Earth-1, Caitlin confronts her mother about becoming cold after Caitlin’s father passed away. Whether this was intentional and will be held for some sort of revelation in Season 3, or it’s just a minor retcon, is yet to be seen. The emphasis that they put on this thread in Season 2 just seemed too well placed to not have significance in Season 3. Another topic for Kevin’s Speculation Corner, I suppose!
While that’s slightly jumping ahead overall in Caitlin’s journey in Monster, it’s all-important in seeing Caitlin’s slow transition towards Killer Frost. We see it when Caitlin initially tells her mother that she needs help with a “patient” that she knows, but becomes enraged and entirely frosts her mother’s desk when she finally exclaims that she’s the patient. Caitlin’s mom runs the “normal” batch of tests on Caitlin, but as we all know, Caitlin has done the exact tests already. She’s a scientist, so of course, she already ran the tests. But this lends itself to a sweet moment, in which Caitlin admits that aforementioned fact – she didn’t go to her mom for the science, but for something else. Although Team Flash is her family, she has felt so trapped there, unable to come clean with them about her slow transformation. Although the circumstances in which Caitlin may reveal herself to Team Flash may be heartbreaking for the rest of the group, I can’t wait to see what happens.
Also, I can fully appreciate the fact that Caitlin’s mother, in the end, served as Caitlin’s mother. When she was first introduced, and Caitlin went to her for help, I was worried. I was worried that she would fall into Tropeland, being the controlling mother who uses her daughter as a science experiment, who sacrifices her daughter for her own selfish scientific pursuits. Although we saw Caitlin almost completely frost over the scientist who trapped her, it was nice to see Caitlin’s mother serve a higher purpose.
For whatever it’s worth, I am so sorry.
As for the rest of Team Flash, HR Wells came to focus in this episode. Unfortunately, while I found these methods to keep Tom Cavanagh as a part of Team Flash novel, they remained as strange as ever this week. While the choice to get rid of Earth-2 Wells was strange, the revelations that came with HR Wells were just as strange. Of course, the show runners know how important Wells is to Team Flash, but that doesn’t make their choices any less weird. Throughout Monster, HR is too friendly, too strange, and Team Flash notices that. We get a few red herrings that HR is up to no good, like Reverse-Flash was, but instead, it ends up coming out the other side as just a strange occurrence. HR, as it turns out, is a novelist, not a scientist; an “ideas” man. His “partner” back on his own Earth was the one who solved the equation, but it gave him the chance for a fresh start. Unfortunately, this fresh start, while unique, remains to be strange. While Team Flash is all about second chances, and while I admittedly loved Cavanagh’s performances through Season 1 and 2, I just can’t wrap my head around the choices with HR. Time will tell, I suppose.
That brings us, of course, to Monster’s literal monster of the week, wich goes into the pile of forgettable “Villain of the Week” to an entire nth degree. While I criticized The New Rogues for giving us underdeveloped and wasted villains, boy, I should have held my tongue until this week. Central City is attacked by a kaiju, except that kaiju is actually a hologram that a teenager was using to feel “powerful” in a world that made him feel week and inessential. While this message had the ability to be something powerful, it came at such a disconnect from the rest of the episode. Had Barry or Cisco or HR or literally anyone at Team Flash had a similar narrative, they could have made it work. Even compare it to Magenta, where a similar narrative existed with a younger character feeling powerless; Monster doesn’t hold up in comparison. It did give weight to scenes with Felton’s Julian, but it was a means to an end, where the means held little importance.
As mentioned above, we did get two great scenes because of Monster’s monster, despite the path we took to get to them. We had Julian almost shoot the teenager who was conjuring the kaiju, but thankfully The Flash was there to save the day. Then we had a follow-up in which Julian and Barry finally had a heart to heart. It gave Julian some much-needed screen time, as well as a bit of backstory, and also opened up some interesting threads. There are always logical leaps to make when a brand new guest star is introduced, alongside a shiny new villain. While it’s not 100% guaranteed that Julian will indeed turn out to be Doctor Alchemy, there was some interesting rhetoric that Julian spoke about in his heart to heart with Barry. While he gave some insight as to how he felt about meta-humans, his wording about how they don’t live up to their “potential” falls in line with Alchemy’s own approach. We’re fast approaching the rumored appearance of Savitar in Episode 6 and 7, per executive producer Greg Berlanti’s own words, so we may soon see Alchemy’s identity revealed as well.
While Monster fell short in many areas; from the strange approach of HR Wells, to a “Villain of the Week” that came out of left field, I still adored big character moments within the episode. We glanced Caitlin in a much different light, and saw big developments in the interactions with her mother. Julian shed his Malfoy-esque demeanor and finally connected with Barry. Monster, despite the flaws, still made me excited for what is right over the horizon.