The Flash has been struggling for some time now with making its plots work. They sound good in theory but end up convoluted and uninteresting. Right now, it seems like The Flash is shifting to character-focused episodes. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 7, Episode 13, “Masquerade.”
It’s a post-Cisco world, and the members of Team Flash are living in it. This week focuses on Chester P. Runk and Cecile Horton. Cecile was acting particularly strange last week, showing up in places she shouldn’t. In the opening of this week’s episode, she has a short conversation with Joe and then, as soon as he leaves, her eyes light up as she mugs an evil grin for the camera. Meanwhile, Chester is trying to turn what was once Cisco’s home into his own, and dealing with all the excitement and fear that come with that.
The show ties these two together with an artifact from a couple seasons ago–the Medusa Mask worn by Psycho-Pirate. This character appeared in the Elseworlds crossover a few years back and wasn’t able to do terribly much. He’s not back, but his mask is, and we learn early on that it has been in control of Cecile for a few weeks–though only Barry knows that, and only once he’s trapped in Cecile’s mind along with Cecile herself.
Manipulated by possessed Cecile, the team enlists Sue Dearbon (Natalie Dreyfuss) to help them get the mask out of storage at the museum, finding out at the last minute that Cecile is not Cecile at all. The whole plan was orchestrated by Chester, and the last-minute reveal sends the newest member of the team into an anxiety tailspin.
Focus on the people
The whole thing acts as a crucible for Chester and a release for Cecile. Chester is stepping into big shoes–the actor, the character, and the audience all know it. Cecile, meanwhile, has been largely underdeveloped as a character, and has been in need of some focus that isn’t dependent on her powers working as a deus ex machina to solve that week’s problem.
This episode works because it’s not dependent on convoluted plot points to get the work done–it’s actually pretty straightforward. Cecile is trapped in her mind largely by her refusal to deal with her own past, and Chester is panicking because he stumbled for the first time and doesn’t realize that Cisco (and Barry) did exactly that countless times.
Both Danielle Nicolet and Brandon Knight are solid actors, and the episode rides more on their ability to convey how their characters feel than it does on any visual effects. They deliver, thankfully; the stakes of this episode are rather low-key when compared to so many others this season, but that feels like a nice break from what we’ve gotten accustomed to: over-the-top visual effects with a messy, incomprehensible story. This one’s pretty easy to parse.
The other highlight of the episode is Sue Dearbon. She’s charismatic and fun and brings a different dynamic to the team. It seems like she might be sticking around for a few episodes, too, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that works out.
It’s becoming clear that these big arcs like the Forces or the Mirror Monarch arcs don’t work for the Flash for whatever reason. As such, the show should start leaning on its cast of characters and on its long list of smaller villains to mix things up, just as in this episode–instead of taking away Barry’s powers and kidnapping Iris again.