With Barry Allen having two father figures in his life–Henry Allen and Joe West–The Flash often leans toward stories about fatherhood. This episode, it’s time for dads to step aside as the Snow family reconvenes to fight the Black Flame and Iris helps her new phantom friend find her birth mother. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 8, Episode 10, “Reckless.”
Barry’s (Grant Gustin) desire to keep Team Flash safe is tested when Frost (Danielle Panabaker) recklessly courts danger as she tries to stop the “Black Flame”, meanwhile, Iris, (Candice Patton) tries to help a teen girl reunite with her mother but unintentionally does more harm than good.
I wonder if, in the writer’s room of The Flash, the team is calling this season “The Phantom Menace.” I hope they are. This week’s episode is a direct continuation of the previous episode’s as the team tries to make sense of the Black Flame’s actions while Iris copes with her mysterious illness.
A Blizzard of Snows
At the center of this episode is the entire Snow family–Caitlin Snow, her clone-sister Frost, and their mother, Carla Tannhauser. We haven’t seen Carla in a while, and she hasn’t played a significant role in the plot in even longer, but Caitlin and her mother have had a rocky–icy if you will–relationship, and this episode sets about beginning to correct that.
Much of the first six or so seasons of The Flash did not serve Caitlin Snow very well. She spent a lot of time being betrayed by romantic interests and waiting around to patch up Team Flash after battles. Killer Frost was a temporary vacation from that, and Danielle Panabaker really milked those episodes for all they were worth, hamming it up and chewing scenery. When the show split the two apart, though, it gave both the writers and actor a lot more room to develop the character of Frost. She’s since become a much more organic, believable character (aside from having like, ice genes, or whatever), and that goes a long way toward making this episode work.
The Caitlin and Frost characters have great chemistry, which is pretty incredible considering that they’re being played by the same actor, and that holds when Caitlin’s mother, Carla, enters the picture. There’s a long-running tension between the three here, from Carla’s tumultuous relationship with Caitlin to her lack of participation in Frost’s life, and it really helps the storyline land that the tension feels real and is something the show tries to deal with.
Time is of the Essence
Meanwhile, in Coast City (home of the Green Lantern), Iris is still helping her new friend, Tinya, find her mother. That’s sort of a MacGuffin, though, because the story is really about Iris and how she works hard to avoid her own problems by focusing on others. I almost have to wonder if this storyline is partially about burnout; Iris is extremely work focused and motivated, and this time illness is forcing her to focus on herself because it’s affecting people around her.
The time illness progresses this week. There’s this bizarre, funny shot after Iris, Sue, and Tinya leave the adoption agency. The camera stays planted in the agency as the woman says she needs a coffee break. She leaves the room, and the camera shifts toward the door. When she comes back, she drops her coffee and the camera cuts back to the straight-on shot of the room, which is now completely empty. It was a really strange shot that left me wondering why we were lingering on this random character for so long.
Time to Solve a Mystery
Mysteries are at the core of this season–what is the Black Flame, and what is going on with Iris’ time illness? That feels like a huge change from the regular treadmill of a countdown to the villain doing their plan. It slows down the plot part and lets us focus on characters and character dynamics. This week provides a clue to the Black Fire mystery that promises to bring back someone who hasn’t been on the cast for many years. The show will have to make sure these mysteries land, and maybe that’s the hard part of using a mystery to propel your serial show forward rather than a villain’s plan. The villain’s plan is kind of self-propelling, but a mystery requires more active characters and a good payoff at the end.
I’m enjoying The Flash more this season than I have in years–it’s still a rough show, but it’s spending more time focusing on the good parts than the bad finally, and it’s making it a lot more fun to watch these episodes.