Funerals are tough in real life, and they’re tough to write. It’s easy to slip into corny and saccharine aphorisms, leaving the event feeling hollow. This week, Team Flash is trying to figure out how to say goodbye to their fallen friend ahead of her funeral. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 8, Episode 14, “Funeral for a Friend.”
“Funeral for a Friend”
Team Flash uses the distraction of a bank robbing Meta to detract from the grief of losing someone they love.
This season of The Flash has been pretty action-packed–it started with a five-part story that put the safety of Earth itself on the line, and then we launched into a murder mystery-meets-ghost story. After all of that, it feels right to have a quieter episode to let the characters process what they’ve gone through and to make it feel like what’s gone on so far matters.
Heroing While Grieving
This week, the team is trying to keep daily operations together while they mourn the passing of their friend, Frost. The episode begins with the team trying to stop what looks like a bog-standard comic book criminal that should be an easy case. Instead, though, things fall apart when Chester reflexively mentions Frost in his tactical rundown for the team, and it leads to a blowout that leaves a building on the edge of collapse.
What follows is a series of short chapters dedicated to Iris, Allegra and Chester, Barry, and Caitlin as they try to deal with their grief alone or together. They each take a different tack; Iris tries to figure out how to memorialize Frost without also revealing the identities of the team. Allegra and Chester bicker about hummus. Barry runs around the world, literally, trying to complete a bucket list in Frost’s memory.
This episode continues the theme of the last few, looking at how we deal with grief, and how our choices in how to do that affect those around us. This is most apparent when Allergra and Chester end up at Frost’s favorite bar, where her boyfriend Chillblaine is throwing a drunken tantrum. The act of cooling Chillblaine down (pun intended) helps the two stop arguing with each other long enough for him to chime in with some drunken wisdom. About how her gift to him was showing him her point of view and way of seeing the world.
Iris Does a Podcast
Iris, meanwhile, decides to interview a bunch of people whose lives Frost affected, having them on her inconceivably popular podcast that spun off of her nonsensically successful newspaper that the show basically willed into existence a season or two ago.
Nothing about the newspaper, the podcast, or how Iris got all those people together so quickly makes sense, but the scenes do a good job of reminding us of the core ideas behind superheroism. Dissecting and dismantling superhero stories is popular right now because there are so many, but superhero stories exist because we often feel helpless and want to imagine a world where someone can save us. These scenes honor that idea, and show how Frost’s actions have affected people, changing the course of their lives just through her caring and generosity to the world.
Barry Tries to do Everything
Barry’s story doesn’t feel terribly consequential; his role in this episode feels minor, though the CG used to place him atop Mt. Everest making a snowman was surprisingly good. As with last week, though, this episode places Danielle Panabaker at the center and gives her the most to do, for better or worse.
On the plus side, she does a fabulous job of showing how confusing it can be to lose someone who was so close to you that it felt like they lived in your head (in Frost’s case, she literally did). She’s angry, sad, alone, and taking it out on those around her. Barry and Caitlin have a heart-to-heart that lands nicely ahead of the funeral. The funeral closes out the episode, but then the “worse” part of for better or worse rears its head. Caitlin invites Chillblaine over to her condo, and when she turns on the lights we see that her entire place has been turned into a laboratory. Caitlin is planning to bring Frost back using a clipping of her late clone’s hair.
A Dark Turn
Is this really where we’re going? Why does she have to go straight to doing the most twisted, selfish thing possible? It is indeed one of the more destructive ways of handling grief. Caitlin has had her share, losing her father, her husband three times, being betrayed by two boyfriends, and now she’s lost her sister? Yeah, she has a lot of hurt inside. But this decision doesn’t feel right for the character. It seems like Caitlin would realize that even if she successfully engineers a working metahuman body and mind from the genetic information of Frost, the clone you get isn’t the person you had; they’re a copy. Frost lived in Caitlin’s head for years before she was her own person, and so she had plenty of life experience to develop from. A new clone could be wildly, dangerously different.
It also feels like the whole thing is going to be a half-measure for the show. This is the kind of thing you don’t come back from. This is some horror movie stuff, resurrecting your formerly evil twin sister so that you don’t have to feel sad. The show knows it can’t go well–it would make Frost’s death meaningless for her to come back. I’m sure she’ll come back and appear normal at first, and then things will slowly go bad, forcing Caitlin to finally deal with her grief. This kind of stuff tend to be pretty predictable. But this should be a permanent turn for Caitlin. Her friends should be horrified by her actions, she should be permanently changed by what she’s done.
It’s hard to know how the show will handle it, it could be exactly as I’ve outlined above, it could be very different, but this twist isn’t something I’m optimistic about, despite this having been an above-average season for the show so far.