One of the most egregious things an episode of television can be is boring. When there isn’t enough tension built-up to make emotional moments stick and precious screen time is eaten away by a nonsensical subplot, it’s no surprise then that an episode can lose its momentum and drive. This is exactly what happened with The Flash’s 11th episode, “Seeing Red.” With all that was happening in the episode regarding Nora being hurt and Barry being driven by anger to catch Cicada, “Seeing Red” should’ve had more heart and far more emotion, but it didn’t have much of either. In addition to that, Cisco was nowhere to be seen, even though the metahuman cure was his idea. Instead, we continue to get a half-baked Killer Frost subplot that took up far more time than need be and distracted from the main plot of the hour.
The episode’s primary plot centered Barry on his road to finally becoming a full-fledged and caring father. Not saying he didn’t care about Nora before, but whereas Iris felt something towards Nora immediately–from her ecstatic attitude about her identity reveal, to caring so much about the initial rift between them and wanting to make it better–Barry had always held her at arm’s length. Nora getting hurt solidified his paternal feelings for her and his epiphany at the end regarding Cicada brought us back to the Barry who uses his emotions as a strength instead of resorting to physical violence.
However angry he was, though, Barry’s rage wasn’t exactly rage so much as it was light seething. It would’ve been far more interesting to see him go all out for more than one scene (I’m thinking “Flash vs. Arrow,” but slightly less rage-y). He was rightfully angry at Cicada for breaking Nora’s back, but, beyond Cecile calming him down, the escalation was really only sensed at the end when he went all in on pummeling this season’s villain. Some of that tension had already dissipated by that point because Nora was already walking and back to running at full strength. Neither she or her parents truly got to sit with any of the ramifications of her back being broken so the emotions from the fallout didn’t feel as heightened as they should have. Was Nora scared she could never again run alongside her dad? What if the dark matter never faded? Would that mean she couldn’t use her powers to go back to her future? The episode took a lot of lazy shortcuts to get to the end, which essentially ripped the heart out of the episode. The episode could’ve instead worked as an outlet for both Barry and Iris to openly contemplate parenting, their fears for Nora, and to better explore Barry suddenly “seeing red,” but the writing was half-hearted and didn’t dig any deeper than it had to, so the stakes didn’t feel very high despite the situation.
It’s also concerning that they’ve scaled back on giving Iris just as much of an active subplot regarding parenting as they have Barry. This show has always, and unfortunately, favored father/child relationships, but ever since she and Nora have made up, we’ve largely seen them get to know each other better offscreen. And what’s also irksome is the writers’ lack of imagination when it comes to her journalism. I’m not devaluing her sticking around to be there for Nora and being concerned with her wellbeing, but in an episode where Cecile was off investigating the CCPD leak, Iris could’ve helped with that. It would have also made sense if she, via her blog, had written about Cicada targeting metahumans. Much like she alerted the public of DeVoe’s plot last season to spread the word, the same could’ve been done here. It’s generally frustrating and concerning when the writers, who lack the ability to manage and balance various characters in one episode, don’t provide Iris with more material. The episodes would be far better for it and it would also provide some sense of consistency.
The lack of momentum was apparent in this episode because the B plot went on for longer than it should have and lessened the impact of the main plot by diverting attention away from it almost completely at times. The Flash has always struggled with Killer Frost, with her origin story continuously and haphazardly changing every season, and this week proved to be yet another repetitive subplot for her. Last week, we saw Cisco express interest in creating a metahuman cure so they could cure any metahumans who wanted to live their lives without their powers. This week, as has been the case in their relationship over the course of the show, that subplot shifted and was made to be about Caitlin and her snarky counterpart instead. Cisco was also strangely absent from the episode, the second one he’s been missing from this season alone (note: this has never happened before in the show’s five seasons. Carlos Valdes was apparently working on a short film, but to have him disappear completely is still unsettling).
For the record, the Killer Frost storyline (along with Sherloque’s presence and Cicada in general) has been the weakest of the season. Not only is it taking up too much time only for us to be back to square one, but it’s frustrating because it also makes absolutely no sense. Killer Frost destroyed Cisco’s work last week, which forced him to start over, and this week she kept attempting to derail Caitlin from progressing the research for the cure. And it was all because Killer Frost was scared that Caitlin would change her mind and take the cure, erasing Killer Frost from existence.
But why would she fear that? It’s already been established that 1. Killer Frost is a part of Caitlin and tied into her DNA somehow and 2. She was not created via dark matter like the other metahumans were. Therefore, the cure shouldn’t affect her at all. Why the hell did she think that Team Flash was excited about her not being affected by Cicada’s dagger? Just for fun? No, because she is the only one whose powers aren’t affected by him. It’s also a strange fear given that Killer Frost already knew that Caitlin had worked extra hard to get her back. At this point, it’s utter nonsense and poor writing.
The subplot was made even worse because, while the media enjoys praising mediocrity, five seasons in, it needs to be said: Danielle Panabaker isn’t a strong actress. She doesn’t have the emotional range to carry a storyline or an episode and her body language and facial cues are more often distracting in their exaggeration than they are helpful in adding nuance to Caitlin and elevating the material she’s given. And the more this storyline drags on, the more apparent it becomes.
Cicada is another issue because, although he’s meant to be menacing, he doesn’t pack as much punch. His storyline has lulled and the episode tried to reignite the fire with his villain arc by having him come after Nora and making it more personal for Barry. But even though he kills metas, there was no sense of urgency or intensity to his actions in this episode. His presence provides no excitement for what his plans are and how the team will end up taking him down. Maybe the show has hit a rough patch and I’m guessing he’s no longer serving as the main big bad of the season, not after they’ve reintroduced Reverse Flash, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.
“Seeing Red” barely moved the plot along and it wasn’t worth it to sit through 42 minutes of a less-than-exciting episode that decided to give us a scene detailing Norvok’s unnecessary backstory. The pacing was slow and, while there were good moments here and there, it didn’t come together well and wasted a lot of time on a subplot that dragged on for too long. The poor writing decisions made for a lackluster episode that was ultimately devoid of the heart it should have had given the circumstances.
- Ralph’s character has become so much more tolerable this season. His jokes aren’t heavy handed or extremely childish or sexist, and he’s managed to become a good listener and advice-giver as well. I like to be surprised.
- Protective Barry and Iris are wonderful.
- Tom Cavanagh’s French accent is pretty terrible.
- It was at least nice to see Peek-A-Boo again in this episode.
- It’s always, always so good to see Captain Singh. I really wish he’d be around more often.