Ahead of The Flash‘s season 5 premiered, the Powers That Be previewed that this season would be about legacy. At the time, that made sense because the show was introducing Barry and Iris’ daughter from the future, Nora West-Allen. However, tonight’s very strong episode revealed that theme also applies to this season’s big bad Cicada, who has created one hell of a legacy that will cause many problems in the present for Team Flash.
“Failure Is an Orphan” begins with Nora traveling to 2049 to visit our favorite evil speedster, Eobard Thawne. Unfortunately, the Reverse Flash has some bad news for her: Yes, the day of the Flash’s final confrontation with Cicada before Barry disappears has arrived; however, the timeline is changing, which means some new variable has entered the mix.
What’s interesting about this opening exchange, though, is what it suggests about Nora and Thawne’s relationship. Since the Thawne twist was introduced in the 100th episode, it’s been clear that Nora and Thawne have this mentor-mentee relationship. In tonight’s episode, though, Thawne refers to Nora as his “little runner,” which suggests one of two things: He genuinely cares for her, which I would believe because it was always clear that he did come to care for Team Flash at least a little bit; or he’s preying on her need for a father figure. Either way, I liked how that one nickname added a few more layers to his partnership.
Worried that everything she’s been working toward may go wrong, Nora rushes back to the present intent on making sure this final confrontation goes off with a hitch and ends up becoming a hilarious pain to everyone else. Thankfully, they end up getting a break of sorts when an acid blasting metahuman breaks into a lab at CCU. Although the meta gets away, it’s not all bad news because the acid burn he leaves on the ground matches one that Nora saw in the front page photo of the Flash and Cicada’s final battle while she was with Thawne, which means that this meta will lead them to Cicada.
Because everything looks like it’s falling into place, Nora becomes obsessed with making sure her father comes up with the perfect heroic speech that will convince Cicada to take the cure. Her mind becomes so one-tracked that she starts to ignore Iris, who realizes that this might be the last day she has with Nora if they succeed in defeating Cicada. I’ve said this multiple times, but I love the fact that the show is digging into Iris’ emotional life, and I genuinely felt for her in this episode as she tries to spend time with a daughter who is too distracted to realize what’s up. Luckily, Nora eventually realizes how insensitive she’s being and promises to make each moment they have left matter.
Speaking of spending time together: Joe, who finally returns to work, uses his detective skills to link Dwyer to Dr. Ambres, and teams up with Cecile to interrogate her. Unfortunately, their partnership doesn’t go well because Joe is so used to doing things his way that he sort of dismisses Cecile’s powers, which are indeed an asset.
Next: A deadly family reunion
Eventually, Team Flash is able to track down Acid Master, and thus Cicada. So, Barry heads out to confront Cicada with an assist from Killer Frost, who disarms the Wanna Bane long-enough for a chat. Barry tries to convince Dwyer to take the cure by appealing to the legacy of murder he’ll be leaving; however, his charm fails and Cicada tries to kill him. Thankfully, Killer Frost breaches in and scares Cicada off.
And now it’s time for my favorite part of the episode: A Joe West Pep Talk…
Joe finds Barry brooding in his loft because he failed to get through to Cicada. Ever-wise, Joe tells Barry maybe the key is to approach Cicada as Barry Allen and not the Flash since, you know, Cicada hates all metahumans. Perhaps appealing to his human side is the key. And God, I just loved their entire scene together. Jesse L. Martin brings a very specific kind of comforting warmth to the show that was missing while he was gone but shone through in both this scene and in the one he had with Iris in the previous episode. Honestly, The Flash is doing a pretty good job of highlighting the fact Papa Joe is back without making it a or the thing.
After talking to Barry, Joe apologizes to Cecile and invites her to interrogate Dr. Ambres with him once again. This time, the teamwork pays off and they convince her to arrange a meeting with Dwyer. Not only that, but she also reveals that Dwyer’s daughter Grace is a metahuman now; the wound on her head that was caused by the satellite shard has started to open up and glow. Although Team Flash wasn’t prepared for this, the information proves useful when Barry confronts Cicada once again. He reveals to Cicada that Grace is a metahuman, which makes the baddie reconsider his whole vendetta and convinces him to take the cure.
So Barry and Cicada return to S.T.A.R. Labs, where Dr. Ambres puts him under and administers the cure. Thankfully, it works almost immediately — but, the team’s problems are far from over because right then, the power goes out and someone dressed like Cicada bursts through the building windows. And it’s immediately clear that this cosplayer differs from the original flavor Cicada. She can shoot poorly rendered energy blasts from her hands and she has not one, but two daggers. Even though she can’t dampen Team Flash’s powers, she still manages to take all of them out, wreck the Cortex, kill Dr. Ambres, and escape with her uncle.
Yes, you read that right. The new Cicada is none other than Adult Grace Dwyer, which make sense. “Memorabilia” ended with a shot of Grace talking to an adult version of herself, who was dressed like Cicada, in her mind. Apparently, her meta powers either rapidly aged her so she could become Cicada 2.0, which I think is the likelier possibility, or this is some kind of mental projection. Either way, Team Flash must now contend with Orlin Dwyer’s legacy. I wonder what Thawne has to say about this.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. It felt like it was actually moving toward something the entire time, and director Viet Nguyen created a very suspenseful atmosphere, too. Sure, we knew Team Flash’s plan was going to fail somehow, it wasn’t entirely clear how, even though the script drops many hints that it was going to be Grace. Furthermore, the Grace reveal works because it ties into the season’s concern with legacy.
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