Something about this season’s new villain on The Flash really bugs me. Like Barry, I wish he’d just buzz off.
That hooded guy who appeared at the end of the premiere episode and attacked the prison transport truck… yeah, he straight-up murdered the meta-human called Gridlock. The mask he wears makes a distinctive, insect-like buzzing sound. After the deed, we see him unmask to reveal American Pie star Chris Klein underneath! He gives off serious serial killer vibes. While disrobing in a locker room, a co-worker (?) comments on all his cuts and bruises, but shrugs them off, perhaps assuming that he must be in a fight club.
Meanwhile, Nora comes clean to all of Team Flash, admitting that she’s not really stuck in this time and telling them about how Barry will disappear for 25 years. Of everyone, Iris seems the least disturbed by this. She defiantly proclaims that they’ve changed the timeline before and can do it again. However, she’s still saddened about the strained relationship she has with Nora.
Iris interviews a police officer who survived the attack on the prison transport. He claims to have no memory of what happened but is clearly traumatized by the event. Later, she tracks down his body-cam video from the night. Although the camera never captures a look at the attacker, the buzzing sound is disturbing.
Freshly escaped from Iron Heights prison, a new meta-human named Vanessa Jansen (Erin Cummings) attacks an arms dealer named Moretti, using her power to trap him in a golden block that shrinks and crushes him into a tiny, meaty cube. She then steals all his guns and weapons. While Barry works this case as a CSI, Nora insinuates herself onto the police force as his intern. She’s overly excited to help her father, though she finds the primitive state of technology in this era an annoyance.
Barry IDs Vanessa as the culprit and tracks her to a gang called the East Street Skulls. When he and Nora race off to confront her, Vanessa traps Nora in a cube and then tosses it miles through the air. Barry follows it and catches the cube, which quickly dissipates, but this gives Vanessa enough time to get away. Caitlin and Cisco determine that the cubes are “concentrated air squares” so dense that a speedster can’t phase through them. Still in a funk about his breakup, Cisco gives the meta the unimaginative nickname “Block.”
Once again overenthusiastic, Nora accidentally zaps Barry with lightning. She moans that she’ll never live up to his greatness. Barry then shows her a video of some of his biggest screw-ups and failures to emphasize that superheroing requires patience and practice.
The brother of the dead arms dealer ambushes Vanessa and attacks her with advanced weapons, but her block also acts like a forcefield to repel the threat. Just then, Team Flash locate her again and rush in. This time, Vanessa traps Barry in a cube and begins crushing it. Nora notices Vanessa straining and getting tired, so she distracts her and wears her out until Barry is freed.
Finally, Vanessa is captured. However, before they can cart her off to incarceration, a lightning-shaped dagger stabs her from behind, and the scary hooded man reveals himself. Nora rushes Vanessa to the hospital while Barry, Cisco and Ralph face off against the new villain. His dagger somehow neutralizes all their powers and hoodie-man beats them all up. Just as he’s about to finish off Barry, Nora returns and screams, “Dad!” For reasons unexplained, this causes the hood guy to stop and withdraw.
Regrouping back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Nora tells everyone that she knows who they’re dealing with. He’s a very dangerous supervillain named “Cicada.” Nora is extremely unnerved by this.
Cisco spends most of the episode moping about Gypsy. Because he still shares a vibe connection with her, this prevents him from using his powers lest he be reminded of his heartbreak all over again. Caitlin pushes Ralph onto him, hoping that his goofy wingman antics will get Cisco out of his funk. Ralph presents Cisco with a 27-step guide to getting over the love of his life. At Caitlin’s insistence, Cisco plays along, even subjecting himself to a fashion makeover by Ralph’s personal stylist. He looks pretty douchey at the end of this, but it’s arguably an improvement over his normal slovenly appearance.
Cecile is distressed to realize that she’s losing her psychic powers after all. She fears that she’ll be a poor mother without a direct connection to her baby’s thoughts. She gets so bothered by this that she attempts to use one of Dr. Wells’ gadgets to read the baby’s mind. Joe talks her down and assures her that she’ll just be in the same boat as every other parent in the history of human procreation.
When Ralph tries to dig into her father’s forged death certificate, Caitlin keeps stalling and is afraid to investigate it further. If her father is still alive, that would mean that he has intentionally avoided her for most of her life. Eventually, she consents to let Cisco vibe the certificate. Doing so puts an image of her mother into her head.
It’s far too early to draw any conclusions about how this season will go, and I can’t help but temper my enthusiasm, but this is a perfectly solid episode of The Flash. I wouldn’t call it an all-time great, but the plotting is coherent enough and the character work is good. Vanessa may be a third-rate villain, but she’s obviously not intended to be anything more than a catalyst to introduce Cicada. As far as that goes, he seems pretty intimidating so far, even despite the casting of an actor known for playing lovable doofuses.