The Flash largely (but not entirely) sets new supervillain Cicada on the backburner this week in favor of a decidedly Minor League foe. However, while doing so, the episode also dishes out some character revelations and introduces a potentially interesting plot twist.
We open with a flashback to the night of the Enlightenment. Does this mean that The Thinker is back? Thankfully, no. Instead, we witness a dipshit Millennial girl excitedly live-streaming the apocalypse from her phone. “This so gonna be so lit,” she actually says out loud. Ugh. If the writers want viewers to immediately hate a new character, mission accomplished. The girl just about loses her mind when she sees two speedsters smashing the satellite, and becomes an instant fangirl for XS when Nora saves her from falling debris.
In the present day, Iris struggles to bond with Nora, who seems to have little interest in even speaking with her. Iris bristles when she learns that Barry bought Nora a smartphone without telling her first. (For a girl from the future, the antiquated tech ought to be like a modern kid trying to us a rotary phone.)
Cisco is entirely absent from this episode, written out with an offhand line of dialogue stating that he’s laying low with his family while he heals. (I didn’t realize he was that badly injured.)
Barry participates in a charity softball game with the CCPD and proves to be a terrible athlete. Watching from the stands, Nora is obsessed with an app called “Spyn Zone,” that sounds basically the same as Iris’ blog, but with more social media BS built in. Iris recognizes the author, Spencer Young, as a former Central City Picture News reporter she briefly worked with. In nicer words, Iris describes her as a fame whore and a crappy journalist. Nora sarcastically points out that Spencer has more subscribers than her mother does.
While reading something on the app, Nora’s eyes flash purple and she enters a state of hypnosis. The same thing happens to one of the CCPD cops, who walks onto the field carrying a bomb in a backpack. As XS, Nora runs out and tosses the bomb in the air, where it explodes harmlessly. When both Nora and the bomber come-to, neither has any idea what’s happening. Spencer watches all this from the sidelines. Within seconds, she publishes a new Spyn Zone article describing the whole event and hyping up the new speedster as the savior of Central City.
Worried that news stories about XS could put a target on her daughter’s back, Iris goes to Jitters to talk to Spencer (Kiana Madeira), who’s a total raging bitch to her and refuses to stop her coverage.
Later, a fire breaks out at Iris’ CCPN office. Barry and Nora race over, only for Barry to get hypnotized upon arrival and run off to Las Vegas, leaving Nora to deal with the fire on her own. Nora is unsure of her abilities, but Iris talks to her on her comms and instructs her how to create a vacuum that will put out the flames. With that accomplished, Nora is treated as a hero again, and Spencer captures it on video. XS is going to be a star.
Barry eventually snaps out of his trance and returns home. Iris suspects that Spencer is behind all these incidents and must be a meta-human. Because Spencer would recognize either her or Barry, she asks Nora to get close to her at Jitters while wearing a meta-human detector in a watch.
Nora is skeptical. She’s a fan of Spencer and she likes the attention that the blog has brought her. Although she goes to Jitters as instructed, she gets very flustered when Spencer flirts with her, suggesting that Nora likes girls. Iris has to enter the scene to remind Nora to use the meta detector. The device reports a negative result. Spencer is not a meta-human.
The team next receives a report of a bomb threat at the city’s soccer stadium. Barry and Nora run there but find no sign of a bomb. This turns out to be a trap. Spencer hacks the stadium’s monitors and displays a headline reading “XS Kills Flash.” Nora is instantly hypnotized and attacks her father. Barry leads her on a long chase through the stadium.
Back at the lab, the team finally deduces that the hypnosis signal is embedded in the headlines. Iris grabs a rifle and uses a portable breach device to open a portal to the stadium.
While running away from Nora, Barry inexplicably starts moving backward, despite the fact that lightning still trails behind him, which means that it moves backwards as well. Nora catches him and jumps him. As she tries to phase her fist through her father’s chest, Iris arrives and shoots a tranq dart that knocks Nora out. Barry recovers and, realizing that Spencer is in the stadium watching them, easily captures her.
In the aftermath of all these events, Caitlin and Sherloque conclude that, while Spencer may not be a meta-human, her phone is a new form of meta-tech, infused with Dark Matter from the Thinker’s fallen satellite. If even inanimate devices can have meta powers now, that puts meta-human abilities into pretty much anyone’s hands.
A Chip on Her Shoulder
During an argument, Nora finally reveals why she’s been so cold to her mother. Pointing to a scar on her shoulder, she says that Iris put a power-dampening chip in her when she was a baby. Ever since discovering that she’s a meta-human, Nora can’t forgive her mother for lying to her. Iris of course has no idea why her future self would do that to her daughter.
Attempting to reconcile with Nora, Iris tries to assure her that she must have had a good reason for doing what she did. Nora isn’t convinced, and storms out upset when Barry takes Iris’ side. At episode’s end, Nora moves in with Joe and Cecile to get away from her parents.
Sherloque begins the process of putting the clues together to identify Cicada. When Ralph suggests that the mask he wears will be the key to finding the villain, Sherloque dismisses the idea as a waste of time. Nevertheless, he agrees to humor Ralph and join him on a trip to the city docks, where Ralph finds evidence linking Cicada’s mask to a local chemical plant called Szrek Chem. Ralph is a little smug about proving that his own detective skills are superior to Sherloque’s, until he learns that hundreds of employees at the plant all wear the same mask, as do thousands more in the area. Sherloque is once again a dick to him, rubbing his face in his failure.
During all this, Cicada watches Sherloque and Ralph through an office window.
Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Sherloque has a revelation involving the mask after all. He asks Caitlin to punch him in the chest while he wears one, and the wheezing he makes while trying to catch his breath sounds just like Cicada’s. Sherloque posits that Cicada doesn’t just wear the mask as a disguise, but that his lungs are damaged. This leads to the conclusion that Cicada was hit by debris from the satellite explosion, thus explaining why he has a different identity than expected. When Nora helped Barry smash the satellite, it caused the debris to fall differently and hit a different victim.
Uncharacteristically, when Ralph concedes that Sherloque is the better detective, Sherloque credits Ralph for leading him on the right path and apologizes to him.
Cicada returns to his home and is overwhelmed with pain from his glowing chest wound. He grabs a pole to steady himself and crushes it in his hand. He seems surprised by his own super-strength. The shrapnel still inside him is apparently giving him more powers than even he’s aware of.
As the villain of the week, Spencer is extremely annoying. I don’t like anything about her at all. I feel like that storyline is little more than a distraction from Cicada, who, at this point, is more compelling. On the other hand, the introduction of meta-powered technology is an interesting wrinkle.
We now have an explanation for Nora’s feud with Iris, and it makes sense from either character’s perspective, which is rare for this series. However, the show’s time travel logic is still an incredible mess. Wouldn’t knowing what happens in the future dissuade Iris from doing it, and thus eliminate the source of the conflict in the first place? In previous episodes, changing the timeline has sometimes had immediate results and sometimes hasn’t, and it’s impossible to predict which way the writers will go.