I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it’s terribly evident that The Flash simply cannot sustain seasons that are 23 episodes long. We’re only five entries into the current one, and already the individual plots feel like filler to pad out the episode count. I expected that to happen around the middle of the season, but this seems awfully early.
The main plot in episode All Doll’d Up feels like it was reworked from a discarded old X Files script. Once again, season villain Cicada is set aside in favor of a meta-human of the week story. The meta in question this time has crazy contortionist powers. When we first see him, he’s folded up and squeezed into a gift box so that he can steal an expensive diamond necklace from a high society wedding party. Not only can he bend himself into weird positions, he can flatten any body part like Silly Putty. In some ways, his power is a lot like Ralph’s, though nobody ever comments on that. He also wears a very creepy ceramic doll mask and his body makes unsettling noises when he moves.
Barry investigates this case as a CSI, and Iris additionally covers the story for her blog. Barry considers this a fun opportunity to work together (as if they don’t do that all the time), but Iris is preoccupied with self-pity about Nora not speaking to her.
The doll-faced man next intrudes into a wealthy architect’s office by squeezing through an air vent. Barry rescues the architect before the meta blows up the building with a bomb. Clues left at the scene lead Barry to identify the culprit as Peter Merkel, the disgruntled son of billionaire heiress Theresa Merkel. Barry and Iris interview the mother at a fundraising gala and find her to be an ice cold uber-bitch. No wonder the son felt a need to rebel. Iris sees this as a reflection of her deteriorating relationship with their daughter.
As Barry gets close to finding him, doll guy sneaks into his apartment and attacks Barry while he’s on the phone with Iris. Because Cisco’s vibe powers aren’t working well and Sherloque broke the portable breach device, Ralph carries Iris on his back and swings through the city like Spider-Man. They confront the meta on the rooftop of Barry’s building. Barry is strapped to a chair dangling on a ledge, his powers dampened by anti-meta cuffs that dollface stole from him.
When they try to capture him, doll man pushes Barry off the building. Iris instinctively leaps after him, somehow defying the laws of gravity to fall faster than him and catch up, whereupon she unlocks his cuffs with a key. With his powers restored, Barry whisks Iris to safety back on the ground. Having been away from her phone, Nora arrives on the scene late, just in time to see her mom risk her own life to save Barry. “Holy schrap!” she declares, setting aside her animosity towards her mother. Nora is seriously impressed.
While everyone else is distracted, Ralph does the actual work of catching the villain, forming himself into a big balloon and trapping him inside. Back at the lab, Cisco dubs the meta “Rag Doll.”
Thanks to some additional prompting by Cecille earlier in the episode, Nora and Iris finally start to bond.
The Search for Caitlin’s Father
For most of the episode, Cisco gets sidetracked trying to help Caitlin find her presumed-dead dad. Still recovering from the attack by Cicada, Cisco’s vibe powers only work sporadically, and he suffers great pain when they do. He’s afraid to tell anyone this because losing his powers makes him feel useless. Caitlin assures him that he’s still a valuable member of the team.
The two of them plus Sherloque find a university classroom where Caitlin’s dad left another coded message. This one spells “Khione,” the name of an ancient Greek goddess of snow. This suggests that he knew about Killer Frost even when Caitlin was just a young child.
After a considerable amount of whining about how they lost their special satellite last season, Cisco eventually realizes that he can hack into the other four satellites that DeVoe launched for the Enlightenment. It takes him all of about ten seconds to do that. He tells Caitlin that this will help them locate her father, but she admits that she may not be ready to find him yet after all.
Despite looking like something out of a Japanese horror movie, Rag Doll isn’t a particularly interesting villain, and his motivations are never clear. We’re told that he takes things not for himself, but to punish the owners. However, other than coming from a similar wealthy background, we’re never provided any connection between the meta and his victims. Why does he target these particular people? That lack of clarity, plus the fact that we never see his face, makes him very difficult to care about. Ultimately, he’s not even that hard to catch. Frankly, the only reason he got the jump on Barry is because Barry was being an oblivious dumbass.
I also have trouble investing in the Caitlin storyline. Nothing about it is compelling to me so far.
All told, this is a disposable episode that a fan could easily skip without missing anything important.