The Flash: “Monster” Review
By Mitchell Sigal
Season Three of The Flash is turning out to be the weakest one. It’s not episodic but so far it doesn’t have that much of an engaging story. Dr. Alchemy is so far incredibly generic and other plot developments have been a chore to get through. At least one of the more interesting plot points, Caitlin’s ice powers, takes a center focus in today’s installment, “Monster.” With a promising premise, there should be a lot to like here. While better than least week’s installment, today’s episode can barely be called good.
“Monster” opens up with a new status quo. Previously Barry announced that he had intentions to get his own place. While that doesn’t happen yet, he does move out. He’s staying at Cisco’s place for the time being. It’ll be interesting to see how long the show goes with this before having Barry acquire his own house/apartment. The dialogue here is a little cheesy, but nothing too bad. (The buttering toast part was funny.) The two talking about “H.W.,” the new Harrison Wells, was however tough to watch. Why was that? It’s because this plot point doesn’t seem necessary and is just annoying.
I’m still trying to figure out what the writing is going for with this new Wells. Almost all of his lines are either cheesy or annoying. This doesn’t mean he’s absolutely terrible (calling Cisco ‘San Francisco’ and saying Barry should stick to decaf was clever) but again one has to ask…why? Wells in this episode brings nothing but comedy, and rarely good comedy. We could instead be having quality dialogue with the Wells from Earth-2. The writing does seemingly introduce a plot twist in the middle act. The viewer is led to believe that H.W. is on a sinister mission. That is good stuff, because it then gives purpose to all of his forced dialogue. But later that twist is thrown out the window and by the end the writing wants the viewer to accept Wells as part of the team. It doesn’t work. The Flash with last week’s episode and today’s has turned into a comedy.
As stated earlier, one of the biggest plot developments this season is Caitlin having ice abilities. It takes a big focus today as she goes to a laboratory to have herself examined. The biggest aspect of this is that she goes to the lab specifically to see her mother, Dr. Tannhauser Snow. The writing does a good job showing the fractured relationship the two have. One of the best scenes is when Caitlin says to her mother, “You realize you haven’t asked me once how I’m feeling.” Danielle Panabaker delivers the line with genuine emotion. The mother’s lines were sometimes dry, but overall this part of the story was engaging. The only negative is when Dr. Tannhauser’s assistant attempts to capture Caitlin. He threatens Caitlin, but what could he do to a person who can freeze him to death? Almost as worst is the sob story he gives before attempting to threaten her. Sob stories play a big role in the episode.
With the title “Monster,” one would hope the main premise lives up to it. The first scene with the giant creature arriving was greatly done. First, the actual CGI looked great. The creature commanded a presence every time it was on screen. Barry’s reactions to it were priceless. There sadly isn’t too much destruction caused by it. One would imagine that the climax would feature some Godzilla-level action, but there’s a plot twist. One of the episode’s ongoing mysteries is why the monster suddenly vanishes. It turns out it was a <i>hologram being controlled by a fifteen year old kid.</i> In just one fell swoop the exciting premise of the episode is ruined. This kid then gives a sob story on how he wanted to be the one in control because other kids pick on him in school. These type of stories can be effective, but unfortunately the writing here is just too cheesy to be engaged with.
On a couple of last notes, Julian takes a bigger focus than usual. It’s telling when even he is more compelling than a Harrison Wells. Julian’s scenes still aren’t that great, mainly in the beginning. It’s only in the final act when he even resembles a decent character. He’s given backstory on why he hates meta-humans. Later he changes his opinion on them because of what the Flash did. It remains to be seen how the writing will utilize Julian going forward. If the ending is any indication, he might end up being a good character to have alongside Barry. The cliffhanger has Caitlin become more on the evil side. Her episode is coming up soon; hopefully the writing can live up to all the cliffhangers building up to it.
Overall, “Monster” is sadly a weak episode. The main premise of a giant monster attacking Central City is awesome, but ended up being the most disappointing aspect. The viewer is too caught up being annoyed that there was no actual creature to be engaged in the kid’s backstory. Caitlin’s subplot fares the best; there’s some quality emotion in her scenes. (The scene with her talking to Cisco about having visited her mom was excellent.) The new Harrison Wells is incredibly annoying. It’s still not clear what the writing is doing with him, but so far it hasn’t been anything good. Julian gets some surprising development. His earlier scenes were still jarring to watch (the scene with Barry pretending to be impressed with Julian’s work was more cheesy than funny) but by the end he’s actually a decent character. It looks like next week’s installment will bring back the main plot, which is good because today’s felt like filler at times.