This episode of The Flash is more dedicated to character development than facing the after effects of Flashpoint. The season’s villain, Alchemy, is still nowhere to be seen, nor is he missed. Instead, we learn a great deal more of Caitlin’s family and just how strong she’s becoming. Julian and H.R. (Harrison Wells)’s backstory is opened, while the metahuman of the day plays second fiddle to their story.
The biggest treat of this episode is meeting Caitlin’s mom, Carla Tanhouser: an unbelievably intelligent woman who runs her own biomedical company, yet is so far removed from Caitlin’s life that every interaction between the two is strained. It’s strange to discover the empathetic Caitlin was raised by the methodical Dr. Tanhouser. Aside from intelligence, the two couldn’t be further alike. Even a cry for help from her own daughter does not seem to rouse a bit of concern, finding excitement in testing Caitlin’s rapidly developing powers rather than Caitlin’s well-being.
It wouldn’t be a normal day in Central City without a metahuman mucking things up. However, this time the city is faced with an actual monster to contend with. Looking more akin to a Cloverfield child than a metahuman, the unnamed monster terrors the city with no rhyme or reason. The odd appearance opens a door for Barry to connect with Julian, who he is still struggling to connect with. Julian is here to stay, and unless he plays nice his life will not become any easier. Kudos to Barry for trying to be the bigger man, but appealing to Julian’s human side is harder than it looks. No amount of compliments is enough to bring Julian’s walls down and open up to Barry. That is until Barry offers Julian full use of the lab, in return of observing his investigations for the day. It’s his only chance to find a way to peace between them, and Barry can’t mess it up.
Cisco has his own troubles back at Star Labs, completely untrusting of the newest incarnation of Harrison Wells, who has joined the team. A hand through the heart will do that to a person; it’s understandable Cisco is a little on edge. He’s not alone in this sentiment– H.R. is so friendly and outgoing the whole team seems thrown off. Even I’m in camp suspicious, having been burned too many times. He treats the team to a breakfast of fresh fruit and bagels, topped off with personalized coffee orders– Harry from Earth-2 would never! When the monster first appears, H.R. offers little help and let’s Cisco lead the team. One would expect it’d be his time to shine, not let a monster run wild. A private moment for H.R. reveals he is logging his journey on a strange pen, noting no one seems to suspect a thing of him. I KNEW he couldn’t be trusted!
The monster at large damaging Central City seems to be disappearing and reappearing at a moment’s notice. The mystery allows an opening for Barry to connect with Julian, talking shop until Barry can get down to the real question; why is he so focused on stopping metahumans? Barry persists until Julian relents and offers up the real answer: e finds metahumans useless. Instead of using their powers for good, they rob banks or cause other damage. The door closes just as quickly as it opens. The moment Barry digs deeper, Julian shuts himself off. Barry’s small victories are chipping away at Julian’s exterior and getting to know his human side.
Caitlin is mostly removed from the monster’s destruction, instead, having to deal with her mother’s cold nature and undergoing various tests to determine her power’s limitations. It seems the only reason Dr. Tanhouser is even offering a helping hand is the promise of what Caitlin’s powers could mean for her company. Caitlin doesn’t hold back when talking to her mother, revealing their relationship changed when Caitlin’s father passed away. It explains Dr. Tanhauser’s business as usual exchanges. Grief is a strange beast which seems to have trapped Caitlin’s mother into a workaholic personality. It a nasty wake up call for Dr. Tanhauser when she learns Caitlin lost her husband, a sign of just how out of touch she is with her daughter.
The mother-daughter relationship seems irreversibly damaged, and with no further development on Caitlin’s powers, she chooses to leave– except she’s trapped by Dr. Tanhouser’s assistant, Nigel, who wants to use Caitlin’s powers to further advance HIS career. Normally, Caitlin has used her wordplay to de-escalate a situation. However, an emotional day has left her vulnerable and her ice power is unleashed on him in response. She disables Nigel easily, freezing his arm to the point of losing it, but before she takes it a step further, Dr. Tanhouser runs in and talks her down. The first sign of tenderness we see from her is enough to bring Caitlin back. She seems in shock, having lost control of herself and falling into her powers so easily– a drastic change from the initial dusting we saw in the second episode.
Cisco, having been left to his own thoughts, is convinced H.R. is not all he appears to be. Ready to gain insight to who H.R. really is, Barry and Cisco rifle through H.R.’s belongings and finds his log pen. The initial message is incriminating, making us all believe he was only there to hurt the team. That is until H.R. walks in on Cisco and Barry and implores them to listen to the rest of the message. He’s revealed to not only be a novelist but a scientist as well. I’m with Cisco: I have trust issues regarding Harrison Wells, I cannot believe this is H.R.’s whole story.
The episode wraps up when the monster makes another appearance in a heavily populated area of Central City. Team Flash has an idea, inspired by H.R.: they’ll use carbon fiber ropes to tie it’s legs together and bring the monster down before it can hurt anyone. Think what happened to the AT-ATs in the Empire Stikes Back, or Empire of the Sun as it is called on H.R.’s world. Before Barry can prove his worth as a Jedi, the plan fails spectacularly thanks to the monster actually being a hologram. Which means this monster has a handler somewhere in the vicinity. H.R. is unable to lend a helping hand in narrowing down where the handler can be. He’s completely overwhelmed by their computer system and is essentially useless to the team. Cisco has no choice but to take over, leading Barry to where the perpetrator is holed up.
Julian is ahead of the game– he’s located the monster’s handler and is ready to kill them for their destruction. Too aggravated to think clearly, he nearly shoots the 15-year-old handler, but The Flash steps in to stop him and prevent any casualties that might’ve occurred.
With the monster technically brought down, Team Flash can finally address H.R. and his lies. It turns out he’s no scientist at all: he’s an idea man with no concept of technology. Disgraced in his own timeline, his partner solved the puzzle and he took it as an opportunity to venture out and gather ideas for his novel. Team Flash doesn’t need an idea guy, but they need a Harrison Wells, and this is as good as it’ll get. I knew Hell’s Wells would be the best choice, but for now, we’re all stuck with H.R.
If you thought Julian would close himself off to Barry for good, you are wrong. The possibility of nearly killing a teenager is enough to rouse Julian from his black and white ideals and realize he needs to take a step back. He reveals to Barry his family history; a long line of old money who all follow the same role. He’s the odd man out, loving science and over being another name in their long history. Julian feels he has a lot to prove, especially when he was once one of the top scientists out there. His career was thrown for a loop when the metahumans appeared, which means finding himself again. It’s a lot to digest, but Barry found his way to connect to Julian and see him in a new light.
Caitlin’s story is not over either, with a parting video message from her mother, where we learn the more she uses her powers the harder it’ll be to reverse them. The stress is enough to rouse Caitlin’s powers, inadvertently turning her work desk to ice before she realizes what she’s done. I’m more concerned for Caitlin than I ever was before, it’s like she blacks out into this destructive person rather than her logical empathetic personality.
Taking time to answer Julian’s drive in taking down metahumans and H.R.’s history was far more rewarding than sitting through another awkward romantic development. If the season continues on this road, I’m sure we’re in for a great season.