In a twenty three-episode season, it’s hard to have every episode continuously and masterfully develop the main arc. Sometimes, we’ll end up with episodes of “The Flash” like this one, where there is some subplot and character progression, but the episode mostly feels like filler. “Monster” isn’t a particularly strong episode and, to be fair, I actually enjoy filler when it gives characters a much needed break and time to develop in an otherwise slower episode. However, the episode, while having some enjoyable moments, does fall a little on the dull side, has pacing problems, and sidelines its strongest characters.
This week saw the show tackle four plots: The
meta monster-of-the-week, Caitlin’s evolving powers, Julian’s development and the reason behind why he hates Barry, and H.R. Wells’ integration into Team Flash. Not all of them fared as well as others. The episode is uneven and needed to better accommodate a lot of characters and do so organically, which is something it doesn’t always succeed in doing.
The monster terrorizing Central City turns out to be nothing but a hologram controlled by a high school kid. Why would he do such a thing? Because he’s bullied by classmates and it makes him feel powerful to bring a similar sense of fear to others. The entire episode could have done without this underwhelming plot, which was partially used to bring out Julian’s reasons for hating on Barry and metahumans. I’m sure the two CSIs could have found another reason to bond. The monster aspect was the weakest part of the episode.
Can you believe what’d it be like to have those powers? I’d be using them to change the world. Instead, I wasn’t one of the chosen few.
Barry and Julian’s arc was especially warranted, however, and one of the most interesting parts of the episode. Julian is sick of Barry being the golden boy of the CCPD and never being held accountable for his actions. Equally, the older CSI dislikes metahumans because they have powers and are too busy robbing banks; they think they’re above the law. But really, Julian is a bit jealous that he doesn’t have powers and when his backstory is revealed, it makes him a bit more sympathetic than when initially introduced. His revelation to Barry brings about some fascinating questions about power and feelings of feeling powerless. This further feeds into the theory that Julian is, unbeknownst to himself, Doctor Alchemy. He and Barry bond and it’s a nice change. Although I enjoyed the constant griping between the two, it could only last for so long.
It’s nice that Caitlin is finally getting some kind of story after so long with almost zero development, but the way they’ve been barreling through it so fast, it won’t last more than a couple of episodes before the writers figure out some way to prevent her from going permanent Killer Frost. The scenes with her mother were intriguing and give some backstory as to why they don’t talk, but they didn’t really add all that much to the episode because they came off a bit too clinical; Caitlin and her mom spend the majority of the episode in a lab and it would’ve been better if some of the reconciliation, if one can call it that, didn’t come via video in the end. Regardless, Caitlin’s powers further developing does pose an interesting dynamic for Team Flash if they manifest completely (and they will). However, the scene that did befuddle the most is the one where Nigel, the lab assistant, locks Caitlin in a room and goes from nice guy to crazy research scientist in the span of thirty seconds. This was a bit off putting and could have played out differently if indeed it was the only way to get Caitlin and her mother to bond. What the subplot does do, at least, is give us a nice Cisco and Caitlin scene at the end. Their close friendship is highly undervalued, but always a nice touch.
Finally, there’s H.R. Wells. Tom Cavanagh is enjoying playing this character and he had a few fun moments (he rambles a lot!) but the show still hasn’t explained why we need him around. Especially since he was proven a con man. The show has a lot of characters and balancing all of them sometimes proves difficult. It would make more sense for the new Wells to become a recurring character if he’s going to be sticking around, rather than be in every episode. Or better yet, find a way to bring back Earth-2 Harrison more permanently. If anything, H.R. proved that S.T.A.R. Labs is occasionally a hindrance to the show in that it has adapted a team setting when it doesn’t always require one. Even Julian has noticed that Barry is elsewhere more than he is at his own job. The show doesn’t have to be rid of it completely, but it could stop using it as a crutch and allow room for Barry, and especially Iris (as a journalist, she is the link to the outside world), to be seen doing their actual jobs more often.
There is a pattern, however, of redemption that really begins to take shape in this episode. Is this the season’s overarching theme? It’s highly possible given Barry’s Flashpoint arc and several of the other subplots that have or will play out. Ultimately, “Monster” wasn’t terrible, but it was extremely uneven and poorly paced. The episode could have managed to turn a bit more of the focus on the Wests (is Wally still having dreams of being Kid Flash?), who were barely in the episode. Other episodes like this one have managed to better balance characters and “The Flash” can take note of them. Episodes not focused so much on the season’s main storyline have the opportunity to showcase character development more heavily and “Monster” doesn’t completely deliver on that.
“The Flash” is back on November 15 with Wally being influenced by Alchemy!
- I thoroughly enjoyed the brief scene we got of Barry and Cisco as roommates. Barry is overbearing and I’m almost positive Cisco will have had enough of him at some point soon.
- Joe and Cecile – I felt like there was a scene that was missing that should have come right before Iris comes to the precinct for lunch with Barry. I rewound it because I thought I missed something. But I liked that Iris was encouraging her dad to find love because she has that with Barry. The West family dynamic has evolved so much since season one and it continues to be endearing.
- Maybe one day soon, Cisco and Caitlin will bond about being screwed over by Barry and his Flashpoint decision.
- Julian might distrust the metas running around Central City, but why was he even in that building ready to shoot a teenager? He’s a CSI. This aspect was strange and a bit uncomfortable given past characters (Patty) who have shot first and asked questions later.
- “Sometimes, a man needs to butter his own bread.”
- Cisco was given a hint from Wells that their machine wasn’t the thing that helped Barry break out of that mirror. I’m surprised that Cisco hasn’t figured out who it was or at least become suspicious of Caitlin.
- H.R. Wells rambled so much that everyone’s expressions while reacting to him were hilarious. They were not here for him. At all.
- Barry upping his CSI game in front of Julian. Yes, Barry, use your smarts.
- Captain Singh gave Barry a thirty-second talking to about breaking policy. Thirty seconds. I can understand why Julian was not here for him. If we didn’t know that Barry was actually The Flash, we’d think he was a slacker, too.
- Please tell me that some of Julian’s backstory was giving you Malfoy vibes, too.
- “The last time I checked, you don’t need super-speed and a red suit to help people.”
- Joe-isms are a thing now.
- I don’t think Barry rolled his eyes at Julian the entire episode. Goals.
- Will we ever see the inside of an actual Big Belly Burger?
- Regardless of whatever universe, Cisco and Wells will always have an interesting dynamic.
- This episode graced us with an amazing thing: Giffable moments of everyone’s WTF expressions while Wells is talking. Priceless.
Episodes not focused so much on the season's main storyline have the opportunity to showcase character development more heavily and "Monster" doesn't completely deliver on that.