Another fantastic episode of The Flash this week as they once again focus on the core West-Allen family as the center of the show. Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy), Barry (Grant Gustin), and Iris (Candice Patton) all end up journeying in to Grace’s comatose mind to try to help her recover, hoping that will help turn her uncle Orlin aka Cicada away from his dark path. Oh, and Cisco and Ralph head to a bar and wackiness ensues.
Team Flash starts off having a family fun night at an ice skating rink to just try to take a day off. Ralph tells a funny story about his mom dating a zamboni driver but (more importantly) tells Iris that the office across from him became available. It’s perfect for her to start her newspaper, but after speaking to a lawyer about business names, she balks at the opportunity.
Sherloque (Tom Cavanaugh) interrupts the ice fun by informing everyone his package has arrived from his earth. It is a memory machine that allows you to travel into the mind of another person. But due to the tricks of memory, he warns them to only go in to Grace’s mind in pairs. Given their powers, the obvious choices are Barry and Nora.
Nora is also concerned that the memory machine can also allow you to see some memories of the person you’re travelling with. Worried her father will find the secret she’s keeping about working with Eobard Thawne to change the timeline, Nora takes the terrible risk of going in to Grace’s mind alone.
Upon entering, she finds herself in the Central City Police Station. Grace sits on a bench as the police discuss the murder of her parents by metas. Unfortunately, Nora’s exit portal closes – leaving her trapped in Grace’s mind. She goes to talk to the young girl and tries to console her, as Nora tells her she knows exactly how she feels
When everyone else finds Nora unconscious and unresponsive, Barry and Iris jump in to try to join her in Grace’s memories – finding themselves in the very same Central City Police Station. The scene is almost exactly the same, except the little girl listening to police talking about her parents is Nora. They realize they are in Nora’s memories and not Grace’s – as their portal closes.
Almost all of the rest of the episode works to build a symmetry between Nora’s childhood and Grace’s: both victims of losing their parents at a young age, Nora tries to build a relationship with Grace and find a way out for both of them. They spend time in an ideal home with her uncle Orlin, who is happy and smiling and serving up heaping piles of pancakes – talking about going to the fair, the zoo, and other activities.
It’s fun to see this side of Chris Klein as an actor again — that same charming guy from Election and the American Pie movies — instead of the menacing, murderous Cicada. But Grace also has a skewed perspective on things. She hates The Flash and all metas – and she recognizes Nora and her mind’s natural defenses summon a protector Cicada to try to kill her.
In Nora’s mind, Barry and Iris see her dealing with the trauma of losing her father at a young age – similar to Grace’s. However, young Nora takes her grief to the Flash museum and the Hall of Villains – where she is fixated on Cicada. In storms an older Iris (the one from Nora’s memories), who scolds the grieving child, breaks her Flash action figure, and drags her away.
The real Iris confesses the burden she’s been carrying, and feels this confirms it. She mentions the phone call she had earlier about her newspaper: the only name available is the Central City Citizen, the name of the paper that shows Flash disappears in the future. She is worried about a pre-determined destiny, and about being a bad mother.
This is the crux of what makes this season of The Flash so excellent. In its focus on the nuclear family of Barry-Iris-Nora, things are messy. They are unresolved. There is drama. There are secrets. And if they can’t find a way to pull together, there are implications for the rest of the universe.
The family moments in both sets of memories are interrupted when Caitlyn manages to “Deus ex Conference Call” the members of the West-Allen family together and explain how to get out. The portals will be hidden in memories blocked by “perception filters”– memories that didn’t actually happen that way but which Nora’s and Grace’s minds are choosing to remember because it is more comfortable for them.
Nora immediately knows the domestic bliss with Uncle Orlin is not all it’s cracked up to be, so she confronts Grace there. But Grace has been listening to conversations while she’s been in a coma and is even more vengeful towards metas than perhaps her murderous uncle. Nora has to fight Cicada while tearing down Grace’s memory to find a way out – which she eventually does.
Meanwhile, Barry and Iris realize that Iris never would’ve actually been as angry and mean as in that memory. Returning to that spot, they see a different, accurate version of how things actually happened, with an empathetic, worried mother also dealing with the grief of losing her husband. Perhaps tellingly, Nora’s mind summons as a protector a version of Eobard Thawne to try to protect her memory. Iris uses The Thinker’s chair to zap the not-Thawne away, they find their portal out, and the entire family wakes up.
Oh, and throughout all of this? Ralph and Cisco go to a bar under the pretense of following a lead on Cicada’s whereabouts. Eventually it’s just Ralph trying to help Cisco relax and flirt with girls because he needs a night off. While successfully flirting with a photographer-turned-bartender, Cisco has an epiphany on how to make the metahuman cure work.
Back in the real world, the West-Allen family reunites and discusses the successes and failures of their mission. While Grace is simply too hurt to be able to help, Nora witnessed a lot that should be able to help them defeat Cicada. At Iris’s new office, they celebrate the founding of the new paper, and Nora notes that they’re already changing history: the old masthead used to say “Founded 2021” and now says “Founded 2019.” Nora also apologizes for the anger she had towards her mother, explaining she was an angry child who lost her father and lashed out simply because her mom was the only one there.
Again, this focus on the key family dynamic – and their attempts to try to change the timeline – are the Rosetta stone of this season. We still have multiple layers of secrets – such as why Nora would work with Thawne, why Thawne wants to help Nora, and exactly how this all feeds in to stopping Cicada left to discover – but this has been a satisfying mystery so far.
In a final bow to wrap around this episode, Cisco is celebrating with Ralph after figuring out the meta cure when Barry walks in and announces: “I want to use the cure on Cicada.”
Next week, it looks like we have Barry and Ralph searching out some serious hi-tech weaponry in “Goldfaced”:
The Flash s05e13 “Goldfaced”: BARRY AND IRIS EACH TAKE DANGEROUS STEPS TO STOP CICADA – Barry (Grant Gustin) and Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) must go undercover as criminals in an illegal black market to purchase a device that could help them stop Cicada (Chris Klein). Once inside, Barry and Ralph find their morality tested as they slip deeper into the criminal world, eventually having to choose between committing a crime, or losing the means to defeat one of their greatest foes. Meanwhile, Iris (Candice Patton) investigates a lead on Cicada’s whereabouts and ends up in a dangerous situation.
Alexandra LaRoche directed the episode written by Jonathan Butler & Gabriel Garza.