REVIEW: The Flash, S5E11 – Seeing Red

The Flash‘s much-hyped episode about Barry’s (Grant Gustin) fatherly wrath after his daughter is endangered, “Seeing Red,” faltered in the face of the season’s lukewarm villain. While it was by no means the disappointing metahuman massacre that “True Colors” was last season, it was still slowed down by Cicada’s (Chris Klein) inconsistency as a Big Bad and partially by the extra focus on a potential metahuman cure that Cisco wasn’t even onscreen to create.

I’ve never been prouder of you, Ralph.

The task of carrying the cure storyline fell to the tag team of Caitlin and Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker), who engaged in unnecessary bickering over whether the cure was a good idea for far too long. Frost resorted to rather childish tactics, such as singing Barney songs and destroying lab materials, to avoid hearing Caitlin out until Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) stepped in as referee. Before diving into my issue with this plot, I’d like to commend the writers and Sawyer for helping Ralph win the Most Improved award. He finally comes across as a caring and level-headed member of the team, and both those sides of him were on full display in “Seeing Red.” From bridging the gap between Caitlin and her alter ego to inspiring heroism in the previously despicable metahuman Norvok, Ralph was firing on all cylinders this week.

Unfortunately, while the ladies’ desire to protect one another was a sweet addition to their dysfunctional cohabitation, the repeated conversations about the cure felt like nothing more than unsubtle foreshadowing. But at least Frost participated in an entire fight without being knocked unconscious, even if Panabaker’s acting this episode – whether it involved calls to action or conversations with herself – sometimes bordered on cringy. Meanwhile, it was hard to watch scene after scene about the potential consequences of Cisco’s project when he was nowhere to be found. Joe’s absence makes sense because of Jesse L. Martin’s injury, but why has Cisco been benched all of a sudden?

The other hero of “Seeing Red” was Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) who once again put her District Attorney job on the line to help out metahumans, ensuring protective detail for the group being targeted by Cicada. Not only did she pressure Singh and the FBI into treating metas like any other citizens, but she also used her leftover psychic skills to sniff out the mole. In a nice bit of continuity, Detective Jonesy from “News Flash” ended up being the one leaking metahuman information to Cicada as payback for that time Spin mind-warped him into carrying a bomb. This story worked very well, making excellent usvere of Cecile and actively roping Central City into the proceedings, but I couldn’t help wondering why Iris (Candice Patton) couldn’t be more involved. Why not allow her to investigate Jonesy, or to make the unfair treatment of metahumans known on her blog as a way to help Cecile hold the FBI accountable? Opportunities to include her more keep arising and being swiftly bypassed.

Another cool callback? Seeing Shawna again.

Instead, Iris spent most of “Seeing Red” at Nora’s (Jessica Parker Kennedy) bedside after Cicada broke her back, leading to some very sweet mother-daughter moments amidst Barry’s quest for vengeance and Sherloque’s (Tom Cavanagh) quest for some kind of story regarding Nora. Speaking of Sherloque, he remained deeply invested in uncovering the mastermind behind her Speedforce language and perhaps even finagling an invite to the future to see the Flash Museum for himself. He was so obvious in his suspicious that he even aroused Iris’ ire and received a scolding from her the likes of which she hasn’t doled out since Wally was around. But while this mystery holds promise for the future, at the moment it’s just frustrating that Sherloque won’t share what he’s thinking or what his goals are, not to mention that it’s yet another activity Iris could partake in when not sitting by hospital beds and cheering family members on.

Now we’ve come to what was meant to be the heart of The Flash this week: Barry’s thirst for revenge after Cicada nearly killed Nora. In theory, it makes perfect sense that almost losing his daughter made Barry momentarily forget his moral compass – but it seemed that “Seeing Red” never quite lived up to the stakes promised in the title. Whether it was a matter of Gustin not adding the necessary oomph to his lines or the writing itself not making him unreasonably angry is unclear, but either way it fell flat every time another character accused him of being too aggressive or even murderous. Setting aside the age-old superhero problem of the “no killing” rule, the show shouldn’t need Cecile to intuit that Barry wants to murder Cicada – it should be clear to the audience regardless. They played with this idea well enough during the Savitar days, but for some reason Cicada hasn’t inspired the same threat level. Even Barry’s revelation after an adorable Westallen family moment felt forced, perhaps because the episode spent more time giving voice to Barry’s parental fears through other people rather than actually showing him caring for his child.

All in all, “Seeing Red” was a lukewarm entry into The Flash chronicles, continuing to set up more than it paid off. The promos for next week are inspiring, but we’ll have to see how they turn out.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on the CW.