REVIEW: The Flash, S5E16 – Failure Is An Orphan

The Flash set up its final confrontation against Cicada in “Failure Is An Orphan.” Or rather its final confrontation against the Orlin Dwyer version (Chris Klein and his raspy Batman impression strike again), which Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy) had no idea wasn’t the only one. Barry (Grant Gustin) struggled with the best way to approach his villain while Iris (Candice Patton) struggled with the best way to say goodbye to her daughter, but the entire cast got moments to shine as the episode approached the first long overdue climax of the season.

Mom’s not ready to let go.

The weakest part of “Failure Is An Orphan” was probably the lead-up to Barry and Orlin’s face-off, pushed along as it was by Thawne’s (Tom Cavanagh) inexplicable plan that’s been 16 episodes in the making with no visible results. As strong as Zack Stentz’s writing was in the moment that Barry connected with the Big Bad as a father, it took far too long for anyone to suggest that Grace was the key to his heart. Of course, part of the reason for the hold-up was that they didn’t yet know that Grace herself was a metahuman – and that’s where one of the stronger elements of the night came in.

Joe (Jesse L. Martin) was back on the force full-time in this week’s The Flash, and he wasted no time in tracking down the Doctor Ambres lead in the hunt for Cicada. Cecile (Danielle Nicolet), eager and empathetic as ever, joined him in a fun partnership of detective gut and psychic senses which led to an important moment of introspection for the West family patriarch. Ever since Cecile got her powers, Joe has shown himself to be uncomfortable with them. First it was because he wasn’t accustomed to being vulnerable in her presence, but now he had a more professional reason: professional jealousy, to be exact. Thanks to an insightful pep talk from his son-in-law and an equitable exchange of advice that advanced both plots, Joe came away realizing that he was putting his own insecurities above his job as well as Cecile’s needs. It was thanks to their combined efforts that Ambres gave up both Cicada’s location and the essential knowledge of Grace’s metahuman status, and the Joecile ship got to be super cute to boot.

Anything boys can do, girls can do better.

Speaking of the super cute, Nora was so focused on stopping Cicada once and for all that she failed to notice how poorly Iris was taking the possibility of ending their mother-daughter relationship. Poor Iris kept getting her to-do list of fun family activities rejected in favor of a massive copy-paste project of Barry’s greatest speeches, until she finally admitted that she was scared of having to wait decades before she could interact with a fully-grown Nora again. Not only did the moment of honesty provide a sweet heart-to-heart between the West-Allen girls, it also helped Barry in his episode long rediscovery of fatherhood. Patton and Parker Kennedy also have a lovely chemistry that makes their scenes sparkle when they’re given more than cursory lines to play off each other.

While The Flash took longer than necessary to get to the point between Cicada and Barry, “Failure Is An Orphan” played out flawlessly once it did. With Cicada agreeing to allow Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) administer the cure, it seemed like the season’s villain was ending his run 6 episodes early. But no sooner did the dark matter leave his system that an even darker energy emerged from an outside source: his niece, Grace. It’s unclear how she arrived from the future, more powerful and well-equipped than her uncle ever was, but the one certain thing is that she’s going to give the team way more of a headache. Not only did she abscond with an unconscious Orlin in tow, but she murdered poor misguided Doctor Ambres in the process. Hints that Cicada is a woman in the future have been building since “Memorabilia,” so it wasn’t as big of a shock as the writers may have been expecting, but it was definitely a satisfying one. And the turn of events was much needed after the last few weeks of stasis.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on the CW.