Team Flash continues their new season with “Blocked,” introducing a new villain of the week and letting the team try and find their footing with the new addition of XS/Nora. The episode starts off with a creepy bit of the killer at the end of last week’s episode in some kind of locker room. I’m presuming this is his “normal” life, although it tells us very little about him, aside from he’s apparently really good at taking a beating.
Team Flash gathers at the West house, and Nora reveals the truth about her visit to the present: that she’s not stuck, and about Barry’s fate in the future. Iris has a very unexpected reaction which at first sounds like denial, but turns into something inspiring, also leading to yet another good line from Cisco. The meeting breaks up as the new baby fusses. Joe checks on Iris and has a sort of sad heart to heart, and Cecile makes a discovery that disturbs her.
At STAR, Cisco is having a bit of a self-pity party, looking at some of Gypsy’s old messages. Caitlin comes in and offers understanding and support, which she’s always been ironically good at for a cold-based character. We learn that this isn’t exactly a normal breakup, so it’s even harder on Cisco than it would be otherwise. The man does have bad luck with women (Lisa Snart/Golden Glider, Shayera/Hawkgirl). Ralph comes in an offers his own off-kilter perspective on things. Once again, as I kept saying last season, this is a lot more Plastic Man than Elongated Man. Cisco and Ralph get some amusing banter back and forth before Ralph offers to help the heartbroken scientist.
The new villain of the week, Vanessa Jansen, makes her entrance, and is one of the rare creations for the show. She confronts an arms dealer and named Bobby and he both becomes her victim and shows how her powers work. The next morning, Barry works the scene with Captain Singh, and Nora bluffs her way in with boundless enthusiasm and an ill-thought out plan. We learn there are a lot of differences between her time and Barry’s, especially for CSI work. They make a gruesome discovery, Iris has an interesting scene with Singh where he asks for her help (extremely unlikely), and Iris looks on at the Barry/Nora bonding with mixed emotions.
The very entertaining subplot of Ralph trying to help Cisco get over Gypsy, with Caitlin offering bemused support, gets another good scene where we find Ralph has (sort of) written a book. Iris goes to interview Officer Matthews, one of the survivors of the attack on Gridlock. Matthews was badly beaten, and Iris gets a few interesting bits from him about the assault. At the West home, Cecile comes in, frantic about some recent developments, and has a scheme for making things better. Joe, the sage dispenser of wisdom throughout the episode, gently points out some flaws in this plan and gives her some advice. I’m actually a bit worried about Joe, or Jesse Martin who plays him. He not only had a reduced role this episode, every time we saw him he was seated. I hope that doesn’t mean something’s wrong with the actor. I enjoy Joe.
Nora complains about the present’s slow computers, and Barry provides some context for her. They go over Vanessa’s background, and Nora learns something about Barry that didn’t make it into her beloved Flash Museum. Getting a lead, Flash and XS go after Vanessa, and XS earns her nickname and screws up by being overly enthusiastic again.
Caitlin gives the somewhat abashed XS a clean bill of health, and Cisco sits at his console staring out into space. Ralph says something odd to him to snap him out of it, and we learn a few important plot points about how Vanessa’s power works. After the team again laments all the gear they lost to the Thinker, Iris slips off to go chase down an idea, and Barry moves Nora’s education back to basics.
Caitlin has to carefully pick her way through the emotional minefield of what Cisco is going through, especially after Ralph brings in a “consultant” for Cisco. We do see that even in the depths of his power-blocking depression, there are lines Cisco won’t cross. He and Ralph bicker over how to proceed on Caitlin’s death certificate mystery, and she has a peculiar reaction.
Barry and Nora have a disagreement over what she needs to learn, and how to do it. After a lot of words, she very much proves Barry’s point for him. Iris “borrows” Barry’s access at CCPD to pursue her lead, and gets another clue about the mystery killer. Barry, at his wit’s end, goes to Joe for some advice about Nora. Joe dispenses more wisdom and makes some really great points that finally hit home with Barry. Coincidentally, Cecile overhears this, and much of it applies to her current issues as well. She shows her gratitude to Joe and goes off to deal with matters, having a much better attitude now.
Cisco finds Caitlin at the only other set the Flash show has, Jitters. He’s still clearly off his game, but it speaks very well of him that he makes the effort to reach out to Caitlin. She finally shares why she’s been somewhat reluctant to pursue the mystery surrounding her father’s death, and it’s a very understandable worry. Cisco points out some good reasons for her to reconsider. Barry takes Joe’s advice, and uses a “highlight reel” to show Nora that everyone needs training at the beginning.
Vanessa has another run-in with the family of gunrunners she is feuding with, and they come somewhat better prepared this time. Nora demonstrates that she doesn’t understand current police codes, and then she and Iris brainstorm an idea for how to track down “Block,” as an uninspired Cisco dubs the new villain. Nora seems to be actively unhappy being around Iris, which makes me wonder what hasn’t happened with them yet. They finally get a location, and Flash takes off, bringing a very uncertain XS with him.
The speedsters arrive and take out the arms dealers, and Flash uses a good trick to deal with Block’s power. However, he gets distracted and trapped in one of her compressing fields, dropping the damper cuffs. XS shows she’s a lot more agile than the other speedsters we’ve seen so far as she makes some good observations and manages to wear down Block. Elongated Man and Vibe show up to help just after the fight, and then everyone gets shocked when the killer from before pops up. He stabs Block, we later learn fatally, and then shows that his weird, lightning bolt styled weapon is a lot more dangerous than it appears. It has a surprise for meta-humans, and responds to the killer’s will much like a certain Thunder God’s hammer, a similarity Cisco points out later after they barely escape. Oddly, XS’s shouting something seems to be what drove off the killer. Later, is seems that XS knows at least something about who this is as they meet up at STAR, treat one of their wounds, and Cisco manages to get a new lead for Caitlin about her father.
What I liked: While the over-eager rookie has been done a lot, they’re doing a decent job with XS. I hate seeing Cisco like this, but at least they’re not doing the “Oh, my girl/boyfriend left, they will never be spoken of again and forgotten by next episode,” that so many shows do. Joe is doing a great job as resident wise man. Iris was clever in how she got more information to help the team.
What I didn’t: Singh asking for Iris’ help made no sense. Did they get close while Barry was missing? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them interact before this scene. As stated above, I’m worried about Joe. Block had potential, and randomly killing both her and Gridlock feels like weak writing to me, as well as demonstrating the utterly blasé attitude about death the CW shows seems to have (anyone remember the preacher getting atomized during the wedding last season and not even getting a comment made about their death?). This killer, now with a name, seems awfully powerful for a new arrival. Team Flash showed they are in desperate need of some kind of hand to hand training. Might be time to call some of the Arrow folks for some lessons.
It was a good, not great, episode. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5. Alas, Poor Block.