Flash’s “Failure is an Orphan” is a grim title for an episode with a lot of surprises, few of them good. The season-long clash with Cicada looks like it might be wrapping up, but things get complicated. Throw in some relationship drama on a few fronts, and things aren’t looking great for a lot of the characters. They do manage a big surprise ending I didn’t see coming.
The show opens with Nora on another of her visits to Thawne’s cell in 2049. They discuss the hunt for Cicada, and there’s yet another holographic newspaper. This one is flickering, and Thawne tells Nora that the timeline is changing. Ominously, he warns that something new is coming… or someone.
At STAR, Iris is on the phone arguing with an insurance company about something from an earlier episode. Barry speeds in and hands her a document just as she needs it, and she wraps up her interview/threat. Why she’s not doing this in her office, I’m not sure. In the Cortex, Nora is pushing Caitlin, Cisco, and Wells for every possible way to find Cicada. She’s driven to the point of manic and everyone else is getting clearly sick of her. Barry is a bit more laid back about things, and Nora turns on him, asking if he knows what he’s going to say to Cicada to persuade him to take the cure. The others file out, humorously blaming Barry and Iris for Nora.
Cecile visits Joe at work, glad to see him back. Joe has been working to catch up on the Cicada task force, and has worked out that the villain is getting help. His detective skills can be overshadowed by everyone having powers, but he’s damn good at what he does and has worked out that Dr. Ambres is probably the culprit. Cecile jumps in with an offer to help using her telepathic powers… unless they’re empathic this week. They check into the not-so-good doctor’s background, and there’s a passing reference to her attending McNider U. Charles McNider was the original Doctor Midnight in the Justice Society of America, and an actual physician, so that’s a nice nod. Cecile is thrilled when Joe calls her partner.
Nora has been brought to Jitters under false pretenses about a new alarm. What’s actually going on is Barry and iris wanted to surprise her: Jitters now has an XS drink, which thrills Nora to no end. Iris has a list of things she wants to do with Nora, which the young speedster finds overwhelming. Their family time gets interrupted by a meta attack at the university. Flash and XS respond and find an acid hurling meta. They defeat him with minimal difficulty, but the fight burns holes in the floor which Nora recognizes from the picture Thawne was showing her earlier. Nora is convinced today is the day Flash will have his last confrontation with Cicada. That seems like a leap to me, since a university isn’t going to fix a gaping hole on the floor overnight. It’s going to be there a while.
Back at STAR, evading questions from Wells, Nora makes up an exhibit at her beloved Flash Museum to explain her knowledge of Flash’s upcoming battle. Everyone but Wells buys her excuses, and they plan to find the new villain, who they believe will be Cicada’s last victim. Cisco dubs him Acid Master, who is actually a minor Superman villain. I do give the writers here credit for consistently finding obscure characters to use. Wells mentions this possibly being the end of their journey, and Iris looks sad, talking about everyone moving on. Iris tries to get some last minute family time in with Nora, but the hero gets distracted and speeds off.
Cecile and Joe go to see Ambres and work out a good cop/telepathic cop routine which is really not subtle. Ambres calmly denies everything, and Joe surprises Cecile by suddenly backing off. This leads to a spat between Joe and Cecile, just to give us some drama flakes this week. Barry isn’t sure he’s going to figure out what he needs to say to Cicada, and Nora gives him a babbling pep-talk that’s mostly blind faith and hero-worship. Wells has a sort of pre-goodbye scene with Caitlin and Cisco.
The team sets up a decent ambush for Cicada, using some toys and misdirection. After some distraction and dagger disabling from Killer Frost, Flash shows up to try and talk Cicada down. It doesn’t go well. Back at STAR, the team can’t find Cicada, and Barry doubts he can come up with a better approach. Nora is still convinced he will. Barry speeds off to go over the files at CCPD, which is where Joe finds him later. Barry talks about his doubts, and Joe makes a suggestion or two. In turn, Barry offers an idea on how to make things better with Cecile.
Iris finds Nora working a questionable idea to help Barry, and tries to get her to do some things together. Nora is far too focused on her quest to help Barry, and gets mad at Iris for distracting her. Iris walks off, clearly not happy. Joe follows Barry’s advice, and he and Cecile take another shot at interrogating Ambres together. They finally learn the secret she’s been keeping about Grace, and text the information to Barry. The team debates what to do with this information, and Barry says he’ll figure it out.
Iris and Nora make up from their earlier disagreement, and Barry comes in at the end to share part of his plan. Ambres told them where to find Cicada, and Flash goes to talk. Following the trend that makes me wonder why Barry is bothering to wear a mask, he reveals himself to Cicada, tells him about Grace, and persuades him to accept the cure. Barry zips him back to STAR, making the decision to show everyone else’s faces to Cicada, and they hash out how they are going to do this, complicated by Cicada’s wounds.
In the interests of avoiding spoilers, I will say that things don’t go to plan. Something hinted at earlier in the episode comes to pass, and Team Flash collectively gets their assess kicked. A supporting character gets what they arguably deserved, and Cicada gets a big surprise to end the episode. It’s an ugly end to the episode, and I suspect it won’t much please Thawne, either, although I’m still not sure what he’s up to.
What I liked: I’m glad Joe is smart enough, eventually, to take advantage of Cecile’s powers, although I could see that going badly in court down the road. I’m glad they’ve kept Cisco’s naming thing a running theme through the series. We still don’t know enough about Killer Frost, really, but they are smart to use her against Cicada since she’s immune to Cicada’s power dampening. I will give them points for the big surprise at the end.
What I didn’t: Seriously, why does Barry bother to wear his mask anymore? He’s going to just tell everyone who he is eventually. I actually agree with Nora about Iris’ family time plans in the midst of the current issues. Some things in the big fight at the end didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Not only was Ralph not in the episode and not even mentioned, but it seems kind of harsh to leave him out of what seemed like it was going to be the resolution against the big bad guy. Nora really needs to stop hiding her plotting with Thawne. It’s going to be a lot worse if Wells is the one to tell everyone.
I didn’t really like this episode. A lot of it felt like filler. I’ll be just as happy when we see the end of Cicada. I’ll give this one a low 3 out of 5. It was just kind of there.