Flash: Family Matters Part One

How long have we been just standing behind consoles here? I mean, we can do more than this, right?

The new “Forces” have been plaguing Flash and company since they turned up in Central City. Barry was stunned to find out that the Speed Force, wearing his mother’s face, wasn’t as nice as he thought, but was actually out to kill the other forces. Now Team Flash is embarked on a weird mission to save them all, following a somewhat strained metaphor that they are all family, with Barry and Iris being the parents. They are also setting up for a departure I really don’t want to happen, as things proceed with “Family Matters, Part One.”

The last episode ended with Deon the Still Force (I still don’t get how Still=Time) being confronted by Nora the Speed Force. It’s a strange meeting, with Nora acting very inconsistently before finally deciding she’s recruiting Deon to work with her. Team Flash is doing a very different recruitment, with a lot fewer death threats, as they explain to Alexa why she should work with them, and strive to control the Strong Force, Fuerza. They don’t have all the answers, but at least they’re not pretending to. Alexa is very worried about hurting someone while training, which Barry assures her he won’t let happen. Iris says she has the Citizen tracking down the missing Psych, which is odd because as far as we know, the entire staff of the Citizen is currently at STAR not doing that. Illustrating that point, Kamilla is talking with Cisco about their plan to leave Central City, and Cisco seems very uncertain.

Speaking of Psych, he’s paying a call on a very rich man named Caleb. There’s some history between them, and this attack is a lot more personal than some of Pysch’s past outings. A bit later, Caleb’s house is a crime scene, with Barry working the scene in his CSI job. Making a bit less sense, Iris is also there, free to wander the house. Because media are always allowed to walk around in active crime scenes, right? Iris urges Barry to get Alexa trained. At CCPD, Joe (and I) get an unpleasant surprise when it turns out Kramer hasn’t left town after all, and is pursuing her crusade against metas. She and Lopez on Black Lighting should form a club. Her current focus is the early metas that disappeared from police custody, when STAR was using the Pipeline to hold them. The conversation gives a callout to two former supporting characters, although what’s said about them sounds wrong, and also makes it clear that an early crime has been covered up. Kramer isn’t incompetent, unfortunately, as she homes in on Barry as a common link among the missing metas.

The staff of the Citizen track down Psych’s next likely target, although it’s the usual tv show flaw: “There are two possible places for the bad guy to turn up. We’ll blindly guess and show up just in time at the right one.” Naomi, one of the next on the hit list, is one of those that you have to be really committed to saving people to actually help. I think you could make the argument that the world might be better off without her. After she establishes herself as a real pain in the ass, Psych shows up and attacks. This sets off alarms at STAR, interrupting Alexa’s reluctant efforts at training. Psych is different in this attack, a lot more sarcastic. He easily bests the Flash when the speedster shows up. Psych is manifesting new talents, like what Cisco will dub “magenta-cles” and apparently telepathy that isn’t limited to fears anymore. Somehow or other, Psych manages to get away from the Fastest Man Alive.

Bruised and battered, Barry gets checked out by Caitlin after the fight. I’m not sure why, since there were no major injuries and Barry heals so quickly. Caitlin expresses some reservations about pushing Alexa to train, Cisco seems overwhelmed by everything, and Barry is displaying some obsessiveness about staying on task that seems more like the late Oliver Queen than Barry Allen. While there’s a lot of discussion about Alexa’s training, Iris and her friends uncover Psych’s tragic backstory. There are relatively few actual villains on Flash, just a lot of misguided people with horrible pasts. Meanwhile, Joe makes a disturbing discovery at the CCPD armory, and has a confrontation with Kramer about her intentions and methods.

The STAR crew is continuing with Alexa’s training, over the concerns of both Alexa and Caitlin. Cisco is somehow running a console while wearing his big clunky Vibe gauntlets. Alexa is acting very much like a Hulk knock off, even getting in a similar line to one of his best known ones. Finally, Alexa stalks off, and Caitlin and Barry argue over what Barry is doing. Caitlin makes an interesting point, although she, too, is jumping on the strained “family” metaphor. Joe goes to Cecile to use her as a sounding board for his concerns about Kramer, and so she gets a scene this episode. She gives him some good advice about what he could do. Kamilla and Cisco talk about their future and some nightmares. Weirdly, Cisco is saying a lot of good, positive things but sounding utterly depressed about them. It’s seemed to me like the writers haven’t known what to do with him for a while now, and this is part of that ongoing problem. Kamilla ends the scene by giving advice that any job counselor would cringe at.

Caitlin goes to talk to Alexa, who is about to leave. I find it odd that Alexa hasn’t been at STAR long, but she has a lot of stuff to pack. Then again, it’s a rule that someone leaving dramatically must be energetically packing. Caitlin gives Alexa a gift that might help her out, and Caitlin certainly doesn’t need anymore. Barry comes in, acting more like himself and less like Oliver, offering apologies for being pushy. The alarms then sound, showing Psych closing in on his last target. Exactly how Psych is getting around so quickly with no transportation type powers is never explained. While Psych indulges in villainous threats, Alexa suddenly changes her mind and decides to help out after all. Her training went horribly, so sure, let’s toss her in against an actual foe trying to hurt her. There’s a bit of CGI combat before the inevitable “reach out and appeal to the bad guy’s better nature” bit. Iris has learned a lot about Psych’s past, and feeds Flash lines to get through to him. Psych, whose real name is Bashir, learns some surprising things, accepts them with no proof, and agrees to end hostilities for now. Alexa also shows she has at least one advantage over the Hulk as far as changing back and forth goes.

Hearing that Psych is coming, the rest of the team has an understandable reaction and gears up for a fight. Then, as soon as there is tension between Alexa and Bashir, they all run away. Thanks for the help? Cisco gets what might be an interesting phone call and hides it from the team. Joe, after careful consideration, does something rash that utterly ignores Cecile’s earlier advice and will have a lot of repercussions. Also, I’d think, warrant at least one very legitimate domestic argument when Cecile finds out what he did.

We end back at STAR, with Bashir being snide and Barry trying to keep the peace. Barry cautions them about how dangerous Nora can be, and Bashir seems utterly unimpressed. Then Deon and Nora show up, continuing the tradition of bad guys waltzing in to STAR whenever they feel like it. Nora has gone full villain, and monologues a bit before doing something shocking. Barry is going to have a mess on his hands when the next episode rolls around.

What I liked: Ennis Esmer, most recently Rich dotcom on Blindspot, was his usual entertainingly snarky self as Bashir/Psych. Caitlin, at least, is staying true to her usual characterization. She might be the only one. It was kind of nice to be reminded about the characters who left the show. Even though she only got one scene, Cecile gave some good advice. It was a nice touch and made sense that Deon was scared of Nora. I would be, too.

What I didn’t: Alexa mastered something that took Caitlin months in moments, which seems very off. Psych has powers that don’t fit with his “force.” Including what seems like some kind of teleportation or something. Barry is acting way out of character, and Cisco seems like he’s going through a really accelerated manic/depressive cycle. I don’t like what’s coming for Cisco, and I still don’t see the point of all that development for Frost to then just write her off the show. I disagree with what Joe ended up doing, and wonder if there’s a united push in the various writers’ rooms, since it so closely parallels something that happened recently on Batwoman.

This was just not a great episode, and I’m not really enjoying the weird “Force family” idea they’re pushing so hard. I’m giving this a 2.5 out of 5. I hope they turn this around soon.