They’ve been really beating the metaphor to death of the “family” aspect of the new Forces running around on the Flash. I’m still not clear if they just possessed existing people, or recreated dead ones, or how this worked. Nora, for example, looks like Barry’s long-dead mother, but Psych has a recent backstory as a human. In addition to the weird relationship stuff they’re doing, the writers have changed around who is to blame for what’s going on several times. Last episode ended with Nora attacking and apparently killing Psych/Bashir, Alexa/Fuerza, and Iris, while Barry looked on stunned and shocked. Now, “Family Matters, Part 2” picks up where that ended.
After Nora villain monologues briefly and leaves, it’s revealed the dead bodies on the floor are illusions, yet another new power from Psych’s ever-increasing arsenal. The group discusses what happened and what might be driving Nora. As the STAR crew tries to figure out what to do in order to keep the Forces safe, Cecile comes downstairs at the West house and comments that their son can sleep through anything. Joe, on the couch after quitting last episode, watches tv and sees that Iron Heights has been damaged and many inmates escaped. Joe feels helpless that he can’t help recapture them, which is maybe something he should have thought about before suddenly and randomly quitting. The storm raging outside goes from atmospheric to important as a random lightning bolt suddenly comes through the window and zaps Cecile. Unlike Barry, she doesn’t get powers from the lightning, just collapses before Joe’s horrified eyes.
Iris and Barry take Alexa and Bashir to a twisted version of the West house in the Speed Force. The place has looked better, as Bashir notes when he cracks about the Addams Family. Barry leaves everyone else here and zips off to get back to STAR and go after Nora. I get that Flash can both time travel and get to different Earths, but I’m not wholly clear on how he got everyone here. After he leaves, one of the Forces looks like they’re plotting something not good. For whatever reason, Barry goes home to the loft, which is where Nora turns up. She goes on about the other Forces trying to kill her, demands to know where he was, and delivers an ultimatum regarding the other Forces. Flash checks in at STAR, gets some techno-babble from Chester and Cisco, and then tells Cisco not to Vibe-up, because for unclear reasons he needs both Cisco and Chester on coms. Flash takes off to find Deon, the so-far unaccounted for Force.
One trope of superheroes that has never made sense to me is that somehow, as soon as a villain escapes, they have their costume and weapons. The earlier Iron Heights breakout is the same, as Killer Frost (who went to prison from court, where she was not even in costume) clashes with Chillblaine, the bartender she kind of had the hots for a while back. They fight and flirt in an amusing combination. At STAR, Caitlin cares for Cecile, because why bring someone to the hospital ever? Joe looks on, worried, and their kid has conveniently vanished into off-screen limbo again.
Iris goes on about Barry as a kid, and Bashir, when not making more wisecracks, develops yet another new power, communicating with Alexa via telepathy. The two plot their escape, which is dumb, because all they needed to do was say, “Hey, thanks, but we don’t want to stay here.’ Flash finds Deon in a football stadium and decides this is another great chance to appear in public without his mask. Deon laments his lost football career, and that he’s still getting pushed around by forces beyond his control. Deon is too wrapped up in rage to listen to Barry, and disappears, because somehow or other having time powers lets him teleport. To quote a video series I enjoy, “Sure, that may as well happen.” At STAR, Flash wants to send Team Citizen to help evacuate people, because everyone knows that’s what newspapers do instead of, say, the police. In fact, now that Joe has quit and Barry never seems to go to work, we don’t see the CCPD at all in this episode. Joe, wallowing with no job and a badly hurt wife, makes some surprising statements that don’t sound like him at all. Barry zips off again, telling Chester and Cisco (remember when Cisco used to work with Caitlin?) to figure out how to restrain Nora. Allegra goes to talk to Joe next, and calls him out on some of his behavior.
Alexa and Bashir make their move, despite Iris’ best efforts. Apparently Bashir’s illusions now extend to tactile as well, because Iris can’t tell she isn’t holding something that she just had. Barry loops by STAR to listen to more technobabble from Cisco and Chester before taking off again. When the sensor array warns that Nora is around again, Barry races off to talk to her, because that’s gone so well so far. Their argument takes some unexpected turns and we get another round of “No, THIS ONE is the real bad guy,” which seems to take place several times an episode lately. Deon shows up, there’s another fight that Nora wins again, and Barry runs away with Deon. The speedster deposits the battered Still Force with Caitlin, and admits he doesn’t know what to do now, or what the right thing even is. Iris has somehow gotten back to Central City without the gizmo because… I guess she can do that now? I don’t know. Cisco and Chester roll in with more bad news and we find out the stakes are worse than we thought, plus a few odd bits from recent episodes get explained.
Frost and Chillblaine keep flirt-fighting, and I’m left wondering two things: when did both of them become master fighters, and why are they doing Kung-Fu Theater when they both have powers? Eventually, Frost remembers her powers and ends the fight, with the requisite bad pun. We’ve seen a lot of empty streets in this episode, but now that the storm is getting worse, people are wandering around outside looking terrified. Maybe go back inside, dummies? Barry does a lap through the city, doesn’t really help anyone, and comes back to STAR to bemoan the bad situation. He and Iris both engage in doubt and self-pity, but Joe wanders in, slapped out of his own funk by Allegra earlier, and gives one of his soulful, inspirational talks. Barry draws inspiration from this, gets the other Forces to cooperate, and goes hunting for Nora. Again.
Barry and the Forces (a not-bad band name) confront Nora for a lot more family puns and fighting. The good guys fight foolishly, mostly taking turns, which is just what you want to do with someone more powerful than you are. Chester and Cisco provide more bad news updates over coms, and suddenly we have a time limit complete with ticking clock, because we hadn’t hit that cliché yet. Psych shows Nora a nightmare and so she decides to play nice after some happy words from Alexa. You can tell Nora is a good guy again because she suddenly loses most of her Goth look. The Forces are set up in a new place where they are going to work on a nice metaphysical project that means we probably won’t see them again until something really bad happens. Which again leads me to wonder about their mortal lives, or the host’s lives, or whatever they are. No one’s going to miss them? Alexa was doing some important work before all this jumped off, for example. Leaving their “kids” to do their work, Barry and Iris hold hands and pop home.
At STAR, Cecile suddenly wakes up because the script told her to. She and Joe talk, and there’s at least a passing reference to where their kid is, unlikely as that is. Cecile and Joe get some nice lines about, of course, family. Because it’s all about family. Do the writers get paid by the “family”? It sure seems like it. Cisco, Kamilla, Allegra, and Chester meet up at Jitters so that Cisco can get an ominous text and he and Kamilla can make the others uncomfortable with an out of character prolonged public display of affection. Allegra does get in a funny line about her powers, and foreshadowing for what I believe will be another training story, or at least a montage. Caitlin gets a surprise visit from Frost, who has suddenly had a reversal of her earlier misfortune in a way that’s diametrically opposed to what happened at her actual trial. I’m sure Kramer is going to flip out about this. Caitlin and Frost hug a lot and gossip like sisters. Barry and Iris wrap the show with a nice comfy scene at home, some plans for the future, and a bad pun that foreshadows an upcoming character appearance.
What I liked: Ennis Esmer (Psych) does snarky better than most anyone I can think of. I’m glad that this family story is over, or at least I hope it is. Frost got something she should have gotten before, although it contradicts her earlier story (and where did her costume go?).
What I didn’t: Most of this, unfortunately. This story was full of holes and inconsistencies, and the family bit was done to death, and wasn’t that strong to start with. Why is Joe surprised he can’t do what he used to after walking off the job (without discussing it with his wife, I’m sure that went well). How did Iris get back from the “Addams Family” house? Why does Barry even pretend to have a secret identity if he keeps telling everyone who he is and appearing in public without his mask? What was the point of Cecile getting hurt? All it seemed to do was make Joe depressed. Why did Frost and Chillblaine have their costumes, why did they do non-powered combat so long, and where did hers go after?
There were a lot of problems with this storyline, and even more with this wrap up. I’m giving it a 2.5 out of 5 and hoping the rest of the season is better. Then again, with what I know of what’s coming, I’m not confident.