Flash: Phantoms

Wait, I’m a new meta on Flash and I don’t even get to see STAR Labs? Or break in like everyone else?

While the future of the Arrowverse is in question these days, some of the shows are still going strong. The universe’s second show, The Flash, continues its eighth season with a new meta, more mysteries, a returning guest, and a field trip halfway across the country. They keep a lot of things in motion in “Phantoms,” and the episode title itself is a clue about one of the reveals. I have a theory about something below that might constitute a minor spoiler, but it’s just an informed guess on my part.

Following up on some recent problems, we start off in the loft with Iris getting a checkup from Deon, the Still Force/time travel entity who has gone from enemy to sort of adopted child to ally. Iris’ mysterious malady has even Deon and his enhanced senses puzzled, but he promises to find out what’s going on and get back to her before he strikes a pose and teleports away. At STAR, Frost, Joe, Cecile, and Barry are working the murder case from last episode involving the new meta with grisly powers. Caitlin’s absence is explained away with her off on a trip to Metropolis with her new boyfriend. Chester wanders in with some new tech updates to try and track down the new killer, but is clearly shaken and off his game. The man’s clearly having some problems, and it seems to be more than just being squeamish about some unpleasant crime scene photos. The team comes up with a plan that seems to be based more on blind optimism than sound tactics. Oliver Queen would be disappointed.

Over at the Central City Citizen, they have a guest in the form of Sue Dearbon, wealthy socialite and their landlord. Sue’s future as a character was very uncertain for a time when the actor who played Ralph Dibny, her love interest on the show and husband in the comics, was fired for some regrettable things he posted on social media, but she’s back now and just as enjoyable as before, even if I do miss her chemistry with Ralph. After some banter and a bit of explaining a few changes on the show, Sue mentions a new meta out in Coast City. One of DC’s many fictional cities, Coast City is on the West Coast and the usual home of Hal Jordan, Green Lantern. Of all the big-name heroes from DC, The Green Lanterns are the one group that has only been hinted at and never seen or even referenced directly, possibly due to rights issues and upcoming projects. Iris surprises everyone by deciding to go to Coast City with Sue to look into the new meta, kind of stepping on Allegra’s toes badly in the process. Iris really hasn’t been being a great boss to Allegra this season in my opinion. Team Flash gets some alarms about their new foe, but even the Flash is too late to stop another fatality.

In the aftermath, the CCPD and their special consultant Chester work the scene. Chester is still off his game, but even so is fascinated by the after-effects of the mystery meta’s powers. He and Barry confer and then Barry slips out to run an errand so they can study something closer. While they consult, Sue and Iris enjoy Coast City, tackle the hunt for their own new meta, and Sue shows just how sharp she is. They end up at a familiar franchise and make contact with their quarry but they really don’t handle it well. You’d think Iris, at the very least, with all her experience dealing with meta-humans, would have a better idea how to approach things. Iris is surprised when the new meta, named Tinya, isn’t happy to see them or hear out their offer. Tinya makes her feelings known in a low-level misdemeanor sort of way and stalks off.

Trying to walk the line between useful information and spoilers, I will say that Tinya is based on a DC character that I don’t think we’ve seen in live action before, and even slightly resembles her. She’s part of a team that has had members show up on screen before, mostly on Supergirl, although some turned up way back on Smallville. I’m wondering if her usual home may have something to do with what’s going on with Iris. Then again, I may be entirely wrong.

At STAR, Barry and Chester hit a lot of dead ends. The new enemy is elusive, even with all their toys. Barry zips off to update their ally at CCPD (since Joe is still unemployed at present, as far as I know), and Chester starts having more problems. The poor man goes through a sequence that’s almost more horror movie than superhero show, and his reactions worry Frost, Allegra, and Cecile when they show up. While Allegra goes to check on her friend and Dungeon Master, Sue and Iris continue their search and deal with some technical difficulties. Sue keeps up her kind but relentless questioning, and gets a bit more of Iris’ story out of her. Burden lightened, Iris gets an insight on where to go look for Tinya.

Allegra finds Chester and they have another talk that shows the awkwardness of friends who sort of want to be more and clearly have no idea how to go about it. Strange things start happening around them, and at least Chester is reassured he’s not seeing things. Allegra, despite her recent power ups and formidable abilities of her own, calls for help, Barry shows up, in Flash costume but without the mask, which is another example of how bad most superheroes are about their secret identities these days. Barry’s powers don’t seem to do anything to help with the current crisis, which suddenly and inexplicably resolves itself. In the aftermath, the team tries to figure out what’s going on with their new bad guy, from motives to abilities to targeting. Flash gets an idea and makes some unilateral decisions that I know I would have objected to before taking off to once again try a sort of “Well, it can’t hurt” plan.

Tinya tries to reconnect with something from her past, which doesn’t work out for her at all. Not only does she not get the connection she wanted, but Iris and Sue are there. Iris handles herself much better this time, and Sue provides some really cool support. Tinya pours out a very sad story, and seems finally ready to at least listen to Iris. Things take a turn for the worse at STAR. Allegra and Chester have another touching conversation and he offers an unexpected take on the bad guy’s origins. Allegra’s disbelief gets cut short when the villain shows up again. The team falls back to the Cortex, where there is no good news, and then Flash and Frost go to deal with where the bad guy’s power seems to be strongest. Why this is so they never explain, although I have a theory about this, too, which I will hold for now. After a lot of tension and emotional trauma being revisited, Chester manages to pull himself together and save the day.

The episode starts to wind down with a few different scenes, as the team regroups to talk over what happened, and fill Joe in, since he missed most of it. Between them, Team Flash gets a handle on at least how the killer is picking victims, and arrive at an interesting conclusion. Chester, Allegra, and Cecile have a chat in Chester’s workshop, and Cecile’s inconsistent morality about her powers crops up again. A while back, she refused to read her client about a case where people were dying, but now she’s amused as she “eavesdrops” on a few things from Allegra and Chester and then hurriedly excuses herself. Iris and Barry video-chat about their days, and while that’s a nice touch a lot of people might identify with, especially at present, it doesn’t work for who is involved. If they miss each other that much, and they really seem to, Barry could be there in a heartbeat or so. Why doesn’t he just go to her? The real-world explanation would be something COVID related, but the virus hasn’t been referenced in the Arrowverse to the best of my knowledge. They talk for a bit and then, when Iris is alone, Deon appears with bad news to close out the episode.

What I liked: I’ve missed Natalie Dreyfuss’ Sue, and it was good to see her again. I really enjoy her character, and would love to see her pop up elsewhere in the Arrowverse. The inclusion of Tinya, of all the characters they could have chosen or created something new for this story, makes me wonder if my idea about her and Iris might be right. The budding relationship between Allegra and Chester is sort of amusing to watch; I just hope they don’t draw it out too long. I’m intrigued by the deepening mystery of the new meta in Central City.

What I didn’t: Iris is not being kind at all to Allegra this season, and that needs to get addressed at some point. Barry and Iris not talking in person near the end was just a weird choice. Where does Joe keep disappearing to? He doesn’t have a job right now. Cecile does, but is spending too much time with the team and nowhere near enough on her business. If Iris is in Coast City and Allegra’s at STAR, who is running Central City Citizen?

It was a good episode, if a bit uneven. I’ll give it a solid 3 out of 5. It’ll be interesting to see things play out with the new killer, Tinya, and Iris’ malady. Hopefully Sue will stick around for a while.

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