Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
Quite possibly the most annoying thing about The Flash this season (aside from Barry’s hideous costume) is that the writers can’t seem to separate the wheat from the chaff. “Snow Pack” is a perfect example. The series has plenty of great material to mine in this episode in terms of the falling-out between Barry and Nora and the question of how Eobard Thawne fits into everything. But this episode devotes just as much time to the agonizingly dull Killer Frost/Icicle storyline. Then, for good measure, Cicada stumbles back into the picture out of nowhere. This is easily one of the most uneven and frustrating installments of the show in a very long time.
It pretty much goes without saying the Killer Frost/Icicle material failed to impress. That’s generally been the case with every Caitlin-centric episode since the beginning of Season 4. After all the build-up to her Killer Frost transformation in those first three years, no one has seemed to know what to do with the character since. Even the early promise surrounding the identity of her father quickly evaporated once Icicle actually stepped onto the stage.
This episode did nothing to redeem the character or add new layers to his relationship with Caitlin and Dr. Tannhauser. If anything, the Icicle storyline was surprisingly flat and and lifeless considering the major emotional roller coaster Caitlin is dragged through. Neither she nor her mother seemed particularly affected by Thomas’ sudden return or his sudden sacrifice. At best, the special effects involved with Killer Frost and Icicle’s big ski battle added a little spice to the conflict.
Most frustrating of all is the way Cicada was abruptly shoehorned into this storyline, showing up at the last minute to conveniently kill off Thomas and steal his MacGuffin. There wasn’t a more elegant way to work Cicada into this episode? It’s as if the writers suddenly grew paranoid that viewers might forget all about the character who’s ostensibly still the main villain of the season. Which, honestly, might be a legitimate concern given how things have been unfolding lately. The closer we get to the season finale, the more unfocused and scattershot the series is becoming.
Again, most of what did work in “Snow Pack” hinged on the rift between Barry and Nora. Even there, there were a few bumps in the road when it came to exploring the fallout between Barry and Iris. This episode didn’t do a very good job of trying to play both sides of that particular argument. Iris is completely in the right to be upset about having her daughter cut out of her life without so much as a warning. She’s also completely in the right to hold Barry’s past mistakes with Flashpoint and other bad decisions over his head. This is one case where the writers should have just let her lay into Barry and finally take him to task for being such a monumental dope.
That aside, this family drama connected in a way the Snow family kerfuffle didn’t. Regardless of how much he might be the architect of his own misery, Barry’s emotional crisis brought a new weight to the season. For the first time in years, his relationship with Iris has been profoundly damaged. And it’s fascinating to watch Nora work through her worst fear and begin to fall victim to the darker aspects of her personality.
And then there’s Thawne. Bringing this villain back is probably the wisest move the writers have made this season. Thawne remains Barry’s truest and greatest enemy. Yet rather than rehash old battles, Thawne is taking on a much different and more unpredictable role. There’s a extra dose of nuance to Thawne. It’s easy to assume he’s manipulating Nora and trying to get his revenge against Barry by destroying Barry’s relationship with Nora. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Thawne is simply a man whose realized his race is nearly run and is trying to guide this surrogate daughter the same way he once guided Barry. We even got another fun variation on the traditional Thawne coaching speech as he helped Nora make her first contact with the Negative Speed Force.
Now it appears that Nora has emerged as one of the main antagonists of Season 5. That’s bad news for the ongoing Cicada conflict, This episode’s feeble attempts to reignite that flame have only backfired. But if Nora turning against her parents gives the series the spark it’s been needing, then maybe there is something to salvage out of this troubled season.
“Snow Pack” has some terrific moments, all of them centered around the major falling-out between Barry and Nora and the chain reaction that causes among Team Flash. Once again, it becomes clear that the return of Eobard Thawne is the best thing to happen to the series in a while. It’s a shame, then, that this episode is saddled with so much extra dead weight. The Flash rarely thrives when Killer Frost is thrust into the spotlight, and “Snow Pack” doesn’t break that trend.
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