Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Cloverfield And Cold Parents Rule "Monster" On The Flash!

The Good: Performances are fine, The few moments of character in the episode, Special effects
The Bad: Fails to truly explore or develop the primary characters, Ultimately lame villain/conflict, Underwhelming continuity, C-plot goes nowhere.
The Basics: The Flash encounters a "Monster" . . . only to realize the team is just being repeatedly bamboozled.

On The Flash, there are no main characters who have been so thinly fleshed out as Dr. Caitlin Snow. In the first season of The Flash (reviewed here!), Dr. Snow was almost completely defined by her grief. It took until Snow faced off with her Earth-2 doppelganger in "Back To Normal" (reviewed here!) for viewers to get any real backstory for Caitlin Snow outside her relationship with the man who would become (for a time) Firestorm. Now in its third season, The Flash bothers to get around to some on-screen character work with Dr. Snow in her latest incarnation with "Monster."

"The New Rogues" (reviewed here!) preceded "Monster" and given how the third season has been slowly revealing Dr. Snow's new metahuman status it seems natural that the show would take some time to focus on her. Of course, Dr. Snow as a metahuman creates entirely new problems in the continuity of The Flash; why didn't the S.T.A.R. Labs team figure it out in the revised edition of "Enter Zoom" (reviewed here!) from the prior season?! After all, when Wells outed Ramon in that episode, he did so with his metahuman-detecting watch, which did not detect Snow as a metahuman and would not have been altered by Barry Allen's temporal meddling. So, "Monster" begins with the burden of explaining how Dr. Snow has gone undetected as a metahuman for the prior three years.

And it glosses over that to present a half-assed answer along with an underwhelming series of reversals with both the primary adversary and the new Harrison Wells.

Barry Allen has moved in with Cisco Ramon and he is beginning to get on Cisco's nerves just a little bit. Ramon is still wary of H.R., the new Harrison Wells they enticed over from across the multiverse. Dr. Snow visits Dr. Tannhauser, her mother, at her lab and reveals her status to her as a metahuman. At S.T.A.R. Labs, H.R. tries to impress the team by bringing in breakfast and proposing trust building exercises for the group. Barry arrives back at the CCPD where he finds that Julian Albert is complaining about him to Captain Singh. Allen has to leave the police department in order to respond to a metahuman alert from Ramon and finds a literal, giant monster walking through downtown Central City. By observing the car alarms and the way a transformer explodes in advance of the monster, Barry theorizes the monster is something other than a metahuman.

At Tannhauser's lab, Snow begins exploring her powers, while Allen kisses up to Julian Albert to try to get on his good side and get H.R. access to the transformer. At the site of the transformer, Allen theorizes a metahuman might be controlling the monster. When Tannhauser's assistant, Nigel, attempts to capture Dr. Snow, she nearly kills him and is aided by her mother in preventing her transition to Killer Frost. As Ramon and Allen become suspicious of H.R., Allen starts to get to know Albert better in their quest to stop the monster that no one else seems to be able to disappear at will.

The idiosyncrasies of H.R. allows Tom Cavanaugh to have a lot of fun with the character at the outset of "Monster." While Earth-19 has its own customs that could just be laughed off or be used as an excuse to make H.R. goofy, "Monster" presents H.R. as a very different character instead of simply a fish out of water. H.R. allows Cavanaugh to play his familiar character with an unfamiliar level of happiness associated with him and it works! Cavanaugh plays H.R. lighter and shows off some range, but he also sells the moment when H.R. makes a log entry that, predictably, gives the character an alternate agenda from his established agenda. That H.R. is playing dumb allows Cavanaugh to explore a different range for the character.

Susan Walters plays Dr. Tannhauser and she is immediately evocative of Sherilyn Fenn in her appearance and moments of her performance. Given the build-up and how both Snow and Killer Frost talk about Tannhauser, her appearance in "Monster" is hardly as cold or destructive as viewers had been prepared for. Walters does fine, but given that Tannhauser actually aids Snow against one of her employees, she is hardly the monster Snow painted her to be.

The subplot involving Joe and D.A. Horton allows for the hints of a romantic subplot in "Monster," but it does not truly develop. The door is open for a romance there, but it is in the nascent stages and Iris clearing the way for Joe is an interesting way of opening the door.

The performances in "Monster" are adequate and the special effects are pretty good, but the episode falls short of popping. The episode is more about illusions than it is actual monsters and that feels like a big let-down, with the characters reflecting in minimal ways without truly advancing (save Julian Albert). "Monster" is not bad, but it is basically a series of illusions being shattered and for an episode where we get the first chance to truly delve into Dr. Snow's character, the lack of a substantive exploration of her character is disappointing.

For other works written by Zack Stentz, please visit my reviews of:
"The Runaway Dinosaur" - The Flash
X-Men: First Class

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into The Flash - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the third season here!


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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