The Flash: 3.05 Monster
The Flash certainly seems to have emerged from Flashpoint with a new sense of confidence; even a 'filler' type episode like Monster, with very little connection to the on-going story arc, had an effortless charm about it. It was fun, it was ballsy and it was simple in its approach but that made it a joy to watch from beginning to end.
First up, I have to say I love this new Harrison Wells - or H.R. Wells as he is now known. Despite the crazy search for an alternate Wells last week (which is frankly more ludicrous to more I think about it) and the fact that Mime Wells was not chosen, this latest version has allowed Tom Cavanagh to deliver a new facet to his character; an oddball, charming, motivational-coach / writer Wells that it turns out does not have the scientific brain of his predecessors. I loved that it took a while for the others to catch on, the fact that he repeated what they were saying, suggested but never formed an idea himself. Barry and Cisco discovered that it was all source material for his book and he was there not to join in, in their genius debates but motivate them. What I actually want now is an episode where he works with Earth 2 Wells (who will surely pop in with daughter Jesse Quick at some point)...and yes, let's through in mime Wells too!
If the characters clueing into to where Wells fit in was the charming fun of the episode, then the giant monster rampaging through the streets of Central City was the action-packed mystery quota. It allowed Barry Allen and Julian Albert (Tom Felton) to bond as Barry bit his lip and offered to be Julian's CSI protegee. It was the perfect time to bring depth to Felton's character. He had been in the show long enough to show that he was a dick with a grudge against metahumans and Barry (ironically not realising he is both) and it all came to a head when he tried to take matters into his own hands and try and shoot the person controlling the monster - when it was revealed to be a giant hologram terrorising the populace.
The Flash saving the genius kid, who was just trying to fight back against his abusers, stopped Julian from stepping over the line from jerk to murderer and that moment certainly humanised him. The whole privileged British artistorical type fighting tradition by becoming a scientist certainly doesn't help present us Brits in a better light, but it did give Julian some depth and allow a connection to form between him and Barry.
But the real emotional core was Caitlin Snow's exploration of her Killer-Frost powers. Bar playing that evil doppleganger, I felt Danielle Panabaker was a little wasted last season as the twisted love interest of Hunter Zolomon / Zoom, so I am delighted that she has something to really sink her teeth into this year. The visit to her scientist mother Carla Tannhauser (Susan Walters) could have easily been cliched, her mother's cold demeanour a reflection of Caitlin's developing abilities. But there was a real depth to Panabker and Walters' performance as those barriers slowly came down and they bonded over the death of a spouse and a reconnection that had been lost for some time. The attempt by Carla's assistant to trap Caitlin felt a little trite but it didn't spoil this intriguing mother / daughter relationship that didn't feel like another Barry / Henry or Joe / Iris connection. Fences might have started to be mended, but they were certainly still broken.
And it is with Caitlin Snow as Killer Frost that the real potential of season three seems to rest. Could she be the ally turned villain twist in the same away that Angel became Angelus in Buffy The Vampire Slayer season two? It's certainly a far more interesting concept that an evil speedster. Thankfully new villain Dr Alchemy also seems to be bucking that trend.
Monster was a fun, engaging episode that really explored Caitlin Snow's character, warmed Julian Albert to the audience, had lots of fun with the new version of Harrison Wells and had a bloody, big monster in it. The Flash is at its best when it balances its heart with a sense of fun and Monster had both in spades.