The Flash: 5.02 Blocked

Last week’s episode Nora, was a return to form after a less than successful fourth season. While Blocked was also a very good episode, I can’t help but hold back reservations through fear of being let down again.  The first and last quarter of this episode were fantastic; it was informative, exciting and full of the right kind of energy. The middle section, while not terrible, felt like filler, forcibly trying to generate new story arcs in order to keep the season moving, that aren’t all that interesting. Maybe they will pick up steam as time goes by but for now …meh.

One thing that this episode did spectacularly well was capitalise on the villain tease from the previous episode. Not only was his super villain name, Cicada, revealed by Nora, which I’m not happy with (that’s Cisco’s job damn it!), but we got to see him in action which at this early stag, is rare. Although his overall motivations are unclear, outside of the usual cliché, “I want to destroy the Flash and prove I’m the best”, the character was given a lot of depth, not to mention the has scars over his body, matched only by Oliver Queen from Arrow. He also has compassion, seen when he spared Flash’s life after Nora shouted “dad” (this could be interpreted from many angles, but this is how I choose to read it).

Rather than just be a mental opponent like the Thinker, Cicada shows that he can outsmart team Flash while still being able to go toe-to-toe in a fight. Ok, his bolt knife thing helps by taking away Meta powers, but the guy can fight. The story is overwhelmingly positive at this stage, so much to look into, so much to theorise. The fear in Nora’s eyes alone as she realises who this guy is makes you wonder what his story is in the future. Perhaps he is the reason Flash goes missing.

An aspect that seemed lost, or at least inconsistent, in the previous season, was the humour that was constantly present to differentiate The Flash from other, more serious shows like Arrow. While Cisco and Ralph showed it well, it was scattered and often inappropriate. The first two episodes of season five clearly want to bring that banter back, and although it may be working, it’s once again random and inconsistent to the overall plot. Drunken Cisco last week was hilarious, and love sick Cisco this week equally so, mix in some epic one liners from Ralph and you have comedic genius, but it doesn’t feel right next to the drama of Cicada and the expanding relationship between the West-Allen’s. And don’t even get me started on Caitlin’s current character progression.

Speaking of the dynamic between the West-Allen’s, this wasn’t something I would have expected to enjoy, yet Nora’s addition to the cast continues to impress. It has brought a different style of conflict between Barry and Iris that’s fresh and invigorating, as opposed to the mundanity that has been around previously. The chemistry and performances between them feels elevated because of it. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Joe and Cecil arc which, if removed, would cause no problems whatsoever. Why on earth they thought bringing back Cecil losing her powers was a good idea is anybody’s guess, but it was a tired and pointless arc last season and the inclusion of a baby has made no difference.

The continuing villain-of-the-week formula, while previously exhausted, worked well in this episode to add levity to the Cicada character showing his lack of feelings for other criminal Metas. The villain, Block (named by Cisco thank you very much!), while expendable, had interesting powers and actually served the plot nicely.

Blocked continues at the same pace as Nora, generating further character dynamics that are interesting and leaving you eager to learn more. Humour, performances, script and action were all well executed, as was the continuing introduction to the new antagonist Cicada. He's already been depicted as a formidable and intriguing opponent, that promises great things to come. Even though the side characters and their never-ending sub-plots may not be as compelling as the main one, they add their own brand of humour and drama that will hopefully be better integrated in coming episodes. Aside from the inclusion of the phrase ‘Schway’, Nora further plants her heels in the series and is quickly becoming a much loved character. Will this positivity continue, time will tell.

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