The Flash’s fifth episode (“Monster”) is almost deceptively simple. What it means to be a monster and how even well-meaning people become a monster are front-and-center concepts throughout. Illusion is a powerful driving force, as well—both in things we hide from others (like Caitlin is hiding her powers) and the things we hide from ourselves (Joe, sidestepping poor Cecile at every turn).
While it turns out that HR is not a monster, he is a con man. This explains his frenetic speaking pattern, an attempt to distract from the fact that he’s not actually saying anything of substance. His song-and-dance personality is effectively charming and almost distracting enough, until Cisco and Barry talk: “He didn’t really do anything, did he?” HR can make a mean coffee, but that may not be enough to keep him on Team Flash.
The main baddie is a huge monster running around the city, prompting Cisco to ask, “What are we talking—Yao Ming size or Andre the Giant?” (No one shouted, “Everybody mooooove!” I’m sad now.) This reveals several things: Julian is a fear-based lifeform who carries a gun (NEVER a good combination, y’all), and he loathes metahumans because he’s jealous of their powers. Does that make him a monster, then? Given Shakespeare’s depiction, it might. But I think, like most shows of bravado, Julian’s is meant to cover up a wound. More on that in a bit.
I genuinely enjoyed the monster reveal: It’s just a kid operating a hologram. (A liiiiittttlllee Scooby Doo, but I’ll allow it.) It serves as a reminder that, sometimes, we can all be the monster—that we’re all capable of it. That people, when pushed to their limits, crack and make stupid decisions. And yeah, that was irresponsible, stupid, and insanely dangerous. But this poor, bullied kid was also very relatable: “I just wanted to feel powerful for a change. … I’m just sick of feeling scared all the time.” Yes, the child got a very stern and well-said Joe speech, along with whatever the consequences will be. But this also served to bring the real-life issue of bullying to the forefront. I appreciated that the show tackled that. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Star Wars references made me stupid happy. I mean, AT-ATs! *slow clap*)
But of course we need to talk about Julian. First, I have to say: holy hell in a homemade handbasket, Tom Felton is goddamn magic. His seething distrust and hatred over metahumans was brilliantly done. But what really grabbed my attention and made me sit up and take notice was the last scene between Felton and Grant Gustin. Barry brought wisdom and kindness to the table, and it was pure pleasure to watch Felton subtly breakdown: “I suppose that’s the monster I’m running from now.” Much like the child, he feels powerless. The warring emotions—grief, guilt, regret, loneliness—on his face were stunning. His icy demeanor thawed, and this was the first time we saw beyond his cold façade. A friendship between him and Barry seems to be blossoming, and I’m pulling for this bromance. Let’s see if it makes Cisco jealous. Judging by the awkward roommate breakfast opening scene, maybe he’ll be happy Barry has a new friend.
Now, darlings, we have someone who has not thawed: Caitlin. She goes to visit her mother, and it’s not an easy reunion. It’s partly an effort to repair the rift between them (Dr. Carla Tannhauser is a helluva an ice queen herself), and it’s partly because Caitlin is having trouble with her powers. One frosty, asshat of an assistant later (Thomas Cadrot), and Caitlin heads home, informing Cisco: “I think we might actually be on the road to recovery.” I didn’t quite buy the quick turn of Tannhauser (Susan Walters) talking Caitlin down so easily: “But I know I didn’t raise a killer.” It felt a little cliché and a little forced. Personally speaking, I wanted her mother to make more of an effort in order to begin repairing what’s broken between them. It felt rushed, too rushed to be as convincing as I’d like. Still, Danielle Panabaker is excellent.
All in all, I liked the diversity in the Monsters in this episode. Ordinary people—whether they’re victims of bullies, feeling different, or suffering a loss of control—are often scarier than what might be hiding under the bed. The hologram was a reminder that pain manifests in unexpected ways. I found Barry’s character the most solid and wise that he’s ever been.
In fact, I’d like to join him and Draco for a pint. Who do I see about that? *wink* Catch you next time, kittens.