After a premiere which altered the show in some pretty big ways, The Flash season 3 is beginning to settle into a rhythm. Each week brings with it a new villain, usually some new information concerning Alchemy, and at least one awkwardly adorable scene for Barry and Iris now that they've taken their relationship to the next level.
However, significant changes remain between this timeline and the one that existed pre-Flashpoint -- one of the biggest being Caitlin's very Killer Frost-like abilities. The stinger of last week's episode teased that her powers were getting stronger (and less easy to control) and in this week's episode, 'Monster' -- written by Zack Stentz and directed by C. Kim Miles -- Caitlin reaches out to her mother, renowned biomedical researcher Dr. Tannhauser (Susan Walters) for help. Except, Caitlin and her mother have what you would call a rather icy relationship. Meanwhile, Cisco and the new Harrison Wells are helping Barry with the giant monster rampaging through Central City, but this new Wells -- can he be trusted?
Though this episode includes a giant kaiju terrorizing Central City, the titular monster takes a back seat to what The Flash is really all about: relationships. (In fact, the monster is even revealed to be a hologram in the end, as if making a point of how inconsequential it actually was.)
This week, there are three relationships that, in a way, are rebuilt over the course of this episode: Caitlin and her estranged mother, Cisco and HR (the Earth-19 Harrison Wells), and Barry and his co-worker, Julian. Of those three, the relationship between Caitlin and her mother is the only one truly being rebuilt, since as we learn the two weren't always so cold with one another. And while it is certainly just like a CW show to pair a frosty mother/daughter relationship with a character experiencing actual ice powers - or as it's explained, energy absorption on a molecular level - the plot works rather well, giving Caitlin some interesting motivation for what could grow into a something of a villainous turn (more on that, below).
Back in season 1, Eobard-as-Wells was also very much a mentor to Cisco as he was Barry, and that eventual betrayal was just as hard for Cisco to accept. Because of that, Cisco was obviously slow to trust Harrison "Harry" Wells when he arrived, and it's much the same with HR. However, it didn't take long for Harry to prove himself a worthwhile and often necessary addition to Team Flash - HR, on the other hand, turns out to be an utter fake. Yet, while HR was deceiving them, it doesn't appear to have been for any nefarious reasons. And the scenario does allow for Cisco to grapple with his trust issues, facing how much that initial betrayal really hurt him (and perhaps appreciating Harry a little more). It also forces him to rely more fully on his own capabilities now that there's no Wells backing him up, and it's an interesting switch having Cisco be the more level-headed of the pair.
Lastly, Barry's coworker at the CCPD, Julian, didn't even exist pre-Flashpoint, but still their relationship is one which needs mending. The case of the rampaging monster gives Barry the opportunity to work more closely with Julian, hoping to maybe find some way of tolerating him. And while super-speed may be Barry's meta-superpower, it's his ability to listen and empathize that make him a hero. Over the course of the episode, Barry learns more about Julian, eventually getting the abridged version of his life story and reaching an understanding about Julian's dislike of meta-humans. In some ways, Barry and Julian's workplace conflict mirrors that of Barry and Eddie's (only without the love triangle), and while there's still a chance Julian turns out to be more than just a grating coworker, it's a nice change of pace having Barry deal with conflicts that aren't entirely linked to his being The Flash.
The Powerless VS The Super-powered
The source of Julian's inherit distrust of meta-humans lies in how powerless those with incredible abilities make him feel. It's a jealousy, a spitefulness at what others have been given, and feeling as if that somehow makes him less. And that sort of emotion can certainly send someone down a dark path - something which we can only hope The Flash doesn't have in mind for Wally (who, hilariously, had like two lines this episode, why was even there?).
But while there are those with powers and those without, neither indicate just how much impact an individual can have. Sure, The Flash saves the day when he stops Julian from shooting the young teen, but his job is over once that disaster is averted. It's then Joe (Dad Cop!) who make the real difference, giving one of his patented heart-to-hearts and reaching out to a troubled teen. Iris, too, makes a point that she can still help people without being a meta, proving she isn't powerless to make a difference.
And the pendulum does swing the other way, because Caitlin, whose superpowers are only getting stronger, may in fact be powerless to stop her transition into Killer Frost. It's alarming that when she's using her ability to absorb energy she often lashes out, acting uncharacteristically cold and unfeeling. She's clearly in a tough spot, and keeping her situation a secret from her friends for any longer isn't helping. So while she's been given incredible powers, she may not be capable of controlling how much they change her.
The monster of 'Monster' mattered very little in the end, but it did allow for various changing relationships within the series to be explored. The Flash is on hiatus next week, but when it returns so will Alchemy, and judging from the next time preview (below), he's come for Kid Flash.
The Flash season 3 continues Tuesday, November 15 with ‘Shade’ at 8pm on The CW. You can watch a preview of the episode below: