A giant kaiju-type monster attacks Central City this week, in an episode that swaps plot for some great character development…
When episodes like this come along with a plot-of-the-week that offers little substance (literally in this case), people often write it off as a filler episode. That wouldn’t be a fair description of ‘Monster’, though, as it furthers some interesting character-based storylines instead.
There is a nice thematic through-line this week as just about every subplot links into the idea of someone seeming like a monster on the outside but actually being a complex human underneath. Like the beastie terrorizing the city actually turning out to be a hologram controlled by a bullied kid, Caitlin, Julian and H.R. are not the villains that we feared they might be (or become in Caitlin’s case).
Firstly, it seemed a dead cert that Julian was going to be an ongoing enemy for Barry (perhaps even Doctor Alchemy himself), but this week we find out a bit about his backstory – as a rich kid who failed to live up this family’s wishes, he very much recalled Draco Malfoy – and, after being saved by the Flash, he starts to bond with Barry. I’m glad The Flash is finally deciding to play against our expectations and I really hope this won’t be undercut later on in the season.
Next up, we get our first chance to know Earth 19’s Wells AKA H.R. After it seems he’s another evil Harrison, it turns out that his eager, hipster ways were just a cover for the fact that he isn’t actually a scientist – but he still wants to help out. Tom Cavanagh is, of course, great in the role and produces much of this week’s laugh but I’m not yet entirely sold on H.R.’s longevity in the show. He’s fun, but will he get the depth of the previous two Wellses?
Last but not least, Caitlin goes to her cold mother Dr Tannhauser for help controlling her powers. Susan Walters is terrific casting in the role as she has an uncanny resemblance to Danielle Panabaker and the pair really sell a fraught familial bond. Unfortunately, though the pair make some headway, it doesn’t seem to do Caitlin any good as her abilities are only getting worse. Even so, her chat with Cisco at the end was a nice reminder that she is of a totally different personality from Earth-2’s Killer Frost. But will she stay that way?
Overall, this one takes a break from the Alchemy arc to explore the reason we really love The Flash: its characters. As long as it’s doing that, we can forgive the odd underwhelming monster.