NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
It’s a bit ironic that the DC drama series about the ‘Fastest Man Alive’ is the one that happens to be a week late with observing the American Thanksgiving season, but here’s the Thanksgiving episode for this season of The Flash nonetheless. “O Come All Ye Thankful” had a heavy focus on family affairs this week, even among its villains, as an old recurring nemesis of Barry’s makes a return in a surprising way. Meanwhile, Cisco, Sherloque and Caitlin reflect on their separate losses, finding little to be thankful for during this year’s American Thanksgiving season.
The core family element of the episode was especially strong this week, even with Cecile and Joe being completely absent in this episode, having off-screen Thanksgiving plans with Cecile’s family. Ralph was also absent this week, though his absence wasn’t ultimately explained. Nonetheless, it was the smart family-driven writing with Team Flash that finally allowed The Flash to rebound again after a couple of disappointing episodes from the past two weeks, delivering a family focus that feels as emotional as it does inspired, while providing some solid levity with the Cisco/Caitlin/Sherloque subplot as well. The light-hearted direction with the supporting cast is definitely a good choice, since so many other sad, miserable things happened with the other characters this week, including Cicada, whose backstory is more fully fleshed-out in this episode, revealing how he came into the care of the comatose Grace.
Barry initially turns up a dead end when he tries to go to the hospital to inquire about Grace’s father, only to learn that her father is allegedly dead. Surprisingly, this turns out to be true as well, with the revised Cicada, Orlin Dwyer, being revealed as Grace’s uncle, not her father. Apparently, Orlin’s sister died in an accident just over a year prior, leaving Orlin with custody of his sister’s daughter, Grace, despite his efforts to offload his niece on someone else. After being stuck with Grace, the two initially detest each other, with various scenes cut into the episode that gradually show them becoming closer, while the miserable and pathetic Orlin gradually starts to turn his life around on account of Grace’s positive influence. Things of course culminate with Orlin taking Grace to the carnival to celebrate a year of being her surrogate father, only to be affected by The Enlightenment along with the rest of Central City. After Orlin tries to take Grace away from the resulting satellite debris, we see how he gets the satellite chunk in his lung that would later become his Cicada dagger, and how Grace became critically injured by the same debris crash. It was the doctor’s suggestion that metahumans have grown out of control, combined with Orlin’s rage and helplessness in failing to save Grace, that ultimately turned him into the new Cicada.
The tragic backstory of Cicada is heartfelt and very well-done, making an over-arching antagonist that is shown to be much more of a down-on-his-luck everyman, one that was simply broken by having the one good thing in his life taken away by pure chance. Despite Cicada also being metahuman, there’s a nice exploration of helplessness and fear of external metahuman forces in Central City that continues to nicely build on Cicada’s character, who is still well on his way to becoming another highlight villain for the series, alongside Reverse-Flash and Zoom. It’s frustrating however that this same family dynamic couldn’t be replicated with the more immediate threat this week, after Barry ends up being hit by lightning and flatlining, leading to Nora just barely saving his life with her speedster electricity. Shouldn’t Nora have faded out of existence if Barry was dead? Maybe the fact that she was meant to revive him sort of gets around that, I guess.
I am surprised however that, for all of Nora’s struggles with losing Barry in the future, something that came crashing to the forefront after she nearly lost him in the past, nobody ever brought up that Nora was almost wiped from history! It feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to not have Nora, or anyone, address this at all, but maybe the show felt that it was enough to focus on Nora having to live the horror of losing a parent again, however briefly. Thankfully, the episode avoids the urge to give Nora fresh beef with Iris too, since it was Iris’ call that ultimately led to Barry nearly dying (even if it did preserve an entire city block from being blown up!), forcing Barry to explain to Nora how he has to go into harms’ way not just to save strangers, but so that he can create a better world for his own family and friends. This was a sweet Thanksgiving exchange that helped make Nora more mature, and give her more perspective, even if, like I said, there’s a missed opportunity to create a more challenging conflict here, since Barry is effectively endangering Nora’s life as much as he is his own, every time he runs headlong into danger.
There’s no shortage of danger this week either, since the lightning that nearly killed Barry happened to come from a mysterious woman known as the ‘Weather Witch’, who is revealed to be Jocelyn ‘Joss’ Jackham, the surprise daughter of recurring Flash nemesis, Mark Mardon, a.k.a. Weather Wizard! Joss is a male offspring of Weather Wizard named ‘Josh Jackam’ in DC Comics lore, but Joss’ backstory here is new alongside her swapped gender, since there is a ‘Weather Witch’ in DC Comics lore, but she’s a completely unrelated character with no direct relation to Weather Wizard. Apparently, Joss wants to level the entire city to make sure that her father is dead, since she doesn’t know where he is, and hates him for abandoning her. Joss also happens to have a weather-manipulating weather vane, courtesy of another satellite shard from The Enlightenment, which conveniently gives her the same metahuman powers as her father! Barry having to bargain with one of his old foes, while taking on a more dangerous and powerful rendition of said foe, is a promising idea, but building this conflict around Weather Wizard, one of this show’s most boring and unimpressive Flash villain adaptations, immediately deflates most of it. Mark is still a boring character, and Joss thus also ends up being a boring character. Joss’ desire to destroy her father never carries any real emotional weight, and she doesn’t have much of a personality beyond her one-note agenda either. There was an opportunity to potentially flesh out Weather Wizard’s character and make him more interesting here, but it seems like there’s still far too little to work with in the Arrowverse’s version of the Mardon family, yet again.
Despite Weather Wizard and his daughter still failing to stand out on this show however, “O Come, All Ye Thankful” at least stood tall with its character drama, even if some of the leads were absent, and Cisco, Caitlin and Sherloque were entirely relegated to a comic relief role this week. Nora having to confront Barry about her anger over his loss in the future was well explored here, as was the true depth of motivation behind what drives Cicada. Joe’s suggested lead on Cicada may not have originally panned out, but it’s not long afterward before Team Flash nonetheless discovers that Orlin has been visiting Grace in the hospital every day since The Enlightenment, pretty much bluntly revealing that he has taken up the mantle of Cicada in the revised timeline that Nora inadvertently created. I’m glad to see that The Flash is thankfully not making the mistake it made with Savitar a couple of seasons ago, and is taking just the right amount of time to build up the mystery of Cicada’s agenda and backstory, without dragging its feet when it comes to Team Flash discovering who their latest arch-villain is. The question now is, what’s their next move, now that everyone has learned the identity of their metahuman serial killer?
The Flash rebounds this week with a belated Thanksgiving episode that provides a strong focus on family drama.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Nora facing the trauma of losing her father again
Emotional, tragic backstory explored for Cicada
Team Flash identifying Orlin as Cicada without a drawn-out wait
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Weather Witch is just as dull a villain as her father
Missed opportunity to address Barry's death erasing Nora