NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
The new state of play on The Flash appears to have been fully established as of last week, now that separate avatars for the Strength Force, Sage Force and Still Force have made it into the Arrowverse, promising big trouble ahead for Team Flash. There’s another key villain that Season 7 also means to deliver though, one with a more specific connection to a certain ally of Barry’s, an ally that’s already in plenty of trouble after the arrival of Kristen Kramer. Indeed, Frost’s problems are exacerbated at length throughout, “Growing Pains”, an episode that means to introduce a new recurring antagonist for Frost’s character, despite otherwise having a bit of a sitcom-esque feel, specifically surrounding the Speed Force/Nora taking up residence with Barry and Iris.
The double dose of comedy flavouring here is interesting, considering that we already got a bit of a comedy-focused core storyline with Cisco and Chester last week. Cisco at least entirely sits out this episode though, with Chester mostly being a background presence, while Barry and Frost dominate the central conflicts of this episode. Joe also finds his loyalties tested after Kramer expedites a warrant to arrest Caitlin, in a flagrant abuse of CCPD’s law enforcement capabilities. At least the show is acknowledging that the coercive arrest of Caitlin is mostly bullshit though, with Joe actively confronting Kramer about it, especially after Barry presents a pretty compelling bit of evidence that a different ice-themed villain is causing the latest batch of trouble in Central City.
Yes, Kramer just so happens to be present at a crime scene where someone is frozen and shattered during a tech robbery, which naturally doesn’t look good for Frost. Barry discovers discrepancies in the leftover ice particles though, and upon further examination, he comes to the conclusion that the dark matter has somehow been faked. Admittedly, the idea of an artificial metahuman is a compelling one, especially when Frost defies Cecile’s advice to lay low, and decides to spearhead her own investigation, with Allegra opting to cover for her. This investigation quickly takes Frost to her old bar that she used to work at (remember that from several seasons ago?), whereupon she meets a new bartender named Mark Blaine, whom the show quickly makes a point to demonstrate is attractive through gratuitous shirtlessness. Because that was necessary.
Unfortunately, the twist with this character is incredibly obvious, which is just one of the noticeable issues with this week’s storytelling. The bartender is, surprise, the real perpetrator of the ice-powered heists in Central City, which he specifically carries out to incriminate Frost, somehow also piggybacking off of the convenient appearance of Kramer. Not only that, but Mark, who goes by the name, Chillblaine (a lesser-known ice-wielding villain from DC Comics lore), has managed to use advanced cryogenic knowledge, along with the stolen technology, to fully replicate Frost’s powers. Yeah, the combination of Mark’s convenient Frost-mapping gizmos and Kramer’s uninhibited witch hunt make for a hell of a leap in the storytelling, and it doesn’t completely add up. Worse still is that the attempts to make Chillblaine a semi-comedic villain who shares some degree of sexual tension with Frost ultimately fall pretty flat. They just feel cringeworthy, as if the writing is trying way too hard to succeed retired legacy villain, Captain Cold, which, let’s be honest, The Flash has no hope of truly doing.
Chillblaine fails to account for Frost’s healing powers though, so he is missing one key ability, despite legitimately going toe-to-toe with Frost at the bar in every other respect. This allows Frost to subdue Chillblaine, who somehow gets taken to Iron Heights off-screen, even though Frost nonetheless decides to face up to her crimes… Despite the fact that Kramer previously arrested Caitlin? Yeah, the storytelling is really confusing here. Granted, I do really like the idea of Frost having to answer for her darkest acts in a court of law, the final step in graduating from her problematic past as Killer Frost, but the writing could have found a more reasonable way to have Frost surrender herself to Kramer and the CCPD. It just felt like the show contrived a lot of pointless turns and meandering progression to get to a seemingly inevitable result for Frost’s character, especially when Chillblaine’s introduction felt more awkward than truly fun.
Speaking of awkward, an otherwise solid core plot with Barry, Nora and Iris also feels a tad shaky this week, after Barry begins feeling some distrust and animosity towards Nora, following her move in to the Allen apartment. Nora wants to help Barry with his job as a CSI, but Barry is resistant to the idea, insisting that he needs to do his job properly, and not exploit the Speed Force’s powers to circumvent legal process. On paper, this is actually a great storyline, especially when Nora does legitimately overstep at the Chillblaine crime scene in particular. After a while though, Barry’s mounting aggression towards Nora begins to feel forced, and not adequately justified. Adding insult to injury is that these issues are simply caused by Barry’s powers, “Glitching” on their own, not Nora intentionally intervening in them, which, to be honest, feels like a massive cop-out, especially when these, “Glitches” immediately resolve themselves after Barry apologizes. Well, that’s stupid.
Considering that this is April’s final episode of The Flash, before the show takes two weeks off from here, having scheduled its next episode for early May, “Growing Pains” felt like a frustratingly sour note ahead of The Flash’s brief hiatus. Most of this episode’s story concepts were good, but their execution just felt very awkward and tonally mismatched. The emotional moment of Frost surrendering herself to face a courtroom meshes poorly with Chillblaine’s fangirl-pandering introduction, most notably, especially when Chillblaine and Frost feel like they fundamentally lack chemistry so far. Likewise, the writing presents a solid foundation for Barry’s brief conflict with Nora, only to ruin it by making Barry unrealistically hostile, with the poor justification of his powers misbehaving for no reason. It feels like The Flash just couldn’t find an organic way to move its story forward this week, and that’s annoying, especially when we’re getting a welcome break from the battle against the other three Forces.
Hopefully Frost at least gives us an entertaining trial in a few weeks though. I think we can also leave Chillblaine out of it.
- Nora's well-meaning nosiness with Barry
- Artificial metahuman hook is interesting
- Frost making the mature decision to turn herself in
- Barry's hostility toward Nora feels forced
- Chillblaine's awkward, cringeworthy introduction
- Several of Frost's obstacles don't make sense