NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
With Cisco having officially departed Team Flash, and the hole in the ranks now being filled full-time by Chester, it’s a whole new day for The Flash, particularly as Central City braces for its next major threat. That threat may have already arrived however, at least in some form, after Cecile’s mysterious mental possession becomes a big problem for Barry and his friends. “Masquerade” picks up following the mysterious mask tease with Cecile from last week, which, while I didn’t recognize it initially, happens to be the mask of Psycho-Pirate! Remember him? From the Arrowverse’s Elseworlds crossover event of 2018?
Okay, so, apparently, that weird bolt of Sage Force lightning that struck Cecile during the battle with the other Forces a few weeks ago wasn’t actually Sage Force lightning, but the energy of a Khandaqian mask containing an ancient psychic demon. This I assume is supposed to be the Arrowverse’s take on Psycho-Pirate’s Medusa Masks, but in this case, there appears to only be one mask, and it’s never referred to as a ‘Medusa Mask’ here. Regardless, Cecile being under the influence of the Psycho-Pirate mask effectively traps her within her own mind, with the mask possessing Cecile’s body, and hiding in plain sight.
This is actually a pretty clever hook, and effectively explains why Cecile has been so shifty since she awoke from her temporary coma, inexplicably loitering around crime scenes and all. Conveniently, Joe also disappears for almost this entire episode too, claiming he’s going to go dig up dirt on Kristen Kramer. This actually would have been great to see, since Joe is no longer a cop, and would likely have to go to some interesting means to get this information. Disappointingly though, Joe doesn’t even get a true subplot here, instead magically finding damning evidence against Kramer through reasons unknown. I guess the show didn’t have room to properly flesh out this plot, but even so, the supposed twist of Kramer being a possible enemy turncoat during her military career would have felt more dramatic and shocking if this wasn’t such a throwaway storyline, and if the series’ narrative hadn’t already tipped its hand toward foul play in Kramer’s past.
At least the Psycho-Pirate mask possessing Cecile makes for an interesting obstacle in concept however, especially when it provides an interesting initiation for Chester. Chester is struggling to find his place in Team Flash, which is a well-worn rite of passage on this show, but the team is still determined to welcome him. Ultimately though, Chester decides to combat his nervousness with over-confidence, so when Barry disappears, having been drawn into Cecile’s mind alongside her, Chester is all too happy to present a cocky museum heist solution, oblivious to the fact that Cecile isn’t Cecile. Even Sue Dearbon warns Chester that something is up in fact, only to be dismissed, despite being roped into the heist effort alongside Cecile.
That’s another big plus in this episode; Sue Dearbon’s return. I don’t know if we’ll ever see Ralph on this show again, recast or otherwise, but it’s at least good to have Sue back, hopefully helping to fill the void left by Elongated Man. Sue provides a welcome set of shifty skills that help to complement Team Flash’s more honest, by-the-book methods, and she clearly has the intuition to match, since she’s the only member of Team Flash that manages to deduce the fake Cecile’s treachery, unlike Chester, or anyone else at S.T.A.R. Labs. Chester thus having to face the humility of a mistake from the get-go, but doing it through the guise of having to realize that his own voice matters, not just the legacy of Cisco, works rather well here. I just wish that Chester’s mistake had more harrowing consequences for Barry.
That’s another downside to this otherwise intriguing return, or partial return, for Psycho-Pirate. While Psycho-Pirate’s former host, Roger Hayden remains absent here, with the psychic mask seemingly fleeing him during the Arkham Asylum breakout that occurs during Batwoman’s first season (or so it’s implied), the mask containing an immortal psychic demon could explain Hayden’s head-scratching awareness of the multiverse during the Elseworlds crossover. In any case, Cecile confides in Barry after having to confront the mask that she’s struggling with a dark past, which apparently includes a brief stay at a mental institution, following a nervous breakdown she suffered after her mother’s death.
This attempt to examine a darker, more vulnerable side to Cecile is nicely shocking, especially considering how well Cecile has hidden this part of her past up to now. It makes sense that Cecile would want to move on from such a dark chapter in her life, and the battle against Psycho-Pirate’s mask allows her to finally resolve those feelings. Of course, this also means that an all-powerful mask containing an immortal psychic monster is ultimately defeated by a simple pep talk from Barry (take a shot), but the idea of Barry empowering Cecile to conquer her own damaged psychology is nonetheless sound in concept. Cecile confiding these events in Joe is another solid step forward for her character too, even if it still feels like the demon contained within Psycho-Pirate’s mask definitely shouldn’t have been defeated this easily.
Still, “Masquerade” is a solid episode of The Flash, one that finds a heartwarming way to complete Chester’s initiation into Team Flash, while also trying to present an interesting new side to Cecile’s character. It’s too bad that Joe’s efforts to find dirt on Kramer are barely touched upon though, especially when Kramer’s dark secret really doesn’t feel that shocking in the end, since she clearly has a heavy affiliation with A.R.G.U.S. Considering that we’re in the interim period between arch-villains though, this feels like a good time to fully address and come to terms with Cisco’s departure, and Chester filling his position from here on out. I do wish that Psycho-Pirate’s mask wasn’t so easily conquered, but Sue rejoining Team Flash, if just for a little while, also feels like a good consolation prize. Besides, maybe the Medusa Masks, if they are indeed still called that in the Arrowverse, could end up having a connection to upcoming arch-villain, Godspeed. Wouldn’t that provide an interesting twist on the same old evil speedster threat?
The Flash presents an interesting new perspective on Cecile's character this week, while Chester struggles to settle into Cisco's old role on the team.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Chester struggling to take Cisco's place
Sue Dearbon unexpectedly rejoining Team Flash
Interesting re-examination of Cecile
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Barely any focus on Joe's dirt-digging mission
Psycho-Pirate's mask demon is defeated very easily