It’s an odd year for The Flash, thanks to the pandemic that cut the previous season short and delayed this one for months. We had three episodes to clear up old business, followed by another eight devoted to the Forces storyline, and now we’re in a transitional phase. With five episodes remaining after tonight, there really isn’t enough time to build up a full-length arc, and “Masquerade” has only a tenuous link (via Joe) to any larger story. It’s basically a one-off, but it does give a somewhat under-utilized member of the cast a chance to shine.
Cecile is at the center of the episode—or rather, several variations on Cecile. As it turns out, the weird throwaway moment during the Force-storm a few weeks back in which Cecile was hit by lightning but seemed to suffer no ill effects was actually a set up for this week. The storm merely provided cover for a sentient mask once belonging to Psycho Pirate, now stored in the Central City museum, to take Cecile as its human host. The real Cecile finds herself in a cell inside a bright white asylum of the mind, where Barry joins her once the Psycho-Cecile knocks him into a coma.
With Chester fresh on the job as Cisco’s replacement and preoccupied with redecorating and setting up a sweet sound system, it’s easy for Psycho-Cecile to manipulate him into thinking he’s come up with her plan: to break into the museum and steal the mask so they can disable it. Chester’s greatest idea is to call in Sue Dearbon (Natalie Dreyfuss), whose time on the show was cut annoyingly short by both the pandemic and Ralph Dibny’s exile from The Flash thanks to actor Hartley Sawyer’s old tweets. Her arrival gives the episode an immediate boost, and her balletic, cat-suited maneuvering through the museum’s security laser grid is simply a delight.
Also enjoyable are Nicolet’s many faces of Cecile, including terrified Cecile inside the mindscape (which turns out to be her own memory of being institutionalized after her mother died while she was at law school); a lunatic hallucination of Cecile, all runny mascara and over-the-top cackling; the slightly-too-manic version of the mask as Cecile; and the full-on supervillain Psycho-Cecile. She’s obviously loving the opportunity to cut loose in a variety of ways, and it’s fun to watch.
On the whole, however, there’s not a ton of excitement this week. It’s not a bottle episode, but it’s definitely scaled-down, with a minimal cast, few special effects, and virtually no super-heroics. This is necessary every once in a while, especially after a budget blowout like the finale of the Forces arc, but this one is particularly low-key. On the plus side, Barry is level-headed and reassuring despite his lack of super-speed. Maybe I’m grading him on a curve at this point, but he doesn’t say or do anything to make my eyes roll, and he correctly susses out that Cecile could lead them out of the mindscape if she faces her fears.
On the other hand, no points to Joe for going two weeks without noticing his wife wasn’t actually his wife. (Hey, there’s something he can discuss with Barry, who went much longer last season without noticing Iris had been replaced by her mirror duplicate.) As for Chester, he’s pretty easily duped by Psycho-Cecile, but he does redeem himself by short-circuiting the Thinker’s chair before she can bond with it. He’s not truly a member of Team Flash, however, until he gets a pep talk from Iris, who assures him he’ll get the hang of things before long.
The only real connection to an ongoing storyline is Joe’s investigation of Kristen Kramer’s service record, which reveals that she led her unit into ambush which she alone survived. Joe, who was calling her a good cop without much evidence recently, is finally starting to have his suspicions. Those will have to wait for another day.
- Chester stumbles on Barry and Iris trying to make a baby down in the STARchives, and it’s just embarrassing for all of us.
- Good news: It looks like Sue is going to hang around for a while, since “Ralph is still busy.” Nobody asks about him or seems to care how he’s doing, which is kind of sad. I mean, the character didn’t do anything wrong.