Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Frost meets her match on a lackluster episode of The Flash

Grant Gustin, Kayla Compton
Grant Gustin, Kayla Compton
Photo: Dean Buscher (The CW)

When Caitlin and Frost split into two separate bodies a few weeks ago, it felt like the setup to some Odd Couple shenanigans that would be quickly resolved. With “Growing Pains,” that separation takes on a darker hue, as Frost is pursued for her past misdeeds by Kristen Kramer, who also seeks to pin a new ice-related crime on her.

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The frosty attack on a delivery van full of new tech has left the driver dead and shattered on the ground. Despite Joe’s quite reasonable argument that there have been other cold crimes in Central City over the years (mister, we could use a man like Leonard Snart again), Kramer is focused on Frost, especially once Barry and his new junior tech Chester P. Runk turn up evidence of dark matter on the scene. Barry argues that the ice crystals are different than those formed by Frost’s powers, but Kramer insists on pursuing an arrest warrant for the meta she still calls a killer.

This wouldn’t be a problem if Frost would stay put at STAR Labs while the rest of the team finds the real culprit, but that’s not in the cards. Frost goes on a fact-finding trip to O’Shaughnessy’s, the bar where she used to work, and meets new bartender Mark, a whiz at mixology and other scientific pursuits. In case you didn’t immediately pick up on the attraction between them, there’s a long musical interlude during which Mark strips off his shirt to the tune of “Hot In Herre.” The song must have cost a pretty penny, and the producers seem determined to get their money’s worth, as this goes on for much longer than it needs to. (Your mileage may vary!)

Jon Cor
Jon Cor
Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW

The irony of playing that song over this frosty flirtation can only mean one thing: that Mark is the new cold criminal in town. He’s also the anonymous source who leads Kristen to Caitlin’s apartment, forcing Joe to arrest her for Frost’s crimes. (Given that they were sharing the same body at the time of said crimes, that’s not entirely unwarranted. I’m no lawyer, but I think a case could be made.) It’s hard to decide what’s lamer: Mark’s supervillain name Chillblaine or his backstory, in which he fell through the ice as a child, spent fifteen minutes in the freezing water, and grew up obsessed with gaining ice powers. He’s not a meta, just a guy with frosty gloves.

The barroom brawl showdown between Frost and Chillblaine is fun, even as it highlights just how stripped-down this pandemic-filmed season has been for the most part. Frost pulls off a couple of neat tricks, first bouncing her ice rays off the floor so that they ricochet into Mark and send him flying, and finally defeating him by extending an icicle through her own body (which has meta-rapid healing) and into his (which does not). But as the climactic battle in a superhero show, it still boils down to two people fighting in a bar. In the end, Frost decides to turn herself in anyway and face the music.

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This week’s other storyline concerns the Speed Force, who has moved in with Barry and Iris and is eager to help Barry with his work. Barry is not so eager, suffering from glitches in his power, and generally not down with the whole “force that gives me my power looks like my dead mother” thing, particularly since Iris insists on addressing the Speed Force as Nora. After spending most of the episode trying to avoid her, Barry finally comes around to realizing the Speed Force he used to know has now taken on a more human dimension and should be treated that way.

The other Forces don’t make an appearance this week, adding to the feeling that this is a bit of a placeholder episode, if not quite a throwaway. The maturation of Frost as she becomes her own person is a natural development, but with so many characters being juggled through Team Flash these days, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see her sent to Iron Heights for an extended stay. (After all, Danielle Panabaker would still have a role to play.) That’s not the most likely outcome, but we’ve seen too many departures to rule it out.

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Stray observations

  • The Flash is going on hiatus for a few weeks, so let’s meet back here on May 4.
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My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.