Barry and Iris face the ultimate parenting test when Team Flash battles Spin, a savvy millennial armed with meta tech, and a dangerous agenda for their daughter, Nora. Ralph is feeling defeated until an unlikely source issues a challenge to help boost his confidence.
Cloverfield (the opening sequence with Spencer Young talking to her phone while filming The Enlightenment) and The Flash comics of Tom Peyer (character of Spin).
Tom Cavanagh does a lot to humanize the latest Wells here. He's still playing the broadly comic character, but he is shown to actually be a good detective and he does honor Ralph's talents. He also plays well with Hartley Sawyer and the two have good comic chemistry together.
Jessica Parker Kennedy gets a truly heart-rending speech at the end of the episode and sells the hell out of it as she discusses how deeply her mother's betrayal in the future hurt her. Yet she also excells at the more comic moments and manages the perfect balancing act between Nora being earnest yet annoying.
This was the first episode of Season 5 to open with a new introduction.
Spencer Young is a gender-flipped version of a villain who first appeared in The Flash #238 (May 2008). Only known as Mr. Auerbach, Spin was a news network executive who discovered that a man named Edwar Martinez had the telepathic power to sense the fears of other people and make them into reality. Spin manipulated Martinez's powers, using them to further manipulate the public and boost his ratings.
The new Spin (or Spyn) is a young social media maven, who tries to use XS as a means of boosting her brand.
Caitlin calls Spencer Young "an Early Edition meta, who creates stories." This is a reference to Early Edition - a TV show which ran from 1996 to 2000, based around the concept of a man who got the next day's newspaper and used the knowledge it gave him to try and avert the catastrophes described in that day's major headlines.
Ralph noticed that Cicada's breathing got heavier the more he exerted himself - more than normal. Barry later found traces of flurorpolymers at the site of their first battle with Cicada. Ralph's research revealed that flurorpolymers are prone to flaking. Industrial respirators use a protective coating made of the same fluropolyumers around the nostrils. When this is exposed to another compound, dimethyl sulfate, the flurorpolymers release a smell like burnt onions. The practical upshot is that this means they can track the respirator used in Cicada's mask to discover more about who he is.
Caitlin theorizes Spencer's power is based around some kind of hypnotic induction. She also guesses that Spencer might have some power to manipulate reality to make her stories become real.
Barry suggests Spenser might be a meta-psychic who sees the future and writes about it or predicts what will happen.
Barry asks Caitlin to download the cortical biometrics from XS's suit and compare that to his brain scans.
Nora was implanted with a power dampening chip as a child at Iris's request to keep her speed powers from manifesting.
Sherloque asks that Caitlin punch him above the diaphragm, right in the solar plexus.
Iris runs the code from Spencer's web posts through a compiler and then compares it to the brain scans of Officer Jonesy. The brain scan and code are an exact match. This leads Iris to conclude that Spenser's headlines are somehow hypnotizing people into acting on them.
With DeVoe having saturated the STAR Labs satellite with dark matter, this means that the shrapnel of the satellite breaking up resulted in a new batch of metahumans being born from people who were hit and changed by the shrapnel.
The STAR Labs satellite destruction did not just infuse people with abilities - it also changed objects, such as Spenser's phone and Cicada's dagger, giving them powers that can be utilized by the person holding them. Barry dubs these items Meta-Tech.
Barry: My name is Barry Allen and I am The Fastest Man Alive. To the outside world, I'm an ordinary forensic scientist, but secretly, with the help of my friends at STAR Labs, I fight crime and find other metahumans like me. But when my daughter came back from the future to help, she changed the present and now our world is more dangerous than ever. And I am the only one fast enough to save it. I am... The Flash!
Ralph: No shrap, Sherlock.
Sherloque: It's Sherloque.
Iris: Writing articles about XS could make her a target.
Spencer: Or it could make her famous. I mean, people are already obsessed with her. And my app even more. Besides, a little threat never stopped you from writing about The Flash, back in the day.
Iris: That was different.
Spencer: Because it was your blog? What, do as I say, not as I do?
Iris: Look, please stop, okay? Before someone gets hurt.
Spencer: The only one who is going to get hurt is you, when I make your blog irrelevant.
(Sherloque is trying to goad Caitlin into hitting him to test a theory, talking about how weak she is.)
Caitlin: For the record, I know what you just did.
Caitlin: And it worked.
The Flash: (To Spenser, as he holds up her phone.) Looks like you'll be trading this cell in for another.
(Iris tells Nora that she's sure that future her had a reason for trying to repress Nora's powers.)
Nora: No! What happened today has nothing to do with what happens in the future. You didn't suppress my abilities my whole life because I was brainwashed or attacking people. You did it to control me! My whole life I felt like I was different than everybody else but I didn't know why. You took away a choice away from me that I didn't even know I had. A choice to be a hero like my dad.
Spenser Young's cell phone repairs itself after being struck by a piece of the STAR Labs satellite on the night of The Enlightenment. It is later revealed to have the power to command people who read various headlines that Spencer writes on the phone and then swipes onto another screen.
Iris is still, as has been noted before, a bad cook.
Nora says that Iris can't cook in her time either. She takes photos to prove that Iris makes "lumpy pancakes" in all time periods.
Jitters, like Starbucks, apparently sells coffee that can be brewed at home.
Barry got Nora a phone several days earlier. Iris did not know this.
Sherloque is not much of a texter.
Nora is not a breakfast person.
Cisco is laying low at his parents' house while his hands heal.
Sherloque runs through everything Team Flash knows for sure about Cicada - he has killed two metahumans and seems to target them exclusively, he is a parent, his dagger dampens metahuman powers and he can command the dagger like an extension of himself, suggesting that he acquired his powers at the same time as the other metahumans.
Ralph suggests that the design of Cicada's mask might lead them to who he is.
Sherloque says this has never been a factor any of the 37 times he caught Cicada before, but agrees to investigate it with Ralph.
Barry was a terrible athlete as a kid and still is.
Nora says that Joe (whom she calls Papa Joe) told her stories about how bad Barry was at sports before he became The Flash.
Spyn Zone is an app that alerts people as to when anything newsworthy happens in Central City.
One of the stories on Spyn Zone mentions a jailed Oliver Queen support group.This is a reference to how, in the timeline of The Arrowverse, Oliver Queen would have been sent to jail just a few weeks before this episode occurred.
Another Spyn Zone story mentions Airpline Passengers demanding a full refund. This is likely a reference to the plane that was downed in 501.
Yet another Spyn Zone story mentions a strip club called The Golden Booty. This was the strip club Ralph frequented before getting banned for life at Barry's bachelor party in 405
Spyn Zone is run by Spencer Young, who once worked with Iris at CCPN as a junior reporter. She didn't last long, however, as she didn't fact check her stories and was more concerned with fame than writing good stories.
Nora notes that Spyn Zone has three-times more users than Iris' blog has followers and that she thinks Spencer Young is cute.
Jonsey, one of the cops who didn't show up for the game, arrives late and attempts to run onto the field carrying a backpack full of explosives. Cecile telepathically senses something isn't right and XS, being controlled by Spencer Young, runs in to save the day.
When someone is taken over by Spencer Young, their eyes flash purple.
The bomb Jonsey used at the baseball game bombing was stolen from inventory from the Jensen-Moretti case (i.e. Block in 502.) Security camera footage saw Jonsey removing the bomb from lock-up and placing it in a backpack.
Spenser Young mind-controls The Flash into running to Las Vegas so XS has to deal with the fire at CCPN by herself.
XS has never created a vacuum to put out a fire using her speed powers before. Iris is able to talk her through it.
The time-stamp on Spencer Young's report on the CCPN fire is 7:52 pm - minutes before the fire was reported, when Nora and Barry were still interviewing Jonesy.
The business Ralph and Sherloque go to first is Szrek Chem, after Ralph tracks the particular brand of mask he thinks Cicada wears to their plant and determines they use flurorpolymers in nearly everything they make.
Szrek Chen has three plants in the Keystone/Central City area and 14 in the Midwest alone. Ralph is told that virtually every chemical plant in the country uses respirator masks like the one he singled out as Cicada's.
The irony is that Ralph was right and Cicada DOES work at that plant and he sees Sherloque and Ralph questioning the foreman.
Barry give Nora the meta-detecting watch from Earth 2 so they can see if Spencer Young is a metahuman. It says that Spencer Young is not a metahuman.
Nora is either bisexual or a lesbian, as she is attracted to Spencer Young and flirts with her, much to Iris's annoyance. Spencer Young seems to reciprocate the attraction.
Nora reveals that the reason she has been so standoffish toward Iris is that, in the future, Iris implanted a meta-power dampening chip in Nora when she was a child as a means of "protecting" her. Until six months earlier, relative time, Nora had no idea that she had speed powers.
Sherloque acquires one of the respirator masks Ralph thinks is used by Cicada and asks Caitlin to punch him in the chest while he is wearing it. The resulting stress causes him to make alter his breathing in such as way as it makes him make the same noises as Cicada.
The calls to the CCPD about a bomb being planted at Central City Stadium started five minutes after Spencer reported on it.
Iris stops XS from killing The Flash with a tranquilizer dart.
Ralph and Sherloque realize Spencer must be in the stadium to get her headlines to post, since all the phone towers around Central City are shut down to prevent a remote bomb detonation.
Mayor Van Buren of Central City resigns.
Officer Jonesy is cleared of all charges.
Sherloque notes that, in the past, there was an incident that caused David Hersch to develop an injury that required him to wear a respirator mask. With Nora having helped to punch the STAR Labs satellite, the debris that was meant to hit David Hersch and change him into Cicada. That debris has now hit a new person, given them the injury and created a new Cicada.
Sherloque theorizes that Cicada gained powers on the night of The Enlightenment and his dagger was created from a piece of the STAR Labs satellite.
Sherloque gives Ralph credit for his discovery, as it was Ralph's idea to trace the mask and determining that was what Cicada was wearing, even though it didn't lead them directly to him, gave Sherloque his theory on where Cicada got his powers from.
Barry determines that objects, not just people, were changed by the STAR Labs satellite explosion. He dubs these objects Meta-Tech.
Barry says that he supports Iris's decisions - past, present and future.
XS says that the worst part about discovering she had powers was not learning it from her mom.
Nora asks to stay with Joe and Cecile. Joe agrees to let her move in and discuss the reasons why later.
We see that Cicada has a house in the country and he does indeed have labored breathing. He is also shown to have enhanced strength and accidentally crumples the metal of a lamp post when he grips it. As he does so, he moans in pain and we see that the wound in his shoulder is glowing red.
Central City - The Night of The Enlightenment.
The Boomerang Factor
Barry defends the actions of future Iris to present Iris, saying that he is sure that she would only try to remove their daughter's powers for a good reason, completely undercutting the lesson Iris seems to be learning about how her control freak nature is pushing away her daughter.
The Bottom Line
A mixed bag, over all. The idea of meta-tech is intriguing and a real game-changer for the nature of The Arrowverse. Unfortunately, it's never made clear exactly how Spencer's phone works and the whole thing comes off as a forced gimmick taken from a comic that was meant to be a metaphor for how the media manipulates people with fear and further forced into a metaphor for "fake news", which the real issue is media manipulation rather than falsified stories.
Ignoring that, there's some great performances here. Tom Cavanagh develops Sherloque beyond the joke he was in his first appearance and Hartley Sawyer is getting a chance to turn Ralph into the great detective from the comics he is meant to be, thanks to the writing. And let's not forget that Ralph was dead on correct about Cicada's mask leading them to him.
Unfortunately, Iris continues to officially be the worst and it seems that she's on the verge of learning not to be a control freak when Barry comes in and co-dependently supports her need to try and control every aspect of their child's life, despite her being a grown-ass woman, and force the relationship that she wants on her daughter. Oh well - one more bit of drama.