Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Flash Episode Guide: Season 5, Episode 16 - Failure is an Orphan

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.


With the meta-cure proven to work, Team Flash now faces the problem of how to subdue the murderous Cicada long enough to ask him if he'd want to take it. Nora is less than pleased with Barry's plans, though her time journal now shows that this is the day Cicada makes his final appearance before disappearing for decades. Killer Frost is on all board, however, as Joe eases back into the swing of things at the CCPD.

Flash Facts

The title of the episode comes from a proverb - "Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan." The original source of the quote is unknown and has been attributed over the years to Russian folklore, Roman generals, fascist dictators and John F. Kennedy.

In discussing how he has mapped out the timeline, Eobard Thawne says that he has charted it from Anthro the First Boy to Kamandi the Last. This refers to two different "caveman" heroes from DC Comics.

Anthro the First Boy was a Cro-Magnon born to Neanderthal parents, who starred in his own six-issue mini-series in 1968. He has gone on to have cameo roles in series ranging from Crisis on Infinite Earths to Final Crisis.

Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth was the star of a short-lived series written and drawn by Jack Kirby, which was inspired by the success of Planet of the Apes. The story focused on the titular last pure-blooded human boy on Earth and his efforts to survive in the ruins of the world of before, contending with various evolved animal-men. It was never explicitly said that Kamandi lived in the future of the DC Universe, though it was eventually established that he lived in the potential future of one alternate Earth during Crisis on Infinite Earths.Since that time, Kamandi has had cameos in various mini-series, including Final Crisis.

Along with dark matter and meta-gene bursts, Nora has STAR Labs satellite searching for Element-X. Also known as The Tenth Metal and "The Fire Of The Fourth World" in the lore of DC Comics, Element X is said to be the purest form of creation itself and can be manipulated by thought alone to accomplish nearly anything. A small amount of Element X is said to be within all living beings in the universe and it is used to power all New Gods technology.

Dr. Ambres is said to have gotten her medical degree at McInder University. This is almost certainly a nod to Dr. Charles McInder - the secret identity of the JSA member Dr. Mid-Nite, who was a brilliant surgeon in his secret identity. (This is somewhat confusing in the reality of the Arrowverse, where Dr. Mid-Nite was sent forward in time and became a surgeon in the year 3000 before being killed by a brainwashed Rip Hunter in season 2 of Legends of Tomorrow!.)

Cisco dubs the acid-drinking and expelling metahuman that Flash and XS briefly fight with the name Acid Master before learning that his real name is Philip Master. We don't learn much about this metahuman and his powers or motivations, beyond his apparently having an urge to drink various strong acids, the ability to do so without being harmed and having the ability to expel those acids from his hands as if they were shot from high-pressure fire-hoses.

In the original DC Comics universe, there was a villain called Acid Master whose real name was also Philip Master. Numbering only one appearance in Action Comics #348 (March 1967), this version of Acid Master was not a metahuman, but a communist spy and master chemist whose specialty was creating weaponized acids. Clark Kent was recruited as a special FBI agent to track and subdue the Acid Master, on the grounds that no one would suspect the mild-mannered reporter of acting as a government agent. Naturally Kent was more than up to the job, secretly being Superman.


Sodium bicarbonate can be used to neutralize nearly any acid, according to Barry.

Prednisone, Sirolimus and Abatacept are all drugs classified as immunosuppressants.

Cisco suggests building an anti-dampening array to stop Cicada.

Cisco says he can stop Cicada by resequencing the Speed Force Bazooka to overload his body with negative tachyons.

Dialogue Triumphs

(Iris is on the phone.)
Iris: Well, it's interesting that you say that, sir, since it's your company that's denying the Robertson family's claim. Yes, of course, I have the contract right in front of me.
(Barry runs in and hands Iris a sheath of papers.)
Iris: (glancing through the papers) And it says that animal attacks do not fall under Acts of God, and that includes gorillas.

(The Flash runs into a lab to find Acid Master drinking a bottle of hydrochloric acid.)
The Flash:
 Been a while since high school chem, but that does not look like proper lab safety.

(Nora is running through all the times Barry was able to talk a villain into surrendering.)
Nora, all all of these times are are different. Cicada doesn't even care if he lives when this is over. What am I supposed to say that he'll care about?
Nora: (proudly) You'll know. The Flash always knows.

(Barry and Joe are discussing Barry's failure to talk down Cicada.)
Joe: Wait, what exactly did you say to him?
Barry: That he was creating a legacy of fear, one that would go down in history, but that we could work together to change that.
Joe: That sounds like something the Flash would say.
Barry: Well, I -am- the Flash.
Joe: Look, that man's a zealot. He sees you in that suit and all he sees is the thing he hates. Meta-human, superpowers, the thing that took his niece away from him. He can't see past The Flash. But what he doesn't know There's a whole lot more to you than that. Be more Barry Allen. Human.
Barry: Yeah, you're right. Thanks. I'm gonna dive back in. I'll let you get back to running down Ambres.
Joe: Actually... me and Cecile ran into a wall ourselves. We are uh, she like, working together. I mean, ever since she got her powers, it's like she's a human lie detector.
Barry: How is that a bad thing?
Joe: You know I've always prided myself on being able to read people, right? But Cecile and these powers, I mean, she puts me to shame.
Barry: Well, you just got to remember that you guys are a team. That makes her strengths your strengths and yours hers. So if you let her do what she's great at, it's only going to create more room for you to do more of what you're great at too, right?
Joe: Well, damn. You're getting real good at these pep talks, Bare.
Barry: Well, I had a pretty good teacher.
(Both men laugh.)

Cisco: Okay, one fresh serving of piping hot meta-human cure.
Dr. Ambres: I'm just supposed to trust that that thing works? Has it gone through any human testing? Cisco: It's gone through giant shark testing.


When Nora visits Thawne as the episode opens, the timer in his cell is down to 18:53.

Thawne says that a new timeline is trying to manifest, which is undoing the set future where a newspaper article shows a photo of the final battle between Cicada and The Flash. The photo shows Cicada and Flash in an alley way, where the concrete is stained with acid burns.

Iris defends Barry's decision to try and talk sense into Cicada by pointing out he was successful in doing the same thing with The Mechanic in 423. She then admits that Barry totally failed to talk sense into Savitar in 323.

While going through the CCPD files on Cicada, Joe notices that one Dr. Vanessa Ambres treated both Grace Gibbons and Orlin Dwyer on the night of the Enlightenment and she continues to be Grace Gibbons' care provider, despite being assigned to the emergency room rather than long-term care. He also notices that the nurses reported a large number of drugs going missing from the coma ward. This leads Joe to conclude that Dr. Ambres must be working with Cicada, as he'd need a doctor's treatment to keep going with the wound Iris said he had in his chest.

Joe and Cecile agree to question Dr. Ambres together.

Barry fakes a distress call to get himself and Iris and Nora to C.C. Jitters, in order to surprise Nora with the news that a drink has been named in honor of her superhero identity - The XS-presso.

Barry and Iris' list of things they want to do with Nora before she returns to the future includes Skiing, sneaking onto the roof at Jitters, Zip-lining, eating at Sebastiano's, a Star Wars movie marathon, laser tag, teaching Nora how to drive, camping, karaoke and a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Not listed, but mentioned, are going on a trip together and making Grandma Esther's famous sweet potato pie together.

Barry and Nora confront a new metahuman criminal, who is stealing and drinking acid in the chemistry lab at Central City University.

Nora explains that the acid burns left behind by the acid-drinking meta match those in a photo of the final battle between The Flash and Cicada. She says this must mean that the acid-drinking meta was Cicada's final target.

Sherloque asks why Nora didn't mention this before. Nora lies and says most of the information from her time she can remember has been unreliable but this has stayed solid so far.

Joe and Cecile don't do a good job questioning Dr. Ambres, with Joe trying to rely on his own gut instincts and police experience and Cecile overdoing it trying to signal him that she senses Dr. Ambres is lying.

Nora runs through several instances of Barry being able to talk villains down. These include Magenta in 302, Captain Cold in 203, Killer Frost in 307, Amunet Black in 421 and Plastique in 105. (The historical record may be incomplete in this case, at it was Killer Frost who bargained for Amunet Black's help, not Barry.)

Sherloque's translation of Nora's time language is 71% complete.

When Cisco asks if he is excited about almost having Cicada caught, Sherloque says he will be happy to go home, but he somehow senses his work on Earth 1 is not done yet.

Team Flash set up an ambush, with Killer Frost pretending to be Acid Master. She freezes Cicada's dagger so Barry has time to try and talk to him.

Barry tries to win Cicada over by telling him about the metahuman cure and saying that he's seen the future and Cicada's legacy is that of a monster, not a hero.

Cicada says he doesn't give a damn about his legacy and he almost kills Barry before being driven off by Killer Frost.

Joe and Cecile discover that Dr. Ambres' fiancee was killed during Zoom's rampage in Season 2. She has harbored a hatred of metahumans ever since.

Joe and Cecile tell Dr. Ambres about the meta-cure. She then agrees to help arrange a meeting with Cicada.

Joe and Cecile are told one more piece of information; Grace Gibbons is a metahuman, her powers having apparently activated in the last few weeks.

Sherloque suggests trying to incapacitate Cicada with the Memory Machine from 512.

Cisco wants to re-purpose the Speed Force Bazooka into a negative tachyon gun to stop Cicada.

Caitlin just wants to freeze Cicada from the neck down.

Barry ultimately elects to just talk to him, father to father, and tell him that Grace is a metahuman but STAR Labs can help save them both.

Nora reveals she had her own list of things she wanted to do while in the past. This included her parent's wedding, getting coffee at Jitters, being there the night of The Enlightenment and her Aunt Jenna's baby shower.

Cicada agrees to let Team Flash give him the meta-cure, but only if Dr. Ambres is there to assist with the surgery to fix the wound in his chest once he loses the powers that are keeping him alive despite it.

Cecile leaves the operating theater, unable to stand reading the rage coming from Cicada. This confirms that Cecile's powers are, like Caitlin's, not affected by Cicada's.

A new Cicada attacks STAR Labs just as Orlin Dwyer loses his powers and Killer Frost ice-sutures his chest wound shut. The new Cicada cannot negate metahuman abilities, but is able to parry bullets, The Flash's lightning, Vibe's sonic blasts and Killer Frost's ice blasts with their knives. They are also telekinetic and pin The Flash to the wall with an energy field while throwing furniture at the rest of Team Flash.

The new Cicada kills Dr. Ambres and escapes with the comatose Orlin Dwyer.

The final scene of the episode reveals the new Cicada to be an adult Grace Gibbons.


Iron Heights - 2049

Untelevised Adventures

Acid Master is captured and subdued off-camera.

The Bottom Line

A serviceable but largely forgettable episode until the last five minutes, at which point it becomes much more than the sum of its parts. The new Cicada is an immediate smash and much more engaging (though that's largely because she doesn't have the laughable growly bad guy voice and isn't invincible.) A turning point for the season.

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