The Flash Season 5 Episode 16 Review: Failure is an Orphan

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That was anticlimactic.

The hype was strong over The Flash Season 5 Episode 16, and promotional media had promised us one of the best episodes of the season, with a shocking twist ending.

Instead, what we got was two-thirds of a filler episode, finished off with a reveal I’m fairly sure almost all Flash fans saw coming.

Team Flash Stunned - The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

It always hurts to be critical of The Flash -- there are many excellent and endearing elements about it. But even with the deliverance of incredible installments like The Flash Season 5 Episode 15, the reality is this: The Flash sometimes wholly misses the mark.

This was one of those times.

Related: The Flash Season 5 Episode 15 Review: King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd

In some ways, the reveal of Grace being the true Cicada villain was a relief. Dwyer (Chris Klein) has been an underwhelming and one-note villain with little charisma. That lack of charisma has caused the plot to stagger severely, leaving fans begging for something (or someone) more interesting to take the reigns.

The little of what we’ve seen from (future?) Grace is already ten times the action and intensity we’ve gotten from Dwyer all season. The scene between her and Team Flash was intense, providing one of the best fights sequences we've seen in a while (tied with Grodd vs. Shark).

Nora Gets A Drink - The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

Grace will undoubtedly prove to be a huge threat, considering how quickly she flattened Flash & Co. in their showdown. But we’re already at the backend of the season, so the question becomes -- how much will we even see of her?

Becoming a meta-human/Cicada has been a clear path for Grace from The Flash Season 5 Episode 10. She attacked Nora (sporting the Cicada uniform) while inside her mind.

The foreshadowing felt blatant, so why the writers waited so long to push this reveal forward is a mystery. Nothing has happened in the past few episodes to move the plot forward, or add to the major conflict.

Related: The Flash Season 5 Episode 14 Review: Cause and XS

We’ll inevitably be getting more action and drama from here on out, but we also only have a few episodes until the finale. The Flash always wraps up their season villain in a relatively tight bow. Therefore things may get worse, but not for long. 

So the reveal wasn’t really a reveal -- any of us watching even somewhat closely put the pieces together long ago. Grace being bad news for Team Flash didn’t induce much emotion besides an egregious eye roll.

Sherloque Relieved - The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

Perhaps the more shocking reveal was Thawne being honest with his intentions towards Nora. It’s possible he will somehow be in cahoots with Grace (never rule out Eobard on anything villainous), but the way their scenes landed, he seemed authentically worried about Team Flash. 

His motives have yet to get revealed, and those could easily be rooted in selfishness. It looks as though he does see Grace as someone who could destroy Central City, and the world as they know it. However Grace has time traveled, so the question is-- who helped her?

Eobard coming forward as the critical antagonist of the season would be an exciting twist, but it may be more interesting to have him assist the Team as one of the “good guys.” Watching Barry and Thawne forced to set aside their differences to work together would be quite an exciting arc.

Except, after wasting so many episodes on nothing too important, we only have six episodes to do it.

West-Allen Planning - The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

Speaking of filler, “Failure Is An Orphan” gave viewers plenty of it. It was as if the writers didn’t know what to do with their characters until Grace's reveal, so they had them run around aimlessly until the last act.

Nora must have said, “you just have to find the right words” at least fifteen times to Barry (or various other members of the Team). It felt like a minuscule issue to focus on with such laser-like precision. The central conflict was Barry not being able to find the right words?

That’s what it all came down to in the end?

Like I said -- anticlimactic.

Iris And Nora Bond - The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

Iris was just as aimless, following Nora around, worried about missing her daughter. The motives for her stress were understandable but felt incredibly offbeat considering it was the day Barry was meant to take down Cicada.

A mother wants time with daughter, but West-Allen has been the number one duo forever. How could Iris not make Barry a priority, when he could disappear in a moments notice? 

At least she'd have time to check things off her list or say goodbye to Nora. Barry could have gotten taken from her at any time.

Iris has unwavering faith in Flash, but to be utterly uninterested in his impending doom seemed out of character. Wouldn’t the two at least share an embrace, or kiss goodbye, before he went off to confront Cicada?

What happened to Iris being Barry’s lightning rod? His inspiration?

Joe and Barry Heart To Heart - The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

The one positive element of Barry’s inability to “find the words” was the lovely moment we got between him and Joe. It felt nostalgic to be in that lab with them again, even if there wasn’t any science going on.

Joe and Iris gave us a fantastic storyline last episode, but we had yet to witness a touching Joe and Barry moment. Joe’s advice to Barry was spot on and heartfelt, but what elevated the scene was Barry’s advice back to Joe.

Barry Allen has come a long way; being both a husband and father has changed him. Joe West is not the only one doling out advice anymore; Barry has lived enough to give some back.

It was a tender moment of growth between two characters with an already endearing dynamic.

Back To Work - The Flash

Truthfully, Joe West’s storyline carried the episode. Not only did he have poignant scenes with Barry, but his story Cecile was easily the most enjoyable to experience. 

Joe’s uncomfortableness with Cecile’s new powers as a meta-human never truly got resolved. By readdressing the issue, it gave closure to their conflict while also allowing them to grow closer. 

Jesse L. Martin and Danielle Nicolet have incredible on-screen screen chemistry. They're able to make the audience laugh and cry simultaneously, and I’ll watch them as partners on the job (and in life) any day.

The cast's joy about Martin's return shines through in every scene. 

Flash Faces Cicada - The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

Barry’s big confrontation with Cicada, however, did not manage to shine at all. 

Their first meeting was so underwhelming, it was almost confusing. Considering all the big-bads Barry has fought against, it was entirely out of character for him to assume Cicada would care about his legacy.

What have we seen so far that would lead us (or Team Flash) to assume Cicada would consider stopping his murder sprees? Especially because of “what people might say about him?” Even before he became Cicada, Orland Dwyer didn’t seem like the type of man who worried about what others thought.

The only aspect of the scene worth watching was the presence of Killer Frost, who is always a delight to see on-screen and is still vastly underused as a character.

Killer Frost Worries - The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

Flash and Cicada's second conversation was elevated only by Barry’s heartfelt speech about fatherhood. It was earnest, spot on, and delivered with an honesty only Grant Gustin could convey.

Gustin’s talent thankfully abetted Klein’s, forcing him to rise to the challenge of providing one of his most endearing moments of Cicada yet.

Related: The Flash Season 5 Episode 13 Review: Goldfaced

What didn’t work? Flash’s unmasking of his identity. This choice could have played beautifully if Barry hadn’t already revealed himself to every single villain, meta-human and stranger living in Central City.

Big displays like a superhero unmasking himself in front of a nemesis are only useful when they don't get repeated throughout five seasons.

That’s a trick you can only pull out of your hat once or twice, max.

As flat as it landed, I was waiting to see Barry (not Flash) relate to Dwyer (not Cicada) on a basic level of fatherhood. The parallels between the two are the one element keeping Cicada from an entirely discernable villain; watching him give in to Barry’s words felt well earned.

Cicada Won't Give In - The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

As the season winds down, the rumor at least one major cast member will be leaving the show continues to haunt me. After their altercation with Grace (Cicada 2.0?), my worries have only grown three times in size.

She ate them for breakfast without even trying, so at this point, any member of the team could die (except Flash and Iris, of course).

It couldn’t be Ralph either since he’s disappeared off this show entirely.  I’m guessing he’s safe (wherever he may be).

Related: Grant Gustin Speaks Out on Arrow's Final Season Announcement

Here’s hoping the rest of the season delivers now that we have a stronger, faster, smarter, villain on our hands.

Oh, and the first female Big-Bad of the series.

West Allen Family Time At Jitters - The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

Random Thoughts:

  • Not enough Cisco. I will never stop saying this.
  • I liked Barry showing some intelligence with the sodium carbonate. Finally, the writers are allowing him to be a scientist!
  • I will always be here for shining a light on Iris being a boss, and Barry being her biggest supporter.  Small, but an excellent scene. 
  •  Jitters with the West-Allen family was perfection. Iris and Barry make the best parents, plus Gustin and Patton play off each other so seamlessly, no matter the tone of the scene. 
Barry Finding The Right Words - The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

Already Flash Fanatics, your turn to sound off! What did you think? Were you as underwhelmed by their "big reveal" as I was? Are you excited to see what Grace has in store or where she came from? And is Thawne truly good now?

Let me know in the comments below. And remember, you can watch The Flash online, right here at TV Fanatic. 

Failure is an Orphan Review

Editor Rating: 3.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (52 Votes)

Kat Pettibone is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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