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iReview | THE FLASH - “All Doll’d Up”

A dastardly weird DC Comics villain is on a crime spree in Central City as Barry and Iris team-up to bring down the macabre menace of the Rag Doll!

Episode 5 of The Flash introduces and reimagines the classic Golden Age villain Rag Doll (embodied by Guest Star Troy James) who often proved a formidable adversary of Jay Garrick, and challenged the Crimson Comet as a lead member of the Secret Society of Super Villains. The eerie and creepy character has been made terrifyingly contemporary and embodies the deep fears many associate with clown faces and contortionists, making for a unsettling mix on the screen!

Synopsis [Spoiler Alert!] Parenting is hard enough, but for Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candice Patton) the challenges of navigating a grown-up, speedster daughter from the future and all the baggage that comes with that, has added a whole other layer of insecurities. Iris continues doing her best to engage with her future-daughter Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy), though after learning that in the future she actually implants XS with a “power-dampener” to keep her check, its a revelation that both are having a hard time dealing with.

When XS acts recklessly and nearly foils an art heist, Iris scolds Nora and asks that she act more responsibly, but Nora doesn’t want to hear any more of it and retreats to her grandparents place, where she gets a lesson in family history from Cecile (Danielle Nicolet). In the midst of their family issues, Barry and Iris stumble upon a mysterious series of crimes involving a darkly evasive adversary, a super-contortionist named Peter Merkel (guest star Troy James) who is able to slip in and out of the tightest spaces while committing his crimes, all the while wearing a creepy mask.

The pair learn the truth about Merkel; the son of a wealthy philanthropist who has just given up on her ungrateful son — the Rag Doll as he is named by Cisco (Carlos Valdes) has turned his vengeful sights on Barry and Iris, who he fears may be getting too close to uncovering his intentions and he kidnaps Barry — using his own metahuman dampening cuffs on The Flash. Meanwhile Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker), thanks to some help from Cisco and Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) are hot the tracks of the secret surrounding her missing father Thomas (guest star Thomas Snow).

The “new” Well, Sherloque (Tom Cavanagh) insists that perhaps the scientist is in hiding, exiling himself from his family while pursuing the mystery surrounding Caitlin’s icy alter-ego Killer Frost. It’s becoming increasing clearer that Thomas may hold the key to once again unlocking her powers which have gone missing since The Thinker’s attack. Meanwhile Cisco has adapted the villains satellites to their advantage and reestablished STAR Labs “eyes and ears” in the sky, which helps the team rescue Barry from Rag Doll in just the nick of time!

Taking Shape

Among the greatest advantages of an ensemble cast that has largely expanded in Season 5 of The Flash is the dynamic of switching things up. Barry and Iris have been given more to do opposite one another, especially with the arrival Nora and its opened up the palette for audiences to finally dive into the chemistry between Gustin and Patton. It’s interesting to see Iris navigate through some insecurities, especially after a couple of seasons where Patton really stepped up as the leader of the home team. The actress is now tasked with pulling things back and “getting real”.

Rooting a show based on a comic book in reality is difficult enough, fortunately the veteran members of the ensemble including Panabaker and Valdes are able to give us just that — an emotional core that becomes relatable even if the circumstances are extraordinary. Iris questioning her ability to parent (or future-parent) mirrors Caitlin’s quest to find her estranged father — both characters are searching for these missing parts, while their counterparts are cluing them into the perspective that they’re all intact.

Nicolet and Parker Kennedy have the best scene as the two bond over family issues and what are the most important components of valuing the difficulties and challenges of the parent/child relationship. Nicolet is the most charming she’s ever been as the newest West and given the circumstances navigates being a new mom and grandma to her future-granddaughter in the most touching way. As for Sawyer and Cavanagh, the pair appear to most out of sync with the rest of the cast and their characters feel forced while working to worm their way in. It’s a tightrope they walk.

The introduction of Rag Doll and the genius casting of real-life contortionist Troy James as the super-villain really served this episode well, which was about family — in the villain’s case dismantling his, while our heroes worked to bring theirs together. The Rag Doll took what he wanted, squeezing himself into his targets lives, and twisted the narrative to his liking. Overall this episode serviced the direction that the season is progressing in, giving the audience a fresh feel, and sidelining the “big bad” at least for a week.

The Flash - “All Doll’d Up” | Episode 5 - Season 5 is directed by Philip Chipera and written by Thomas Pound and Sterling Gates; guest stars Troy James and Kyle Secor (Original Air Date: November 13, 2018)

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