It’s become almost an annual tradition, and as usual, this season’s time loop episode did not disappoint — and also flipped the script by putting Nora in the driver’s seat.
Spoilers ahead for “Cause and XS,” the latest episode of The Flash, which aired Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019.
This episode was entertaining, but also a bit frustrating. The Flash is one of those few shows that can really have fun with time travel, and in that respect, “Cause and XS” does its best within that gimmick. With Barry making a run into the Speed Force to prepare the metahuman cure they plan to use against Cicada, Nora is left as the only speedster protecting Central City. Of course, that’s also the exact same hour where Cicada decides to strike. His plan is to take a member of the team hostage and use his dagger to kill (at least) one of them by throwing it across the city, boomerang-style.
It starts with Iris, and along the way we see Cisco, Caitlin, Cecile, and pretty much everyone in between on the business end of that dagger. Whatever Nora does, she can’t seem to break the loop. In yet another lesson learned, she finally solves the problem by looping the team in on what’s going on (though they have to figure it out on their own, on Nora’s 52nd attempt). She follows Barry’s advice to “slow down” (literally), and manages to push Cicada in front of his own dagger. It’s a plot point we’ve seen more than a few times with Nora, but it’s at least a creative bit of execution along the way.
The stuff with Ralph and Cisco really was funny, and Cisco’s multiple date resets made for some some solid comic relief around all the angst and drama. Those two make for a great ensemble, and it’s encouraging to see the writers leaning into it a bit more.
Once the team is saved and Barry is back in, we get a heart-to-heart between father and daughter. Barry explains to Nora that messing with time is dangerous, even if you feel you’re doing it for a very good reason. Barry’s been there and done that. Considering Nora’s entire presence this season is a massive time-travel gamble, the speech comes off a bit odd. Sure, it’s true, but how can one be so much more dangerous than the other? It also begs the question — will we see any fallout from Nora’s time shenanigans this week?
But it wasn’t all perfect. This episode was frustrating for a lot of logic-leaping reasons. First up, why on Earth didn’t Nora just tell the team what was happening from the jump? Even after 50+ failures, she still didn’t think the catalyst she’d need to succeed is the super-team that has faced these exact same problems before over the past few years? Trying to do things on her own has understandably been her MO, but still — that’s clearly not working. It takes the team literally figuring it out for themselves before she asks for help.
There’s also the question of what, exactly, was happening with the time loop in the first place. It’s alluded to that this is a fixed moment in time, but it still doesn’t exactly explain why Nora was stuck. Also, if she’s going back in time, why aren’t there multiple versions of her piling up every time she goes back? This feels more like consciousness transfer through time rather than outright time travel, right? She’s also unable to enter the Speed Force to find Barry, but isn’t the Speed Force part of what allows speedsters to travel back in time in the first place? Perhaps there’s a larger explanation coming down the line, but as far now, it feels like a few too many head-scratchers.
We finally know why Nora is working with Future Thawne. As expected, it all comes down to saving Barry from becoming lost during the looming Crisis (scheduled to hit The CW in the fall). Thawne tells Nora to stick to the plan, and promises he’s the only speedster smart enough to manipulate time and actually pull it off. For whatever reason, stopping Cicada and destroying his dagger is a piece of the puzzle to save Barry from his looming fate. We still don’t know Future Thawne’s long game, but this does shed more light on Nora’s motivations. She believes Thawne can save her father, and it’s hard to argue with her motivations — and explains why she’s fought so hard to keep her secrets.
Though this episode was clearly Barry-lite, his MIA performance did help move the plot along. The team now has a working version of the metahuman cure. So will this be what finally takes Cicada down?
Up next: The Flash is taking a break until March 5, but it’ll return with a doozy. It’s the battle we’ve always wanted: King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd. Yes, please.