“All Doll’d Up,” this week’s episode of The Flash, is a family affair, centering around Barry and Iris being at odds with their daughter, Nora, after the prior episode’s revelation of Iris using a power inhibitor on her in the future. Nora’s anger was only stoked further by Barry supporting his wife and siding with Iris in the matter. Since that mini-fallout of teenage angst, Nora has moved in with her grandparents Joe and Cecile to escape the pressures of her parents acting like parents. Is this what having a teenager is like – sans the speedster powers? Continuing with the Family Matters, “All Doll’d Up” brings us a villain-of-the-week that looks like a cross between a contortionist and Jigsaw, whom Cisco decidedly titles “Rag Doll.” The other plotlines within “All Doll’d Up” revolve around Caitlin, Cisco, Ralph, and Sherloque uncovering the possible location of Ms. Snow’s missing father, and the team’s discovery that Cisco’s injuries following their last encounter with season Big Bad Cicada are far more serious than they had initially believed. Each use of his powers puts his body under yet unseen strain. Additionally, after a pleading chat from her father, Barry, Nora digs into her mother’s past via stories from her grandmother, Cecile. Through these tales of her mother’s younger years, she learns that Iris, while not a superhero by trade or by skill, has always been a hero at heart, and we eventually get to see that manifest.
The highlight of “All Doll’d Up” is something that I tend to take for granted in these shows, and that’s the personal relationship between Barry and Iris. This episode shows Barry constantly pursuing his wife and wanting to turn virtually everything they do, including while on assignment, into a date. It’s disgustingly adorable, and I appreciate it like I never thought I would. During these moments he reminds Iris, who is still distraught over the manner in which their daughter is reacting towards them, that Nora will come to acknowledge the difference between the mother she knew in the future and the one in front of her in the here and now. These scenes, while continuing to slow the pace of the season even further, still help solidify a unity between the young husband and wife, and there’s a spark of chemistry with the characters that, admittedly, isn’t always there. Barry’s involvement in “All Doll’d Up” is initially that of a father and husband trying to get his two ladies to a point of understanding, but when Rag Doll breaks into his apartment (not really sure how he found Barry’s home, but okay) and kidnaps Barry, our resident Scarlet Speedster is the one in need of saving this time around. Iris and Ralph must, quite literally, swing into action in a sequence that at once had me laughing and rolling my eyes. Ralph jokes about something he saw in a comic book once and, with Iris clinging to his back, they swing from S.T.A.R. Labs through Central City in Spider-Man fashion. The scene is fun and would have been even better were it not for the general lack of visual effect quality. That said, what it leads to had me jump up from my seat, as when Barry is pushed off of the rooftop he’s being held captive atop via meta-power dampening cuffs (again, I’ve no idea how Rag Doll knew about any of this), Iris jumps over the side, meta-dampener key in her hands, after her husband and uncuffs him just in time for Barry to speed them both to safety. Witness to this, Nora only has one thing to say: “Schway.” Yes, Nora, very schway indeed.
The rest of the S.T.A.R. Labs team display their own growth in chemistry and emotional weight when, while attempting to use his vibe powers, Cisco begins to bleed from his nose and then blacks out, reasonably frightening his friends. Caitlin takes this the hardest, and she sells it well with her sincerity in being upset that Cisco would go to such lengths to help her find her dad. She’s touched by this, but also lovingly scolds him and tells him that he needn’t risk harm to himself for her sake and that there are other ways for him to still be a great asset to Team Flash while he heals. Putting this to immediate use, Cisco taps into the four satellites that DeVoe had set up last season for “the Enlightening.” Now, I know I’m not the only person thinking this, but how is it that, when nearly each week we’ve had a member of Team Flash bemoaning their lack of a satellite with which they could track metahuman attacks throughout the city, we only just now figure out that they have no less than four to work with – satellites that only takes a 20-second hack from Mr. Ramone to get up and running? That was meant to be rhetorical, but I’m sure you get the picture. Nevertheless, it’s good to see that the team isn’t (hopefully) going to be five steps behind their foes anymore.
The final plotline of note in “All Doll’d Up” makes Cecile shine in a new light, as she deals with her future granddaughter, Nora. Acting as a sounding board for the frustrated adolescent, Cecile promises to also share stories about Nora’s famous father that no one else knows. The tantalizing idea of learning more about her father, hero, and idol, Barry, is too much for Nora to resist, and the young girl quickly jumps at the opportunity. Little does she realize that every story “Mamma Cecile” shares is not, in fact, about Barry, but Iris. The shock of learning all of these amazing things about her mother brings to bear an interesting dichotomy within Nora, and by the end of “All Doll’d Up” she finally seems to put some effort into learning more about the woman (the badass woman after this episode, as far as I’m concerned) her mother truly is. I honest-to-goodness hope to the Speed Force gods (not Season 3 Savitar) that we’ve now more or less witnessed the end of Nora’s downhill descent into further immaturity. I, for one, would like to actually learn more about her character beyond having mommy issues and an impulsive personality that gets her into hot water every five or so minutes. If anything falls short in this episode, it’s the villain, Rag Doll. He’s easily the least developed villain-of-the-week in a while, with no clear motivation whatsoever, nor any explanation as to how he seemed to know things that he shouldn’t. Does this mean we’ll see more of him in the future? Let us know your thoughts!