Art is about choices. The Flash has been betting safe for most of its choices this season, with the exception of its brilliant time travel reset episode. This episode does no different in keeping the status quo as Team Flash investigates the real Harrison Wells, even as it upsets one of its underused players.

Let’s talk about Caitlin Snow. Of our principal leads, she’s one of the more developed characters in terms of motivation and backstory, but also one of the less interesting ones. I can’t really figure Caitlin out entirely. (Then again, much like the writers, I don’t even know who Eddie Thawne is.) She wants to help people with her scientific skills, she really values her relationships from S.T.A.R. Labs and sometimes she likes to make a joke. But besides knowing a lot about her motivations, we know very little of Caitlin’s internal life the way we do Barry’s or Joe’s or even Cisco’s or Iris’.

The Flash Recap: An All Star Group Teams Up Against a Dull Villain >>>

Her characterization has almost exclusively existed within the boundaries of scientist and pseudo-widower. She’s a brilliant … biologist? Definitely a doctor. And she was engaged to Firestorm, who was previously thought to be dead, and seems to be a little attracted to Barry. With the exception of being a kind and supportive friend, those are the two modes Caitlin functions within, the latter being the primary mode.

So imagine my surprise that the episode is setting us up for Caitlin to maybe choose Dr. Wells instead of Team Flash — because science is there for her, i.e. Dr. Wells and Cisco, when her whole life fell apart. The script smartly reminds us of this as Caitlin pushes back at Barry, that while Barry was in a coma for nine months her entire future fell apart, along with her relationship with Ronnie and her promising career in science. The only people there for her was her mentor, Dr. Wells, and her friend Cisco. It makes so much sense that Caitlin would be skeptical of such “outrageous” accusations. Even though Caitlin’s relationship with Wells is the least sketched in of the crew at S.T.A.R. Labs, it’s incredibly plausible for her to feel this way.

Also, it’s way more interesting than anything she’s had to do recently because Caitlin is pulling an Iris and going against the wishes of Barry (and Joe and Cisco and Eddie). It puts her in direct conflict with them, but she needs to know for herself because she values that mentorship. It’s a really good beat for the character, ruined by Barry flashing by to explain his side of the story, even though Barry is spot-on in his suspicions.

Instead of Caitlin being able to express these opinions and loyalties to Wells (even though we know he’s the Mayor of Shadytown), the rest of the episode has Caitlin fumble about after kissing not-Barry. It’s frustrating because the writers could have committed to Caitlin choosing a side — the wrong side, even — and how much more interesting would that have been? I know I shouldn’t bemoan about what might have been, but I have to after the writers set up this tension and then abandon it mid-episode for Caitlin to have another mildly amusing romance beat. What gives?

Further abandonment of this thread? Our S.T.A.R. Labs trio finds Wells’ secret lair and the Reverse Flash suit. At least the next episode looks more serialized?

A Surprising Trip to Starling City

Meanwhile, Cisco and Joe road trip to Starling City to investigate the death of Harrison Wells’ fiance, Tess Morgan. And since we’re going to Starling City, we get to interact with the Arrow cast, which makes this a better all-star team-up than the previous episode, honestly. Seeing fellow cop fathers and hearts of their respectful shows, Lance and West’s bonding warms my heart. Sure, it’s over lies they tell/have been told by their daughters, but it’s just nice for Lance and West to share the screen. I’ve looked forward to this since these crossovers were conceived. If the story calls for it, I honestly wouldn’t mind the separate casts interacting more because this is definitely more interesting than the ATOM’s debut in Central City. 

Thanks to science and Lance’s mum word on illegally taking a body across state lines, Team Flash now has definitive proof that Harrison Wells is not who he says he is. In fact, he’s an impersonator/shapeshifter — just like our freak of the week, the Everyman.

Best Flash Quotes from “All Star Team Up” >>>

Everyone Acts Dumb

I despise shapeshifter plots in science fiction because everyone acts so stupid. The only time I’ve ever liked it was on Misfits, but that’s because that show gets a free pass with me. Shapeshifters bring out the dumbest sides of all characters and are really an excuse for the actors to have something fun to do. (Seriously — kudos to Rick Cosnett and Grant Gustin.)

Exhibit A: Because here is another wonderful case of how the writing gets better for characters once they switch shows. 

Exhibit B: Just after visiting Eddie in holding, Barry returns home and answers his door to find Eddie. When they know a shapeshifter is about. So what does our adorable, intelligent little Bare do? He invites him inside, surprised that he’s out of jail.

Exhibit C: Not-Barry arrives to S.T.A.R. Labs to flirt with Caitlin and have zero pining looks to Iris. When Not-Barry kisses Caitlin, she’s uncomfortable but not suspicious. Even though there is a shapeshifter on the loose.

While the freak of the week causes some real stakes for the team, it never really comes together because the characters — sans the ever-observant Iris — are acting so out of character. It’s cool to see Barry fight himself and see Caitlin and Iris get to kick some ass, but not at the expense of our characters acting like intelligent adults.

Other Thoughts

— The freak of the week is actually named Hannibal Bates. Someone in the writers’ room is obviously a huge fan of the Lecter movies and Psycho

— What a night for Laurel! That may sound like a dig at her character, but it sincerely isn’t. I know that there are portions of the fanbase who like that Laurel is the Black Canary and belongs in Starling, but I am willing to start a small Kickstarter to see her become the DA of Central City. I 100% buy Cisco’s immediate enamor with Laurel, who makes her first Flash appearance as a smiley, smart badass. lt’s awesome that she turns to Cisco to create an improved Canary Cry to complete her transformation into the Black Canary. And it’s a choke collar. Squee! 

— Iris and Eddie finally reconcile after he “comes clean” by telling her he is working with the Flash. It’s not a complete lie.

— The new DA is impressed. Eddie and Iris make up. Eddie  comes clean about working with the flash. And barry looks pissed?

— This is the episode that sold me on watching whatever Grant Gustin does in the future. Just a tremendously talented TV star worthy of leading the show.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8pm on The CW.

(Image courtesy of The CW)

Emily E. Steck

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV