Beautifully directed by Jeff Cassidy, “Snow Pack,” is all about family drama. On one side, we have Barry and Iris, whose marriage is threatened by Barry’s latest screw-up. Then, we also have the Tannhauser-Snow family (a.k.a. the titular snow pack) drama, which involves the return of the villainous Icicle, Caitlin, and her mother Carla working through some of their issues. Although these stories are mostly isolated from each other throughout the entire hour, they’re connected by the episode’s interest in exploring what it means to be part of a family, specifically what responsibilities do members have and what do they owe each other, which I found very interesting. Honestly, this may be one of my favorite episodes of the season.
The last episode of The Flash ended with Barry dropping Nora off in the future; he could no longer trust her because of her relationship with Thawne. While heartbreaking to watch, this development was also frustrating because it felt like Barry was regressing. After four and a half seasons, you’d think Barry would have learned not to pull an Oliver Queen and make unilateral decisions about his daughter without consulting her mother and his wife, Iris. But, apparently, he hadn’t. Thankfully, The Flash recognizes just how annoying Barry’s decision was and wastes no time laying into him.
“Snow Pack” begins exactly where it’s supposed to: With Barry and Iris arguing about sending Nora on a one-way trip to the future. Iris essentially becomes a proxy for the audience and brings up the fact that Barry continues to make the same mistakes over and over, specifically making decisions based on his emotions. Barry, on the other hand, can’t see past how betrayed he feels and keeps insisting he’s right. He does the immature thing and points out that maybe Iris would understand how he felt if Thawne had killed her mother in front of him. Honestly, it’s almost too brutal to watch because both Grant Gustin and Candice Patton are giving it their all. Furthermore, Cassidy’s use of close-ups on their faces puts us right into both characters’ minds, which heightens the emotion and make the argument more intimate. (In fact, it felt like there were more reaction and close-up shots than the average Flash episode. There was a sense that Cassidy was inviting the audience to peer even deeper into the characters’ brains to figure out how they were feeling and question everything.)
In the wake of their big fight, Iris takes some space from Barry. She even starts to write a letter, but Cecile and Ralph stop her from making a mistake out of anger. Instead of talking to Barry again, though, she decides to see her daughter. With Ralph’s help, she absconds with the time sphere and jets off to 2049. While the episode doesn’t do too much with this surprising new Ralph-Iris pairing, it does enough to make me want to see them work together more in the future.
In 2049, Thawne is busy teaching Nora how to use the Negative Force, which would allow her to return to 2019 undetected by her father. The Negative Force was created by Thawne and is the opposite of the Speed Force. Whereas Barry’s speed comes from his hope, speed from the Negative Force is fueled by anger. Unfortunately, Nora doesn’t have enough pent up rage to make it work her first time. But that’s about to change.
When Iris arrives in the future, she finds Nora outside of Thawne’s cell. A suspicious smile creeps across Thawne’s face when Iris shows up, and Cassidy’s camera lingers on it several times throughout the scene, inviting us to question what’s really going on in that twisted mind of his. Throughout the entire conversation, Thawne sides with Iris and suggests Nora listen to her mother. Unfortunately, the fact that Iris came back for her without Barry angers Nora further to the point that she’s actually able to access the Negative Force and speed off back to 2019, leaving Iris in a room alone with Thawne.
Thawne offers Iris some advice about helping Nora: “She needs you both united,” he says. “I like your anger but don’t let it drive Barry away. The only way for you to help Nora is by doing it as a family, otherwise you’re simply leaving Barry the exact same way he left Nora.”
No matter how many ups and downs The Flash has had over its run, it has never faltered when it comes to its characterization of Thawne. Despite what Barry may think, the Reverse Flash isn’t just completely evil. That was clear in season 1 when he showed some remorse about screwing the team over and seemed to actually like mentoring Barry. And here, it’s clear that Thawne genuinely cares about Nora, meaning he’s not the cold murderer Barry believes him to be. In fact, Iris even tells Barry as much later on.
Speaking of which, Barry learns a similar lesson about how family never leaves back in 2019. Icicle returns and kidnaps both Caitlin and Carla — who can’t stop bickering with each other for five minutes — because he wants to create his own little killer ice-meta family by giving Carla her own icy personality. Thankfully, Caitlin/Killer Frost manages to break free right as the Flash shows up to save the day. Killer Frost leaves Barry behind to save Carla, who was placed in a dangerous machine and goes after Icicle in a shoddily rendered fight sequence involving multiple ice slides that ends with Icicle trying to kill his daughter once she reverts back to Caitlin. Seeing his daughter in peril gives the real Thomas Snow the strength to regain control of his body for good and he vanquishes Icicle before he murders Caitlin.
In the wake of the battle, Thomas apologizes to Carla and Caitlin because “family shouldn’t leave family,” which strikes a chord with our favorite speedster. But there’s another twist! Cicada II interrupts the Snow Pack reunion and kills Thomas, who dove in front of her knife to save his daughter, before making off with a piece of tech Icicle had stolen from Carla earlier in the episode. What does she plan on doing with it? I have no idea, but it definitely involves her younger self, whom she kidnapped from the hospital earlier in the episode.
However, it’s not all bad news. After this ordeal, Caitlin and Carla decide to get drinks, and Barry and Iris put their argument to bed back at the loft. Both of them apologize for acting out of anger and agree to work together. Elsewhere in Central City, though, Nora comes speeding out of the Negative Force with glowing red eyes à la Reverse Flash. Looks like Nora just broke bad, which can’t be a good thing at all.
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