‘The Flash’ Season 5 Episode 16 Recap and Review: “Failure is an Orphan”

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The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, Candice Patton as Iris West-Allen and Jessica Parker Kennedy as Nora West-Allen in ‘The Flash’ season 5 episode 16 (Photo: Jeff Weddell © 2019 The CW Network)

“Dad, today is the day you stop Cicada,” says Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy) to Barry (Grant Gustin) in season five episode 16 of The CW’s The Flash.

Episode 16 titled “Failure is an Orphan” begins in the year 2049 with Nora visiting Eobard Thawne (Tom Cavanagh). She’s excited to tell him the meta-cure is ready and they should be able to stop Cicada (Chris Klein). Thawne’s worried, however, and he tells Nora he sees that the timeline is changing. He fears something is coming. Nora asks if she messed something up or did something wrong. Thawne replies, “No, you’ve done very well, little runner. But something big is coming.”

Back in present day, Barry and Iris (Candice Patton) walk in to find Nora taking charge of Team Flash. She’s super bossy and totally focused on double-checking every illegal action in Central City to try to find Cicada. Nora’s also driving poor Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker), Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Sherloque (Tom Cavanagh) crazy.

“Congratulations, you’ve raised a menace,” says Cisco. Barry tells Nora her hard work is impressive but he’s sure Cicada will resurface. When he does they’ll talk him into taking the cure. Nora asks if he’s ready and knows what he’s going to say, and Barry reveals he has some thoughts. Sherloque and the rest of Team Flash encourage Barry to give it some thought. To get Nora out of Team Flash’s hair, Iris and Barry make up that there’s a meta alert at Jitters.

Cecille (Danielle Nicolet) visits Joe (Jesse L. Martin) at the CCPD and finds him going over the Cicada file. He shows her that Dr. Ambres (Lossen Chambers) treated Dwyer and Grace in the emergency room the night they were hit by debris from the satellite. She’s continued to treat Dwyer since then, which is strange. Cecille suggests they team up and question her together which takes Joe by surprise.


Over at Jitters, Nora discovers she has a drink named after her super alter-ego XS. As Barry, Iris, and Nora chat, Barry receives a real alert about a meta breaking into a lab at CCU. Nora and Barry race off.

The Flash and XS find the meta, Acid Master – yes, he can create and control acid with his bare hands – still in the lab. Barry tries to use a science trick to stop the use of his acid but it falls short and Acid Master’s able to escape. Nora sees an acid burn on the ground that matches the one on the front page photo of The Flash and Cicada’s final battle. She tells Barry today is the day he stops Cicada.

At S.T.A.R. Labs, Nora tells Team Flash about the photo. Sherloque asks why she didn’t say anything about it before and Nora lies, saying so many things have been wrong at The Flash museum that she wasn’t sure the photo was correct. Barry heads off to think about how to talk Cicada into taking the cure, and Nora follows along to help.

Sherloque points out that once they stop Cicada, Nora can go back to her own time. This upsets Iris who wants to spend time with Nora and isn’t ready to say goodbye.

Joe and Cecille question Dr. Ambres at the hospital. Cecille can read her mind and keeps giving little signals to Joe which throws him off his game while asking the doctor questions. Joe decides to end the questioning and excuses himself and Cecille. Cecille, who is not happy about how Joe handled the interrogation, gets even more upset when Joe puts his foot in his mouth and tells her he’s not used to working with her and using her powers on cases.

Cicada chases a meta who appears to be Acid Master down an alley. Just as he thinks he has the meta right where he wants him…surprise, it’s Killer Frost posing as Acid Master. Seems Team Flash was able to track down Acid Master and lock him away safely in the pipeline.

Frost cold blasts Cicada’s dagger and exits with a smirk on her face through a breach. The Flash approaches Cicada explaining they have a meta-cure and they want him to take it. Cicada growls, “Why would I do that?” and Barry says to change his legacy so he won’t be remembered as a murdering monster. “I don’t give a damn about my legacy,” says Cicada as he power punches The Flash and knocks him out. Cicada retrieves his dagger and walks over to kill The Flash when he gets cold blasted by Killer Frost who has breached in to save Barry. Cicada flies away.

Barry goes to his CCPD lab to do some more investigating on Cicada, looking for anything new he’s missed. Caitlin and Cisco keep watch for Cicada on the satellites while Nora tries to put together a “best of” speech for Barry to use to convince Cicada to take the cure. Iris suggests to Nora that she let Barry handle it and that they go to the roof of Jitters to try to unwind. Nora gets frustrated and asks why she doesn’t want her to help Barry stop Cicada. Iris finally admits that she’s not ready for Nora to go back to the future. Iris then tells Nora she’s right and she should help Barry.

Joe finds Barry in his lab and asks why he’s there so late. Barry explains what happened with Cicada and Joe tells Barry he tried to talk Cicada into taking the cure by being The Flash and that he needs to be more himself, more Barry Allen, to reach Cicada. Joe mentions to Barry what happened between him and Cecille, and Barry suggests Joe embrace the differences in how Cecille does things and together they’ll make a great team. Joe agrees.

Joe apologizes to Cecille and asks her to reteam with him in interrogating Dr. Ambres. She agrees and the doctor reveals her fiancé was killed by a meta and that’s why she hates them. Joe and Cecille ask her to help them set up a meet with Dwyer. They reveal they have a cure that can save both him and Grace. Dr. Ambres reluctantly agrees.

Joe informs Barry he learned something else: it turns out Grace is now a metahuman.

The Flash Season 5 Episode 16

Candice Patton as Iris West-Allen, Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon, Jessica Parker Kennedy as Nora West-Allen and Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow in season 5 episode 16 (Photo: Jeff Weddell © 2019 The CW Network)

At S.T.A.R. Labs, Caitlin, Cisco, and Sherloque argue about the best way to trap Cicada long enough to get him to take the cure. Barry stops them and admits that while he loves their enthusiasm, he thinks he knows how to handle it this time.

Nora finds a pouting Iris and apologizes for not being more sensitive. She admits the whole reason she time traveled in the first place was to spend time with her and Barry. (What?! Nora said in the voice-over at the end of the first episode this season she traveled back in time to meet her father and save him from disappearing.)

Team Flash get Dr. Ambres to set up the meet and when Cicada shows up expecting the doctor, he sees The Flash. The Flash tells Cicada that Grace is now a metahuman. Cicada doesn’t believe him, but The Flash explains it’s why Dr. Ambres helped them. She’s afraid Cicada will do the one thing he can’t come back from – kill Grace.

Cicada lunges at Barry but doesn’t stab him. “She didn’t choose to be a meta, but she is. Does that mean she deserves to die?” asks The Flash. “I would never hurt Grace,” answers Cicada.

The Flash tells Cicada the cure will heal him and Grace. Cicada asks why he should believe him, and The Flash takes off his mask and reveals himself to Cicada. “Because I’m a father, too. My daughter…I love her more than I ever thought possible. I would do anything to make the world a better place for her, and I think you would too,” says Barry.

Barry brings Cicada to S.T.A.R. Labs where Dr. Ambres and Caitlin put him under and administer the cure. It’s working, but then the lights go out all over. A hooded figure dressed just like Cicada enters and attacks. Sherloque tries to take the second Cicada on with punches but gets knocked across the room. He activates the alarm.

The Flash, Killer Frost, Vibe, Joe, and Iris all line up to face the new threat. (This is a great shot of what looks like an early Justice League moment.) This second Cicada seems to be more powerful and shoots energy blasts from its hands. Cicada #2 also has two daggers. The second Cicada pins The Flash against the wall with an energy blast and goes about knocking out Team Flash and destroying the computers in the room.

The second Cicada enters the medical bay and finds Dr. Ambres watching over a still unconscious Dwyer. Dr. Ambres begs for the hooded figure to stop but gets killed by the masked murderer. The second Cicada leaves with Dwyer.

Team Flash regroups, checking on each other to make sure everyone is okay. Caitlin tells them Dr. Ambres is dead. They all wonder who that hooded figure was, and Sherloque says it was someone worse than Cicada.

The last scene shows Dwyer unconscious and lying on his couch. The mystery hooded figure takes off her mask to reveal a now adult Grace who says to him, “I’ve missed you, Uncle.”

The Flash Season 5 Episode 16 Review:

Suspenseful and humorous, season five episode 16 titled “Failure is an Orphan” finally moves forward the Cicada storyline and introduces an even more powerful one, Dwyer’s grown-up niece. This may or may not be a good development.

To be honest, Cicada is by far the least interesting main villain Team Flash has gone up against since the series began. Iris was able to practically immobilize the big bad a few episodes ago by stabbing him with an ordinary pen in his wound. Yawn. The real hook and surprise this season is that The Reverse Flash, Thawne, has been mentoring Nora in the future and helping her try to save Barry from disappearing. It’s this storyline that’s now carrying season five and making it intriguing. Thawne always has an angle for himself…always. The introduction of Grace as a dangerous new Cicada only delays the storyline of Thawne and Nora. And worse yet, it may set up a showdown between Nora and Grace (daughter of The Flash vs. “daughter” of Cicada). Let’s hope not.

GRADE: B-

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Kevin Finnerty

Professional film critic since 2003 and a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society. Host of “The Movie Guys” radio film review show from 2007 through 2013. Film and television critic for Showbizjunkies.com and a movie buff since 1973.
Kevin Finnerty
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