I am a fan of The CW television show “The Flash” (Tuesdays, 8/7c, The CW) and have been since its very beginning (it’s now in its sixth season). One thing I’ve noticed since experiencing my severe Traumatic Brain Injury and coma over three years ago is that “The Flash” uses brain injury as a plot point and for character development frequently. As a TBI survivor, I am acutely aware of brain injury as portrayed in the media.
In this month’s first pop culture post, I thought I’d review just how “The Flash” uses brain injury to further its plots and develop characters. This is another blog post inspired by brain injury during this Brain Injury Awareness Month (March).
Warning ⚠️: This blog post will be full of spoilers (plot details ) that may give away certain plot points and character details for “The Flash.” I recommend you be caught up with Season 6 (through Season 6, Episode 13 has aired at the time of this posting).⚠️
Brain Injury in Characters/Character Development and Plot
Cicada (Season 5 Villain): Orlin Dwyer was motivated to try and rid the world of metahumans (people with special powers or abilities [like The Flash]) because a metahuman killed his sister which left him as an unprepared guardian of his young niece. Dwyer’s niece Grace Gibbons is where brain injury comes into the picture. Grace was put into a coma by a cataclysmic event that occurred during Season 4. This motivated him to become Cicada (a villain hell-bent on ridding the world of metahumans). There is a twist partway through Season 5 that changes the identity of Cicada from Orlin Dwyer to his niece Grace Gibbons (the one who had been in a coma). When that change happens brain injury as plot device becomes more overt. Check out this post from ”Den of Geek” that explores who Cicada was, etc.
Gorilla Grodd (appears in multiple seasons): In this current season (6), there was an episode (the February 25, 2020 episode called “Grodd Friended Me”) where The Flash exists in a “mindscape” of Gorilla Grodd. Gorilla Grodd is a super-intelligent gorilla with telepathic powers. He’s able to sync his mind to The Flash in an attempt to get The Flash to help him while he’s in a coma (as punishment for his various bad deeds in previous seasons). You can read a summary here of Gorilla Grodd’s most recent ”The Flash” episode.
Chester P. Runk (Season 6): Chester isn’t a villain but he did manage to open a black hole with his mind while he was in a coma. We most recently saw him in the Gorilla Grodd episode of Season 6, however, it looks like he’s becoming a more permanent member of Team Flash (according to TV news sites). Chester is the first time in memory that someone with a brain injury/coma isn’t perceived as evil on “The Flash.” He’s a little bumbling and dorky but far from evil (kinda sounds like me)!
Brain Injury in the Plot.
Obviously, brain injury plays dominantly in the Cicada plot in season 5 (since a central Season 5 character [Grace Gibbons] is in a coma). It’s also prominent in the first episode of Season 6 that first features Chester P. Runk. And anytime Gorilla Grodd appears there are many issues involving the brain (intelligence in less sophisticated beings, telepathy, mind control, etc.) It’s interesting that Grodd is in a coma as a punishment since he has such advanced control of his mind and a coma is seen as one of the only ways to control him. As someone who experienced an acquired Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), it often feels like a punishment since I had to relearn how to do everything and some things were lost forever. However, I don’t mean that last statement to make it sound like I’m wallowing in grief over what I’ve lost to TBI. I just mean that I have off days like anyone. And on those off days, TBI feels like a punishment. Although on days when I’m feeling more in control of my TBI, I am pretty upbeat and optimistic. 😁
Speaking of optimism… when I was still in the hospital after the injury, I was trying to figure out all the symptoms I was having. It took a long time for anyone (including myself) to know that I was deaf (I can hear now but it’s very diminished and distorted, read more about my hearing here). I remember wondering if I had superpowers at one point (of course I thought that 🤓 ) because when certain people (usually nurses) were around me I sensed perhaps a noise even though I wasn’t hearing. It was this almost imperceptible slight buzzing. I didn’t sense it when my parents were around. So I deduced that maybe I could sense when people had Android phones and that was the buzzing (my parents have iPhones, so that’s why I thought I could sense Androids only because I didn’t sense anything with them). Low and behold my superhero dreams were dashed when I realized the ”buzzing” sensation was actually me mildly hearing people talking. Now that I think of it, I don’t know what my superpower would have been. Maybe I could have heroically gone through movie theaters and sensed when people had cell phones and told them to shut them off (but Android devices only)! Silly! 🦸
Since we’ve established my hearing is severely distorted and diminished it should be noted that I watch everything with closed captions. And a pet peeve of mine is when I will spend a half-hour or hour watching a program with closed captions and the last minute that is technically a promotion for what’s going to happen in the next airing of the show ISN’T CLOSED CAPTIONED! Come on. That is not fair! I just spent time watching the program so I’m pretty clearly the target audience of the promotion. I’ve noticed this is the case for most networks. Especially major networks. I wrote about closed captions and my frustrations with them in this blog post (I need to update it because I feel like I know more since I first wrote it. But the frustrations I feel are still pretty up to date). Comment on this blog or come find me on Twitter, @wordsbylaura with thoughts on “The Flash,” brain injury, closed captions or anything else that I discussed in this blog post.