This week on The Flash, Team Flash took on their first villain without Cisco Ramon but it wasn't a villain in the traditional sense. As the final moments of last week's "Good-Bye Vibrations" implied, something was not quite right with Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) and soon enough, both viewers and the team found out exactly how wrong things were with the return of Psycho Pirate. But while this week's "Masquerade" allowed The CW series to revisit a villain concept only briefly touched on during the "Elseworlds" crossover, the real story this week was about mental health.
Warning: Spoiler's for this week's episode of The Flash, "Masquerade", below.
This week revealed that when Cecile was struck by lightning during the Force Storm, it wasn't actually the storm but energy from the Psycho Pirate mask. She's been trapped inside a psychic prison this whole time while the mask controlled her, working to get the actual mask so that they could create a permanent bond. Inside Cecile's prison, she had to face her own past and her own demons, specifically her history with depression and anxiety, mental health conditions she'd stuffed down for years.
ComicBook.com sat down with Nicolet ahead of this week's episode to talk about the important message about reducing the stigma of mental health in "Masquerade" as well as what's next for Cecile now that she's faced her issues and come out stronger on the other side.
ComicBook.com: This episode was very much about mental health, presented through a superhero lens, but at its core, there's this really serious story with some very heavy elements. How did you personally prepare for this episode?
Danielle Nicolet: It was hugely important to me. Eric Wallace, our showrunner who I love so much and he's always so conscious of the message that we're sending, we had talked about this and his desire to talk about mental health. And I very much am an advocate for that and so one of the things I did when I got the first draft of the script was get with him and say 'how can we be as honest as possible within the context of the superhero lens?' and he was so great about it and where he allowed me to participate was I really wanted to say with absolute clarity the word anxiety and the word depression. I wanted to say that Cecile had a breakdown because there are very few people who make it through life without suffering anxiety, depression, having a breakdown, needing a mental health break, needing to seek help, and her process throughout her life, of having these issues and trying to stuff them down and then, here they are manifesting themselves in the worst possible way, I felt like it was such an important message to send that it's okay. It's okay to not be okay.prevnext
You mentioned specifically wanting to say depression and anxiety. One of the things that leaped out for me, and this gets touched on at the end of the episode, is that mental health has a stigma broadly but especially within the Black community. How important was it for you to bring awareness to that specific issue through this episode?
Hugely important and also hugely important to Eric Wallace. I don't know if you noticed, the very last scene of the episode with Cecile and Joe talking, Eric felt so strongly and I agreed with him 100% that we had to specifically say in our community this is an issue. This is something that we don't want to talk about and it needs to be discussed. Personally, myself, I grew up with a mother who suffered with mental illness and so it's something that I am acutely aware of. I have been my entire life. And I understand the importance of it. I personally have suffered issues with anxiety and I've always been conscious of it and I have to be conscious about self-care and it was a huge step for me on a personal level to be able to share that. I try to talk about it, even on social media. I try to be very open about it in order to help. We get rid of the stigma in the Black community because it's a huge, huge problem for us. We do internalize it so much. And there's an element, historically, in black families, of shame that's carried out in regards to mental health challenges and there shouldn't be. It's an extremely common and universal experience. If we don't talk about it then we feel extremely alone.prevnext
Another thing that is really important about this episode is that we've always seen Cecile as this completely together person. Why do you think it was important that this story was told through Cecile?
I think it had to be Cecile. In real life, that's what happens. It's the people that we think, that we assume are the most together, the people that we assume are the strongest and they can handle anything, and that they've always got it together. Those all, often if not always, are the people who need an extra bit of empathy and compassion, because none of us actually have it all together all the time. And I think that we take for granted all the time. We look at others and we think 'oh, well, I don't need to worry about them, they're fine. I'm the one who's not fine' and usually it's the one that you think has it all together is the one who is maybe not dealing with something or doesn't feel safe to acknowledge that they're having issues or like was said in the episode doesn't want you to think that they're weak. So they don't speak on it and so I think being the quote-unquote together one on the show, in the family, think there's no better connector for this journey to have happened for.
It's like the meme that says "check on your strong friends".
What was really fascinating about this episode was how they brought back the villain Psycho Pirate with the mask, but the mask was using Cecile's perceived weakness against her. It's a great metaphor for how people treat their trauma when they don't deal with it and they put on a mask. How do you think this experience will change Cecile going forward?
I won't give any spoilers. I will just say that moving forward Cecile like anyone else is when you confront your issues when you stop stuffing them down and you actually own them and you let people love you through them. You come out the other side stronger, you come out with strength. You come out with clarity and you come out with a real clarity of purpose and a much more clear picture of who you are. And that's exactly how Cecile comes out of this journey, with clarity of purpose, with awareness of who she really is. And really, sitting in her strength and I, pun intended, she really comes out of this sitting in her power. She takes this growth of power with her forward.prevnext
This episode spoke to me personally very deeply as I have some of the same experiences Cecile speaks of. I think that it's something that a lot of viewers are going to identify with across the board, especially women because we're the caretakers and we're taught from a very early age to keep moving forward. What do you hope people in general take away from this?
I hope that people take away from this that it's okay to not be okay. That you don't have to just rub some dirt in it and move on and pretend like it never happened that all of us face challenges in our lives every single day, even something small. And for women especially, most of us have grown up with this understanding that we're not supposed to be overly emotional. We're supposed to just keep on moving forward, we're not supposed to indulge our feelings, it feels selfish. And none of that is true, that is all absolute nonsense. We have to deal with feelings we have to acknowledge what's going on when it's going on, and we don't have to project strength all of the time. Being strong is actually fitting in and dealing with what is in front of you. And also it's okay to work, but we don't have to use work to avoid dealing with life and I feel like that's something that society, we're all encouraged to do oh just keep working, just keep working, just keep working. Sometimes you need to sit down and be quiet and face what's happening.prevnext
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.0comments
What did you think about this week's episode, "Masquerade"? Let us know in the comments
This episode has been lightly edited for length and clarity.prev