Review: The Flash 4×02 – “Mixed Signals”

[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]

Director: Alexandra La Roche

Writers: Jonathan Butler and Gabriel Garza

Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker, Jesse L. Martin, Keiynan Lonsdale, Neil Sandilands, Kim Engelbrect, Patrick Sabongui, Jessica Camacho, Dominic Burgess, Richard Brooks

 

Summary

Barry and Iris head to couples therapy to deal with underlying issues caused by Barry’s time in the Speed Force, while a new technology-controlling metahuman targets former business partners who wronged him.

Positives

Season One of the series focused on how much fun one could have with superpowers, especially speed. In the fourth season, with the darkness behind him, Barry’s having fun again. I found there were more laughs this time around. The opening sequence with his riff on Tom Cruise’s Risky Business – thankfully with boxers this time – was hilarious. The hijinx of Barry and Iris trying to work together as a unit was the focus of the episode; his almost bungling a rescue after refusing to listen to her strategy and her disguised critique during therapy shows the chemistry between them very well. As to the therapy, it injects some realism into the situation amidst the superpowered pursuit of this week’s big bad. They are a couple who work as a superhero team, and this is the first time they have to lie their way as a couple through an in-depth discussion about their lives to get at underlying conflicts. Barry’s rose-colored glasses are ripped off by the reality of the strain Iris had been under while he was in the Speed Force, including covering up his disappearance and explaining to skeptical friends as to why the wedding had been called off. Plus, in connection with the Arrow-verse, Barry got notified via headline news that Oliver’s secret identity had been outed to the press.

Another subplot that paralleled Barry and Iris is Cisco’s tumultuous juggling of his responsibilities as Tech expert and keeping a date with Gypsy. Given Gypsy’s world has different customs, it’s a metaphor as to how in new relationships one spouse can overlook an important day to the other that they just see as another Monday or Tuesday. Although self-contained, the resolution worked – as did Gypsy in that dress – and did allow for cute moments between Cisco and Caitlin as to “girl code”. As for Caitlin herself, for a brief moment we saw the nature of her split personality based on adrenaline when the alarm startled her; you see her eyes flicker from normal to ice blue which again is a nod to Bill Bixby’s David Banner in the 70s. As mentioned in the previous review, she’s managing it as you would any physical ailment.

The villain of the week, Ramsey Deacon aka Kilgore, played by Dominic Burgess, has that natural stalker-esque vibe that worked for the character. His backstory is sympathetic and his victims/ex-partners are remorseless in their attitude. His attempted murder of one of them via insulin overdose was exactly how a diabetic would react to such a state; my life as a co-caregiver for my grandmother who is a Type 1 and Type 2 can verify that after two close calls. The way Joe and Wally counteract the effects with a glucose shot is scientifically accurate.

The hilarity of tricking out Barry’s Flash 3.0 suit provides big laughs and cool nods to old Flash comics. The life-raft function, for instance, was a nod to that Silver Age cover of The Flash becoming morbidly obese. Even Barry was surprised the suit didn’t burst. It just goes to show that when you have super speed, tech is best played at a minor role. As to new characters, we are introduced to Warden Wolfe at Iron Heights, who played a prominent role in Geoff Johns’ run during the Wally West years and is again prominent in the Flash Rebirth line of books. That last look he gives Kilgore suggests there is more to Wolfe than he lets on. Also, we see more of Neil Sandilands’ Thinker in the epilogue and his agenda; the fact that he is monitoring metahumans who were created by far different circumstances and collecting them suggests the true reason for his actions in the previous episode. Overall, the humor and the action all worked well and Barry being reminded again that he’s not an island was plausible.

Negatives

There were some drawbacks, of course. Besides Wally, Cisco, and Barry, Gypsy was visiting from her Earth, so why didn’t she get involved in the hunt for Kilgore? The episode kept her in the role of Cisco’s impatient and infuriated girlfriend, and after last season everyone knows she’s capable of being more than that. Could it be because the writers felt that it would too closely mirror Barry and Iris’ dynamic, the only difference being that both spouses were empowered? It would’ve been a cool contrast, nonetheless; Barry and Iris are having problems, while Gypsy and Vibe are a well-oiled machine. Jessica Camacho is a great actress, and the way Gypsy was treated in this episode felt like filler. Her contribution to the final solution could have been bigger. Candice Patton did portray a gradual build of irritation towards Barry in this episode, but it seems like she forgave him too quickly. Plus, what about her career as a reporter? What is she doing for money by working pro bono at STAR Labs? Bringing the newsroom back into play would allow for Linda Park to perhaps encounter a certain Scarlet Speedster in a chance meeting, thus creating a love triangle between Wally, Linda, and Jesse. It would at least give Lonsdale more to do than play second fiddle and comb that ridiculous hairstyle that he’s got going on.

The idea of giving Barry a tricked-out costume seems too inspired by Peter Parker’s suit from Spider-Man: Homecoming, which thankfully will not be repeated in the next episode. Cisco, I felt, went overboard; however funny, why give The Fastest Man Alive so many bells and whistles? Further, why would they lack the forethought to downgrade to the 2.0 suit in the fight against Kilgore? Wasted cameos in this episode also; Barbara Eden, of I Dream of Jeannie fame, goes completely unnoticed and credited as “Elderly Wealthy Woman.” Further, producers must be low on money because that flat that was being shown to Kilgore’s first victim is the exact replica of Oliver and Thea’s home in Arrow. Fans of both shows would easily point this out.

Speaking of Arrow, wouldn’t the revelation of Oliver’s exposure prompt Barry to immediately want to get involved via phone call or zoom over? That would be another plausible reason for Barry to ditch therapy and provide a cameo on either show. While Kilgore’s power to manipulate technology is useful, the only ridiculous use of it was the bomb disposal robot rolling through the CCPD with a grenade. It’s not that fast; couldn’t someone sneak up behind it and snatch the grenade before it reached its target? And while the effect of Barry catching the shrapnel piece by piece is cool, I feel that it could’ve been a faster motion; he’s sped after thrown knives and fired bullets faster than this.

The CGI I felt lacked a little this episode, with stuff like the exploding grenade and the elevator shaking someone up. The suit inflation scene would’ve been more believable if the musculature on the jacket vanished to allow more space. And while I found Caitlin extremely sexy in what she was wearing, I thought that after years of seeing her in reserved attire suited for a lab, she seemed out of place. Whether this is a nod to her not being completely in control of herself or just a bad choice of work clothes, while attractive, she needed a lab coat.

Verdict

While good for laughs, this episode offered some resolution to Iris’ frustrations which magically and unrealistically vanished when Barry returned in the premiere. She showed him that she’s not some airheaded fiancée that’s okay with her beau zooming off or disappearing with a smile on his face as if he didn’t care. This episode, however funny, wasted potential with key players and subplots, which I hope will not be repeated through the season. I’m still waiting to see Tom Cavanaugh whose only presence is in the credits.

 

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Jay

I'm an Ontario-based news writer, as well as graphic illustrator with his own commission business. I've been a comic collector since I was ten and have enjoyed the lore of these larger than life figures ever since. I graduated with an HBA from the University of Toronto in Humanities and have worked for both local and online news outlets.