[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Phil Chipera
Writers: Lauren Ceto and Kristen Kim
Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker, Jesse L. Martin, Tom Cavanaugh, Hartley Sawyer, Danielle Nicolet, Patrick Sabongui, Kendrick Sampson, Kim Engelbrecht, Ryan Alexander McDonald, Mark Valley, Ken Camroux-Taylor
On trial for Clifford DeVoe’s murder, Barry with Cecile as his defense weigh his options while Team Flash must deal with both The Thinker’s plan and a new radioactive metahuman reaching critical mass. Plus Joe is faced with how far he is willing to go to prove Barry’s innocence.
The winter premiere of The Flash did not disappoint. While I’m saddened that this adaptation of that classic comic story doesn’t revolve around Reverse-Flash’s death, the strength of the parallels of Barry Allen’s dilemma makes up for that. It’s not only a test of Barry’s stoic resolve, but also that of his extended family. Gustin’s portrayal of Barry seems monotone at times, but simultaneously you see the strain in his face during the courtroom scenes. The audience sees for the first time how someone like Barry – a chronically late CSI who took a six-month leave of absence at the last minute – can appear to someone at face value without knowing the real reasons for his tardiness and absences. The contradiction of those facts set against the amount of good The Flash has done for Central City is felt. Even Singh, initially on Barry’s side despite being the arresting officer, is put into doubt.
The writing works in that Barry’s belief in the system is at odds with his desperation to have these charges dismissed so he can take down The Thinker. Further, in the case of Ralph’s photos of Marlize making out with the new Clifford DeVoe in Dominic Lanse’s body, her cover-up is very plausible. What’s also well done in that scene is Engelbrecht’s performance within a performance; Marlize’s crocodile tears that she manages to sweep away when confronted by Iris in the hallway. It’s like Iris is facing a completely different person. The episode also examines the ramifications of these charges impacting Team Flash. Barry’s support base is faced with a dual task; figuring out a defense that can topple these charges laid against Barry, while taking down another of DeVoe’s metahumans.
For the first time regarding Joe, you see the staunch upholder of the law start to crack under pressure. After four years of both condemning Oliver Queen’s vigilantism as The Green Arrow and recently casting a harsh light on Ralph Dibny’s seedy career, Joe has a moment of desperation. And in that moment of desperation, there is a moment of character growth for Ralph. When you think he would be the one encouraging Joe to cross the line, he himself has been the victim of such choices made by him and him alone. Sawyer conveys the sense that “I’ve been there and I know what lies ahead for you if you go through with this.” That moment peels back the layers of the future Elongated Man and shows a truly decent person trying to make the most of this second chance. He doesn’t owe Joe anything, but gives him the benefit of experience and it works.
In the case of the new threat, Neil Borman aka Fallout, he is not different in the sense that he is oblivious to the fact he has a radiation buildup in his system. That being the case, he doesn’t feel like a threat, but rather as much a victim as those poisoned by exposure. The fact that Barry has to sneak out of court in order to take him down as The Flash shows that The Thinker was well aware of the debilitating effect his machinations would have on the team. Layering Barry’s scathing sentencing against the CCPD honoring The Flash for his heroic efforts against Fallout was a brilliant parallel. What also worked this episode was the spirit of Henry Allen keenly felt throughout the ordeal. His son was literally walking in his shoes and even by happenstance ended up in his father’s old cell. I get the symbolism of that as well as Barry’s reaction, again masterfully played by Grant; his dad’s spirit is with him, so that is why there are no tears, just a resolve no matter how bleak things appear.
While it had a lot of high points, there were a few low points. For one, the trial was – although the title of this series is The Flash – too fast. The writing team could have extended this across two to three episodes. It seemed too much like an open-and-shut case. It takes more time than this for such things as court date, jury selection, appointed judge, disclosure, and preliminary hearings. Then there’s the matter of the ankle bracelet. While the hacking of the bracelet is plausible given Cisco’s skills, there should’ve been more explanation around it.
Fallout felt like filler; the writing team required a reason for Barry to ditch his trial to go into action while still tying it in to the actions of The Thinker given this guy was on the bus as well. Also, an appearance from a member of Team Arrow for support would have been welcome. They are Barry’s second family, and Oliver is like an older brother. Where the hell were they?
Lastly, Iris rushing in and being put on the spot with a last-minute change in what she was going to say felt flat. She seemed too airheaded in her Plan B. She could have delivered a more powerful character statement on Barry’s behalf. She’s his wife and lifelong friend after all. Then there’s the way Caitlin is shaken into unleashing Killer Frost; she did it very well at the wedding in the crossover. But the Abbott-Costello duo of Harry and Cisco bringing up something weak like puppies? Really? Although minor, these flaws are relevant to note.
Man this section feels too ironic, all things considered. For the most part, it was full of strong writing and strong performances with a few banana peels here and there, but nothing major. I’m looking forward to seeing Barry try and survive prison life surrounded by countless morons he’s put away as a CSI and as The Flash. Plus the obvious reluctance in Marlize to her husband’s new look.